|Martinique roots musician Kali and his banjo in early 2017|
Now I've become aware another source for West Indies tunes played with equal skill on a 4-string banjo or banjo-mandolin in the lead. This musician is named Kali and, ironically, his primary recordings in this style were also done around 1988 to 1990. The albums are called Racines, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Racines means "Roots" and Kali is a Martiniquan who took up the banjo and returned to his roots after having gone in a more contemporary French-Caribbean pop direction during the 1970's and 80's.
One or two generations prior to Kali, Martinique musicians living in Paris - including the clarinetist Alexandre Stellio - recorded 78's of biguines and mazurkas that paralleled but differentiated from the Calypso and New Orleans jazz music going on elsewhere in the world. It is this traditional music heritage that Kali chose to honor on his Racines series. What I find to be great about these recordings is Kali is faithful to the original melodies, but of course uses modern recording techniques and sensibilities to give it a superior audio fidelity when compared to the 78's of the 1930's. Additionally, Kali's banjo playing is second to none; his tremolo would make Grisman proud!
From what I am learning, songs such as Mwen Desann St Pie, Manicou Volan, Vlope Mwen Doudou, Serpent Maigre, Ti Citron, Femme Martinique Dou, Fok ni tche, Mettez I Dehro, A Si Pare, Ba Moin Un Tibo and Pani Ti Moun are standards of the French Caribbean trad repertoire. As such, they are on my list of tunes to learn.
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