Swiss reeds player-vocalist-poet Omri Ziegele answers his trio question Where’s Africa with a vivid, highly imaginative answer. His Africa maybe only a sonic-lyrical construction of his wild mind, an imaginary place where one can find unmitigated joy; its movements are feather-light, yet its grooves are earthy. But this imaginary Africa, so far away from the images of this wounded continent as reflected on our screens, is a place where everything still can flow freely – the songs, time, like children’s rhymes and rounds, circling until they suddenly lead us out into the open. Maybe, after all, this is the also essence of the real Africa, not only Ziegele’s imagined Africa, even if it is veiled now by countless bloody conflicts and endless tragedies.
Ziegele first encounter with the imaginary Africa began at the early eighties when he heard South-African Abdullah Ibrahim. Later, when he relocated to London he saw more South-african musicians play – Chris McGregor and his comrades of the Brotherhood of Breath – Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo. When Ziegele returned to Switzerland he began his «Where’s Africa» project – first as a duo with pianist Irène Schweizer (Intakt, 2005), who has been playing with many African musicians since the sixties and until today, then as a trio with the addition of South-African drummer Makaya Ntshoko («Can Walk On Sand», Intakt, 2009).
The current, third incarnation of «Where’s Africa» features two young musicians – keyboards player Yves Theiler, with who Ziegele plays in a duo («Inside Innocence», Intakt, 2013), and drummer-percussionist Dario Sisera. This trio intensifies the sense of imagined Africa, but in a close, playful comradeship. This trio can be called as the Brotherhood of Imagination. The new Where’s Africa is not only «Going South», as the album title suggests, but expands to many other directions and dimensions, especially to the West and incorporates Afro-Cuban, heavy funky rhythms. Where’s Africa imagines Africa as a magical, timeless entity; Arica as a metaphor for colorful, enchanting sounds and images, where the ancient blends organically with futuristic.
There is no way to resist to Ziegele fascinating, innocent imagination. Lyrical, hymnic songs like «Laughing Your Tears Away» and «Yesterday’s Tomorrows» may reminded us all how much African musical traditions are ingrained in our collective consciousness. The spiritual pieces «Will You Marry Me After So Many Years» and «Camel, Where’s My Land» solidify this trio connection to the mythical Africa. The beat poem «Space» portrays Africa as a faraway place, orbiting Sun Ra universes with Ziegele now as the high priest who becomes a beatnik . The heartfelt cover of Dyani’s merry melody «Ithi Gqi» (recorded on Dyani’s «African Bass», Red, 1980) concludes this most touching journey.
Omri Ziegele (as, Uzbek fl, v), Yves Theiler (keys, reed organ, melodica, v), Dario Sisera (perc, dr)