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Chinese Man’s Zé Mateo on his solo album and on his connection with India

Chinese Man’s Zé Mateo on his solo album and on his connection with India

Facebook timelines went rampant with the marked hopeful attendances to artiste Zé Mateo’s gig at Tabula Rasa. Comments alongside these confirmations, ranged from “I can’t believe it” to “It’s about time.” Zé Mateo is best known for being a member of collective French trip-hop band Chinese Man, who’ve churned out ten albums with game changing tunes and mixes such as I’ve Got That Tune, Pandi Groove and Get Up leading to an international cult following to be reckoned.

Zé Matteo, who’ll be doing a multi-city tour organised by collective Gently Altered, adds, “I plan to record percussions in Mumbai, with my friend and artist Vivek. I also have the opportunity to work with musicians from a desert in Rajasthan.” This isn’t his first time to India though. As a group, Chinese Man — comprising SLY, Zé Mateo and High Ku — visited India in 2016 and found themselves immersed in a multi-tonal musical culture. Discovering another culture inspires immense passion within Zé Matteo, which he says is the first purpose of his trip, as well as to see and meet different people to invoke a change inside himself.

Zen is intrinsically elemental for Chinese Man’s music production. As for his gig this evening, expect some Chinese Man material as well as some of Zé Mateo’s solo ventures which teem with South American, Indian and Turkish influences. He elaborates, “It’s a state of mind but it’s also about time. We don’t really know another way to produce our music. I took more than one year, almost two, to produce my solo album Scaglia. When you manage your time, it’s more peaceful and you create space to think and let the thing grow. It’s not easy and sometimes you really want to go faster…”

Notably, with no specific genre bar and a blend of interesting sounds and samples, the groove the group is best known for is persistent. Detailing their songwriting process when it comes to working with such different sounds, Zé Mateo continues, “With Chinese Man, we take a lot of time to listen to some samples. When we choose one of them, we are trying to find a groove with a beat that we create. Then, we are trying and trying a lot of combinations and start to think about arranging with musicians. Many steps… As we are three members, it also takes time to be okay together, which is a good thing.” He goes on, “For my solo album, I tried to be really focussed on what I deeply wanted to compose, from samples but also with melodies I composed.”

Interestingly, Zé Mateo has long been a fan of Asha Bhosle who, he quips, is still rocking his personal playlist.

Naturally with such infusions, the band has received its fair share of criticism for cultural appropriation but the controversy does little to stave off evergreen loyalty.

Zé Mateo will be playing at Tabula Rasa on Saturday November 10, from 9pm. Tickets are ₹500 per person.

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