The border between the music of Europe and Africa is artificial. Maintained by narratives that naturalize unnatural divisions between people. Crimi is a French band whose sound undercuts such mythologized divisions to demonstrate the overlap and interdependency between regions, demonstrating how beautifully they blend and inform each other in the process.
Crimi is lead by Julien Lesuisse, a renowned saxophonist and jazz player, known for his work with the electric folk assemble Mazalda. Through Crimi though, Julien follows his Sicilian roots, across the Mediterranean, embedding himself in the music of North Africa, specifically within the Algerian traditions of raï pop music, in collaboration with African new wave artists Cheb Lakhdar and Sofiane Saidi. Their first album together is Luci e Guai, a sprightly and subtly transcendent travelog that bridges the gulfs between the Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Italian folk artists like Rosa Balistreri and the patient, steady yield of North African grooves.
The first track off of Luci e Guai is actually a reworking of one of the standards, popularized by Rosa. To this end “Mano d’Oro” represents the rejuvenation of a resonate Italian folk ballad whose lyrics depict the forced migration of economic refugees into Europe, sympathetically accompanied by a replenishing splash of sun-bathed Algerian chords that closely embrace the Sicilian melody at its core. The scenes depicted in the song are unfortunately still relevant to contemporary Europe. Even though the lyrics were written sixty years prior, little has changed, and in many ways, they are worse. Julien further explores Rosa’s repertoire on the lean and wiry “La Vicaria” and the long, sea-ward facing sequestered stair of “La Virrinedda.”
Some of the more prominent influences on Luci e Guai beyond the aforementioned post-punk, folk, and African pop traditions, is most certainly American jazz and blues. The guitar work on tracks like “Lo Nilo” sound like they could be flowing from the entrance of a Chicago blues club on a Saturday night, tumbling out into the street to the delight of passing revelers, while “Quetzalcoatl” lopes between a smooth sax melody, pouty bass chords, and whistling, space-aged fusion synths on a sandy, bebopping rhythm. The album also manages to embrace some Tuareg-inspired psychedelia, exemplified by the nervy joy-ride “Ciatu di lu Margiu” and desert, dug-out dirge “Chi ci Talia ?” There really isn’t a part of the world that Luci e Guai can’t make its home. Get your passport ready because Crimi is setting the travel internally today and there is no telling where they’ll land by the end of the tour.
Buy and stream Luci e Gual via Bandcamp below: