"Wait For Me"
2. A Sera, A Waara (He Came, He Went)
3. Tasuma/Ji (Fire/Water)
4. Taare (Surprise)
5. A Ni Baara (Greetings to He Who Works)
6. Nisondiya (Joy)
7. Taamala Fisa (It's Good To Travel)

Wonderfully combining raw acoustic blues with traditional West African music, Wait For Me results from the encounter between Zita Swoon Group (the Antwerp collective led by dEUS co-founder Stef Kamil Carlens) and Burkina Faso musicians Awa Démé & Mamadou Diabaté Kibié. Most songs deal with serious issues (often relating to the problems of modern African society), yet the album is uplifting and captivating: Awa's soaring vocals, Stef Kamil's raspy delivery, subtle instrumental textures, and inventive arrangements performed by eight excellent musicians all contribute to making Wait For Me a unique listening experience.

Having outgrown years ago the narrow 'rock band' framework (see below, 'Zita Swoon in brief'), Stef Kamil Carlens is always eager to launch into new adventures. A couple of years ago, he travelled to Burkina Faso, and was introduced to singer Awa Démé and balafon (xylophone) player Mamadou Diabaté Kibié. Both are griots, popular traditional storytellers. This encounter turned out to be the starting point of a fascinating collaboration. Stef Kamil spent a lot of time with them, listening to their stories, and trying to get acquainted with their experiences and their way of seeing the world. Somewhat later, they started playing together, and soon found a way to combine Mamadou and Awa's West African melodies and patterns with Stef Kamil's blues-rooted style.

Most of the thirteen resulting songs are based around dialogues: the content of Awa Démé's lyrics (sung in Dioula, a Manding language) is echoed and transposed in Stef Kamil's English-language lines, which reflect the griots' preoccupations with traditional wisdom, interpersonal relationships, social codes and cultural traditions, but also with very current issues: social and political problems, the depletion of the country's natural resources, endemic poverty which drives many people to emigrate in search of a better life etc. Stef Kamil's lyrics sometimes expand on Awa's subject matter, and sometimes respond with a different viewpoint: in a song such as "A Ni Baara", Awa expresses the would-be emigrant's hopes, while Stef Kamil describes the hard reality which often expects the migrants.

Once the songs had been written, Stef Kamil Carlens moved to the next stage: creating a specific sonic environment in order to transform the core concept into a lively show and an interesting album. As with most recent Zita Swoon Group projects, Stef Kamil's starting point was to carefully select a series of instruments which would produce a palette of very defined tones and textures, whose combination would paint a certain picture and tell its own aural 'story'. The warm sound of the balafon is thus unexpectedly combined with the very idiosyncratic colours of the banjo, the resophonic guitar and the pump organ, augmented by an array of percussion, a bass guitar and a set of cocktail drums.

This very precise instrumentation was entrusted to a group of great players (some of which are regular Zita Swoon members, some not): young Cuban master Amel Serra Garcia plays percussion, Belgian/Congolese vocalist Kapinga Gysel plays pump organ and glockenspiel in addition to her backing vocal duties, Belgian guitarist Simon Pleysier mostly plays the banjo, the bass is entrusted with Christophe Albertijn (a composer and sound designer), and the cocktail drums with Karen Willems (who usually plays drums in an indie rock band). As for Stef Kamil Carlens, besides writing, singing and arranging the songs (both for the album and the live shows) with a meticulous attention to detail, he mostly plays resophonic and electric guitars.

After playing a first, acclaimed series of shows in Belgium in May, the band went into the studio to record the album, which was mixed by Gilles Martin (a longtime associate of Zita Swoon… and before that, of Crammed Discs, as he was practically the label's resident engineer/producer during the 2nd half of the '80s).

Such is the story of Wait For Me so far. What started as a solitary journey to West Africa has become an exciting, multidimensional affair: on the human level, a collective adventure involving people from two continents. On the lyrical level, an enlightening dialogue between two cultures, between two viewpoints on their respective realities. On the musical level, a new form of collaboration weaving African & "Northern" styles within an almost pop-like song format with seemingly effortless ease… as well as a fine piece of sonic art, with its delicate arrangements and bold choice of timbres.


Wait For Me