Producer Galliano Brings DJ Grooves To Afro-Pop

Frikyiwa Collection 1 matches Malian musicians Neba Solo, Nahawa Doumbia with club-oriented European remixers.

Frédéric Galliano — the French DJ, remixer and producer of the recently released Frikyiwa Collection 1, featuring music by Neba Solo and Nahawa Doumbia — wants to bridge the gap between world music and the dance club.

"There are no really good world-music producers," he said. "They're not willing to propose a direction to an artist, they don't think about the sound and none of them imagines this traditional music remixed. They have a colonialist attitude."

Through his French record label Frikyiwa, Galliano hopes to change that.

In recent years, Frikyiwa has released several 12-inch singles on which producers have remixed tracks from the French Cobalt label's catalog of Malian recordings. Nine of those remixes are collected on Frikyiwa Collection 1, which features singer Doumbia's "Yankaw" and balafon (wood xylophone) player Solo's "Cinporoko Nonougoro" given house, dub and ambient treatments more familiar to clubland than to Afro-pop.

The priority, according to Galliano, "was to find good original tracks. Sometimes I look for a remixer who has the same direction as the original track. Sometimes, though, I prefer adventure. All I ask is that the remixer use plenty of elements from the original track, making it both really electronic and really African."

Curiously, the CD doesn't contain any of Galliano's own remixes. But he promises that the follow-up, due in September, will. And the label will offer more than just remixes in the future, beginning with an acoustic album Galliano recorded in Africa, he said.

"You can have an acoustic album with a DJ attitude to sound and arrangement," he said. "I recorded mine in Africa, where the musicians live. To have an artist who lives in Cameroon record in Paris is ridiculous."

Galliano isn't just another DJ who's jumped on the world-music bandwagon. He began listening to African music when he was 15, then he again got excited about the form five years ago. "Traditional music came back with acoustic attitude, which I like," he said. "I prefer acoustic music. Which is paradoxical, since I produce electronic music."

He's even added his loops and samples live, sharing stages with Solo and Doumbia. (He recently teamed with Doumbia at a concert in Seattle.)

"The real secret is to listen," Galliano said of his DJ technique when participating in one of those pairings. "I listen to them, they listen to me and we think about it. It's not a superficial meeting. I try to take an acoustic attitude to their music but an electronic attitude to what I'm doing. You can get the same vibe from either of them."

Does it work? Can electronic beats merge with the fluid, shifting rhythms of African music? Galliano believes so.

But while the Wassoulou vocalist Doumbia appreciates the concept, she's less enthusiastic about the execution. "The dance rhythms and my rhythms aren't quite the same, I have to admit," she said.

Even when his fusions aren't successful, Galliano continues to explore. He said his mission is to introduce the dance-club generation to hip African music. And he's doing it with DJ attitude.