search for something...

search for something you might like...

Tap your spoons on your cups Hamilton High on the gentle invention of the Wau Wau Collectif

Tap your spoons on your cups

Hamilton High on the gentle invention of the Wau Wau Collectif

by Hamilton High,
first published: March, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

Put together by Karl Jonas Winqvist, an unfortunately described 'musical archeologist' from Sweden, via a series of apparently accidental and improvised recording sessions in Toubab Dialaw in Senegal...

Wau Wau Collectif
Yaral Sa Doom
(Sahel Sounds) 

If we are to accept that art from Africa is just that, art from a place and the place itself is irrelevant to how we experience the art and if we are to look and listen without patronising then we must listen to Wau Wau Collectif’s music in the same way we listen to Soft Cell or Taylor Swift.

Put together by Karl Jonas Winqvist, an unfortunately described ‘musical archeologist’ from Sweden, via a series of apparently accidental and improvised recording sessions in Toubab Dialaw in Senegal with the help of more local collaborator and studio engineer Arouna Kane, this album feels like a sweet, sophisticated prank.

Cutesy children’s voices (check); authoritative senior male voice (check); various drums, tastefully positioned in the mix (check); a version of La Bamba (err, check)… La Bamba (according to this description, see link below) is a song from Veracruz adapted from African slaves referencing a rebellion in 1683. The tradition of rhythms and styles sailing back and forth across the Atlantic between south and central America and various African countries is a long one. Rhythms that began in Africa, transformed and formalised in Brazil, returned to Africa, before venturing out, yet again, speculative messages in bottles, to land on the beaches in Ramsgate or Gothenburg, mostly somehow considered ‘authentic’ and ‘native’, instead of the sophisticated warping of ultramodern arrangement and production they were.

Which brings us to Wau Wau Collectif. The version of La Bamba, here called Thiante, a gently undulating travel-show soundtrack that reminds in places of Kraftwerk’s Ruckzuck, sits happily between the other easy going pieces. Yaral Sa Doom II, built around a series of Omnichord chords and a deliberately crude drum machine playing the Soul II Soul beat, layered with the aforementioned authoritative senior male voice and a chorus of kids. And a jolly saxophone.

Other tracks sit in the European interpretation of folktronica that grew around Devendra Banhart and to this day soundtracks hangover coffees in hipster bars. Lofi elements, probably recorded on mobile, slotted in to more conventional mixes to add colour, songs re-edited to last as long as a sipped coffee. It all works really well. The different voices, as if we’re snooping, the ironic simplicity and, particularly on Mohamodou Lo and His Children, the feeling that we are witnessing and jamming with an ever-ongoing village community, dropping in for a festival, tapping our spoons on our cups.

How much instrumentation was added subsequent to the original recordings isn’t clear. Winqvist is a very active musician and producer, his label, Sing A Song Fighter has numerous releases, all with a modern folk ‘feel’ and he has connections to Scotland’s Fence Collective, a Gaelic outpost of the folktronic, ‘quiet’ scene. Would this music have happened without his presence? Would we have heard it if it did? Does it matter?

If we are to encounter Wau Wau Collectif in the same musical universe as the one inhabited by Megan Thee Stallion and Fat White Family then we have to describe them as a gentle, invented, easy listening outfit, spiced with knowing production, enough spice to ease away the nagging suspicion that it’s a sweet joke at the expense of worthy world music fans, who balk at the description ‘world music’, because all music is world music, right?

Wau Wau Collectif on Bandcamp
Gracey Babs recommended supplemental La Bamba reading material

Hamilton High

Hamilton High was born on Doheny Ave in the gutter, is a poet, writer and observer of popular culture. Likes fashion and cares less for style. He's on the move, he's an alter ego and we hardly ever hear from him.
about Hamilton High »»



All About and Contributors


Outsideleft exists on a precarious no budget budget. We are interested in hearing from deep and deeper pocket types willing to underwrite our cultural vulture activity. We're not so interested in plastering your product all over our stories, but something more subtle and dignified for all parties concerned. Contact us and let's talk. [HELP OUTSIDELEFT]


If Outsideleft had arms they would always be wide open and welcoming to new writers and new ideas. If you've got something to say, something a small dank corner of the world needs to know about, a poem to publish, a book review, a short story, if you love music or the arts or anything else, write something about it and send it along. Of course we don't have anything as conformist as a budget here. But we'd love to see what you can do. Write for Outsideleft, do. [SUBMISSIONS FORM HERE]


Ooh Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha May 29th

outsideleft content is not for everyone