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Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Zulu Rock (Light in the Attic)

Lizzy Mercier Descloux Zulu Rock Light in the Attic
2 May 2016

With her third album, the ever-wandering Lizzy Mercier Descloux turned to South Africa for inspiration. Joined by lover/manager Michel Esteban and British producer-turned-lover, Adam Kidron, she traveled the east coast of the African continent on a generous blank check from Columbia Records head Alain Levy, making the same journey as her idol, poet Arthur Rimbaud, eventually landing in Johannesburg to record amid the unrest of Apartheid. It would prove to be a fruitful 1983 for the French singer.

As with 1981’s Mambo Nassau, Descloux took the exotic inspiration around her and turned it on its head. Now working with mbaqanga rhythms, as well as delving into Shangaan disco, she delivered her most soulful performance to date as her characteristically jagged vocals united with the upbeat joy of African music. Marching beats, complex basslines and lightly dancing guitar leads provide the backdrop for jubilant call-and-response chants. Two tracks stray from the motif: the accordion-driven “Les Dents De L’amour,” which flows from the streets of Paris, and the dark, pulsing no wave throb of “I’m Liquor.” It’s the odd middle sibling to a trilogy of South African-inspired Western works, beginning with Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock and ending with Paul Simon’s Graceland.

The album’s lead single, “Mais Où Sont Passées Les Gazelles?,” finally scored Descloux a hit in her native France, allowing her to use the press to speak out against the injustice of Apartheid. She could never stay in one place too long, though, and soon she would be off on another adventure in an entirely new continent…

 

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