Rajna - "Duality" is much more 'open-minded'!
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When the French label Prikosnovénie released the first official album "Ishati" of Rajna in 1999 I remember to have been deeply impressed like only a few times before. Originally set up by Jeanne Lefebvre, Fabrice Lefebvre and Gérard Chambellant this French trio would progressively seduce many lovers of ethereal, tribal, ethnic, new-age and ambient stuff. The sound of Rajna has been often linked to Dead Can Dance, but from start on the style was definitely more 'traditional' and 'acoustic'. Rajna has been set up from the passion for ethnic instruments, which resulted in great releases like "Yahili" and "The Heady Wine Of Praise", both released on Holy Records. That was the time for Gérard Chambellant to explore new horizons with his own project Am Ganesha'N. Jeanne and Fabrice went on as a duo releasing some new albums like "The Door Of Serenity" and "Hidden Temple". The album "Black Tears" was a kind of intermezzo featuring familiar songs next to a few previously unreleased songs. The album "Otherwise" came next and opened some new horizons in the universe of Rajna. The new album "Duality" only confirms this 'new' style while revealing some innovations in the use of instruments and vocals as well. We contacted the band getting some more information from Jeanne. (By Stéphane Froidcoeur)
SL: "Duality" has been released a few months ago, so what have been the first reactions for so far?
R: "Duality" has got a warm welcome and fans said that Rajna had come back to their source with more ethnic influences (so different than our previous album "Otherwise").
SL: "Duality" is your 7th full length album ("Black Tears" being more a kind of 'best of') so what does it mean to you and did the '7' have a particular -maybe symbolic- meaning?
R: No particular symbolic meaning for us. We don't pay attention to numbers. It's just a normal evolution. Concerning "Black Tears", I won't say that it is a kind of 'best of' because it includes 6 unrealised titles, so it could have been an album in itself. "Black Tears" has been the end of a period for Rajna. "Black Tears" has enabled us to come to an end of something and to begin something different.
SL: The title "Duality" sounds quite interesting, but what did you try to express by this title and what is the 'duality' all about?
R: We gave our album this title because all is duality within: female and male voices, luminous titles and cold ones, occidental music instruments (guitars, synth...) and ethnic ones... all is about duality.
SL: I personally experience "Duality" as being the most 'open-minded' Rajna album for so far. It's like you explored wider musical influences and ideas. Tell us a bit more about it and the musical ideas behind "Duality"?
R: Yes, I totally agree with you when you say that this album is the most 'open-minded' album. "Duality" is the fruit of much work, it is the fruit of our life and encounters with other musicians and artists. It is the normal evolution. We have worked with many different people and with artists from different musical universe. Also, our musical influences have evolved and all this makes that "Duality" is much more 'open-minded'.
SL: In which way does the title "Duality" also reflects a kind of musical 'duality'; I mean between what you've done for so far and the new influences on this album?
R: In the evolution of our albums, it would have been better that "Duality" would have arrived before "Otherwise". In this opus, we have combined our previous influences and our new ones. It is a balance between the past and the present.
SL: Tell us a bit more about the new musical 'horizons' you explored on "Duality"?
R: In this album, we have used many electronics with some acoustic instruments. In the past, we used to record only acoustic instruments. The fact to include machines in our music is something new in Rajna. We have also added lyrics in English (and also one title in French: "Le Toit Du Monde" ). In the past, there were just singing exercises.
SL: You invited several guest artists for this new album like Tim Bowness (No-Man), Brice Oma (Omasphere) , Stefano Panunzi, Stephen Benett, Hugo Deparis, Hervé Castre. What motivated you to work with all those musicians and what did they add to the composition and sound of Rajna?
R: It is always a pleasure to work with other artists because, each encounter brings you so much, you learn with the other, you progress and you exchange and this is a real chance when you can do it. Our encounter with the British singer Tim Bowness was very good: he came last January for a few days in our studio and we've recorded the voice of Tim in a few days and also a duet with me. We had already worked with Brice Oma (singer) and Hugo Deparis (violin) on the album "Otherwise" so it was just another good experience with them on "Duality". Then, we have asked Stefano Panunzi to add synths on the track "We Are The Echoes" and he has accepted immediately. We have known Stephen Bennett thank to Tim Bowness, and he has kindly accepted to add drums on the track "We Are The Echoes". All these exchanges have added so much in "Duality" because everyone has given a part of them.
SL: Are you still in touch with Gérard Chambellant (who was involved in 3 albums) and what did he meant to Rajna?
R: No, we are no more in touch with Gérard Chambellant. He has contributed to Rajna's creation and then, after 3 albums, his artistic choices were different from ourselves and so he decided to leave us.
SL: How do you see and analyse your own evolution as musician throughout the years?
R: Fabrice has learned to play more and more ethnic instruments, year after year. He has also evolved into different technical recording, and this is a so hard work because we are both self-taught so it represents much hours of work, you know. For my part, I have learned singing techniques and I have added some lyrics whereas there were no lyrics at the beginning. This constitutes the evolution of Rajna.
SL: "Duality" also reveals Jeanne singing a quite different way and I especially think and refer to songs like "Above This Grey Land" and "We Are The Echoes" (in duo with Tim Bowness). Can we speak here about a natural evolution or something more intentional?
R: In the first Rajna's albums, all the voices were improvised... it was just what I felt when listening the music and we used to record things coming naturally. Now, this is different and yes, we can talk of something intentional. There are some searches on the way of singing, on the lyrics, on the rimes... We don't improvise anymore and we follow a conducting line.
SL: I experienced some of your new songs (cf. "We Are The Echoes", "Kaitena") as perfect movie soundtracks! What do you think about it and would you ever consider making a soundtrack?
R: Yes, these tracks sound as perfect movie soundtracks. On each Rajna-album, we have such tracks which could fit perfectly for a soundtrack. Last year, 2 of our titles had been selected for a T.V. documentary based on Jesus Christ's life when he was in Egypt and the film producer took songs from "Hidden Temple". We would enjoy making a soundtrack... why not!
SL: I guess a few other songs like "Kaloum", "Sun Comes To Life" and "Omajna" are more in the usual (and earlier) Rajna-style. Tell us a bit more about these songs and their content?
R: "Kaloum" and "Omajna" are the fruit of our encounter with the singer Brice Oma. On the track "Sun Comes To Life", we wanted to rediscover the coldwave sound of the 80's.
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SL: You have always liked to compose with traditional and acoustic instruments. How did you come in touch with all these instruments and how did you learn to play them?
R: All our musical instruments come from our journey all around the world. They have their own history and are part of our life. Fabrice has learned to play them year after year, by practicing a lot, by talking with musicians after their shows...
SL: What are your favourite - and most essential instruments in the composing of the Rajna songs?
R: The yang t'chin and the santur are the most important instruments in Rajna. They were the instruments Fabrice played at the really beginning of Rajna, and he still plays the yang t'chin. This Autumn, we were in Istanbul and we have found a n Iranian santur for a friend of us: it is always magic and has a great hold on both of us.
SL: Did you use new instruments on "Duality"
R: Yes, indeed, Fabrice used the duduk on "We Are The Echoes" and "Kaitiina". He bought some duduks when we were in Istanbul in November. He used the zurna on "Towards The Universe" and the sharanghi on " I Used To Pray". Each travel is the opportunity to bring back home musical instruments.
SL: The bonus track on "Duality" entitled "Echoes" sounds quite interesting for revealing a different sound and influence as well. Tell us a bit more about this song?
R: The bonus track entitled "The Echoes" was the initial version of the track "We Are The Echoes". Tim Bowness came home for voice recording sessions and he was supposed to record his voice on the track "World They Can Change" (this track doesn't appear in the album "Duality"); a very pop title; which had nothing to do with ethnic music. But when Tim has heard "The Echoes" he has fallen in love with it and he absolutely wanted to sing it. Tim thought that "The Echoes" represented much more our personality and our musical universe. Then Fabrice and Tim have worked together in order to create a balance between contemporary sonorities and ethnic ones. "The Echoes" constitutes the initial version of what has enabled us to create "We Are The Echoes". Hervé Castre has also contributed to create this title by adding his classical guitar. It is a very to-film track. We absolutely wanted that it ends the album "Duality".
SL: You've been always very interested and concerned about the people living in the Himalaya. How did you get interested in those people and their culture plus did you often visited these countries (Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan…)?
R: We have been once in these countries. We feel very close to the philosophical ideas they develop. That is why we wanted to do a humanitarian action to help children in Tibet: we've decided to give our entire royalties ("Black Tears") to build a school in Tibet. You can find more information on this album and by buying the album, you contribute to our action.
SL: The benefit of the "Black Tears"-album was given away to "The House Of Himalayas"! Can you reveal the results of this action?
R: This action has enabled the building of the school: it is a big project in which we have taken part and we are very happy about it. At the time when we did it, anyone could visit "La Maison des Himalayas"'s website and could see the evolution of the project.
SL: Being concerned about the Tibetan people directly brings me to ask your opinion about the position of the Chinese government?
R: The Chinese government are criminals who kill innocent people. They should be condemned by other nations.
SL: How do you look back on the last Olympic Games, which were organised in China and the position of the Western countries?
R: Western countries did not really want to take part in Chinese-Tibetan conflict. They protected themselves by saying that boycotting the games would be bad for sportsmen, but I think they didn't play the role they could. Much more could have been done but nothing has been done.
SL: What about a tour and new live performances to promote the "Duality"-album?
R: No performances have been programmed for "Duality".
SL: I read that there'll be a new album from Khvarena, a side-project between Francesco Banchini (Gor) and Rajna. What's about it and are there already new songs?
R: There are no songs recorded for the moment because our friend Francesco will get married this year and has not enough time... but we hope we can record some new tracks in a near future...
SL: You're still in touch with Prikosnovénie, which released your first official album (cf. "Ishati"). How do you look back on these early years and the work of Prikosnovénie?
R: Yes, we are still in contact with Prikosnovenie because last Summer, we have recorded 3 tracks for the compilation "Nuits Des Fées, Saison 2" who has been available since Autumn with other artists as Ashram, Caprice, Daemonia Nymphe... Prikosnovenie enabled us to be discovered and it was a chance to work with them.
SL: How do you imagine Rajna's future?
R: Rajna would like to work with other artists because it brings so many good things and especially because we like human contacts. Fabrice has made a remix of the track "Hanuz Nist" from Stoa's album "Silmand". It should be released in a remix album from Stoa. We also work on a concept called Omajna, with Brice Oma. We have begun to compose new tracks for a new Rajna album as well... follow please our evolution on our website or on our Myspace.
SL: Anything essential to conclude?
R: We would like to thank you for this interview and also all our fans who have supported us all these years.
Band: www.rajna.net / www.myspace.com/rajnamusic
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