All Is Forbidden
Listening Post 184. She stares from the album cover—stark, vulnerable, penetrating. From outside, Ann O’aro’s life may seem in search of a metaphor, a verbal contrivance to make it sound less horrifying, but she’s beyond that. As a child, she played piano, organ and flute. And as a child, she was raped by her father who, when Ann was 15, committed suicide. After school, she left her home on Réunion, the French island in the Indian Ocean, working as a tattoo artist in Québec and street performer in Paris, and developing the therapy to exorcise her demons. It began with dance-martial arts choreography and tormented words. Lyrics came easier in Réunion Creole—more intimate and raw than French, she says—and only far from home did she embrace maloya, her island’s percussion-driven (and once forbidden) signature music. Back in her home village, she spun the strands that tell her story—brutal, without filters. She alternates between anguish and detachment, sometimes merging predator and victim, along the way granting her tormentor’s humanity. She sings mostly in Creole, calling her French renderings not so much translations as interpretations: Expressing the past in two languages helps her understand it better. Her voice is breathtaking in its calm, clarity and force, her band’s pulsing instrumentation as light as a thin veil. In Kap Kap, she compresses the two characters of her trauma (video 1) and with Lo Kor Kapé/Le Corps Conquis (The Conquered Body), she describes the mood of an incestuous night (video 2). Kamayang (Hangman) imagines her father’s final thoughts (video 3). One deviation from personal themes is Lo Shien (Dog!), evoking the struggle for legitimacy of Creole and maloya. That Ann O’aro channeled her pain into music is inspiring. That she transformed torture into a work of such devastating beauty seems nothing short of miraculous. (Cobalt/Buda Musique)
Ann O’aro (Anne-Gaëlle Hoarau): vocals
Jean-Didier Hoareau: kayanm, roulèr, sati, backing vocals
Willy Paitre: kayanm, bob, roulèr, backing vocals
Julien Rousseau: trumpet, euphonium
Fanny Ménégoz: flutes, piccolo
Lyrics & Music: Ann O’aro
From the album notes: Overlapping viewpoints during an incestuous sexual act. Indicates the porosity of the profoundly distorted relationship, between perpetrator and victim, with the world and the other. Having no clear limits, the other becomes an extension of self and his/her own sense of belonging.
(from the artist’s French interpretation of original Réunion Creole lyrics)
I see the child that you incest in the cataract veil of your blurred eyes.
I hear the dog, the wolf, howling in you…
You play this saxophone at the end of a rattle/at the end of a complaint, at the end of a note.
In the back of me, I claw, I erect/I swallow all my misery at the bottom of panties.
You do not want me at all/You would like almost anything that is not me
Me, the child, the man, the wolf, all at once
I’m dying to tear you off, these cries with claws, at a stroke.
I’m dying to stare at your face, at that grimace, that is all I can.
To have. Steal. Violate.
I ejaculate. Shame. On you.
Finally/It was too short, too intense.
Sorry for not having lasted longer/Sorry, usually it lasts longer.
You’re going to talk, yes?/Say something!
At the edge of your sex, a saxophone and a dog disgorge all their breath.
In your fingers, the bitch rattles all his thrill on gospel.
You touch it with your eyes that migrate from one cry to another.
And the silence after the blues, you tear a laugh that lifts you up and shakes you,
who is rising from your hell with the lava of your lower abdomen.
I’m angry dad/I’m afraid mom
nevertheless, I do not vomit my heart
I would not leave my skin there.
Lo kor kapé/Le Corps Conquis/The Conquered Body
Lyrics: Ann O’aro/Music: Fanny Ménégoz
Memories of the mood of the night, of post-ejaculatory blues and dirty sex. An evocation of sexual consent granted under a suicidal death-wish.
the evening has the possibility of drunkenness/far from the age-old ground
hence the heavy weight/months already too early
the moon has burst a valve
In this light absorbance/the languor of the shadow has an anvil’s weight
over the sharp grumbling of a bumblebee/when the perfect ball of the red clarinet ejaculates
I argue, you tyrannize, I shoot/Autumn plucks me, you suddenly subsume me
and I tend to the auricle/oracle, the rattle of a congested saxophone,
the train that swells at night/the binary breath of a puffing cloud of stars and crystals.
I cannot see anymore/I laugh at the tilt of the roaring world
the body conquered.
You ask me then/and I affirm it.
You undress me so completely of this feeling/we experience abroad … the hotel
and in the limited number of its stars/you slip your ear to shuddering complaints…
Lyrics & Music: Ann O’aro
The final thoughts of someone who dies alone in a brothel in the middle of the night
You make me suffer/I am looking for Artaud in the blood of Hoarau
My breath sucks the time gone
I, anachronism, the epoch
a pen remains, hung in my orbit: memory of my passion
A pain so strong… my eardrums beat in my body/beyond the body, how or where do we die?
A dusty ray of sun muzzled my battles.
Beats across my eye, the orbit in pen/the pain is watching me implode.
You make me suffer/my breath sucks the time gone
Leaded body of rubble, leaded body of light/I’m the crack in a piece of cement
Myself the tomb in my own brain/gastric wandering carried with flowers of the world…
pulled from here and there, to leave myself, I do not feel able
beyond the body, how or where do we die?
I am me and the rest of my old gaunt body/I passed like a breeze between the hairs that still itch me
now, I’m just a bad smell hovering in a brothel/when you’re going to die: say it, it’s done
I do not feel anything/and I get drunk from this nothing.
I’m flying in the air…/I’m expanding without limits
Lyrics: Ann O’aro/Music: Ann O’aro, Fanny Ménégoz et Julien Rousseau
Evocation of the fight for the music and language of Réunion, with a sarcastic derivation regarding the over-victimisation that frequently results.
Planter people, people in motion/where are you going to fall?
Where are you going to unravel the blemish, the blackness of your skin?
Go and die!
Where are you going to sell the black of your heart?
We are all like you/our urns sent out of the vaults
myself, I’m like you/Out of rum, I drink water…
On us beats the heat of the sun/even in our burned mouths
On us beats the heat of the sun/in our mouths
our scabs cleared up
We are not dogs!
Granny tisane, grandpa we cry/How much more are you going to die?
Where are you going to pack the macassar, the bloodlessness of your tongues?
Where are you going to pack the darkness of your hearts?
Go and die!