Performance Saturday, March 24, 2012 | 10 PM

Lo Còr de la Plana

Zankel Hall
Lo Còr de la Plana is an all-male polyphonic vocal ensemble that accompanies itself on amplified bendirs (frame drums), drawing on influences that range from Bartók to Gregorian chant, reggae, and Arab music.


  • Lo Còr de la Plana


  • Lo Còr de la Plana

    Since 2001, Lo Còr de la Plana, based in the La Plaine area of Marseille, has been reinventing European vocal music, often mixing it with raw and sometimes crude archaic Mediterranean sounds.

    Voices and percussion (hands, feet-whatever can produce the beat) are used in the minimal rudimentary ritual of performance. There are texts from the ancient Occitan repertoire, thronging with bloodthirsty saints, kindly monsters still full of the old fervor of pagan Provence. There are songs about the motley crowd of Marseille today, a world of noisy carousing, imaginary paradises, deafening silence of deadly real-estate speculation, sheep and wolves, the general hurly-burly of everyday life …

    Group founder Manu Théron brought together four singers-percussionists for this polyphonic venture: Benjamin Novarino-Giana, Sébastien Spessa, Denis Sampieri, and Rodin Kaufmann. Though anchored in the Marseille experience and the Occitan language, the musical universe created by Lo Còr de la Plana extends well beyond particularism, integrating elements from Pierre Schaeffer to the Ramones, from Bartók to The Velvet Underground. For them, cultural memory is not an excuse to stand still, but an occasion of turbulence, Dionysian lewdness, drives and hesitancies, even deadly threat if one goes too far. Incandescent memory of this sort is raw material for the group's endeavor to produce and share something both unique and universal, the pulsation of something that comes from the heart for which its Occitan name stands.

    The group has performed at major festivals in Europe and was a highlight of the 2008 globalFEST in New York. In 2003, Lo Còr de la Plana received the grand prize of l'Académie Charles Cros for its first album Es lo titre. In 2005, it received the Prix SACEM des musiques du monde. Recent recordings include Tant deman (Buda/Universal) and Marcha.

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Lo Còr de la Plana 
Buda Musique

The Program

The repertoire performed tonight is centered on three recurring themes that can be found in all protest writing in Occitan since the troubadours: the rejection of a distant authority, be it papal, royal, imperial, or centralist republican; the humorous or vehement condemnation of those who betray the struggle; and the yearning of the masses for a better life. If the two latter features can be found to various degrees in other political repertoires, the first is specifically French, and indeed, paraphrasing Félix Castan, culturally Occitan.

Musical and literary protest, particularly in the Marseillais repertoire, takes on a subversive and rebellious dimension, combining sharp humor with crude verbal contrast, be it morbid or vigorous, thus incurring the censors’ wrath, the disapproval of the French Academy, and the sympathy of the working class.

Yet works in which musical creation takes precedence over the anti-establishment heritage (or is at least inspired by it) are rare. Lo Còr de la Plana tries to fill in this gap with compositions meant to break down the rigid schemata of traditional songs, their most hackneyed forms, and their most tedious formats. The borrowing from Occitan traditional music is done at this particular level, and gives a top place to all forms that have been forsaken because they no longer fit into the rigid mold of musical mass production. From this point of view, ballads, laments, and local historical accounts take a dominant position, and the musical means—voices and percussion—place these songs in the feverish and minimalistic context that fits them best and has become one of the group’s trademarks.
Program Notes
Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with World Music Institute.