|An interview with Magyd, Zebda.
by Mono Lo, SEPTEMBER 2002
Having arrived the previous day and having been accompanied by the local guide Manu Chao and Gambit on crutches, the band Zebda, invited in the last minute to replace Fela Kuti, had an appointment with the press in the train station France, right in the centre of Barcelona's harbor; chair of the "Fiestas de la Merced", Patron saint of Barcelona.
A meeting, which Radio Chango did not want to miss; with artists that we have been eager to add to our list since the beginning.
Here you are, in Barcelona, quite accidentally, because it was Fela Kuti who was supposed to play, but eventually they cancelled the concert and we asked you in the last minute to come. We are lucky enough that you were able to make it, as the agenda for your next tour is packed. On the road again?
Yeah, on the road again! And Barcelona, well we've always wanted to go there. Last time we went to the Bikinis and it was great.
Does this make you want to come more often to Spain?
It is true that we do not have much the opportunity to go to Spain. We give concerts so often, especially in France, and we play for so long each time, that afterwards, we are very tired and we don't have much time to give other concerts, may it be in Spain or Italy.
How many concerts did you do with Essence Ordinaire?
About 180 concerts within two years and a half. After so many gigs, we have created our little networks of salles with whom we get along and to whom we are bounded.
What does it mean to you to have salles which now ask for you while before you had to struggle to find a place where to play? Do you say yes to everything?
No, we don't say yes to everything. We are facing a too large number of demands. We have to make choices, which makes them more or less happy. And we become aware of it while being there. But here, anyway... well, from Toulouse to Barcelona, we feel at home. There is this special thing, which we feel very strongly. It is like playing at the neighbor's place.
Friends are there. What is your relationship to other artists in Barcelona and especially to Manu Chao?
We go regularly to Barcelona. It is not a trip as such, but a place to which we like to go, randomly.
Are there any parts of the city you prefer?
I think everything turns around the Ramblas. There is an affectionate relationship to Manu. We met ages ago, and we felt straight away that we were from the same family. We have the same way of viewing life. Concerning the musical level, we adhere totally to what he does. And there you go: there is affection, music and a reflection about things happening in this world.
Exactly. Concerning things like that, you could feel a special exitement at the level of anti-globalisation that we had at mid-2001. Even the medias, which was quite paradoxically, shared these ideas...And you can feel that since the 11th September the movement has increased and that problems about solidarity or the respect of environment do not worry the people any longer.
I think this might be true. In France we recently had elections with le Pen the second time. We thought the Front National was over, but all of a sudden, it rose up again. We thought that on the 1st May the people would get on the streets and protest. They had a demonstration the 1st of May but at 2nd it was already finished again. I think that the anti-globalisation values do exist in the people's hearts: everyone sees that things are not going well and they want them to get better. The problem is that they do not see any solution nor improvement, so they get bored. And we don't know which way to go make things change.
You have done politics with les Motivé and had some occasion to change things. What is the result? Are you disappointed or do you want to go on? Will there be a Motivé 2 and 3?
No we are not disappointed. It is just that, concerning politics, you have to see things clearly. You cannot pretend that you want to change the world. Many people, right and left wing as well as the communists, once have had the power. But none of them could offer an exciting solution to the people, so that the people start to thing after a while: it's all the same. And we cannot claim having found any solution. We simply want another world in which ecology and solidarity would be dominating, but we can't find an efficient way to reach our goal.
A leader or ideas to guide the movement?
Either a leader or ideas, well, a bit of both. Because you can't escape the machinery. We, for example, are signed at the label Universal. We have tried the logical alternative (Zebda has tried to release auto-produced cassetts at their beginning), but this does not work. We can't say we abandon Universal and we go sell our discs ourselves. It's the same for all the rest. There are no radical alternative solutions, so people get bored.
Yeah, compromises...Compromises let you develop a lot of energy in reality.
And at Toulouse's Municipalité, were you able to change things there?
I think that with the Municipalité people wanted to support us. Than, on our second tour, people said: No, we need to be serious. But, Toulouse's population, like so many others, does not give the impression. We have to take things as they are. But at one moment, the people ask us: "Where are we going?". And that question, we can't pretend the answer to that question.
So, while others screw the people, you prefer to stay honest?
Yes, others have an answer to everything and tend screw the people.
Do the people support you in Toulouse?
Ah, yes. It is necessary to make things clear: Motivés is not Zebda. We supported Motivé on a media level, but there is a life besides Zebda. There are people who constantly wonder what is going to happen next. But nothing is going to happen next. Either there is enough people to make things go forward or, as in most movements, there is a sort of tiredness settling in, because people do not see things changing quickly enough.
This week-end was the first anniversary of the EZF in Toulouse. And I remember that after the accidental explosion there was an anti-Muslim paranoia. It was one week after the 11th September...tensions and fear reappeared in France. In Spain, as well, we felt a radicalization of the right wing and an exaggerated emphasize on the clandestine phenomena in the media. Some people saw a link between the EZF and Muslims.
Yes, in France we had an anti-Muslim sentiment. "There has been an explosion, it must be the Arabs.", "It must be an assassination attempt." Having an immigration background, we live a little bit in that double paranoia. It's like the terrorists are Arabs and the victims, as well. We do not know any longer where to stand. Then the tension dropped, but anyway, it keeps rising and falling. The idea that the Arab- Muslim world is a threat remains.
This is very well represented in the media. But among the young people, things have improved in the last 20 years. Not everyone is blind.
Of course, it is represented in the media. But things have to improve towards tolerance, but at the same time there is still the Algerian war being at the center of debates for 40 years and the problems of the Palestine, Iran, Iraq and the Islam in general.
However, I think that the sentiment is much more pro-Palestinian in France than in Spain or other European countries.
For some intellectuals, yes, but in general the Palestinians are the next Arabs. And people mix up the Palestinian with the young immigrant, which is inconsistent.
Do you think the young ones today still suffer from this?
If we are talking about the youth in general, there is a disillusion. They do not believe in anything. And that's legitimate: How could we believe in a political party nowadays? And for the young immigrants, because they don't feel at home... even if they are going to school, know guys like me who make them dream or have a career in sight, at one point they will always feel the difference between "them" and "the others". And this is where the problem lies. We have to build an "us".
How would you describe your new album?
It has been said that it is a darker album than the others. I don't think it is that that dark, but certainly a bit more. On the artistic and creative level the album has been very exciting. Hot stuff, party and good vibes. These are subjects we have worked on in the past. And this time we wanted to express pain. It' s global pain and we also wanted to talk about the past ten years in a more melancholic way. But at the same time we wanted to stick to Zebda, and feel that there is a drummer, bass-guitar player and a guitarist. Meaning, to stick to Zebda's basic instruments. It's certainly a more musical album.
How do you write your music and lyrics?
I write the lyrics, but how do write our music? Well, it's a real melting pot: one of us comes with a melody , an atmosphere or some riffs, and the others add things to it.
And do you still practice?
No, we haven't practiced for a while. Now, we feel more like having our private life. Toulouse stays the base for us. When we are doing music for Zebda, we are all together for a month or two. You have got fifteen guys in a bus who all want to make people move. Than we have a two a month break to relax.
How was the encounter with the scene this time?
The first concert was 2 or 3 weeks ago and the sensations were great.
Would you say it was the same sensations as before?
I think it was better than before. Because everyone was full of energy. We have gathered all the best in us. And we feel that the sensation is much stronger.
In one week there will be the new edition of "Ca bouge encore". We still have in our memory last years party where you were fooling around at Manu Chao's concerts. How will it be this time ?
Fela Kuti cancelled, now it's Spook and the Guay, Zebda, Matthieu Chedid - who we like very much -, Benabar - a French music group we like a lot - and a kabyle singer who is bit of an idol to us and whom the people don' t know. It's much less spectacular then last year.
And Fly and the Tox , a group I adored, did they split up?
Yeah, but you can still see Nicolas Cassagnot in small concert halls and bars in Toulouse.
And Erich Coffee?
Yeah (smile), among others.
There has been a crazy generation of Toulouse people with Spook, Sandoval, the Flys and you. Is there a new generation coming?
I don't really know. Zebda keeps me occupied a lot and when I see a new band I can' t do much except motivating them. I don't feel like managing and promoting them. The young generation is there to take over. And this is what they have to do. It' s good, if bonds are created. But we don't have a close relationship to the young musical scene in Toulouse. We actually hear about things that are already working very well. There is, for example, the hip-hop scene which is very interesting. Even though they are still in search of their own identity, they really have something to offer
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