Chaplin’s bowler hat on top of thick dreadlocks, striped opera hats and white shirts like a Prohibition-era Untouchable: undoubtedly, Faada Freddy has his own style, a mix of old-style chic and the attire of a ghetto’s rude boy. Looking cool and zazou gives him a street dandy cachet, and it also sets the tone of Gospel Journey, his first album, elegant and stylish, ageless yet furiously modern. As’, who produced Imany’s first album (platinum album in France and in several European markets), produced this quite singular and purely vocal album. The songs effortlessly cover several territories, some of which aren’t exactly neighbors: soul, worship songs, a capella R’n’B, fresh folk, unplugged rock, all united under a single banner, the deep and omniscient voice of Faada. A voice that is assuredly one of the purest, warmest and most melodic among the up and coming talents of 2015.
Faada (the stage name of Abdou Fatcha Seck), comes from a 6-children family, his father was teacher and school inspector in Senegal. Strict and demanding when it comes to discipline and school results, the music loving father unknowingly gave a musical education to one of his boys. Faada would then spend his free time crafting makeshift guitars with oil cans, and making Toukouss ngalam, a small west-African lute, with tin cans. When he was a pupil at Lycée Maurice de la Fosse, Faada, along with his friends NDongo D and Alajiman also recorded their first cassette, the first step toward sending their band, Daara J, at the top of the African rap scene and gaining international recognition, with prestigious opening acts and collaborations (Damon Albarn, Peter Gabriel, Wyclef Jean, Rita Mitsouko, Mos Def…), as well as a BBC award for the Boomerang album in 2003.
Embarking on a new adventure, Faada kept from his hip-hop experience a partiality for beatboxing, a musical technique of vocal percussion where the artists imitates instruments and produces rhythms with his mouth. Gospel Journey gives a prominent place to this technique, along with other body techniques such as hand clapping and body percussions (when the body is used as a drum). The album therefore manages to avoid the more traditional style of production and goes back to the roots, gospel music, a musical tradition craving for spirituality and born in barren cotton fields and country churches. Like a baptism, an act of purification, Faada seems to plunge into this original stream of Afro-American music from where the blues and the soul - other inspirations of the singer -, emerged.
Along with this deep diving, the album accomplishes another feat: virtually all the songs are covers of contemporary songs from very diverse styles: soul, R’n’B, folk, punk, indie rock… Letter To The Lord, from Cameroon’ Irma, Truth from USA’s Alexander, punk band Rise Against’s Generation Lost, The Lonely Forest’s We Sing In Time, Imany’s Sleep Down, Let it Go from Senegal’s Wasis Diop, Little Black Sandals from Australia’s Sia, The Death of Me from Canada’s City & Color or Lost from USA’s Grace: a fine selection of titles that become reborn under a cleaner, purer aesthetic approach. In addition to the covers, the album also includes Reality Cuts Me Like A Knife, an original composition from Faada, as well as an old title of Daara J, Borom Bi. The result goes beyond pure style, even if it is reminiscent of other similar vocal endeavors such as Bobby Mc Ferrin, Björk, Fredo Viola, or Camille.
ABOVE ALL, GOSPEL JOURNEY IS A CHALLENGE THAT OFFERS FAADA’S OUTSTANDING VOICE A UNIQUE STAGE WITH BOTH A PRIMITIVE AND A MODERN PERSPECTIVE.
In its own way, this album is also a human bridge between musical styles and between continents, carried by sincerity, emotion and unusual elegance. (Bowler) hats off!