12 Songs, 47 Minutes

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Worldlisteningpost.com ,

All Is Forbidden

She stares from the album cover—stark, vulnerable, penetrating. From outside, Ann O’aro’s life may seem in search of a metaphor, a verbal contrivance to make it sound less horrifying, but she’s beyond that. As a child, she played piano, organ and flute. And as a child, she was raped by her father who, when Ann was 15, committed suicide. After school, she left her home on Réunion, the French island in the Indian Ocean, working as a tattoo artist in Québec and street performer in Paris, and developing the therapy to exorcise her demons. It began with dance-martial arts choreography and tormented words. Lyrics came easier in Réunion Creole—more intimate and raw than French, she says—and only far from home did she embrace maloya, her island’s percussion-driven (and once forbidden) signature music. Back in her home village, she spun the strands that tell her story—brutal, without filters. She alternates between anguish and detachment, sometimes merging predator and victim, along the way granting her tormentor’s humanity. She sings mostly in Creole, calling her French renderings not so much translations as interpretations: Expressing the past in two languages helps her understand it better. Her voice is breathtaking in its calm, clarity and force, her band’s pulsing instrumentation as light as a thin veil. In Kap Kap, she compresses the two characters of her trauma and with Lo Kor Kapé/Le Corps Conquis (The Conquered Body), she describes the mood of an incestuous night. Kamayang (Hangman) imagines her father’s final thoughts. One deviation from personal themes is Lo Shien (Dog!), evoking the struggle for legitimacy of Creole and maloya. That Ann O’aro channeled her pain into music is inspiring. That she transformed torture into a work of such devastating beauty seems nothing short of miraculous.—worldlisteningpost.com