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I “met” Bébé La La on author Mary Dezember’s
Creatives in Conversation in April of 2022, and it was an introduction I’ll
cherish indefinitely. Mary provides all that you would want to know about Bébé La La, including her very unique review, here.
Me? I just want to share my experience of Bébé La La with you.
Alicia Ultan and Maryse Lapierre are Bébé La La, a multi-talented,
multi-instrumental, musical duo based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They
celebrated their second and most recent CD release, A Curious Series of Unexpected
Events, in November of 2021, and it certainly is worthy of celebration!
A Curious Series of Unexpected Events opens and closes with In
Media Res and its Reprise, respectively, featuring Alicia’s weeping, swelling viola sound,
Maryse’s haunting harmonium and the voices of Bébé La La plucking at heart
strings- those voices that ride the waves of life, lifting you high into
fantasy skies and crashing you down to reality.
They don’t hesitate to let you know right off the bat that they
are not merely magical musicians but conscious beings as well. The second
track, Step Back, tells you that these artists are “Gonna take a step back” to “figure
it out” and “turn the world inside out.”
It is a call to pay attention to what
we’re doing to the planet, to make smarter choices. Musically, after
delivering the meat of the message, midway through the track, there’s a pregnant pause (for thought?) with Claudio Tolousse’s sitar as backdrop for planet
sounds. Then the tempo picks up again after the pause, but the message remains the same.
The harmonic resonance Maryse and Alicia share is on vivid display
in Rosie, a languid but uplifting folk ballad which was inspired by a real live
meeting with a young girl on a mountain hike. The strings of Micky Patten’s
bass and guitar, and Jacqueline Ultan’s cello provide enriching depth, nuance,
and contours to this track. I’m
obviously not the only one who cradles this cut close to the bosom, because Alicia took home
New Mexico Music Award in the Singer-Songwriter category for writing it!
Ah, and then the tempo gets a charge on the group’s namesake track
La La. It opens with Carlos “Kalin” Noboa’s zampoñas (pan pipes in English and calling to
mind native wooden flutes), and Joseph Altamirano’s charango, a traditional South
American 10-stringer about the size of a ukulele. Talk about diversity! We’ve
got instruments from various parts of the world with French lyrics delivering a message that I cannot decipher…at least cognitively. But Bébé La La reminds
us that the meaning in music is so often a feeling thing more than a thinking
thing. Is this a celebration of life, a cry of longing? Feels like both and
more. Maryse takes the vocal lead on this one, showing her range, while Alicia offers
the perfect harmonic complement.
The CD then takes me home. One Minute at a Time opens its wings with steel-pan sounds from Frank Leto and speaks with a reggae,
island lilt that takes you to the tropics lyrically and
musically. It’s a statement about our times including references to Covid:
“Wearing masks and gloves and fear” Yeah! Clearly Alicia is also a poet. Pick up the Lyric Book with lyrics to all the songs from both their CDs (High Wire being the other) and you'll see what I mean. This track is a nod to nostalgia, a call for a different
future, while painting an idyllic picture to match the island sounds.
Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret revives the up tempo,
reminding me of flower children dancing in the park, trials and tribulations
trampled beneath their prancing feet. Alicia’s acoustic chops may be most
evident on this track and the ever-present harmony between these symbiotic
artists continues to be the thread that ties this enriching sound experience together.
Is there an album worth its salt that doesn’t deliver a love
song? I’m not sure that the musicians would call Magic Hour a love song,
but if it sounds like a love song, feels like a love song, doggone it, it must
be a love song! And what a beautiful love song it is. Alicia’s voice-magic takes
me back to adolescent years when Carly Simon sent me dreaming. And when these
two artists put their voices together love is definitely in the air. “If I come
to you in a magic hour would you cast a spell on me?” Well, turn about is fair
play and since Bébé La La cast a spell on me from the opening cut, I think it’s
only fair that I answer, “Hell yes!” to that question. If only I had warlock powers...
Slow down & listen with Alicia on viola demands
that you close your eyes and open your ears to the viola hovering above the
signature harmony. It commands you to listen to the lyrics prescribing good medicine for living in today's
“Slow down and listen, you’re
going to crash if you keep going so fast
Slow down and listen, you’re going to hit a brick wall
from your past”
In another song for our times, Remember stems from
the George Floyd incident. Can a tragic dirge be beautiful? Well, when Bébé La La
sings and plays one, it can. It is. Heavy and beautiful, beautiful and heavy, the poignant lyrics include, “This systemic pandemic of hatred will end” and tells
the departed Floyd that “Change will come, we’ll have you to thank.” The way Jacqueline Ultan’s cello
laments and complements the lyrics makes this one of my favorite tracks. The lyrics are musical; the music is poetic, and Arnaldo Acosta’s snare work is a brilliant touch on this cut.
From where I sit, A Curious Series of Unexpected Events is
an album for our times, of times past, and it seeks to will us into a more magical
Bébé La La’s website: https://bebelalamusic.com/home
Bébé La La on Facebook/Meta: https://www.facebook.com/bebelalaband/
Bébé La La music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nur2Ax2h9Zc&t=45s
Bébé La La YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@aliciamusic6477/videos
Terrific live concert at the
Community Coffee House in Albuquerque, NM where the duo is based