In “Baudelaire Jazz”, a book accompanied by an eponymous digital album produced by saxophonist Raphaël Imbert, Patrick Chamoiseau signs a “Score for chaos opera”, as he says himself, where Baudelaire’s poems are studied in the light of what was the painful history of the West Indies.
“Charles Baudelaire, I think of you, meditative“, writes Patrick Chamoiseau on the first page of his book. And as usual, this meditation, “daughter of shadow and light“, will lead the reader into multiple territories. From the hold of the slave ship to the slave plantation first, where the ancestors made music (rhythms, songs and dances), which culminated in the words of the Creole storyteller. “By thus rediscovering the founding Word of the old cosmogonies, they reinstalled themselves in their humanity.“, writes the Martinican novelist.
A creative humanity echoing the rhythm, movement and sounds of Baudelaire’s poetry. “You knew, like them, that rhythm opens up to sensation, that a set of sensations generates a resonance, that a set of resonances develops a movement of the mind.“, continues Chamoiseau. And then, in other parallels, there is the driveor the Creole journey which “don’t even know the way“.”For our ancestors, as for you, creation begins with a ship. Yours was a steamer bound for India“. But the banishment imposed on Baudelaire, the source of an inner abyss, is opposed by the terrible reality imposed on the victims of slavery.
These sinister ships were carriers of crimes, of genocides, mixed with many upsurges still indecipherable. They opened up, in the abyss, between ancient Africa and new America, a strange continent, beyond its geological base, an Atlantic without light, a still little-known gap, the necropolis of millions of Africans!
After the crossing, Patrick Chamoiseau continues his journey through the hell of the plantation and the city. But from horror is born creation, again, which rehumanizes. Still. For the Martinican writer, the “cavalcade of sounds, resonances, movements, breaks“Texts by Baudelaire”stem from an upsurge analogous to what happened during the night of slavery“.
Meditations on Charles Baudelaire: Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Imbert at the Musée d’Orsay
From these inventive rhythms and resistance to domination will be born a multiplicity of music – blues, gospel, bèlè, gwoka, biguine, reggae, konpa, salsa… – and of course “the whole inexhaustible galaxy of jazz” to which Chamoiseau relates Baudelaire. “You diffused in their very ankylosis the oceanic violence of vision, the wild bulk of the all-possible, the bag and the backwash of polyrhythm“, declares the Antillean novelist, quoting at length from the poem “La musique” by the author of “Fleurs du mal”.Monsieur Baudelaire, you made jazz!”
“Baudelaire Jazz. Poetic and musical meditations with Raphaël Imbert”, by Patrick Chamoiseau – Editions du Seuil, 190 pages, 17 euros. (A QR code is inside the book to listen to Raphaël Imbert’s digital album).
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The ode to Baudelaire by the Martinican writer Patrick Chamoiseau – Outre-mer la 1ère
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