Something exotic was in the air when two people and their cultures collided in the Basque Country of France.
When the dust settled, Tui Mamaki and the quaintly named Monsieur Escargot had the makings of the Mamaku Project.
The five-piece West Coast-based band will play the Dux on Sunday to promote second album Mal de Terre.
Mamaki says it will be a welcome chance to bring a show that usually graces outdoor festivals to a cosier venue.
“We’re really looking forward to this because playing smaller venues hasn’t really been part of what we’ve been doing,” she says. “But we feel that the word’s out there enough to be able to start visiting people in their zones and in their towns.”
Bordeaux-born, New Zealand-raised Mamaki met Parisian Escargot at the Errobiko Festival in 2004. She’s moved to France to study voice at the Bayonne Conservatory. He’d lived in NZ since 2002, having spent his childhood in Iraq and Algeria.
The band’s sound has been described as a concoction of French quirkiness, Pacific-flavoured dub, electronica and gypsy jazz.
“The Eastern sounds that creep into the melodies and rhythms have a strong origin in Monsieur Escargot’s culture,” says Mamaki. “I wouldn’t say it’s a deliberate act of being exotic, it’s more a sort of truth in the music that we love and are connected to.
“Also the festive aspect of gypsy music has that wild, expressionistic capacity. People want to be
transported and get a bit wild.”
The new album is the fruit of a couple of years on the road, she says. It’s more upbeat than 2007 debut Karekare, the band having taken onboard the dance vibe during their stint on the festival circuit.
But there are serious themes running through the material.
“A lot of the lyrics are about the varying degrees of balance or imbalance you get when humans interact with the Earth.
“But rather than doing it in a dark way, we’re making the most of the opportunity we have to celebrate and have a fantastic time on stage.
“It’s a real twist of light and dark.”
Catch the Mamaku Project at the Dux on Sunday from 8pm with support from DJ Balkanetic