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World Music Matters

Seb el Zin: hardcore with a soft centre

Audio 15:41
Seb El Zin, composer, poet, producer and founder of French band ITHAK
Seb El Zin, composer, poet, producer and founder of French band ITHAK ©Fanny Escobar aka paloma Blu

Seb el Zin founded the surrealist rock band Ithak in 2005 and it somehow manages to straddle hardcore, metal, psychedelia and traditional Turkish music with equal ease. He talks to us about why metal is ethno music, his love of dystopia and science fiction, and finding lyrical inspiration in the odd mushroom.

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Seb El Zin (Seb the beautiful!) has many strings to his bow: composer, singer, musician and producer, he's frontman and guitarist with ethno-psychic punk band Ithak.

Their second album, Black Nazar Corporation (2016), is not exactly easy-listening world music. But el Zin says it's just a question of opening your mind.

"We attempt to mix industrial punk rock with some other traditional musics," he says. "In the West we have many labels like metal music, reggae, hip hop, and so on, and then all the rest is world music.

"But I consider that every music is ethno actually. Even metal is ethno music from white people from the beginning of the 90s. So in the end, there is no reason why they shouldn't be mixed with any other kind of music, maybe with Indonesian gamelan, or whatever. We all live on the same earth. Be open and see what works."

From 2011 to 2016 El Zin lived in Turkey where he learned to play a flute known as the ney and the Turkish lute known as saz, so they get thrown into the musical mix.

Before that he spent some months at Ircam (French institute specialising in avant garde electro-accoustic music) as an engineer, where he broadened his musical tastes, discovering composers like György Sándor Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis... "major composers who're aren't mainstream but who have influenced my music".

Writers like J.G. Ballard meanwhile nourished his interest in dystopia.

"I'm a big fan, he inspired all the new wave generations, Joy Division, all those bands back in the days."

Seb El Zin (on right) and members of the band Ithak
Seb El Zin (on right) and members of the band Ithak ©Marie Benattar

El Zin also heads up the hip-hop noise cult project Anarchist Republic of Bzzz (feat. Arto Lindsay, Marc Ribot, Mike Ladd and Sensational) and has toured the U.S. with his solo album Grand Bazar. 

On 5 March he'll push his boundaries that bit further, joining Franco-Algerian mandolin maestro Hakim Hamadouche in concert at the Arabofolies festival at the institut du Monde Arabe. Hamadouche played with Rachid Taha for more than 25 years.

"Hakim is a super open-minded person. He plays rock, blues, jazz as well as his traditional Berber chaabi music. So it wasn't complicated to have common vocabulary, we just let it happen."

Seb el Zin, Thomas Ballarini (drums), Fanny Lasfargues (bass) and Hakim Hamadouche, will perform together at Arabofolies festival, 5 March.
Seb el Zin, Thomas Ballarini (drums), Fanny Lasfargues (bass) and Hakim Hamadouche, will perform together at Arabofolies festival, 5 March. © Pierre Vital-Durand

Seb El Zin's official site here

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