H’Sao – musical bridges from the deserts of Chad to Montreal
I first caught the magic and creativity of H’Sao, in 2000, at the consultative meeting for nomads “Séminaire sous-regional sur l’éducation de base en milieu nomade de l’Afrique Sahelo-Saharienne, held in N’Djamena, Chad. Guests included representatives of nomadic communities from as far away as Mauritania.
I met ‘the family of friends, H’Sao, while helping to organise the meeting with the UNICEF representative Daniele Brady. We wanted a dramatic start to the meeting and had asked our singing friends to sing a song. With ten minutes before the start, we asked what would they sing? They were not sure, but in a couple of minutes they had made up a song linking the beauties and hardship of nomadic life as well as welcoming the guests in their own traditional way.
Half of the group came in from one doorway the other half from the other and as their voices rose they met in the middle of the room, greeting the guests with a chorus that stunned everyone. What a welcome and what a future they heralded for themselves!
Who are they?
H’Sao is a six-member family musical group from Chad whose music combines the rhythms of traditional Chadian music with western styles like jazz, gospel and R&B. Many of their songs are sung a cappella.
Caleb, Mossbass, Israel and Taroum RIMTOBAYE and their childhood friends, brothers Charles and Service LEDJEBGUE although originally from Chad, are now living in Montreal, perform original music inspired by Chad’s tradition, transmitting the sensitivity inherent in the melodies (N’Djamena) and the dances (Sai and N’Dala)
H’Sao embodies a blend of cultures and influences in outstanding performances. Their most striking feature lies in the stellar quality of their singing, their unified choir of voices, and the charming complicity between the performers.
After winning over audiences in the Francophone Games, they have toured extensively. With a first release on Quebecois label Mille-Pattes (Bottine Souriante), have performed worldwide, including in the United States, South Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand
It all started, seriously, for them in 2000
In October 2000, H’Sao is invited to the Fest’ Africa, at Pas-de-Calais (France). Here the group records their first demo. H’Sao is selected to represent their country at the Francophone Games held in Ottawa in July 2001. This event is an assembly of the top talents in sports and culture within the francophone worldwide community. H’Sao wins a bronze medal.
« It was unimaginable, all the things that were happening to us. In Chad, being an artist is considered a minor trade. So, the fact that our music has been recognized internationally is a great accomplishment!
One of our biggest challenges as a group is to restore hope to young people in Chad, whose lives are undermined by constant wars. We want to prove to some of them that they can follow in our footsteps and to others that they can be touched by our music.
After the success of launching their first record at the Montreal International Jazz Festival:
It doesn’t get any tighter than family, and this band from N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, is a mariage of two : the Rintobayes, of the Sara people, and the Ledjebgues, of the Kabalaye group. Singing in dialect as well as French, Arabic and English, they thrilled a reviewer at a Montreal show last year. Their music is sacred, traditional, Afro-American and most of all, tight.
Listen for yourself: