The tenor Uly E. Neuens has devoted many years to classic opera repertoire and old music. Over the past ten years he has sung on some of the most important opera stages in France. Neuens, who trained under Christian Jean in Paris, has also performed to great acclaim on many great international stages. The key stations in his CV include the Opéra Garnier and the Opéra Comique in Paris, the National Theatre in Madrid and the Grand Theatre in Shanghai.
Alongside classical music, Uly E. Neuens has also been a passionate reggae fan for over 20 years. Over the years, the vision of merging classical vocals and reggae music crystallized. Neuens’ core idea was not addition, but integration: not a culture clash, but instead a collaboration which would trigger a mutually enriching joint process. Not only is this approach unusual, it has also never been attempted in this form before. In 2012, he found the ideal partner for this creative venture in Irie Ites Music, a small, but exquisite reggae label which since 2008 has been building bridges between many different varieties of reggae without ever losing sight of its main passion: dub. The track “Pax”, a musical cooperation with Hanover-based Felix Wolter aka TVS, was the first release in the ‘Op'Ra Dub Style’ (7” vinyl). Also featured on the track is MC Speng Bond from England. The vocals are composed under the name AudioArt, a project in which Uly E. Neuens cooperates with Philippe Thilliez (on “Pax”) and Moussa Sfeir (all other tracks), classically trained composers, in order to achieve the very best result in each project. AudioArt’s compositions build a bridge between classical and popular music, revitalising these old categories and, through the combination, breathing fresh life into them.
The first cooperation with TVS was followed by others. The album “AudioArt presents Op'Ra Dub Style” (One-Drop Music/Irie Ites Music) includes tracks by Aldubb, Dubble Dubble, Dubmatix, Dub Spencer & Trance Hill, Tune In Crew and a further track by TVS. It also presents remixes by Irie Worryah and Philipp Greter (Dub Spencer & Trance Hill). As well as Speng Bond, additional vocals were recorded by Birthe Bendixen, Saralene and Karl Emmanuel. Last but not least, Hornsman Coyote contributed his amazing trombone playing
Would Reggae be a plant, it would probably be the toughest, most resistant and adaptable weed ever (and I don't mean THE weed). Honestly, there are few other musical genres that have been able to spread that fast that wide and conquer such diverse habitats as the Caribbean, mainland Europe, Canada, Japan... And all along, Reggae musicians have succeeded to incorporate other styles or be incorporated into them, continually enriching, influencing, developing the musical landscape worldwide.
Classical music is not normally an ingredient of these stylistic fusions, and accordingly few are the examples of cross-over projects that try to marry it to Caribbean flavours. Buccaneer is one of them. He started to experiment with classical melodies in his Skettel Concerto (on his 1997 album Classic), and published a similar work one year later called Da Opera, in which the Dancehall-MC included a few songs in orchestra-style. Except a few Jamaican stage pieces (e.g. the "Jam Reggae Opera" in 2009 or "Mikey" in 2012), nothing much has happened since then. Until now!
A very unusual and unique combination dares the emerging collective AudioArt with its impressive debut album Op'ra Dub Style. As the name suggests, this release pushes the boundaries of Dub to new borders, incorporating classical Opera chant into eight exclusively crafted tracks. Five experimental remixes top off this little piece of magic that brings together the international crème de la crème de la Dub. Canadian mastermind Dubmatix for instance, who created Domine. The Swiss group Dub Spencer & Trance Hill, originators of Credo and - in the person of Philipp Greter - two Pax remixes, to which Serbian Hornsman Coyote added his trombone skills. Brothers Veynand from France, composing Te Lucis under their alias Tune In Crew. Or Germany's own TVS (one of the founding fathers of Dub round here, contributing 2 tracks), Irie Worryah, Dubble Dubble (better known as a member of Berlin-based Braintheft) and Aldubb, who not only gave birth to Gloria, but also mastered the whole album. Interconnecting all these diverse artists and committing them to the project, it was producer Karsten Frehe (Irie Ites Music) who actually allowed for a swift realization of the idea just about 20 months after it came up.
Having thus enlightened you about the musical background, what about the vocals? Who had that idea? And what exactly is AudioArt? The answer to all these questions lies in the person of Uly Neuens. Born and raised in Paris, he discovered his talent as a tenor about 20 years ago, passing from classical vocal training to opera stages worldwide, finally settling down in Hamburg. His passion for Dub/ Reggae sparked the wish to combine these two styles, and when - one fine day - he met Karsten, successfully infecting him with his ideas, one thing just led to another. One of these "anothers" was Moussa Sfeir, a young composer who sat down with Uly to diligently work on the task at hand to fit the vocals to the emerging melodies and thus became the co-founder of Audio Art.
The lyrics are taken from biblical passages, masses or even classical pieces such as Haydn's In Terra Pax. Asked whether these choices were to be explained with a very pious or devotional life, Uly just laughs and shakes his head. Then, suddenly serious again, he explains that he wanted to convey the grandeur of creation, something that is perfectly achieved in old Latin texts. Terribilis, for instance, does not have the meaning it seems to have. Quite to the contrary, it describes the feeling of awe that makes you want to kneel down and give thanks and praise when you are faced with something extremely beautiful to behold… like, a glorious sunset. Or the breathtaking view from a mountain top. Or, to come back to the track under discussion, the perfectly timed addition of Karl E. Musoke's voice and Dubble Dubble's trumpet.
Actually, every song on this Album has a captivating story to tell, but space doesn't allow for their renditions here. Just get it and let the music do the talking!
From the impressive cover-art-work (British Maya Mitten created a scene that somehow reminds me of the Wizard of Oz) to the initial touch of the first notes, you can feel that this is not just another Dub Album. It is the carefully manufactured outcome of the inspirations of many creative heads and capable hands. My suggestion: put the bass boost on, lay down flat on the floor and enjoy the discovery of every sonic blossom of this felicitous experiment!
by Gardy Stein
1 Pax (Extended Version) – TVS Meets AudioArt Feat. Speng Bond & Hornsman Coyote
|Label:||Irie Ites Music|
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