Two Streams Fed by Rhythm: The Surprising Confluence of Breton and Garifuna Sounds Debuts in May in New York as part of Breizh Amerika
At the edge of the same ocean, two cultural worlds have thrived despite hardship. Their languages are unique and face extinction. Their music booms with joyful rhythm and is all about sparking the dance. Sometimes salty, sometimes moving, songs are often danced. As feet pound in both communities, you’ll hear a voice call out, greeted with voice ringing out in response.
What are these two cultures? You’ll never guess: The Bretons in Northwestern France and the Garifuna of Central America. Now these unexpectedly harmonious sounds and beats come together in collaboration as part of Breizh Amerika, a multimedia cross-cultural initiative to celebrate the beauty of Brittany, its music, food, lifeways, and language. The collaboration will debut on May 14 at New York’s Meridian 23 (7:30 PM start; meridian23.com). The musicians will also spend time in the studio, perfecting and documenting their collaboration.
The connections between the Bretons and the Garifuna, a group that traces its origins back to shipwrecked Africans who intermarried with indigenous Arawak, felt implausible to organizer Charles Kergaravat--until he heard Brooklyn-based Garifuna drummer James Lovell and his Garifuna Drum Band. “Percussionists often have an easier time leaping into collaboration with singers,” explains Kergaravat. “So when I heard about James, I decided we should meet. We chatted for a few minutes, and James insisted that we were all just crazy enough to pull this off.”
Lovell and his band will join two sought-after Breton singers of Kan Ha Diskan, the call and response-based form that ignites the dancefloor at Breton parties. Rhythmic and cheeky, the singing style has a corollary in Garifuna music, as songs are often improvised to fit the occasion, shifting and growing to incorporate new tales--and to keep people dancing.
The Breton-Garifuna will explore these connections in more depth, then present their discoveries in New York and across the US this May. It’s part of a larger effort to highlight Brittany's distinct culture, cuisine, and language, and to place Breton lifeways in a world-wide effort to enliven and maintain endangered languages and the worlds they encompass. Both Bretons and Garifuna face an uphill battle to preserve their tongues--both have barely over 200,000 speakers left--but both have strong musical traditions that have helped raise the banner for greater awareness.
“Even when singing, much of Breton music is all about the rhythm,” Kergaravat notes. “There is a much greater overlap in Garifuna and Breton experiences, and in the sounds we favor, than meets the eye.”
The Breizh Amerika Collective tours through New York City, Rochester, Cleveland, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque for Fête de la Bretagne, an international celebration of Breton music, food, and language. In an unprecedented level of participation, these US cities will be joining a global network, from Shanghai to Sao Paulo, of hosts to celebrations of Breton culture.
Follow The Breizh Amerika Collection on Twitter: @BreizhAmerika
Support this unique collaborative project here!
Breizh Amerika est très fier d'avoir été accepté comme nouveau partenaire de la marque d'excellence, Marque Bretagne !
C’est dans les locaux rennais de l’Université Européenne de Bretagne (UEB), partenaire et membre du comité de marque, que s’est réuni le premier comité de l’année. Le comité de marque, convoqué à échéance régulière, décide de concéder ou non la licence d’exploitation de la marque Bretagne aux nouveaux candidats.
Avec 58 candidatures déposées, ce début d’année 2015 confirme le flux naturel dont bénéficie la marque Bretagne et, de manière générale, l’intérêt des entreprises pour cette marque de territoire à laquelle elles souhaitent se référer pour promouvoir leurs activités.
Au total, 46 dossiers ont été retenus dont 29 entreprises, 11 associations et 7 organismes publics. Parmi les dossiers acceptés, nous comptons notamment deux jeunes pépites (entreprises de moins d'un an d'existence) : l'entreprise Dousig et l'entreprise GwenenG.
1 ORGANISME PUBLIC
Fête de la Bretagne: A Party Exported, Made in Brittany, France
We can thank the coastal region of Brittany in Northeastern France for serving as the birthplace of crêpes, but the region has exported much more than just decadent pancakes. These exports combined amount to a damn good party, and anyone who can raise a glass or keep a beat is invited. These exports include seafood, whiskey, cider, butter, the breton striped shirt and a distinctly Breton world music tradition called Kan Ha Diskan.
Lucky corners of the US will enjoy the latter of these authentic exports throughout May when The Breizh Amerika Collective tours through New York City, Rochester, Cleveland, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque for Fête de la Bretagne, an international celebration of Breton music, food, and language. In an unprecedented level of participation, these US cities will be joining a global network, from Shanghai to Sao Paulo, of hosts to celebrations of Breton culture.
Kan Ha Diskan is world music at its core, that could easily play alongside Indian or Garifuna genres (and has!). The Collective will also remind you of Celtic music. That’s no coincidence as Brittany is one of the six Celtic nations. The ancient musical form Kan Ha Diskan (meaning “to sing and unsing”), as performed by the Collective, includes pulsing accordion, spritely bouzouki, and call-and-response vocals that duel and converse.
[click here for video of the Collective performing for Radio France]
“It is a kind of a friendly battle between the musicians, and the overlay of the end of each phrase fills the tune with energy,” says Alain LeClere, a vocalist with the Collective. “There is always improvisation in the tone and the rhythms, but still keeping in the dance’s frame.”
Throughout this call-and-response, the endangered tongue they’re singing in is a rare sound indeed. UNESCO has declared Breton a ‘severely endangered language,’ spoken by only about 210,000 people worldwide.
Beyond preserving a distinct culture, the duty of a Kan Ha Diskan musician is to guide listeners to the dancefloor and keep them there. “It’s all for dancing,” says Charles Kergaravat, founder of Breizh Amerika. “You have to realize that they are held to really high standards by the dancers. It’s all about rhythm.”
Some of the songs can last fifteen minutes or more. Mercifully, the musicians keep a close eye on the dancers’ collective stamina, punctuating their sets with slower, restful numbers, only to crank it up again for another sweaty marathon.
As a culture, Bretons have never been afraid of a little sweat. “One of the best compliments you can pay to a Breton is telling him he is a hard worker,” says LeClere.
They are as dedicated to their work ethic as they are their dancefloor. In fact, many Americans have Breton blood in their family tree because of this work ethic. During the Industrial Revolution, the Michelin Tire Company took root in central France and became well-acquainted with the elbow-grease that accompanied their Breton employees. In 1907, when Michelin decided to open a factory in Mill Town, New Jersey, the corporation recruited heavily in central Brittany to share this work ethic overseas.
Later, a second wave of Breton immigrants arrived in the US throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In a mechanized world, farms in Brittany no longer needed as many workers, so they flocked through New York City and met great success in all facets of the restaurant industry, preceded by the great reputation of French cuisine. Breton restaurants like Le Bernardin, widely regarded as the best seafood restaurant in the US with its three Michelin stars, remain open and thriving today.
But even if you have no Breton culture among your ancestors, the The Breizh Amerika Collective is more than willing to share and induct you as their own, rope you around the hips into an experience that can only be described as Fest-Noz, an immersive party, powered by intense camaraderie among the singers, musicians, and dancers, an experience so distinctive, it's been declared an intangible treasure of humanity by UNESCO.
“A Breton always keeps and shares his roots,” LeClere states. “He will proclaim it and remain proud.”
Follow The Breizh Amerika Collection on Twitter: @BreizhAmerika
Ganet eo Charles Kergaravat er Stadoù-Unanet, gant kerent breton, ha klask a ra kreñvaat al liammoù etre hor bro hag hini an Eontr Sam.
Lavarit deomp piv oc’h, mar plij ?
Er Stadoù-Unanet on ganet. Ma zud a zo bretoned a oa deuet d’ar vro er bloavezhioù 60, evel kalz gallaoued-all. Amerikan ha breizhad on. Pa oan yaouank e tremenen tout ma hañvezhioù en Elliant, ha kemer a raen perzh e gouelioù-meur Kerne da skouer. Ul liamm kreñv em eus bet a-viskoazh gant Breizh. Ma identelezh eo. Evel-se em eus savet ar gevredigezh BZH New-York. Met pelloc’h eget New-York em eus c’hoant da sellet bremañ.
Peseurt tresoù heñvel a zo gant ar Stadoù-Unanet ha Breizh ?
Ur bern a zo, en ekonomiezh da skouer. Kalz embregerezhioù a labour er Stadoù-Unanet. Sevel a ra ar strollad Bolloré batirioù en Erge-Vras rak krouet o deus ur servij rannañ otoioù tredan 100 % e Indianapolis (Blueindy). Armor Lux en deus ur stal e New-York ha gwerzhañ a ra e froduoù e meur a stal. Meur a skouer evel-se a zo : deuet e oa degadoù a embregerezhioù breizhat evit saloñs elektronek Las Vegas. C’hoant em eus da lakaat an traoù-se war wel, dre ma lec’hienn internet, war ar rouedadoù sokial…
Istorioù liammet hon eus, e-kerz an daou vrezel bed da skouer, degouezhet e oa kalz a soudarded amerikan e porzh Brest. War un dachenn sevenadurel e c’heller menegiñ ar sonerezh jazz hag a zo erruet en Europa dre v/Breizh da gentañ.
Perak ho peus krouet Breizh Amerika ?
Krouet em eus ar gevredigezh bloaz zo evit brudañ al liammoù etre ar Stadoù-Unanet ha Breizh evit ma c’hellfe an amerikaned dizoloiñ hon sevenadur hag hor rannvro.
Meur a raktres a zo ganeomp gant sonadegoù er Stadoù-Unanet evit gouel Breizh. D’ar 17 a viz Meurzh e vo un dibunadeg vras evit gouel Sant Padrig war ar 5vet bali e New-York. Pedet hon eus ez-ofisiel Bagad Bro Landerne ha Kelc’h Keltiek Eskell an Elorn. Emaomp o vont ivez da aozañ ur “Business Breakfast” gant dilennidi ha penn-embregerezhioù breizhat ha tud a aferioù eus New-York.
is an organization established to create, facilitate, promote, and sponsor wide-ranging innovative and collaborative cultural and economic projects that strengthen and foster relations and cooperation between the United States of America and the region of Brittany, France.