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"I used to dream of a world in which composers, performers and producers could make music without being constrained by the bottlenecks of genre and market forces. French guitarist Titi Robin has made an album as if tht fantasy were true ... the result is rich and moving, a tale with the depth of a novel and the narrative drive of a folk legend."
John L. Walters THE GUARDIAN 2009  (about KALI SULTANA)

" I do think he is one of the world's great musicians and visionaries."
Charlie Gillet, BBC-London, 2009

"One of the most interesting French gypsy guitarists today"
Los Angeles Philharmonic / Hollywood Bowl

" "Gitans" was not only ranked as one of the best albums of the year by critics around the world, but it is widely considered one of the best albums of Gypsy music ever recorded."
Dan Rosenberg, The Gypsy Road

"Titi Robin is probably one of the best known French composer / musician in the crossover world music style."
Eelco Schider, Folkworld





Thierry Robin, known as “Titi”, the self-taught musician born at the end of the fifties in Western France, has created a musical world for himself instinctively assimilating elements in response to his need to express himself. The two worlds in which he has navigated daily and that have both directly and deeply influenced him are the Gypsy and Oriental cultures.

Even before the "World Music" type appeared, it is within these communities that he found a sensitive and encouraging response, the French musical milieu not quite understanding his approach. Arab and Gypsy community festivals give him the opportunity to test the original color of his musical approach regarding these rich traditions, that are inspired without imitation, relentlessly looking for a way to express more accutely his own human condition and thus that of the contemporary artist. The musicians accompanying him were almost all from these minority groups. The two artists of major importance to him were the flamenco cantaor Camaron de la Isla and the Iraqi master oud player Munir Bachir.




  photo Louis Vincent

   




In the early 80s, he began composing in a highly personal style, defined as "Mediterranean" and which he has not left since. In 1984 he appeared (guitar, ‘oud and buzuq) in duet with Hameed Khan, an Indian tabla player originally from Jaipur. His instrumental repertoire as well as his improvisational style gradually evolve. " Duo Luth and Tablâ ”, now sold out, reflects this deeply original mood.


  Duo Luth et tablâ, with Hameed Khan (photo: D. Meuriault)

   


In 1987, he created the "Johnny Michto" band, that combines Moroccan Berber rhythm with the electric buzuq, bass, clarinets and bagpipes - an attempt to give the public an alternative choice to other numerous rock formations by combining the individual, group members own backgrounds. Once again, it is the North African community that most warmly appreciate the formation, the native French having trouble identifying with this style quite unusual at the time.


  photo: Christine Bartaud

   


Titi Robin while still with Hameed Khan, a duet which highlights melodic and rhythmic improvisational duels, meets Brittany singer, Erik Marchand, who incarnates in his opinion the rich traditional popular culture of Titi Robin’s own home region. Together they develop a repertoire enlisting quarter-tones modes, Eastern modal improvisation based on taqsîm, and Gwerz, the ancient monophonic lamentation which the singer along with Yann fanch Kemener is at the time one of the heirs. Ocora Radio France commissioned a recording - "An Henchou Treuz” (1990) - which won the Grand Prix de l'Académie Charles Cros, a fitting beginning of the collaboration of the two duos that will eventually form the "Trio Erik Marchand", most of the repertoire composed and arranged by Titi Robin.
This out of the ordinary formation - a Brittany singer, an Arabic lute player and an Indian tablâ specialist (for the record, it is their photography that illustrates the first article on "world music" in the Encyclopedia Universalis) - will travel internationnaly: from the Womad festivals to stages specialized in contemporary music, passing by the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Quartz in Brest, not to mention the jazz venues who acclaim their innovative approach to improvisation. Their international tours take them from Quebec to Houston, from Marrakech to Bir Zeit. The first album under the name of "Trio Erik Marchand" appeared in 1991:“An Tri Breur” (three brothers) (Silex). In the early 2000, the Trio Erik Marchand performed periodically, with Keyvan Chemirani at the percussions.


  photo:

   


This formation revealed Titi Robin mainly as an oudist. A disc released in January 1993 greatly clarified the world of the musician of the buzuq and guitar: The artist dedicates “Gitans” in homage to the Gypsy community from whom he learned so much. It is a mosaic of encounters between Titi Robin’s favourite artists, who represent different branches of the family, from North India to Andalusia, and to the Balkans, from which he draws his personal musical vision. Guest musicians include the following: Gulabi Sapera (vocals), Bruno el Gitano (vocals, palmas, guitar), Mambo Saadna (vocals, palmas, guitar), Paco el Lobo (vocals, palmas), François Castiello (accordion), Hameed Khan (tabla) Francis Alfred Moerman (guitar), Abdelkrim Sami (drums), Bernard Subert (clarinets, bagpipes). This release and the musical cooperation it required will attract a wide audience, bringing together both savvy aficionados and lovers of Mediterranean music. "Gitans" will tour in Japan, at the Hollywood Bowl (USA) and from South Africa up to the major European world music festivals.

At the beginning of 1996, “Le Regard Nu”, an instrumental record entirely improvised and the outcome of a year of experimental research was released, breaking away from this remarkable collective adventure. Titi Robin took inspiration from the poses of women models, just as a painter or a sculptor, to fuel his solo musical improvisations on the 'oud and buzuq. This unique album remains one of his great pride and joys with admirers from across the planet.

Tours of Gitans continue, as witnessed by the live album “Payo Michto” in 1997 with Francis Varis on the accordion.


  Gitans (photo: )

   


Titi Robin wants to find a way of forging links with contemporary Western popular music, which leads to a new formation, orchestrating the saxophone, drums and bass. It will be in “Kali Gadji ” (1998) that the Gypsy and Oriental influences, always present, mingle with the French texts as well as with the polyrhythms of West Africa. From Morocco to Mali, passing by Mauritania, Titi Robin feels that history has linked these cultures to the great Mediterranean civilization. Musicians that are invited are Renaud Pion (saxophones), Abdelkrim Sami (vocals, percussions), Farid "Roberto" Saadna (vocals, guitar, palmas), Jorge "Negrito" Trasante (drums), Gabi Levasseur (accordion), Alain Genty (bass) and Bernard Subert (oboe, bagpipes).The orchestra has toured for many years in parallel with “Gitans”.

“Un ciel de Cuivre”, released in 2000 is the album the artist considers the one that reprensents the diversity of his musical world the best. Fifteen musicians are invited such as Farid "Roberto" Saadna, Gulabi Sapera, Keyvan Chemirani, François Laizeau, Renaud Pion, Negrito Trasante, Francis-Alfred Moerman...Speaking of this album, Titi Robin said : “This new record is not performed by a precise orchestra, unlike PAYO MICHTO or KALI GADJI, that precede it. It bears witness to the diversity of my influences and, I hope, to the coherency of my aesthetic universe. Gipsy cultures, both Mediterranean and Balkan, are still very present, but this is above all a personal vision of the world that I want to express through these musical marriages that make up my everyday life. This album, just like the record GITANS released in 1993, is a voyage, each melody has a particular flavour, each rhythm a story, the geography of its cultural origins is a mirror image of the traveller’s inner landscape. There are intimist melodies and festive rumbas, grief-stricken chants and a gipsy lullaby, highly-orchestrated dance music and calm trios, snowy mountains and sunny shores, blood, spices and honey, and many other things that you may discover before I do…”.


  In studio at Waimes (photo: A. Von Buxhoeveden)

   


From then on, a sextet toured continuously, presenting tracks from this record alongside older compositions.

  Sextet (photo: Véronique Guillien)

   


An instrumental trio also began to perform ('oud, guitar, buzuq /accordion/percussion) with Francis Varis and Abdelkrim Sami, drawing from Titi’s entire repertoire. They played mostly abroad, especially in the Middle-East.

Since 1992, Titi Robin regularly worked with Gulabi Sapera to whom he dedicated a book “Gulabi Sapera, Danseuse Gitane du Rajasthan” (2000, Naive/Acte-Sud). She is frequently invited to Titi’s shows and the song Pundela from the disc "Gitans" just like the song "La rose de Jaipur" from the album "Ciel de Cuivre", shows how much emotion there is between the two artists when they meet.


  Titi and Gulabo in Jaipur (photo: Véronique Guillien)

   


In 2002 a work by both artists was released : “Rakhî ” dedicated to the union of their respective worlds using songs from the cast of the Kalbeliyas, the snake charmers, from whom Gulabi is the emblematic and internationally renowned dancer. "JIVULA", a show uniting her choreography and Titi Robin’s compositions, took form in September 2002 and was performed on numerous French and international stages. With a light-show specially created by Pascale Paillard, this new scenic venture was given a very warm reception.

  with "Gulabo" at the Café de la Danse -Paris 2002 (photo: Bill Akwa Bétoté)

   


In the same year he composed the entire soundtrack for Manuel Boursinhac’s film “The Code (La Mentale)”. The director wanted Titi’s musical world to accompany his images, while the artist learnt much from this new adventure that he hopes will happen again.

   

   


2004: release of the anthology ALEZANE by Naïve. Presentation of “Alezane” by Thierry “Titi” Robin: “These two records are a selection of recordings made over a period of a dozen years, but draw from some twenty-five years of compositions. In my preceding albums, I have always tried to bring together dance and intimist tracks in the smoothest possible way. Here, on the contrary, we present a panorama by categorising the tracks as either rhythmic tunes (CD I) “Le Jour”) or calmer ones (CD II “La Nuit”).
The true challenge is to express, within an artistic system that has rather more imposed itself on me than been chosen by me, my path as a contemporary musician, all the colours and scents that envelop and go through me. I invited Eric Roux-Fontaine to work on the visual aspects of this project. Eric is a contemporary creator, painter, photographer, involved in gipsy cultures for the past dozen or so years. He agreed to undertake the entire graphic conception of this double album.


  photo and painting: Eric Roux-Fontaine

   


The same year, Eric Roux-Fontaine asked Titi Robin for a series of poetic texts for his book RAJASTHAN, un voyage aux sources gitanes”, published by Garde-Temps. Using writing as a tool, Titi continues his aesthetic research.

  from "Kalakars Colony" (Eric Roux-Fontaine)

   
KALI SULTANA l'ombre du ghazal

Photobucket
photo Louis Vincent


KALI SULTANA
L’ombre du ghazal

Autumn 2008 – time: 1h45’
Francis Varis : accordion, arrangement for strings
Ze Luis Nascimento : percussions
Kalou Stalin : gumbass
Renaud Pion : clarinets, saxophones, arrangement for strings
Maria Robin : voice, dance
Anne Berry : viola
Aude Marie  Duperret : viola
Véronique Tat : cello
Titi Robin : ‘ud, buzuq, guitar, composition, artistic direction


When words fail, music raises its voice,” Vladimir Jankelevich used to claim. Titi Robin’s music expresses what words often have difficulty capturing: it speaks of the extreme solitude of the soul, the naked truth of heartfelt emotions, the delicate grandeur of love, the tough but necessary process of learning how to live one’s life, and the fierce sensation, occasionally tinged with violence, that the beauty of the world can stir in each and every one of us. These thoughts and sensations, which can only be conquered within the secret confines of love, are generally those we keep to ourselves, for our normal vocabulary is unable to retranscribe them. However, with the aid of his instruments (guitar, ‘oud, bouzouq), Titi Robin manages to share them with his fellow human beings.
For over thirty years, this restless musician has swum at the confluence of gypsy and Arab cultures. He has surfed the impetuous and majestic poetic wave that flows from the foothills of India through Central Asia down to the banks of the Mediterranean in every direction.  But it is impossible to reduce his art to a simple desire to blend sounds and styles, less still to an ambition to concoct an acceptable style of world music. On his new album, Kali Sultana – L’Ombre du Ghazal, Titi Robin proves as never before that his quest is to develop an intensely personal language, straight from the heart and rooted in his flesh, which hugs the topography and fault-lines of a vast interior landscape. A language unlike any other, whose natural eloquence and evocative force are all the more striking because they do not need to resort to words. “As an instrumentalist, I think I know how to tell a story,” he says. “I have a very concrete relationship to music: I say things that are extremely specific and that are always rooted in my own experience. If the musical form I use can make them more tangible for people, then that is of course the course I’ll follow. Kali Sultana is the crystallisation of that idea.”
A long suite arranged in two parts, seven movements and three interludes, this river of an album has the power and flow of a lyric and epic poem. Melodic and rhythmical motifs follow on from one another, answer each other and expound on each other, united by the free inspiration of music which abolishes any distance between improvisation and the written tradition, individual expression and collective dynamics, the fervour of dance and meditative introspection, a commitment to the real world and the aspiration of dreams. As ever in Titi Robin’s music, these motifs weave the outline of a story, in which it is Kali Sultana (the “Black Queen”), who this time takes pride of place.
She is the feminine incarnation of grace, an ideal of beauty that every artist pursues; she is the universal, imaginary and yet ubiquitous muse, whose indescribable and elusive splendour every artist dreams of embracing. As Titi Robin is one of these men whose thirst for beauty is never sated, he has intimate knowledge of it; he has been chosen to paint its portrait and invent a story that leads it, over the course of the album, from the edge of the desert to the feverish heart of the city. “Kali Sultana is a very loaded symbol and she has several faces and several forms. She represents the beauty every artist seeks, and the harmony, the pleasure of making music and meeting the audience for which every improviser strives. Kali Sultana is my name for that quest. This goddess and I go back a long way, as she has sometimes been embodied in the people I have lived and worked with. She can be very violent, but this violence also makes it possible to express and to resolve things. I have always felt it is very important to express the softest things as well as the most violent in my music. That’s also due to my gypsy heritage; we can be very sentimental and very arid, blend spices with honey. We look for that kind of balance in life. We very rarely manage it, but we can sometimes achieve it in art.”
Titi Robin achieves this balance on this album to a large extent through his perfect understanding with his partners. Kali Sultana was developed during several residencies (in Châteaubriand, Angers and Rheims) and on stage, and is built on the close dialogue with this first circle of musicians who, over many years, have become his own body and soul: the bass player Kalou Stalin, the accordion player Francis Varis and the percussion player Zé Luis Nascimento, as well as the clarinettist and saxophonist Renaud Pion. “Every one of us contributed, added his touch to the project, brought in his own personality and culture. That’s also why this music doesn’t talk about music; it talks about our lives. The moment we record is always a concentrate of life; every emotion is heightened. The music on Kali Sultana is like a river with all its tributaries, all the streams that pour into it and sweep along objects which either float on the surface or sink to the bottom. Everyone has played their part in the final result, perhaps even more so in this particular project because the work we did  on the tunes, the rhythms, even the very substance of the music, has taken a long time. I am really proud of how everything has come together.”
One of the elements that holds the music together on Kali Sultana is the string section (two violas and a cello).  The parts it plays, in arrangements by by Renaud Pion and Francis Varis, settle like a veil over the sculpted shapes made by Titi Robin and his band. “I’d already used strings on the album Ces Vagues and on the soundtrack for the film La Mentale. But this time they take up more space: they are an integral part of the adventure, including in live performances… The soloists give shape to Kali Sultana: their playing, their tunes and their rhythms are its flesh. But then you can’t just let the music wander naked through the desert, through town or on stage… So the strings are its clothing, but they don’t hide its grace and its natural beauty. They are there to emphasise its nobility and to reassure it too, because you always feel vulnerable when you’re naked.”
In this project, which is mainly instrumental, a voice makes two appearances on the second half of Kali Sultana: once in the third movement and once in the Rumba Sultana that precedes the epilogue. Chanting in her vibrant voice, Maria Robin, Titi’s daughter, lends an added intensity to the music, which, throughout the album, celebrates the pre-eminence of singing. “I consider singing to be the purest form of expression. That’s why I’ve accompanied both male and female singers so often. I’m not a singer myself, but in practice I try to make people forget the instruments. I have no particular respect for virtuosity; in fact, I try to be skilful enough so that people forget the technical aspects, and so that people who have heard me play are left with the impression that I have spoken to them, that I have sung something to them. With Kali Sultana, I wanted to champion the idea that my music is a song, and I also wanted the voice and the lyrics to emerge at a particular moment. All of that crystallises out around Maria’s voice and takes on even greater importance because she appears so little.”
In its many individual details and in its structure as a whole as well, the story of Kali Sultana thus reflects the visions and aspirations of a musician who, step by step, digs down ever deeper into the very substance of his desires, his experiences and his impulses. It is precisely because Titi Robin has plumbed the burning heart of his being that he is able to arouse the most ardent and sensitive feelings in his listeners. “I am searching for an ideal form of music that will be the mirror of my inner sky. We feel no greater solitude than within our deepest emotions. But the magic of art is that the expression of our most private feelings can build bridges to the solitude of others. In general, people sense this: there is an echo in the audience and among those who listen to the album, and it creates a bond. That intensity produces incredible pleasure, which helps both the one who causes it and those who receive it to live. This search will go on forever. Are we closer today than we were before or than we will be tomorrow? We don’t know, but this search is what keeps us alive, just like our search for love and beauty.



  photo Louis Vincent

   
JAADU (magic)

NEW CV AND NEW SHOW IN 2009:

Titi Robin and Faiz Ali Faiz first met at the Festival les Escales in 2006, later at the Festival de Saint Denis in 2009 and then at the Traumzeit in Duisburg.
The two musicians created much more than a simple dialogue between their repertories. They decided to make a common musical project. Titi composed on this occasion an entirely original melodic repertoire, carefully choosing modes and rythmes which illustrate best his relation to the qawwali environnment. Faiz Ali found inspiration in poetic Urdu texts that could perfectly fit themselves into these instrumental creations.

This first common creation is a premiere. It gives the opportunity to one of the greatest voices in Pakistan to escape the strict frame that confines Sufi practice and qawwali ceremonies in order to flourish within a unique melodic repertoire.
One realizes that from France to Pakistan, these are the unexpected paths which lead to exchanges between music instruments and singing, as the vocal cords and the ten fingers of every human being aspire no doubt to a similar plenitude.
Thus a selection takes place : a voice, a guitar or a rubab, the choir and a tâbla, on one hand and the accordion,percussions, clarinet, harmonium on the other...Everyone listens to each other and supports each other.
It is the kind of long song which is based on a musical structure - the song that willingly dresses one syllable of several notes to let the feelings speak, underlining their specific colors. The type of song that the flamenco singers, the Gypsies of Hungary, the castes of Rajasthan, the classical Indian or Pakistanese singers share in common. A song that takes the time to express what words alone can not utter.
And the music resembles the guitar in Andalusia or the rhythm in Pakistan. The music gets involved and sometimes guitar, bouzouq or Afghan rubab blaze, touched by flamenco embracing all orients, is enlightened by Faiz Ali Faiz’ voice. The guitar asserts itself, interrupts, stops - happy, tender and sensual.
It seems Titi’s fingers kneel on the strings so the instrument can bow and then start a song of dignity and respect, in response to the voice of the qawwal.
And the singer goes on with the notes that have just illuminated his singing, raised by this subtle instrumental dance: the irresistible courtship of the instrument's strings with the voice. Sometimes they fly together, entwined in the same ascent, as if they were helping each other to reach the same ecstasy before the silence that precedes the next embrace.
Thierry Robin and Faiz Ali Faiz make this meeting possible in their unique language. Far from being a showy demonstration of vocabulary and dexterity, this exchange is built on mutuel listening, respect and thirst for the same nectar: one that allows the music to approach slowly, confidently, never competing themselves, but ending up loving in the same spirit.

Etienne Bours


CD ACCORDS CROISES


  photo Louis Vincent

   
the tryptic RIVER BANKS 2010 / 2011

 I have never felt comfortable with the economic, social and cultural order that reigns over the field of ‘world music’, that makes Western artists travel to countries in the East and the South that posess rich musical traditions. They collect music, repertories and musicians from there and return to fructify this godsend in the privileged world of the well-off West, where the art market is structured in a sufficiently rational manner to allow musicians to develop their careers and live of their art. None of us find this strange. The audience in those countries rarely have the opportunity to judge the results of our work as it is almost unavailable to them. Perhaps the time has come to reverse this trend. In any case, I feel the need to do so in order to preserve the coherence and balance of my own journey as an artist and as a human being.
Titi, Gulabi Sapera, and Dino Banjara,  a few years ago … (photo Véronique Guillien, Jaipur)

Project

I am working in the following three countries: India, Turkey and Morocco; three essential phases in my creation and three countries in which I have often performed and with which I have a strong artistic and personal link. The end product, a music CD, will contain my original repertoire, representative of my style and of what it owes to each country. It will be the expression of what I owe to each of these cultures, the influences that have nourished my personal, original creation, the sources of which I would like to share (cf. see below). In each country, local musicians and a sound engineer will be working together in a studio. We are producing, creating and mixing the CD (including its visual aspect) in collaboration with local partners. The CD will first be released in that particular country, with the support of the local media and whenever possible it will be accompanied by a concert tour. In each case, we are working with my repertoire and interpreting it  in a mixture of local and my own styles. A number of  French partners (embassies, Alliance françaises, Culture France) have already committed to supporting this project. I have suggested to my record label (Naïve) to assemble the three Cds “import” in a compilation box which they will distribute in France and the rest of the world (the practical details and territories would need to be defined between the production partners).
The final object will be “visibly” an imported object (graphics design, language). The music CD will be sold under cellophane, as in its country of origin. The international compilation box will also contain a booklet with the translation of the texts from the original covers. A DVD sharing this adventure will be included in the compilation edited by naïve. It will be shot by the indian documentarist Renuka George.
This project can exist as for once – contrary to the usual market rules – aesthetic and philosophical interests are in harmony with the economic aspect because the producers from the three countries are guaranteed a distribution abroad in advance. This has made it possible for them to counteract the fragility of the local system and to recoup their investment more easily. Moreover, their product will be distributed abroad.

The musicians will also benefit from this record as they will become better known thanks to my Western audience and my distribution system. Finally, it will allow me to reach audiences  which I would like to touch through my music.
From a musical and stylistic point of view, there are a number of correspondances between the repertoires on each of the three CDs they will serve to highlight stylistic differences as well as what is common to the three countries.
Certain themes will be performed on all three CDs, certain poems will be translated into all three languages, with an arrangement that is different each time, depending on the musicians and their instruments. There are, of course, also links with the already existing interpretations in France.
This is above all an artistic creation which attempts to integrate and “digest” geographical and social constraints. It does not aim to be exhaustive with regard to a countries musical styles; the artistic expression remains deeply personal.

Example for India
Creation of a music CD in India followed by a concert tour on its release:
The project has begun with an artist residency to prepare and produce the recording of the new themes that I have composed, destined for an orchestra conisting excusively of Indian musicians.
The CD is being produced in collaboration with the main partner in India: BLUE FROG LABEL (recording studio, record label and distributor).
The result will be an “Indian” CD by Titi Robin.

Production Process

1)    one or several trips to finalize the selection of musicians and the production partners (recording studio, record label, distribution, patronage, promotion) and the place for the residency and recording
2)    artist residency to rehearse followed by recording
3)    mix and product fabrication (including graphic design) In progress
4)     CD release and concert tour in India
5) Delayed release in France and abroad in the form of a triptych compilation box published by Naïve
Partners:
Culturesfrance is supporting the totality of the project for the three countries (Gaëlle Massicot).
In India, the confirmed partners are the French Embassy in New Delhi (Bénédicte Alliot), Alliance Française in New Delhi ((Myriam Kruger),  Alliance Française in Mumbai (Anne Dubourg), Blue Frog Mumbai.
Titi Robin
(2) A booklet will be included in the international compilation box containing an introduction to each artist, translations of the texts in the different languages, as well as a presentation of each participating record label.



  photo Louis Vincent

   


Thierry “Titi” Robin is a fringe artist. He is placed within a “World Music” movement that he does not acknowledge, as it seems to him to be motivated by a profound ethnocentricity, creating a barrier between Western “ethnic” music (rock, jazz…) and others! For him, the crossing of music is not a value in itself, but quite simply a reality, his reality. The main thing is to find the right path between the feeling giving rise to the creation and the artistic form used to express it, whether it takes a purely traditional form or one that explodes all established codes. Forging his own path, he has taken heed of the encouragement given by eminent artists such as flamenco singers Fosforito and Chano Lobato, as well as the virtuoso oud player Munir Bachir, who have seen in this atypical approach sincerity and authenticity that go well beyond any differences.

  photo: Bill Akwa Bétoté

   
 
© 2004 Thierry "Titi" Robin . All rights reserved l Designed by : Le Studio Mondomix