As far as Vincent Segal and Cyril Atef are concerned, curiosity didn’ t kill the cat. According to Bumcello, the wee musical circus they have puttogether, it is more of a constructive virtue; an essential force coming into play at each and every vortex of the creative matrix they set up four years ago, from whose unlikely depths sprang forth a debut album with a rather fuzzy outline but quite solid foundations.
Upon perusal of their respective curriculum vitae one is initially struck by the misaligned parallels of these two paths in life ; we find the same resistance to convention, proof of an identical obstinate determination to find one’s own way ahead and a comparable relentless volition for fooling academicism... Thus, both schooling and errant wanderings, both discipline and the lack thereof, have figured equally in the musical apprenticeships of Vincent and Cyril. Paradoxical omens would choose different moments to make their presence felt.
While Vincent, growing up in Rennes, decided to study the cello almost immediately after beginning his preparatory classes, “because the teacher would hand out sweets to the kids;” Cyril in Berlin, was thrashing out the first drumrolls, on cardboard boxes, of a life which he would never again be able to envisage other than in terms of rhythm.
Some time later, in perfect synchronicity of opposites, Vincent passed the entrance exams to the Higher National Conservatory in Lyon with flying colours, while Cyril was thrown out of the Reseda Catholic School in the San Fernando Valley, California, where his parents had recently moved. As he turned thirteen he was, as he says himself, “a hardcore punk.” His parents, however, came up with a rescue plan which consisted of sending him back to his grandparents on his mother’s side, to be brought up in Dôle in the Jura region. Yet this austere medecine - particularly bitter to swallow for one who has tasted the ultra-vitaminized existence of West Coast America - could not quell the fire burning in his blood; within the confines of the religious school of Notre Dame de Mont Roland he would always choose to put up his fists rather than turn the other cheek.
When the holidays came around, finding himself back in Los Angeles, Cyril dedicated himself to seeking out with a vengeance all that the city had to offer in terms of nihilistic groups, including the X, the Dead Kennedys and the Henry Rollins Band to name but a few...
Apparently spared this outbreak of decibels and the accompanying nihilism, in the soft cocoon-like shelter of the public institution, Vincent Ségal discretely conceived his own form of sedition. Thanks to his father who was a lecturer in medecine and a fan of free jazz, young Vincent got used to allowing his ears to wander over musical terrain which might be considered quite vague, heady, even dangerous.
Force-fed chamber music, but privately tending his own secret garden, a hotbed of rocking, wild guitar and funky breaks, Vincent decided to spend a year at the Banff School of Fine Art in the depths of Canada as soon as he had passed his high school certificate. A period of learning, or rather unlearning, and the chance to mix with madcap professors and teachers of fecund disobedience like (double) bass player Dave Holland, former member of the Bitches Brew crew, that wondrous vessel helmed by Miles Davis in the late sixties. Little by little he loosened the shackles of the past and was able to set out upon that interior journey which leads the performing musician to the banks of artistry. His first companion was trombonist Glenn Ferris, his second, legendary Brasilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos.
So it was, that while the one was bent on detonating fifteen years of study, the other was about to decide to bid farewell to his self-indulgent autodidactics and reign in his predilection for chaos. Starting with lessons with Joe Porcaro (the father of the musicians in Toto), followed by a year spent studying at the Percussion Institute of Technology in Hollywood, where he was able to perfect his technique, learn theory, and buddy up to all the rhythmic styles ever recorded; Cyril began to filling in all those gaps. After a somewhat bittersweet experience in the South as part of Samacki and The Variations, a cabaret soul band, he enroled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and studied composition there. Two years later he was rolling around with Argentinian Marcello, doling out rhythm to the passers-by and handing round the hat in the streets of Berlin, Amsterdam, Innsbruck, Avignon... Then on to Paris, where he embarked upon his first recordings as a drummer, for albums by Princess Erika, the Incroyable Jungles Beat, Aswad, and Mama Ohandja among others.
At this point in time, Vincent was going about his business in a most disconcerting manner; veering between scholarly research at the Ircam (Institut for Musical Research in Paris, set up by Pierre Boulez in 1970) to the nostalgic evocations of Cesaria Evora, from the Villa Medicis (centre of the arts) to the Ivry projects in suburban Paris, where Dj Mehdi and 113 were hankering after that ‘exotic’ cello sound of his. These two exceptional trajectories were bound to collide one fine day. Firstly, because for some ten years - from M to Ben Harper, Papa Wemba to Julien Loureau, Cheb Mami to Thomas Fersen and from Vanessa Paradis to the ONB - Vincent and Cyril’s ability and versatility meant that they were two of the most sought-after instrumentalists on the Paris circuit. And secondly, because the one, like the other, for some kind of atavistic reason surely, as well as purely for curiosity’s sake, had developed a quite useful syndrome in these days of accelerated decompartmentalization : that of nomadism.
This word, which has both a practical use and is, above all, very much in vogue, is surely a convenient means of masking a lack of orientation for many people, whereas in this case, we can clearly see the difference between simple wanderings and embarking on a voyage. Whether we consider the Franco-Iranien who grew up in Los Angeles (Cyril) or the descendant of Roumanian Jewish roots brought up in the bosom of European culture at its most conventional (Vincent), both seem to possess a innate talent for sniffing out the most diverse musical directions and instinctively knowing all the while exactly which route to take. And so their second album (the first for the Tôt ou Tard label) roves around like a wee world circus.
On the dancefloor, and to the sound of our applause, they zigzag bewteen African, Jamaican, Brasilian, Gypsy, Pop and Dub. No more tempted to use a safety net (no samples here), than they are to try to convince anyone of the authenticity of that which they recreate out of sheer playfulness. In fact, “ we recreate the kind of stuff we like” could be their motto.
For their compositions, Cyril and Vincent use a variety of acoustic instruments, a fact which certainly has no limiting effect on the ecclecticism of their choice: Iranien santour, Trinidadian steel drums, Cameroonian tomtoms, Maroccan karkabous (metal castanets), guitar, bass, cello, melodica, one set of vocals chords, a pair of electronic gadgets and a few guests (...). To the kind of mutual musical understanding of a Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, they add a kind of mixed up and reconstituted type of musical vision that might be associated with Brian Eno and David Byrne collaborations. Indeed, the Eno produced My Life In The Bush of Ghosts seems to somehow foster their current exploits. Bumcello don’t play this kind of music, or that kind of music, they produce interstitial music, which always manages to slip between the dry floorboards where conventional music lies mouldering and collecting dust.
Cyril Atef and Vincent Segal will henceforth be known, by one and all, young and old alike, as Bum and Cello, a tandem entity which always seeks to puts it virtuosity to the most accessible of joyful uses.