Moussu T ‘Home sweet home’ (Manivette/Le Chant du Monde) 4/5

Qu’es aquo l’occitan? What is Occitan? If this language looks unfamiliar, then it is because Occitan is part of the Romance family of languages, similar to Catalan and Spanish, but was spoken throughout the south of France until the 1789 revolution after which time it was largely relegated to the countryside and instead what we know call French took over as the national language. Marseille-based group Moussu T are part of a cultural and linguistic revival that champions the use of the language and on releasing their latest album, ‘Home sweet home’ have used this as the backdrop to their folksy-retro sound which is given a cosmopolitan twist with a mixture of acoustic instrumentation (banjo, washboard) and more exotic sounds (Brazilian berimbau and the Medieval-sounding cougourdon).
Social and cultural themese comprise the majority of the songs and catchy they are too. Tipifying proceedings is ‘Mar e montanha’ which praises the people and places that make up the linguistic boundary that is Occitania while ‘Camarada’ evokes the literary heritage of the troubadours (an early example of we might crudely refer to now as crooners)and ‘Labour song’ adds in references to the Spanish civil war. Marseille is an extremely cosmopolitan city in the twenty-first century with its inhabitants are made up of multiple identities from North Africa to Italy, Greece and further afield. The Cuban-inspired song ‘A la Ciotat Pt.2’ features guitar and vocal ensemble whereas on ‘Lo Chaple’ the legendary Marseille group Massilia Sound System are sampled on a track that questions what has been done to this city. On the country-folk of ‘Il fait beau’ and the ballad of the title track, one wonders whther the band has been influenced by the dust-bowl era of folk singers from Woody Guthrie onwards. In sum this is one of the year’s most pleasurable listens from a truly original band with a highly distinctive repertoire. Qu’es aquo l’occitan? It’s the language of Occitania! Tim Stenhouse

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