David Fanshawe had the same problem. You travel to so many amazing places, and record so much interesting ethnographic material, you feel like it deserves so much more than to become some kind of archival museum piece. So how do you make it relevant? How do you make it now?
Well that’s easy; you add a piece of yourself. Fanshawe decided to add Latin chorals to his African tribal recordings, to amazingly clunky effect on African Sanctus, and if anything it serves as a warning. Perhaps some traditions deserve to stand alone, perhaps some traditions will only be cheapened and exploited by your musical intervention.
Kink Gong, aka German artist Laurent Jeanneau, perhaps conscious of his predecessors elects to take a different route, and adds not so much a piece of himself, but a piece of something else that without him could never have occurred. It’s curious, his fingers are all over this album without ever having played a note.
His sound is worlds colliding, contact mic’d recordings of various Turkish instruments, Saz, Cura and Tanbur (played by Remi Solliez a disciple of the late Talip Ozkan), collaged with archival recordings of South East Asia that is strangely not as jarring as you would expect, primarily because of the way he mixes, multi tracks, adds subtle effects, and makes full use of the stereo field. Then of course there is selection process and the ingredients he elects to use. He often uses the Asian vocals with the Middle Eastern stringed accompaniment, and it works. To some extent he couches his sounds in the more musical end of sound art, coming across as an avant garde collage that betrays hints of repeated musical motifs, though the playing is for the most part abstract (primarily due to having recorded using contact mics) and improvised, and the searching tentative plucking actually melds incredibly well, with the vocals.
If you combine two traditions does a fourth world bloom? Perhaps this is a question for Brian Eno. Because this non-geographical ethnographical recording that hints at multiple places yet can never really settle in one. Curiously too it still retains the exuberance of its origins. This kind of deliberate blurring of culture is fascinating and forces you to confront notions of authenticity, colonisation, and authorship.
It’s curious too that Jeanneau is so interested in appropriating in such a slippery manner. In his hands all the things we hold dear: nationalism, genre identity, a sense of purpose and place are no longer relevant. His recordings are dynamic, near musical worlds of enforced collusion where experimental/ found sound and musqiue concrete traditions exist hand in hand with ethnographic documents, perhaps adding those final two worlds we needed to create authentic fourth world music.