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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Uzeste, ou l’embrasement des possibles

by Alain Raynal

The Uzeste Festival Sets New Trails Ablaze

Translated Thursday 4 September 2008, by Isabelle Métral

The 31st edition of Hestejada de las arts, the Uzeste musical festival created by Bernard Lubat [1], with local associations, has had its moments of red-hot emotion.

Sore (Landes). On Saturday, August 23, about 11 p.m., the pine forest on the banks of the Petite Leyre was ablaze with Patrick Auzier’s fireworks [2] André Benedetto’s words [3], together with the voice of vocal improviser Benat Achiary [4],
together with the whole Lubat Company’s musical “deliberation” (at top sound-level) - this breathtaking “artifice opera” being dedicated to the happenings in May of ’68. “That’s what you call blazing new trails!” someone in the audience ventured. “To liberate oneself is to liberate others,” the author-actor proclaimed from the stage.

That, undoubtedly, is precisely what the Uzeste musical festival has given these innovative masters and catalysts of musical improvisation the opportunity to do during five days of complete freedom in that neck of the Landes countryside. And the crop of the 31st edition of the Hestajada de las arts has been undeniably rich, a crop sown by Bernard Lubat himself and dozens of musicians, artists, poets, trade-unionists, creators, directors, actors, authors and activists, invited for five days to play with sounds, words, ideas and emotions.

Why is it that one always comes back to the Uzeste musical festival, regardless of the village in Gascony which happens to play host to the festivities on a given evening? In addition to the multiple reasons, for many aficionados there remains one of a more intimate nature: the certitude of harvesting one’s own yearly stock of short, but sensitively rich pleasures, sublime moments to be cherished and kept warm in one’s memory for the cold winter nights to come.

Last Thursday, for instance, at Luxey, as night had fallen on La Gaillarde’s “airial” (the Gascon name for those clearings where country life goes on in the depth of the forest), at the foot of secular old oak-trees, as the audience sitting on the meadow held their breath, Lubat’s accordion, Sclavis’s clarinet, Achiary’s voice, and Raphaëlle Camus’s dancing body in magnificent solos, then all together in a musical poem entitled “1950”, paid a moving homage to the pastoral life of the Landes country through the evocation of the Tilhos family. Theirs was a family of tenant farmers and resin-collectors, “as proud as they were poor”; Laurent, the father, was alto saxophonist in Alban Lubat’s band at public festivals.

Once again, on the next day, a splendid improvising joust, pitted Bernard Lubat, on the drums, against pianist Martial Solal, one of the greatest jazzmen. Contemporary creation and musical improvisation feature, here, among the festival’s artistic guiding principles. To Louis Sclavis, improvisation is “a discussion on a theme that has not been set beforehand”, or “a bone to pick”, or again a good meal “for which the plates and cutlery have been provided, without knowing what’s on the menu”. To Martial Solal, after a sixty-year-long, unflagging career as a first-rate artist, improvisation remains a very dangerous art. “Our freedom can result only from very hard work.”

Throughout the five days the hestejada lasts, one does not know which way to prick one’s ears: the offer is simply dizzying and defies artistic boundaries. And it is difficult to choose among all the memorable moments of intense emotion one has collected. Among the verbal or scenic performances by female artists or militants, we may mention the magnificent performances of singer Juliette Kapla and double bass player Claire Bellamy, of actress Clémence Massart, of Sylvie Gravagna’s original and impressive rendering of texts by Brigitte Fontaine, of Mônica Passos (from Brazil), and Perrine Fifadji (from Benin), the singing or the dancing of the last two being remarkable. We may also mention the “body and strings” cum percussion concert by Philippe Laval, Fabrice Vieira, Fawzi Berger and Nathalie-Dalilà Boitaud, which took place in the church at Sore.

The secret key to the festival’s survival lies in its holding its course in all circumstances, no matter the lack of understanding or even the hostility it meets with. In Lubat’s view, the mission of this festival of contemporary musical creation is, in the same process, to provide food for thought, education, and emancipation; which many of the seaside summer festivals, notably music festivals, no longer do, these notions having been put away in the attic so as to give pride of place to entertainment, tourist attractions, and consumption.

The Uzeste musical festival is not everybody’s cup of tea, for it will simply not play in tune – to that consensual, prevailing tune which, these days, stifles thought. As the storyteller René Martinez once observed: “To be blowing with the prevailing winds should be the ambition only of a dead leaf."

Translator’s footnotes:

[1Bernard Lubat is an essentially versatile musician, a player of multiple instruments (drums, the piano, accordion, vibraphone..) and singer, composer and improviser, who plays contemporary music, jazz… His own company invites a great many musicians.

[2A member of the company, Augier has refined and renewed the art of pyrotechnics and carried it to an unprecedented pitch.

[3André Benedetto, actor, dramatist, stage-director, poet and activist, who initiated what later developed into Avignon’s “off festival” in 1966.

[4Benat Achiary, a Basque singer, is an indefatigable explorer who feels at ease in folk-music, jazz and contemporary music alike.

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