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Cançons de Quatre Sous - Hommage à Joan Pau Giné


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Cançons de Quatre Sous - Hommage à Joan Pau Giné

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A tribute to catalan troubadour poet Joan Pau Giné. Performed & arranged by Ben J. Gross, a.k.a. "BenQueBufa". Foreword in Catalan :

Ben Gross és un joves músic angles nascut a Londres. Ara fa deu anys es va instal·lar en un poblet de la Catalunya Nord, on venia de vacances amb els pares quan errà un nen. En seguida, va conèixer pintors ja que

A tribute to catalan troubadour poet Joan Pau Giné. Performed & arranged by Ben J. Gross, a.k.a. "BenQueBufa". Foreword in Catalan :

Ben Gross és un joves músic angles nascut a Londres. Ara fa deu anys es va instal·lar en un poblet de la Catalunya Nord, on venia de vacances amb els pares quan errà un nen. En seguida, va conèixer pintors ja que la pintura és un altre vessant del seu art. Va començar a tocar en les inauguracions amb guitarra i harmònica. Ja tenia experiència tocant en diversos grups de rock underground a Londres. Aixi, va conèixer en Pere Figueres, una de les principals figures de la Nova Cançó al Rosselló. Pere li va donar el sobrenom de “Benquebufa” quan el va veure bufar en el seu instrument. El va integrar en la gira d’homenatge a Joan Pau Giné que van organitzar amb en Gerard Jacquet, un altre cantant famós de Catalunya Nord. Ben Gross va enamorar-se del cant d’en Giné que li va recordar les sonoritats dels seus dos altres ídols, Bob Dylan i Leonard Cohen.

Deu anys més tard, en Ramon Faura va proposar a Ben de tornar als escenaris, en el marc de la 4a Setmana per la Llengua, amb el repertori d’en Giné que havia deixat de banda. S’havia dedicat principalment al seu grup de rock en anglés “The Ghost Office”, ja que no hi havia espai per la musica en la català.

Avui dia, amb el Col.lectiu Joan Pau Giné del qual és un dels primers membres, amb el grup Llamp te Frigui, va tenir la possibilitat de presentar el seu repertori en català de banda i banda dels Pirineus, a Perpinyà, Salses, Girona, Barcelona, Sabadell,... Fins i tot, va integrar en el seu repertori la traducció, en català, de “Blowing in the wind” d’en Bob Dylan.

Presenta el seu primer disc tot en català, “Cançons de quatre sous”, editat a Barcelona i gravat en la seva caseta de Cucugnan, en les muntanyes, a la frontera entre Catalunya i Occitania. Va gravar onze temes d’en Giné, entre els quals hi trobem dos traduccions que va fer a l’anglès i una cançó inèdita en francès. El nostre trobador, Ben Gross, es vesteix de “Benquebufa” per fer revifar, a la seva manera i amb el seu accent anglès tan peculiar, la paraula ben rossellonesa de reivindicació d’en Joan Pau Giné. Giné, com l’Ovidi Montllor, necessitava joves músics i col·lectius per no quedar mai en l’oblit.

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Giné & I

In April 2003, the artist Michel Pagnoux asked me if I would play a concert to accompany a presentation of a new work. He had created a gigantic collage of images recalling the songs of a Catalan poet called Joan-Pau Giné. I didn't know Giné, and I didn't speak Catalan, but Michel gave me an ancient cassette and some dusty lyrics, and asked me if I could learn some of the songs. I like a challenge, so I said Yes, of course!

I was immediately struck by the simplicity of his recordings - often one acoustic guitar and one voice - and the spontaneity of his performance. Listening to Giné is an intimate experience; it sounds like he's in the room playing just for you. However, I understood very little. So I decided to take some Catalan lessons to help my pronunciation and to understand the nuances of each word and phrase. I also began to research the life of Joan-Pau Giné. 

He had died tragically ten years earlier, at the age of 47. Coming from Bages in France's Pyrenees-Orientales, he found himself in a peculiar cultural anomaly. The Pyrenees-Orientales is technically a French départment, on the Mediterranean frontier of Spain, but historically it is the northern-most corner of Catalonia, which stretches from Perpignan to Valencia, beyond Barcelona. The people of North Catalonia had been much maligned, most recently during the reign of Spanish dictator Franco. Catalan was being suppressed - even children at school were punished if heard speaking it. The language, rooted in Latin and more ancient than modern French or Castillian, was being treated as a patois or regional dialect.

A group of North-Catalan folk singers and poets formed the Nova Cançon (New Song), asserting the language's capacity for contemporary song. Joan-Pau Giné played an integral part in the movement. His songs, at once accessible and poetic, revalorised Catalan as a musical tongue. Although he wrote a few songs in French (influenced by Jacques Brel, Boby Lapointe and Georges Brassens) most of his work is in Catalan, with the local particularities of the Roussillon. As he sings in the song Espieu : tenim duës llenguas, una pel dia i una pel la nit (we have two tongues, one for the day and one for the night).

In Giné I found the same honesty, lyricism, observation, tenderness and surreal humour that I love chez Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, so I set to work on ten of his songs, and even translated three of them into English. In spite of the cultural and linguistic problems of translating songs, it's fascinating to see what remains universal across languages.

To mark the 10th anniversary of his death, his friends, family and fellow singers had organised L'Any Giné - a year of concerts to pay tribute to his legacy. The radio presenter Norbert Narach happened to be at my concert for Michel Pagnoux's exhibition, which took place at La Belle Auriole near Opoul. I played ten songs, including a duet with Giné's friend Maria Andrea, and a translation of Hi Ha Merda A Mar - There's Shit In The Sea. Norbert asked me to take part in further spectacles for l'Any Giné, including a great show at Perpignan's municipal theatre, and a tribute at the singer's home-town of Bages. I was something of a curiousity - a young englishman singing little-known catalan songs by an author he had never met!

Somebody gave me the text of a translation of Dylan's Blowing In The Wind in catalan (Escolta-Ho Dins El Vent), which I played in Giné's style, and tooted on my harmonica. Another established performer, Pere Figueres, heard me singing this, and asked Norbert "Who is that english fellow?", to which Norbert replied "He's called Ben". Pere laughed and said "Ah, el Ben que bufar!" - which means the wind that blows. I adopted the nick-name Benquebufa for this side-project, and it stuck.

Many of the songs, especially the surreal protest song Allioli remain in my repertoire. I had also liberally translated the song La La La La (the chorus, at least, was easy), which opens my 2009 album Be Seeing You. In 2010 I met one Ramon Faura, a young cultural activist who had founded La Setmana Per La Llengua ( The Week for the Language) - a festival which regroups and promotes catalan art, music, film, poetry and theatre. He was about to create a new project the Collectiu Joan-Pau Giné - a collective of groups and musicians for whom the authenticity of Giné's legacy was the starting point. Very quickly several local groups, each bringing their own touch, submitted their work for the project. Ramon asked me to record some songs for the promotional CDs, which he would take to Barcelona and all over Catalonia, north and south.

The concept of this collective is to promote the universal nature of Giné's work, and north catalan songs in general, without remaining stuck in nostalgia. Catalan, as a living language, needs to express itself through song and poetry, if not, like so many quaint cultures, it risks falling into the trap of becoming a museum-piece. For me, as a stranger to Catalonia, it is an honour and a pleasure to participate in this renaissance, and to witness it flourish and cross imaginary, real, geographical and cultural frontiers.


Au Castillet

Bona Nit Cargol (Sleep Well Little Snail)