🎧 I am a composer, producer and editor of my music. Piano, percussion, n'goni, balafon and kora, I offer a wide variety of styles, from African music to waltz, through piano ballads and I am equipped to make professional quality recordings.
Instrumental, my compositions are intended to be used as support to the image.
On the website musiquenvrac, you have a sample of my productions, you can download them for listening. In order to take note of them without restrictions, they are placed under a Creative Commons license, which authorizes their copy in a strict family framework. All the musics of this site are intended for a commercial exploitation. The "nc" clause of the license only serves to protect them from misuse. The Creative Commons licenses are not exclusive, a commercial exploitation can be done under another under another mode, necessarily with the agreement of the author.
As a performer, I am a beneficiary of the neighbouring rights As a performer, I am a beneficiary of the neighboring rights in the case of a commercial diffusion.
All music and scores are protected, but they are not registered with a rights management organization.
🎧 Bob Gnupa
My music has a story
Meeting with the n'goni
The encounter with the n'goni, African cordophone harp with bridge, plunges us into the heart of deep Africa. Made of a calabash, bamboo, goat skin and grey, the n'goni is played in Africa by the Dozos, those who are holders of magical powers where witchcraft, medicinal plants, songs, dance and secret rites are mixed... This is the story of my encounter with this instrument, its making and its introduction in the recording of one of my compositions that you will discover here.
During my first stay in Africa, immersed in the milieu of jembe players, I came into contact with the n'goni. Dozos, custodians of this instrument, gravitated around us and one day, I heard for the first time the sound of the n'goni live. The contact with the instrument was made without the filters that we usually encounter with African music. Here, no sound engineer, no mastering, no watered down image in front of a beautiful coconut tree. A raw sound, straight out of a calabash and nylon fishing ropes came to hit my ears. As for the Dozo who played and sang on this instrument, his voice, hoarse from frequenting some cabaret, and the playing of his out-of-tune n'goni drove the word music that oozes over the airwaves in the West out of my ears. There was no doubt about the authenticity of the encounter.
Building the instrument
Naturally, I wanted to build a n'goni because in Africa, nobody buys one. The apparent rusticity of the instrument, assembled with materials available locally almost free of charge, could only reinforce my desire. As surprising as it may seem, imagining the construction of a n'goni puts us in a quandary. The instrument is however very rustic but it is precisely its lack of symmetry and the deformity of the elements of its construction that confuse us.We imagine a whole set of learned calculations to adjust the neck, to make the sound exit hole in the calabash, to lay the skin or to adjust the tension bars. But there is nothing more random in the construction of a n'goni. No dimension, while remaining within reasonable proportions, is of primary importance. It is perhaps precisely this form from another time that confuses us. Fortunately, my friends who play the jembe helped me build my first n'goni. It was only a year later that I decided to build one on my own, occasionally adding tensioning mechanisms and a few consolidations that the first one did not have. I built it in Europe, having brought back from Africa the main constituent, the calabash, sometimes difficult to find in our countries. On the site cliniquenjembe, an entire page is devoted to the construction of a n'goni. There are all the details allowing a realization close to that which one could engage in Africa, i.e. with very few material and financial means.
After a few years of playing the n'goni, I decided to record the rhythmic pattern that will serve as a framework for one of my compositions. Goni as it is called, is structured around a repetitive rhythm played by myself on this instrument; the clave is played on the foot, with a modified snare pedal. In the beginning of the piece, a rain stick was added; it is also built by my care. After a few bars, a virtual synth riff appears. This riff completes the original rhythmic pattern and it is on this pattern that the melody will be inserted. There too, it is a virtual flute synthesizer, in total improvisation. There is voluntarily no percussion on this track.
Birth of Sève montante
Sève montante is a piano ballad that I composed as an improvisation during a performance. Luckily, a pocket recorder was sitting on the piano; I just had to press the recording button. I keep this first draft preciously, in spite of the poor quality sound, marred by noises and of course not finalized. The basis of the piece was however there, left hand in accompaniment and main melody in the right hand. Later, I lengthened the piece and corrected the few less happy notes. The whole thing was always done in improvisation at first. It was only when the piece was finalized that I chose the most interesting parts from the long recorded improvisation sequences.
The left hand presents no difficulties, it repeats itself immutably throughout the piece, on four bars in 6/8. The melody of the right hand does not pose any technical problems either. The difficulty of the interpretation lies in playing the two parts together. There is a little independence to be applied and one must make it live musically. Playing in a mechanical way, with a right hand that would just fall on the notes of the left hand would not enhance the piece. You have to make the melody sing. The title "Sève montante" (rising sap) indicates that the sap must rise throughout the performance.
Virtual piano, real piano
Sève montante was recorded on a virtual piano, with a heavy touch Midi keyboard. However, I would like to record again on a real piano, with microphones, and give a more natural interpretation. The fact of knowing that with a virtual instrument, one will start over dozens of times, without consequences, does not have the same effect as the tension induced during an acoustic recording, which is unforgiving. Under these conditions, one cannot start the recording again for days on end. And in a commercial studio, the clock is ticking and the checkbook is waiting. At home, you have more time and the hours are not counted, but you need a very good piano, adequate microphones and a room isolated from ambient noise. It is not every day that you can meet these conditions at home, which is why you often turn to virtual instruments. When you make this choice, you have dozens of tests that you don't know what to do with. There is always one that is better, but has a small defect.
Three times four
Synonymous with a supposedly cheesy era, the waltz is no longer in the air. Composing and recording a waltz in the age of techno, all binary and screamed borborygms is not very promising, as some would say. However, the waltz, which is also a dance, resists the ambient cultural diktat. The injunctions to like at all costs the musics which hurt our ears did not have yet reason of the 3/4 and its declensions. It is a great happiness, because the waltz comes back from far.
Making yourself known
It remained for me to dare to compose and record a waltz, in order to mark the presence of this dance in my repertoire, even if it was discrete. Fortunately, there is a place, the net, where no producer, editor, radio programmer or underling can prevent us from proposing our productions to the public. An artist who sees the doors closing in front of him will be very happy to finally have an audience on his site or on a streaming music service, even if it is modest. Personal productions are exploding, they often do not enrich their authors but the satisfaction of not having any intermediary involved in the production chain, and of getting rights in the process, is priceless. Not to mention the free licenses or Creative Commons which allow to free oneself from the heaviness of the SACEM.
To all those who do not know what is 3/4, I dedicate this title in three times two movements.
Tthree time four is not recorded acoustically. Everything was done in MAO, on virtual instruments. An underlying piano rhythm is discrete, but it is the cellos that dominate, including in the form of accompanying riffs. As one can hear, no drums are present, only a clave appears at the beginning of the verse. Instrumental in its present form, this waltz can be sung without any problem.
Show me stands in stark contrast to most of the other tracks presented so far. No acoustic sounds or traditional instruments, only electronic sounds. This excursion into this style helps confirm the diversity of my work. Show me
Composers are not mixing or recording technicians, even though many of them are very good at it. Our job is to compose, but by necessity we have been forced to become familiar with the digital tools that now dominate the music scene, especially in personal recording. What the older among us dreamed of, having a professional quality recording studio at home, is now within reach. Provided you stick to electronic sounds, home recording today has nothing to envy to commercial studios. However, this independence comes at the cost of a double skill requirement - composer and recording/mixing technician.
However, we are not fooled. Except for a few who produce in their "home studio" tapes of a professional level, for many others, the result is a bit below. Many of us are well aware of this, but the balance is quickly made. The heroic days of analog recording were, for us composers, a terror. No matter what we did, our tapes always sounded a long way from the commercial studios. And the many obliged intermediaries let us know this irrevocably, finding there an easy excuse to refuse any composition they did not like. Hundreds of thousands, not to say millions, of composers have never been able to make their work known in any way because of this constraint. The barrier was erected, impassable without the support of a publisher, a producer and a record company. Times have changed. An isolated composer working in his own studio in MAO can today make known quality productions, thanks to the net. Success is far from being guaranteed, talent is still necessary, but for many of us, it is the end of the rogue middlemen, often repressed artists, real watchdogs and decision-makers of what should be listened or not by the public.
Another particularity is that our recording studio is at home, within reach, free of charge, except for the electrical consumption of our equipment. The direct consequence is that it becomes difficult for us to decide when a product is finished. As long as a composition is not sold, we can always rework it. You just turn on the computer; you don't have to call in musicians or rent a very expensive professional studio. Added to the fact that most of us are not professional mixers and are not used to quick results, it is tempting to leave a track on the job for many weeks.
For my part, when a mix is listenable, I decide rather quickly to put it on my personal website. It's the best way to test my work against others, and to correct it afterwards.
Learning to play the kora is not an easy task and contrasts with learning most other musical instruments. The number of players is very small in Europe, mimicry does not work. It is very difficult to write scores for this instrument, and an attempt to do so requires the addition of extra staves and signs compared to traditional music theory. Moreover, the kora player is alone to learn, he can only listen to the recordings of the great African masters for inspiration. Or he can develop his own playing.
Build a kora
The kora, like the n'goni, is an instrument that most musicians who adopt it build. However, a kora has some particularities that it is better to master before hoping to obtain a playable instrument. The number of strings, 21 for the classical koras, is consequent. They exert a pressure of more than 200 kg on the bridge and the skin. The calabash, the skin, the bridge, the neck and the wooden crosspieces are under pressure that sometimes leads to breakage. A neck that is too weak will bend and the tuning will be difficult to maintain over a reasonable period of time. The same is true for the skin, if it is also too weak. Conversely, oversized materials will muffle the sound. You have to find the right balance. All luthiers who work on acoustic instruments will tell you that a good acoustic instrument is one that is close to breaking. The choice of the string fasteners is also important, as much for the price as for the quality, data which will determine the tuning of the instrument.
The reward at the end of the work is an instrument that has no equal, especially if you built it yourself. If you don't feel capable of doing this work, there are excellent luthiers in France who make professional koras.
Recording the kora is also a challenge. The use of external microphones is far preferable to the use of spot microphones, even if they are very well made. Everything must be done to avoid distorting the sound. Bringing out the power of the bass without muffling the sound and bringing out the highs without being aggressive requires a lot of experimentation in placement, and high quality microphones.
As usual and especially for acoustic recordings, "kora", present on the site musiquenvrac is not final. Putting it online will force me to quickly improve it and propose another recording, without waiting months for inspiration.
Soon, the continuation of the musical adventures on this page, the story of Bala, Valse d'automne, and others to come...
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