MOSHI: trance utterance by the Fullani Bororogi (Niger). “MOSHI is the Bororogi’s way to get rid of the blues, a trance-like state which involves possession by a special demon called MOSHI” (CdB).
In 1969 and 1970, French jazz saxophonist Barney Wilen (1937-1996) travels through Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and Senegal to Dakar with a group of musicians and filmmakers. Once a celebrated bebopper in the Fifties, now, at the end of the Sixites, Barney decides to “drop out”. Aboard a brightly coloured Land Rover is his girlfriend and future wife, Caroline De Bendern, model and icon of the May ’68 Paris riots. Moreover, they packed instruments, amplifiers, tape recorders and camera equipment. The goal is to shoot a 35 mm road movie, financed by funds from the new production company “Zanzibar Productions”. After two years, Barney and Caroline return to Europe without a finished movie. However, there are over 50 tapes in their luggage, capturing music and sounds from different stations of their journey recorded on a Nagra tape recorder with people they met along the way.
Almost all of these “original African recordings” are unreleased until today and now see the light of day under the title MOSHI TOO. Infected by Pharaoh Sanders and John Coltrane, enthusiastic about jazz-rock and the spontaneous free jazz scene, Barney plays psychedelic desert blues and spiritual Afro Jazz – hypnotic sessions with deep tenor saxophone, funk guitar, bass and drums in a trance-like flow. Occasionally, he works with backing tracks and noise or ambient sounds. In addition, there are documentary recordings of African music and singing groups, of various single traditional instruments such as the balafon, oud or flute and the rhythms and chants of nomadic tribes to the sounds of nature, Muslim prayers or voodoo voices.
Producer Pierre Barouh later uses some brief excerpts from the tapes in a Parisian studio. Collage-like, they serve as the background of the recording sessions for “Barney Wilen – MOSHI”, a recognized landmark on the way to “World Jazz”, released in 1972 on the label Saravah. Short extracts are also included in Caroline and Barney’s film “A L’intention de Mademoiselle Issoufou à Bilma” (1971). “Spare parts of indeterminate origins,” as Jason Ankeney calls these obscure snippets correctly in the All Music Guide. After cancellation of the African project, the tapes have been largely forgotten but kept secure by Barney for future activities. Patrick Wilen finds them at last as he reviews the estate of his late father and, with a clear view on the coils, also remembers his words: “Do something with it!”.
In the course of 2012, over several months, the recordings are digitized in Berlin with Nagra and Telefunken tape recorders and compiled unchanged (technically restored and corrected only) for MOSHI TOO. In Order to really understand MOSHI, you can finally experience the music as intense as it was made. Barney’s African dream lives on. (Ekkehart Fleischhammer 2012)