The Making of Backroad Carnival, chapter 5: Tattered Flag

July 26, 2017

As one might expect, I was listening to a lot of Congolese music when I came up with the intro riff of this tune. It then sat around in my mind for a while before I conjoined it with a few other musical ideas. It’s sort of soukous, pop, and blues all wrapped into one tune.
The “tattered flag” image had been hovering around the edges of my mind since a trip up the Niger to Timbuktu in Mali in 2010. If I remember correctly the pinasse (boat) we were on was flying this striped, tattered flag that represented I know not what. This sad and tired harbinger just kept staring down as we crept up the river heading to the desert. The trip changed me. Little kids fighting over an empty bottle of water we had given them so they could fill water from the river all the way to the top using the bottle cap, racing back to bring it to their mother so she could use it to cook and clean. Stuck in a river village during a sandstorm in the home of a charlatan griot asking us for money before he imparted his “knowledge”. Hippos sniffing our tent. Children in a Bozo fishing village surrounding us asking for “bonbons cadeaux” (candy gifts). Niafunké, meeting Ali Farka Toure’s son. And finally the somewhat anti-climactic arrival in Timbuktu.
Lyrically this tune was also influenced by my time in Ethiopia (references to the working women in the streets of Addis, of which there are thousands on any given night), and the general political malaise in the western world!

Money man don’t you eat my lunch
You’ve already wolfed down more than enough
We’re nibbling on the crumbs that you leave
And now you want our scraps in case you get hungry
Oooh hunger tears us asunder, greed sows the seed of need

Working woman what you standing there for?
You really sure you wanna open that fancy car’s door?
They’ll take you between half-built buildings with wooden scaffolds
Do what you gotta to but don’t do everything you’re told x3
Oooh desire lights the funeral pyres, greed sows the seed of need

Government stooge think twice about who you muzzle
Don’t you realize you’re just a small part of the big puzzle?
A kaleidoscope of revolving doors
Smokescreens, spells, tricks to hide your spoor
Power makes you skulk in tall towers, greed sows the seed of need

Media hack quit nattering on
Your mumbo jumbo hides your real intentions
Fourth and fifth estates blurring into one
You’re spinning stories and selling other’s potions
Privatize mask the pirates’ eyes greed sows the seed of need

Lower that tattered flag…

I recorded the guitars, bass and vocals at Tonehouse studio. Renaud plays calabash, drums, and light percussion, my brother Yann laid a little Juno synth as did Jean-Etienne Loose, who along with Geoffroy Dauptain and myself added the claps.


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