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I had been in NYC for just under a decade. I was performing with an Afro fusion ensemble called Global Warming when I began apprenticing as a sound engineer/producer at Stormy Sky Studio on E. 26th St. I was transfixed by the West African rhythm, spirit & joy as expressed through music, so I pulled together a band of musicians who frequented NYC’s Afro-jazz scene and brought my songs to life at Stormy Sky Studio. Gratitude to Mike O’Brien for giving me a great start!!!
These fabulous musicians were Dr. Martino Atangana from Cameroon, Azouhouni Adou from Cote D’Ivoire, JoJo Kuo from Cameroon, Badou Kasse from Senegal – all highly professional, respected players on the world stage. Into the mix I threw the very funky Li’Nard on bass and Mem Nahadr on vocals, with percussion by Willy White on live shows and Joao Vincente Lewis on the Recording. JoJo was partnered on drums by Jeremie Gaddie, and Aubrey Dayle performed with us at the launch party at SOBs. Mr D was a rapper who joined us often in the early days, and is heard on Teach Love.
The afro-fusion sound was well received as we made the rounds at prime NYC clubs including The Cooler, SOBs, the Knitting Factory, Wetlands, the Museum of Sound Recording, BAM and many other NYC venues in that heydey of alternative music, the 1990s – a uniquely magical time to be young and full of dreams in NYC!
The name of the band – being in French – didn’t go over well in NYC. (imagine that!) Also, there was another band in and around NYC called Collage at the time, another flavor of funk. For me, the name LE COLLAGE (the name of the band) was an homage to the greatness of all elements together. C’est Fou!! – the name of the album – was an homage to the inherent insanity that ensues when mixing up all the elements!
The album was mostly recorded and mixed at Stormy Sky Studio by me, with final mixes at The Playroom. The album was masterfully mastered by James P. Nichols at BMG.
The Record Release Party in May, 1997 at SOBs was designed to celebrate the launch for the Le Collage C’est Fou!! CD project, but it ended up being a beautiful launchpad for many amazing artists who took part. The event was a full-on multimedia extravaganza, just as I like it – sensory overload. Gary Heidt, who wrote the liner notes for the album, introduced the artist Debbie Sutton to us who created a magnificent hanging water sculpture (I don’t have any pictures of it but it was very awesome to have WATER as a participant in that event!!!).
Other performers included Urbant Chants, an innovative beatboxing collective spearheaded by Kid Lucky (later King Luck), Citizen One (later Lipbone Redding), DJ Cruz Missile, Everton Sylvester, the dynamic duo of Sabir Mateen & Daniel Carter, and Hassan Hakmoun and his band Zahar who had literally just gotten off the plane after playing the Hollywood Bowl, with a Persian guy playing a pig bladder in tow.
Grammy-winning sound guru James P. Nichols (aka Zod) stood guard at almost all events, using his golden ear to help us achieve and maintain sonic balance.
Ricardo Nanton painted the beautiful tee shirts, which I have seen people wear around the world!
LeLaje Design made the CD covers, and the marketing.
From my perspective the night of the Launch was the most perfect, exciting, successful celebration of life, art and community. It was a moment of INFINITE POSSIBILITY.
We had a great run. I remain in humble gratitude for all the beautiful music that was made, the friendships earned, the lessons learned, the opportunities created. This album represents the magic of a moment in time.
All Photos by Michael Darter except where noted.