SouffleContinu Records / France / 2019 / 7"
A number of albums on the Saravah label, by artists such as Steve Lacy, Areski, Maurice Lemaître, Philippe Maté, Jean-Charles Capon, Michel Roques or the Cohelmec Ensemble, are considered amongst the most important of the 1960-1970s, including, for example Comme à la radio by Brigitte Fontaine with the Art Ensemble of Chicago in Paris, 1969. It is unfortunately less well-known that the label produced a single at the same time also featuring the Art Ensemble of Chicago who this time backed the poetry of the little-remembered Alfred Panou.
Seen in the 1967 film Week-end by Jean-Luc Godard where he played the role of a black garbage collector, Alfred Panou who is of mixed Benin-Togolese origin, already had a career as an actor in political theatre when, pushed by producer Pierre Barouh, he recorded two of his texts concerning Black Power. At the time of the recording the explosive first album by the Last Poets had not yet been made, nor that of their west coast counterparts the Watts Prophets which would only appear in 1971. This explains why, in 1969, even if the Black Dada Nihilismus by Amiri Baraka published four years earlier was incontestably the reference point of all the above, the combative prose of Alfred Panou had a real impact. This is heightened by the fact that it is also one of the first, in its own way, to question the notion of black identity. In order to do so the brilliant idea was to have the rowdy poly-instrumental jungle fantasy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago as a musical counterpoint!
Little-recognised, probably because the texts are in French, Je suis un sauvage / Le Moral nécessaire deserves to be more than just a sought-after rare groove. Even today the record should not be neglected as it is a seminal and skilfully militant recording, which even had moments of humour. Though brief (barely ten minutes in total), it deserves to be considered as a key moment in Great Black Music in the same way as Seize The Time by Elaine Brown, Nation Time by Joe McPhee, There's A Riot Goin' On by Sly & The Family Stone or Attica Blues by Archie Shepp. No less than that.