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Ghédalia Tazartès
Diasporas Kareem Ghezawi , April 13th, 2020 08:42

Hear the raw alien alchemy of Ghédalia Tazartès in this newly re-issued version of the 40-year old classic Diasporas

Forty-one years since its initial release, Diasporas still possesses an esotericism and quasi-religious obscurity that continue to make it equal parts intriguing and impenetrable. In it, multi-instrumentalist, autodidact and all-round Jewish medicine man Ghédalia Tazartès uses his vocal cords as a tool to translate his raw creative and spiritual impulses akin to the way an abstract painter attacks a canvas. It is a recording designed to take people out of their comfort zone and pop their care-free cosmopolitan bubble with the soul-scratching needle of Tazartès’s alien aural alchemy. Like an optician switching lenses until you can read the letters, it may take a few adjustments but once you have the right lens locked in, the abstruse suddenly becomes blindingly clear and obvious.

In Diasporas, Tazartès uses the Sephardic Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino to channel the historical trauma of an uprooted and scattered people. At points this process becomes unbearable for him and the listener alike, causing his voice to falter and break or run dry, like a lake suddenly split from its source or a pressure cooker about to explode. Tazartès dredges up sustained wails, mumbles, mantras and screams in which you can hear everything from confusion, loss, indecision, elation and at times sheer madness and delirium, as if there was a poison or evil spirit he was trying to expel out of his system. Some phrases are brute forced from the depths of his gut, while others swim and glide out of his spirit, the man himself seemingly acting as a shaman or a conduit from which his ancestral forefathers may express themselves with impunity. Either way, he does not plan and sculpt but trusts in his subconscious to dictate proceedings, only editing recordings that he can see traces of enlightenment or revelation in, a process he calls “Impromuz”.

He opens ‘Un Amour Si Grand Qu'il Nie Son Objet’ with teetering incantations that sound like the wings of an old bird struggling to stay in flight, as if fatigued then suddenly propelled with sudden bursts of vitality. There is an eerie uncanniness to it all with the cut-off female soprano tape loops and the angry vocals that emerge akin to a swathe of black veils lamenting over the casket of a martyr. A quarter way into the nine-minute track his voice strains and hesitates as if distracted by some sudden otherworldly transmission. As he bursts into spontaneous chanting you can almost see his eyes roll in his skull and smell the exotic aromatic smoke pouring from his swinging censor.

After ‘La Vie Et La Mort Légendaire Du Spermatozoïde Humuch Lardy’ and ‘La Berlue Je T'aime’, in which he plays demented jester and mad monk respectively, he takes the enigmatic and avant-garde nature of the record full circle with ‘Quasimodo Tango’. In it he comes out of his fluctuating mystical states and briefly dons his social mask, stepping into the ballroom and embracing the glamour and charm of his Parisian heritage with the elegant French poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé and accompanying piano by Michel Chion.

Listened to in its entirety, Diasporas feels like a fractured identity attempting to self-repair. Like smashed glass trying to become a window again. As the records strains to repair this window, it becomes a patchwork of stained glass drawn from all the races that have hosted the diaspora of his people. Using tape loops, repetitions, and the invocations of his manipulated vocals he suspends cultural fragments in stasis for a future generation to re-forge into something whole. In ‘Mourir Un Peu’ we can hear the voices of that future generation presumably his own children, his subdued chants in the background offering himself up as both a guide and guardian.

Tazartès sets an undoubtably sombre stage in Diasporas, with a backdrop of acoustic and electronic tinkering he switches between tragic and comedic masks at whim, his disembodied narrative constantly struggling to latch on to a reliable narrator to guide it through. Where most people try to coax the divine out of their indifference with offerings and sacrifices, Tazartès provokes them into action with the existential angst of so many unanswered questions.