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DELGRES Turns Up the Heat on Human Rights with New Album '4:00AM'

The album will be released on April 9th.

DELGRES Turns Up the Heat on Human Rights with New Album '4:00AM'

The music in 4:00 AM, the new recording by the Paris-based power roots trio Delgres, sounds gritty and full of energy. It's a brand of Creole blues built on strands of African and French Caribbean culture, Mississippi blues storytelling, and New Orleans grooves. The lyrics, sung mostly in Creole, address issues such as poverty, slavery, and the struggles of the immigrant searching for a better life. It's a powerful combination that conjures the spirit of the blues to speak up, but also celebrate and heal.

"The blues is not sad music," says singer, songwriter, and guitarist Pascal Danae, the founder, and leader of Delgres. "They might be talking about terrible conditions, about terrible losses, but the bottom line is hope."

4:00 AM, scheduled for release April 9 on [PIAS] Records, is the follow-up to the trio's potent 2018 debut release Mo Jodi (I'll Die Today), and its music and themes, says Danae, are a reaffirmation of the group's origins.

"It is linked to the name of the band," explains Danae. The trio is named after Louis Delgrès, a Creole officer in the French Army who died in Guadeloupe in 1802, fighting against Napoleon's army, which had been sent to reinstate slavery in the French Caribbean. "Here's a guy who actually decided to give his life rather than go back to slavery. Once you have that in the background, you understand the themes in the songs. Our first album was linked to what Louis Delgrès did in his fight for freedom. Now in this second album, it's about our times."

As the son of Guadeloupean parents, Danae was born and raised in Paris - once the center of the French colonial empire - and his perspective on colonial and post-colonial history informs his music and his message.

"My father came to mainland France from Guadeloupe back in the 1950s, and my mother in 1962. A lot of people from the West Indies moved to France at that time," he says. "And many years later, we can see the same thing happening with people from Africa, risking their lives trying to give their families a chance of a better life. This is the background of what we address in this album."

"We are all dealing with COVID and it's taking up all the space. Everything you can see and hear is related to the pandemic - and we forget that for these people, still struggling, reality has not changed," he says. "So we try to keep shedding some light on them and their situation just so, as a society, we don't forget. We have to be there for those who can't speak for themselves."

4:00 AM features powerful songs such as "Assez, Assez," (Enough, Enough) the first single from the album and a snapshot of the tragedy of immigrants dying at sea while trying to reach a new place. "La Penn" (The Pain) is an unusual cry of "a poor guy that becomes a terrible person just because of bad luck." "Aleas," (Hazards) speaks of the anguish of separation, the age-old story of the immigrant leaving family behind as he looks to settle in a new place. "Se mo la" (These words) addresses the racism in those words that "burn my heart," while "Lese mwen ale" (Let me go) and "Libere Mwen, Libere Mwen" (Free Me, Free Me) speak simply and directly about slavery.

Danae has a distinct talent for looking at large, global issues through the keyhole of personal experience and family history. His first trip to Guadeloupe, when he was already in his 30s, turned what might have been a humanitarian but distant concern into a personal story.

"When you don't grow up in the place where your parents come from, you hear their stories and it all sounds to you like a tale," says Danae. "It happened a long time ago, you don't know the place, and it's not your story." But during that visit, he was given his great-great-grandmother's letter of freedom from slavery, dated 1841.

"The paper said 'Louise Danae, 27 years old, and her four children,' and my great-grandfather was one of those children, and everything, everything that you've been hearing all your life suddenly becomes real. That was probably the turning point for what was to become Delgres."

Danae grew up listening to a broad range of music styles, from Cuban son, Haitian konpa and African music to jazz, the Kinks, and James Brown. He got his first guitar at 15, a gift to pass the time, and turned it into a career, first playing jazz and fusion in clubs around Paris, and later as a session musician, working with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour, Mayre Andrade, Harry Belafonte, and Gilberto Gil. In 1997, following his passion for British blues-based rock, he moved to London where he lived for eight years.

It was while living in Amsterdam, where he spent three years before moving back to Paris, that he found a dobro, a resonator guitar with a distinct sound that completed his musical puzzle. "You have to let it resonate, and stop and listen to it, and so you start listening to yourself," he says. "It was like learning to walk again."

In shaping the distinct sound of Delgres, Danae drew on his musical experiences and added his own take on the sound of New Orleans. "That's the Creole in it," he says. "New Orleans used to be part of France and the music you hear in New Orleans is very much influenced by the Caribbean. My father used to be a musician and in Guadeloupe they called the drum kit 'jazz'. They wouldn't say 'he plays the drums,' they would say 'He plays the jazz. '"

Delgres features drummer Baptiste Brondy and, in a nod to New Orleans tradition, rather than using a conventional electric or acoustic bass, Danae chose to anchor the music with a sousaphone, calling on Rafgee, a Paris Conservatory-trained trumpeter who regularly played tuba in Caribbean dance bands.

"As a society, we have no choice but to change," says Danae. "As they are, things don't work. So we try and get on with it. Delgres is so small to the world. We have a tiny voice, but we try to be who we are. Baptiste is not from Guadeloupe. Rafgee is not from Guadeloupe. They each have a different background from mine, but we're together, having a good time and trying to get people to come around to the simple idea that we can all live together. It doesn't have to be difficult."

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