Produced by Gilbert Pytel for RAGGA magazine No 79 – Sept 2006

Let’s go back for a moment on Double Embrouille , could you introduce this crew and make a short summary for everybody new in the business?

The crew was including Nico and myself, the dj’s, Chico, selector and Bouyax, operator and dub master . We came into the house of reggae via the radio… Nico and myself started by presenting the programme “Cool Runnings” on Graffiti fm, which was at that time, meaning…1987, the rock and independent radio station of Bordeaux. Junior, the current boss of BlackBox 103,7 MHZ, who was hosting the Saturday morning show “Feeling Black Machine”, which made us discover the reggae, gave us our first opportunity by asking us to host the Tuesday evening time slot, 10pm/12am. Our programme was not a live reggae broadcasting like « Radio Sound System », but more an informative programme about reggae, with a lot of journalism, and news. We were receiving directly from USA or UK, advertising of labels like Ras, Live and learn, Heartbeat, Fashion Greensleves and local, national, and international reggae news. We had as well a subscription to Reggae Report…

It is at that time that we met lots of Jamaican artists, mainly the one coming to Bordeaux for their tour…Burning Spear, Pablo Moses, Mutabaruka , Steel Pulse… Unforgettable memories…

In 1990, we met the crew Raggamuffin Londonien Big Broad n Massive, who spent one month with us… awesome guys … who could not believe their eyes when they visited Bordeaux, Merignac and the Atlantic coast… For those who don’t know this crew, they are the one behind the title « Les jeunes filles qui vont nous tuer » by Tonton David, on his first album « Le Blues des Racailles »…

It was after we met them, that we focused on writing and the toasting technique, parallel to our job as radio dj’s … At that time Nuttea and Tonton David were coming with songs such as “Un dj parmi des millions de dj’s” or “Peuples du monde” or “Mc Janick” with “Ma planète”… stuff which were driving us crazy… Puppa Claudio, Massilia… although at that time we were already listening to Pablo Master “en A, en I, en O”, Daddy Yod “ elle n’est pas prête” or Mickey Moosman. The second ragga wave and the explosion of Hip Hop drove us crazy… The next step was becoming obvious, we gave up everything, including the radio programme, to focus on our group that we named “Double Embrouille”, to refer to some cuss-cuss that we had at that time with some people from reggae in Bordeaux, but also because it was the translation of the group of bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan “Double Trouble”.. We believed that by toasting on our versions and by writing our lyrics etc, etc.. we were…some bluesman…

We started by toasting on vinyls, then we worked on CDs, and at the end, we were using a 16 tracks Midi Digital with a MPC linked to two 01V, something crazy, a creation of our own dub master – Bouyax… “Double Embrouille” was on tour with Third World in 96.. In 2003, after having worked together for more than 15 years, Nico and I decided that it was time to start something else…

You could have chosen a nickname instead of picking your real name?

No, Manuel Da Zira is a nickname. I am called this way in my village in Portugal. I come from a small village in “Alto Minho” in the north of Portugal. To separate people who often have the same first name, we associate it with the first name of their mother… Da Zira is the short name for “ De Alzira”, as “Alzira” is the first name of my mother… it’s not truly a Portuguese tradition , but rather a tradition from Occitania, since you find this same practice in Provence, but also in the North of Italy...

Let’s come back on the title of your album « Portugues Suave ». You are singing two songs in Portuguese, why?

It was logical to me… Besides, I think there are not enough in the album. This language is part of my everyday life. Singing in Portuguese means a lot to me… It is culturally asserting myselfself, it is sharing a language, the emotions that it carries and the vibrations it holds. Everything I am, I owe it to this culture I belong to…and I have no plan to let it go away.

Is Occitania always involved in the lyrics?

Always…You have to understand that it’s as natural to me, who lives in Gascogne and furthermore who had Portuguese origins, to be interested in Occitania, as it is natural, for instance, for someone from the West Indies to be interested in Africa, to imagine it, to look for it…Would you think about laughing at Abbyssinians or at Peter Tosh, under the pretext that they sing some chorus of their songs in Amharic, which is not a language commonly used in Jamaica… But beware, don’t get confused, I am from Occitania but don’t speak its language. I can read it, but cannot speak it; anyway, the Portuguese that I speak is very similar to it.

With who did you work on the differents riddims ? For the production and the chorus?

I have round-the-clock access to the studio of Bip-Bip Production. This is where I’m composing my riddims and write my lyrics... At every stage in the development of a song, either I’m doing everything on my own, riddim, lyrics, dubbing, the guitar, or I ask some choir singers to step in… For instance, for “Portugues Suave”, I’ve worked with Yannique Emonides, who played for a long time with the group from Bordeaux “Some Style”, or with Sofia Vidal, who has Portuguese origins like me and rather does RnB. We are also playing with the fortunes of everyday’s life: Patrick Mothes is living in the neighborhood. He writes his lyrics and comes some time to time to the studio to sing his songs. He passed by the day we were working on “Jour de Paye”… we stopped hin on his way. Naïma, who is singing the chorus on the song “Tout le monde se plaint” is my daughter’s mother. We just put her in front of the microphone while she was bringing us some coffee. I have composed from A to Z the riddims of the album, except the one from “L’afficheur”, which were created by Chico, who since the split of “Double Embrouille’ is playing the bass. Omar Khemry is playing the bass on the riddim of “Raggamuffin local” and “Aucun mot”. The riddims on “Os Veilhotinhos” and “Occitanie is a must” are played by Boyax. Once everything is recorded, I give the whole thing to Bouyax, who has the difficult task to clean, edit and mix the songs. Regarding the mastering, we don’t need to go too far. We are lucky to have in Bordeaux one of the best recording studio in France, in this case “Globe Audio”, so no worries…

Your album is a bit against the current of actual reggae productions. What does it inspire you?

I don’t think it goes « against the current », it rather goes « out of the current », and this is for a very simple reason : I’ve started working on the album when the studio Bip Bip was in an inactivity period…I went around all the riddims which I easily use on the new equipment of the studio, and have started my album with those one … At one stage, I wondered if I should not include one or two more current riddims to be more in the new sound trend…but at the end, I have no regrets…it gives the album a very personal touch; which apparently makes its charm…

In your acknowledgments, we can find the name of Hailé Selassie or Coluche. In your musical inspirations, you quote as well Angelo Banduardi or Francis Cabrel. This is unusual?

About Coluche, it is for all he has done and his sens of humour…prophetic…you probably remember his joke about the pope who gathered 10,000 people with free entrance in Paris when Bob Marley, the following day, gathered 45,000 people who had to pay the entrance. He finishes saying with his accent from Paris “I wonder if the reggae is not overtaking the liturgy”…funny, isn’t it?

Angelo Branduardi : There are few artists who a note of their music makes me feel like spiritually and culturally taking off .. Angelo is one of them, with people like Burning Spear, Pablo Moses or in a different style, Mark Knoppfler or Francis Cabrel….

For Cabrel… this man is a musical school alone... Every normal person who wants to learn the guitar, will do it by playing songs from Cabrel… He is a genious with his guitar, not only for accompaniment, but also as a song writer, and a performer… There was at the beginning a version of one of his song on my album… a rewriting of an old piece “C’était l’hiver”. His publishing company refused to let me use it… However, you will be able to listen to it on my website very soon…

About Hailé Selassié…: If today, I am the man I am, I owe it, not entirely, but mostly to Reggae and to the work that this music had on me… I am told that reggae is not necessarily Rasta, but the reggae which woke me up spiritually and culturally is the Rasta Reggae…with no doubt, and at no time I can pretend I am a Rasta man, but I can say out loud that for 20 years I have been fed from Rasta spirit through Reggae and today, with hindsight, I notice all the benefits it had on my life… so I go for it!

In hindsight, what do you think about the current dancehall reggae scene in France?

I am not really the best person to talk about it, but I see a lot of good things and some other, not so good… lots of independent production everywhere, parties with very attractive programs… Otherwise, regarding the image that the music has in the media… too many asses, too many four by four, too many pictures of parties, too much nonsense sometimes…

How Reggae’s scene is going in Bordeaux?

About dancehall reggae, there are lots of parties in clubs, but I never found the time to go. About the sounds, I love the work that Ras « One Platine Man » Simeon is doing and his “I Stone Jah Sound”…pure Roots n culture selection. I’ve seen as well that Maylan, one very active Raggamuffin for years in Bordeaux, has just released an album, but I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to it yet.
About the dub, you know better than me the news of Improvisator Dub, and regarding the Roots Reggae, it’s Seyni who is currently at the top… There is a new comer called Jahko Lion who had a group as backup where my friend Mou7 is playing… but at one time, you had 10 groups on tour and who were regularly playing, every month or week… I’m talking about New Deal, of Some Style, of Gaindé, Rockers Melody, Bongo Fire, Same Blood, of Niominka Bi, who is of course the big brother of everybody, here, in the Reggae in Bordeaux…
Some extraordinary things happened here, in the big time of “Jimmy”, the rock bar-concert of Bordeaux. It was a mythical place which unfortunately closed down when Ramon passed away, the Boss… No other place managed to replace” Jimmy”, in people of Bordeaux’s hearts … lots of groups came to play in “Jimmy” but as well some local groups, which was giving everybody the opportunity to play together, and in particular to bring a competitive spirit between the musicians…
You had to know the Reggae in Bordeaux at the time where Winston Mc Anuff was living there… We saw Niominka-Bi at the time where Makadoni, the brother of Winstong Mc Anuff was playing drums and Rudolh Bonito, the current guitar player of Bunny Wailer, were part of the group. All the musical brotherhood was coming to their concerts, everybody was there to take a music lesson...
It was a very nice time, culturally, musically and humanly strong. The closing down of “Jimmy” brought unfortunately complications in the life of Reggae in Bordeaux.