Report: Word Music Matters

H'Sao: Chadian swallows hit the right note

H'Sao's Oria album cover
H'Sao's Oria album cover

“Like swallows, we wanted to reach the highest mountain,” says Isra, the youngest member of this five-piece band from Chad. And they’re well on their way.


After years singing a capella, their fortunes changed in 2000 when they performed at a festival in the north of France and were able to buy a few instruments.

Then in 2001 they won an award at the Francophony Games in Ottawa.

Now Canadian citizens, their music is a savvy mix of all the jazz, groove and R'n’b they’re surrounded by in their adopted city of Montreal along with the more traditional rhythms of their Central African country of birth.

Singing in French, English, Arabic, plus the Chadian languages of sara and kabalaye, H'Sao has become Chad’s n°1 band: the only one on the international scene.

“It’s good for us,” says the band’s drummer and singer Dono, “but sad too because we really want to have more artists.”

With no music scene, schools or structured music business, it’s hard for Chadian musicians to break through.

But the band hopes to do its bit by promoting Chadian culture as much as possible and stimulating change.

Their third, latest album Oria means “Are you fed up yet?”.

“There’s a lot of injustice in Africa,” says Isra “so for us it’s our role to sing and denounce that. Oria is about calling people to fight for their freedom, to protest, but peacefully.

“People have the right to strike, to protest,” adds Dono. “But in Chad many people don’t understand they have civil rights because they’re not well educated. So this is another type of fight we defend.”

Some of the songs on Oria such as are Poussez, Resistez, (push, resist) and This is why, are direct calls for action.

While One love talks of healing and building a new Chad.

“Chad has known war for more than 30 years,” says Isra. “But we can’t keep waiting for strangers to come and help, it’s up to us to build it “.

“One love is about saying we have to come together to make things happen,” says Dono.

The band hope to take their message back home in person; they’re planning to perform live in the coming months.

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