Strap in and get ready for the next instalment of the #GETTOKNOW series which invites you to learn a little more about the lesser known bands playing at the festival this year. Follow the series through our social media and newsletter for insights into some of the best music you haven’t heard yet.
Next up in the series, learn a little about how Delgres have created their distinctive sound; written by our in-house hero, Matt Hacke.
The consensus is that Delgres are a ‘missing link’ between French Caribbean and American music traditions. But the band would probably tell you that they returned to Creole culture from Western genres, rather than straddle the two.
The three-piece, after all, are named after Louis Delgres, a key figure in Guadeloupe’s resistance to French colonialism in the 1800s. Delgres died in battle, and thousands of Guadeloupians either fled the island or returned to slavery.
For lead-singer Pascal Danaë, the Delgres story and the exile that followed resonated with his own ancestry and musical vision. Inspired by a feeling of separation from his own Guadeloupian heritage, Danaë sought out his family history and the music that came with it. Following, there is a real sense of rediscovery here, as the band interweaves Creole inflection with Roots structures and instrumentation.
The output is a muscular brand of blues. Danaë’s guitar dominates, with angular, sparse riffs that immediately remind of The Black Keys or early-2000s White Stripes. Underwritten by resonant brass and thudding drums, the band members’ previous experience specialising in Mississippi blues and jazz is palpable.
What sets the act apart though are the lyrics. Committed to reanimating his ancestry, Danaë mainly sings in patois, splitting his focus between raucous social commentary and more conventional songs of love and loss.
The band’s lead single ‘Mo Jodi’ reimagines a history of resistance on Guadeloupe with gritty, realist lyrics, whilst their follow-up single ‘Vivre Sur La Route’ imagines homecoming – after years of feeling lost and isolated. In both the music and words, that feeling of exile and return is incredibly pertinent. It makes for a moving, but ultimately uplifting set of songs.
Danaë and Delgres drummer, Baptiste Brondy, has already received critical acclaim for other projects in the world music genre. Their previous work with Rivière Noir, an African-Brazilian fusion collective, scooped a French ‘Les Victoires De La Musique’ award in 2015. Playing with an infectious exuberance and a clear vision as Delgres, you wouldn’t bet against them winning more honours in the future.
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