The musical force that is Kavus Torabi takes many forms. Most recently he’s been recording with The Utopia Strong (their International Treasure review here) and he’s also at the forefront of the current incarnation of Gong (yes – we saw them live and jolly good it was too – our review). He also has a busy solo career when he can find the time (we were most impressed with Hip To The Jag) and his background with the likes of The Holy Family and Cardiacs sees him almost omnipresent in the musical world.
Ultimately and like us all, he’s a fan. And when it comes to French avant-progressive outfit Magma, he’s an ultra. A genuine fanboy. You can probably appreciate what it’s like when a band and their music have such an impact on you. Here’s Kavus to tell us about his love for Magma:
Magma had been on my radar for a while having read about them in Chris Cutler’s File Under Popular book but, in the cultural wasteland of late 80’s Plymouth, I didn’t know anyone who had really heard of them, let alone had any records. At the time, they seemed to be best known for being Steve Davis’s favourite band and ‘singing in a made-up language’.
By 1993 I was living in London and found a copy of Magma Live/Hhaï from These Records in Stockwell for about a fiver. As double live albums go, it’s one of the best and while I loved the music, the exotic titles and still not knowing anyone else who liked them, I was all at sea over where the pieces were taken from or which studio album to buy first. All this changed upon witnessing the reformed Magma, with a new line-up, perform their ‘trilogy’ at The Royal Festival Hall in 2000. After which I bought EVERYTHING.
Following this show I have probably witnessed Magma live in excess of 40 times. I would take any opportunity I could to watch them in France at every show I was able to attend during this period. Quite honestly, the experience of witnessing Magma live is unparalleled by almost any other human experience, for me at least.
I could try and explain how the music ‘works’ but that wouldn’t come close to what makes Christian Vander’s extraordinary band so special. Yes, there is a strong influence of Jazz, gospel and 20th Century classical music. Each player and singer is a virtuoso and the music is composed in layer upon layer of cyclical repetitions, often playing in differing meters to one another. Christian Vander, leader, drummer and primary composer navigates a path through these incredible cycles which tie them together or set them revolving around one another in different orbits but Vander does something with rhythm that seems to elongate, concertina and slow down time itself.
And then there are the vocals. Regarding KobaÏan, the Magma ‘made up language’, far too much focus is made looking for an apparent meaning when the advantage of this impenetrable tongue is that it carries all the emotional, human impact of the voice but with none of the misleading, manipulative imagery of specific words. Instead the beautiful choral element serves to intensify and heighten the ecstatic nature of the compositions. If music is a language of pure information, Magma are the absolute motherlode. At almost every concert of theirs I have thought ‘No matter what else is occurring right now on our planet, this is by far the best and most important thing’.
The music of Magma is exploratory, numinous, incendiary and transcendental. I have been fortunate enough to share a stage with Magma a few times, with Gong, Guapo and Chrome Hoof. The forthcoming shows will be the first time The Utopia Strong has played with them. All three members of the band absolutely love Magma and so should you. We’re fortunate to be alive at the same time as these guys exist and I promise you, the likes of them will not come back again. This is some one-off magic.
Here’s The Utopia Strong doing Shepherdess:
Our thanks to Kavus for taking the time to explain his passion for a band who are always challenging but the rewards – well, you’ve read what he says. As mentioned, he speaks for The Utopia Strong who all share the love for a most unique band.
You can read more from our extensive archive of Why I Love pieces from a wide array of artists on an even wider array of subjects, here.