If the pavements of Kingston, Paris, New York and Lagos formed one country with the mountains of Jamaica and the Reunion, that nation’s anthem would be A New Day. This luminous record, concocted by two unrepentant music-lovers, came from the back of a draw that was already opened a few years ago. In 2007, Fixi and his band Java recorded Paris Rockin’ with Jamaican musician Winston McAnuff and sold over 20 000 copies. That day, the pair started a collaboration that would bring them together again one day.
Six years later, here is the second chapter of this adventure, and this time it’s a real duo. The foundation of their collaboration remains the same, one of them on the accordion or keyboards, the other behind the mic – surrounded by their friends – their ambition to break down barriers between musical genres reaching its culmination. The tandem mixes rock-musette, reggae, soul, blues, afrobeat and maloya in the same score. But rather than joining these styles together, they fused them together to break with tradition and create rather than copy.
With A New Day, they created a unique blend, taking us through the twists and turns of a musical Eden. Some songs are more upbeat, like ‘Garden of Love’, a cheerful cavalcade recalling the blissful shores of love; there’s a nursery rhyme, ‘Let Him Go’, built on a background of cha-cha-cha that’s guarantied to stay in your head all day long; there’s ‘One, Two, Three’, a heady maloya pulsating like a heartbeat, like a trance leading from vertigo to total freedom; just like ‘Economical Crisis’, a frenetic antidote against recession that could wake the dead; there’s ‘You and I’, whipped into an afrobeat gem by non other than the maestro Tony Allen, Fela’s ex-drummer, who’s always thirsty for new experiences and whose latest albums were conceived by… Fixi. This ambitious project was produced by Olivier Lude (Vanessa Paradis, -M-, …) and had to feature some of the people who fundamentally inspired this great musical voyage: other than Tony Allen, there’s Olivier Araste of Lindigo (a young maloya band that’s very popular in the Reunion and whose last album was produced by Fixi), -M- on guitar, Cyril Atef on percussion and several others.
There are also some more meditative songs: after the unbridled and explosive impulsion of the start of their collaboration, their approach is now more profound, leaving room for spleen and spirituality. ‘Wha Dem Say’, an incantatory blues, is the perfect backdrop for the great soul man Winston McAnuff’s rough and banged-up voice, recalling Bobby Womack’s, to assert its strong personality. In perfect communion with Fixi’s accordion, Winston’s voice sets and appeasing mood, watching the world from a distance, questioning it, far from its buzzing urgency. This philosophical and sometimes social dimension appears on ‘Heart of Gold’ (a woman who swaps her heart for gold), ‘Johnny’ (a lost youth lacking guidance that gets broken by prison), ‘Don’t Give Up’ (illusions clouding the way to true love) and ‘A New Day’ (a comforting song opening-up a glorious future at our fingertips). ‘If You Look’ reaches a height of melancholy and lyricism that cures the soul.
You’ll feel a serene calmness coming out of the enchanted garden that is A New Day, a welcome comet in the formatted musical cloud of today’s scene. The universality of Fixi and Winston McAnuff’s record could only come from rebels like themselves. “I’m a rebel”, says Winston, on the only truly reggae song of the album, with fine maloyen tones sung by a feminine chorus that sound like The I Threes. They’re rebels to the end, choosing their own path and inviting us on this universal waltz, coming from far away and from nowhere we know.