Modeste
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""World Class Artist" Fomba Review"

These days we are blessed by some truly world class artists living in our midst and we really ought to celebrate them more. A case in point is Madagascar’s Modeste Hugues Randriamahitasoa. Over the past few years he’s emerged as a delightful performer – a really nimble fingered and melodically satisfying guitarist out of the same regional tradition as D’Gary, whose gently vocalised songs are becoming increasingly impressive. On this, his second album, he’s done a beautiful job of playing all the sinuously winding guitar parts, burling bass, neatly understated percussion and vocal harmonies so naturally that without checking the notes you’d never realise it was an overdub construction at all – sounds just like a group of first class Malagasy musicians enjoying live in the same room. Hard job to pull off, I can assure you, but perhaps essential as the Malagasy population of the UK is numbered in tens! Now, you’ll have to take my word for it, but I hear a lot of Malagasy music and tracks like kopaka with its immaculately picked guitar and skittering shaker are as good as anything being made in the same field back home. Distributed by Stern’s, or see www.modeste.co.uk. fROOTS isssue Aug/Sep 2005 No 266/267. Ian Anderson – fROOTS / THE ESSENTIAL WORLDWIDE ROOTS MUSIC GUIDE / www.frootsmag.com email: froots@frootsmag.com - fROOTS Magazine


""Big Talent & a Name to Match" Live Review"

MODESTE SOUNDS ENCHANTING SOUNDS OF AFRICA BY MODESTE HUGUES Magical – Modeste performed at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford. The last world music event in Chelmsford, organised by local promoter Gilda Sebastian, featured the return of a musician with a big talent and a name to match. Madagascan guitarist/songwriter Modeste Hugues Randriamahitasoa, known professionally as Modeste, made his Essex debut in Chelmsford a year ago to enthusiastic acclaim. Billed as the man from “the wild and mysterious Indian Ocean island”, Modeste is a gentle-voiced performer of extraordinary musical dexterity. With Portuguese percussionist Oli Savil and bassist Les Mommsen from Zimbabwe, Modeste stole the show at last year’ s Womad Festival when he appeared on Radio 3’ s World On Your Street stage. Another such performance was delivered at Chelmsford on Saturday, the audience being lulled by the band’ s trance-inducing accompaniment to lyrics in a variety of languages, each number winning a storm of applause. This years’ s set focused as much on the tinkling riffs and poly rhythms of Southern Africa as on Modeste’ s native island Malagasy style. Chelmsford’ s biggest auditorium takes some filling and Modeste hasn’ t quite managed a full house yet. The tens of thousands who flock to big summer events like Womad, perhaps haven’ t yet realised they can get a winter to-up of these magical sounds at their local theatre. But judging by the enthusiastic comments overhead in the bar during Saturday’ s interval, a full house could be on the cards next time. GILL MARINER, EVENING GAZETTE 22/02/2006 AND WEEKLY NEWS 23/02/2006 - Evening Gazette


""Must Have List" Fomba Review"

FOMBA - Space Shop Records MODSSCD2 ****
A Malagasy one-man band Track one on this CD, "Fomba, had me out of my seat and dancing on my first Listen. That's quite an achievement for just one man with a guitar. Thankfully, there was no one to witness my living-rroom shuffle, but it testifies to what is a superbly infectious album. Originally from Madagascar, UK-based Modeste plays a form of Malagasy music rich with rolling guitar-picking patterns that weave a hypnotic carpet of sound. Across this Modeste layers further,stunningly intricate lines, the tonal qualities of which hover somewhere between "kora" and piano. It's a sound that's typical of Malagasy guitar, wherein players imitate the piano by using a capo and re-tuning the bass strings to get that high ringing sound. Modeste plays most of the instruments on the album, but is joined by percussionist Adriano Silva Pinto on "Zanakao Rafoza 2" and on two other tracks. Pinto's bongos add extra drive to a song that asks "can I take your most treasured possession, your daughter as my bride?" Yet, even when it's just Modeste you're listening to, it never sounds like the work of one man. There's a playful interaction between bass and guitar, a call-and-response that suggests a studio full of musicians jostling for position. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, Malagasy music has evolved independently from the rest of Africa; you can hear tracks traces of "soukous" and highlife in Modeste's playing, but there's an intriguingly "baroque folk" tinge to tracks such as "kopaka". This is a joyful album, and one that should be on everyone's must-have list. Matt Swaine - SONGLINES, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2005
- SONGLINES


""Transcends Cultural Barriers" Live Review"

Shetland Folk Festival 2005 / Madagascan should not be Modeste in Voe/ Modeste – who is originally from Madagascar – was joined by Zimbabwean Les Mommsen on bass guitar and Adriano Pinto from Brazil, who made the most unlikely of sounds with a wide array of fascinating percussion instruments. “A band who have instruments,” was all Frank Robb could think to say by way of an introduction, but in truth, Modeste and his fellow musicians speak for themselves. The fact that you couldn’t understand the language he was singing in didn’t matter – Modeste’s music transcends all cultural barriers, and offered a truly memorable performance that proved to be Friday night’s highlight by far. RT – The Shetland Weekly newspaper 03/05/05

Shetland folk Festival 2005 /Music man Modeste has his day/ MODESTE WAS man of the moment once more, when he appeared in the Voe Hall on Saturday. The skilful guitarist immediately endeared himself to the crowd with his unique style. By close of play, chairs were being wilfully abandoned in favour of the dancing space in front of the stage. Even those who didn’t leave their seats sat mesmerised by Modeste’s hypnotic melodies and serene vocals. Ably accompanied by his colleagues on bass guitar and percussion, Modeste brought musical entertainment onto an entirely new plain. They may have been dressed as if ready to decorate the living room, but their musical style proved as captivating as ever. In the end, there were celebratory hugs all round from the witty, bald-headed compere, Frank Robb. Modeste had stolen the show, and was running all the way back to Madagascar with it, as well. RT – The Shetland Weekly 03/05/05 - Shetland Weekly


"Modeste BBC World Review"

Modeste
Modeste
(Space Shop Records)

Modeste Hugues Randriamahitasoa - who, thankfully, goes by the professional name of just plain Modeste - is a UK-based acoustic and electric guitarist of Madagascar origin. That wild and mysterious Indian Ocean island, where everything from flora and fauna to music seems to have developed in a vacuum relatively undisturbed by outside influences, has long held a fascination for traditional music fans. Nowadays, traditional instruments such as the valiha, sodina and kabosy sit comfortably alongside the European guitar and piano, whilst the poor communications within the island have preserved strictly localised playing styles and rhythms in the North and South.

But Malagasy guitar has a history all its own. European classical, Hawaiian slack-key, mainland African soukous and densely-styled playing that imitates the traditional marovany zither all jostle for attention. From the legendary Bouboul, Madagascar's first electric guitarist in the 50s came the electric salegy and watcha-watcha styles, but many other visiting guitarists left their mark on the immensely skilful and imaginative players.

Modeste's style is predominantly modern and dance-orientated. There's a soukous-style 'Lavitra', a more Hawaiian-type 'Zanakao rafoza'; a 6/8 salegy-rhythm piece (Agapi mou) and a great opener with a strong gospel feel ("Mifona'). Wisely, he has kept the more inaccessible time-signatures to a minimum, leaving the door open to the more casual record-buyer who is attracted to the general feel of Malagasy music but not to the 'earnest musicologist' aspect that it unfortunately attracts.

Malagasy music - admittedly often diluted - has always been popular in France, and some crossover bands such as Les Surfs and Mahaleo have even dented the French pop charts from time to time. With the almost endless variety of rhythms, tempos and styles, and with a growing UK-based population of talented Malagasy musicians such as Modeste, there's no reason why the unique and distinctive style of the Indian Ocean's jewel shouldn't break a few barriers here, too.

Reviewer: John Armstrong


- John Armstrong


"MODESTE Live Review"

17 March 2004

THE FOYER of the National Theatre may not be the most obvious place to go to hear world music, but I was one of the many passers-by who felt compelled to stop and listen when Modeste and his musicians took the stand. He delivered his opening song in a whisper, but it was enough to halt conversation among the sandwich-munchers; even the nobs in the restaurant above looked down and cocked an ear.

His second number was pitched high, but still very soft: its meoldies had that gracefully turning quality we associate with Mali, and his finger-picking was almost in the Djelimady Tounkara class. He may hail from Madagascar, but as the set wore on, there were times when we might have been back on the West Coast in the Seventies: his support guitarist and stately female percussionist enriched the mixture with precision.

For the most part, though, we were down in the Indian Ocean, soaking up the melodies he had composed and the words he had written for them. Too much to hope for a leaflet with translations, but they were to be found in the CD Modeste, on sale afterward. "What can we do when our sunshine's been taken away?" asks one, going on to incite rebellion against the thugs who terrorise Malagasy folk. He sang it with gentle fervour over the softest of hand-drum accompaniments, but the point came across strongly.

- Michael Church - The Independent


""Buckets of joie-de-vivre" CD Review"

Issue No 20, Winter 2003

London based Modeste Randriamahitasoa, from Madagascar, plays and sings nine of his own compositions here, seven of them songs, and puts out some very good music. From the first fast rolling guitar pattern you realize this guy has the chops. Check the sparse liner notes, and you see he has them on guitar, bass, percussion and vocals. A few pals play here and there, but Modeste has produced a true solo album. And a tasty one it is too. Modeste is an ace musician, razor sharp, endlessly inventive, his warm songs coloured by exuberance, tenderness, and buckets of joie-de-vivre. Guitar has been popular in Malagasy music, and Modeste has clearly learned his lessons well. He's also a pulsating percussionist with a charming voice too, and the album is a luscious, lively listen.

- David Ingram - Penguin Eggs Magazine (Canada)


Discography

MODESTE ( Space Shop Records,2003)
FOMBA (Space Shop Records, 2005)

Listen: BBC R3, BBC World Service, BBC London; Radio Pluriel/,RadioMada.net (France) Belgium National Radio, and numerous others throughout the world.

Photos

Bio

MODESTE

"Modeste is an ace musician, razor sharp, endlessly inventive, his warm songs coloured by exuberance, tenderness, and buckets of joie-de-vivre."
-- David Ingram - Penguin Eggs

*FIRST PLACE
2004 INTERNATIONAL
SONGWRITING COMPETITION (ISC)
World Music Category

*FINALIST 2006 Independent Music Awards

Modeste was raised in Betroka, a town in the central southern part of Madagascar. His full name is Modeste Hugues Randramahitasoa, but he sticks to Hugues because it’s shorter.

Modeste's music is unique to the Betroka region of Madagascar where it is influenced by all the traditional sounds of the area together with some softer South African dance rhythms.

At age 15, Modeste borrowed a neighbor’s guitar and taught himself to play. When his friend moved away, (with guitar in tow) Modeste decided to build his own guitar at the workshop in the technical college where his father was a teacher.

Crafting guitar strings from fishing line, he was forced to play the guitar close to his ears just to hear the sounds. He is now sure his humble first songs must have been totally out of tune.

Modeste found interest in experimenting with other sounds as well, especially those of the mervan, the traditional Malagasy instrument which is a box shape with 24 strings and is played like the West African kora. Surrounded by the sound of the bush, the birds and the whistling of shepherds in the hills, Modeste would spend endless hours imitating all he heard on his homemade guitar.

By creating his own tunings, Modeste is one of very few guitarists that use two capos (one special capo partial) and even sometimes three capos delivering an amazing and decidedly unique sound.

In London, where he now resides with his family, Modeste quickly developed a loyal fan base that far outreached his intimate community when he began to play in local clubs and became a coveted artist on the world festival circuit.

Famed BBC DJ Charlie Gillett has championed Modeste’s music on his Radio 3 programs and through his many world concert collaborations for Europe in Union, World on Your Street and World Routes.

Modeste has toured extensively worldwide playing such notable festivals as WOMAD, International Guitar Festival, Brighton and many others. He is featured regularly on BBC Radio 3, has been named Artist of the Week twice on Andy Kershaw's program and has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with legendary Cesaria Evora on her UK tour.

On his live self titled debut, MODESTE, (Space Shop Records) we find ourselves steeped in the traditions of Malagasy guitar all the while infused with Modeste’s own unique interpretations. One cannot help but be awe stricken by his inspiring musical ability, smokey tenor and the uplifting heartfelt joy his music evokes.

Modeste's sophomore release FOMBA is comprised of original songs written in Malagasy, French and Greek. A prolific multi-instrumentalist, Modeste plays 1st, 2nd and 3rd solo guitar, bass,bongos, djembe, and the Malagasy shakers known as karatsaka and accompanies himself on vocals. Modeste has also taken a primary role in producing the recording.

Fomba, enjoyed a warm welcome by his fans and audience and garnered him a slot at G-8 and City of London Festival.