Interview: Mama Rosin
THEY play the kind of music you'd expect to find blasting out from an American swamp, but Mama Rosin actually hail from the foothills of the Alps, just a short jaunt from the shores of Lake Geneva.
"We grew up in a region of the world with no strong musical background and traditions – our musical culture started with listening to our parents' LP collections," says accordionist Cyril Yeterian of the band's accidental discovery of Cajun music.
"We've always loved the old blues, and one day by chance, around the age of 20, we discovered Cajun and zydeco music at a festival in France," he recalls.
"Some old English punks played some Cajun songs around a table in the bar of the festival, then we met Eric Martin who's one of the first French musicians to go to Louisiana and bring back Cajun culture to France."
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Originating in 18th century Louisiana, when the accordion-led sound of arriving French-Canadian settlers merged with the music of the African-American/ Caribbean communities, the driving, danceable Cajun and the Creole zydeco music ignited Cyril's passions.
"This music blew us out!" he cries. "It touched us more than any music we had heard before!"
Cyril and guitar/banjo player Robin Girod, plus drummer Xavier Guilian, have fashioned a unique take on the sounds of Mississippi, calling on proto-rockabilly and The Clash to create what they describe as "combat Cajun garage zydeco rock" and "Louisiana south rock'n'roll voodoo music".
And it was that added garage/punk element which attracted the attention of Jon Spencer, leader of US rock trio the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who took Mama Rosin out on tour, and produced their fourth album, the explosive Bye Bye Bayou.
"He was on tour with Heavy Trash in Europe and asked a promoter what cool bands exist in Switzerland. The guy gave him our CD, Black Robert. Back home, Jon contacted our manager to ask us to become his support band in Europe. Then at the end of the German tour he suggested he produce our next record ... we said 'yes, Ah!'" Cyril exclaims before Robin interjects: "Jon is like us, plus 20 years of experience. Music is his life, his fight, his faith ... like us. He gave us the confidence to be right.
"Sometimes in the studio he was just sitting there with a little smile on his face because the song was just perfect ... sometimes he was jumping around to give us motivation."
Jon isn't the only one raving. Bellowhead are huge fans, inviting them to open their recent UK tour ("what an honour" says Cyril), and they've even wowed the Chinese.
"China was incredible," says Robin of their 2012 visit which took them away from the usual Chinese venues where Western acts typically perform for expats, as locals are unable to afford the high ticket prices. "We had the chance to play mostly in university halls for free, meaning we had only Chinese people in front of us, thousands of them, really, really excited by having a European band playing rock'n'roll. For some (or most of them, depending of the city), it was the first rock concert of their lives. There was a great atmosphere in the audience every night. We felt a bit like The Beatles... dozens of women shouting..."