Bèlènou - Emosyon Tambou-A
In the early eighties, Edmond Mondésir, professor of philosophy and Léon Bertide, trade unionist, founded the Bèlènou group. They were actors of the great agricultural strike of 1974, which resulted in the death of two workers (Ilmany and Marie-Louise) and left many wounded. Activists of the patriotic movement Asé Pléré An Nou Lité (Stop crying, Fight), they were part of the identity and the cultural affirmation [la revendication identitaire et culturelle] of the time. Like the Guadeloupean musician Gérard Lockel and his work on the Gwo Ka, they put the Bèlè, in its traditional form, back in the spotlight during Swaré Bèlè (Bèlè nights).
Minimalist and spiritual, a true rural ancestral art from Martinique, the Bèlè combines dance and music from responsorial monodies, which is a choir that responds to the lead singer (Respondè / La vwa dèyè), on codified drum rhythms and ti-bwa (2 sticks that hit the back of the drum or a piece of bamboo). It comes in a series of collective choreographies, working up into the trance. The texts are simple, short and tell the story of everyday life and struggle. While preserving the emotion and the drum’s central place, the fundamental contribution of Bèlènou is to keep the traditional form of Bèlè while adding a modern instrumentation: bass, guitar, saxophone, drums...
Emosyon Tambou-a (Emotion of the Drum) was released in 1990. This third opus of the band expands the musical spectrum in harmonies, arrangements and influences to create a contemporary music anchored in the Bèlè matrix, while keeping the beat, the energy and ancestral roots of music. Bèlènou adapts some classic rhythms: Bélya, Gran Bèlè, Bèlè Pitjé or Ting-Bang rewritten here for an orchestra.
With the appearance of long couplets and a complex harmonization of the choruses, Bèlènou's music brings a form of modernity, it opens notably to jazz territory as well as to other forms of music and grooves. Also, Bèlènou leaves the musicians with space for improvisation: not only on the saxophone or the guitar, but also with the drums (cleverly adaptating traditional rhythms to the drums).
The texts sung in Creole are of a social nature, appealing to the solidarity and self-denial of the people (Bélya pou péyi-a, Tout pèp-la sanblé), to the struggle for political emancipation towards a new democracy (Wi ny ké rivé, Ni dé jou, Démokrasi); land protection (Sové tè-a); finally, to the vitality of the Bèlè culture ... (Emosyon Tambou-a, Dansé Ting-Bang)...
Culture participates, according to the expression of Aimé Césaire, as "Miraculous Weapons". Bèlènou sings a project of a new and united society.
Today still, Edmond Mondésir continues his artistic research by perpetuating and modernizing the tradition. The electro-acoustic version Emosyon bèlè (released with his son Manuel) in 2011 as well as the project Moman Mzik Bèlè released in 2016 are perfect examples of this.
A precursor group, experimental in the its early years, Bèlènou reconciles with talent tradition, modernity and cultural identity.