The meeting point was a dreary park in Montréal’s Quartier des spectacles. Two buses were parked there. This, however, was nowhere near a field trip to the zoo… Even though the scraps of information we had about this evening led one to believe we were going out to a llama petting zoo, the only animal-like element turned out to be the bear mask worn by the woman who welcomed us on the bus. We’d been invited to a one-of-a-kind experience to get acquainted with La Bronze’s newest album, Les corps infinis.
“I really wanted it to take place somewhere that wouldn’t be your typical venue, says Nadia Essadiqi, aka La Bronze, the day after, still amazed by the reactions to her unusual show. “I love surprises, and I wanted to provoke things in a way that would put mystery at the heart of the whole record launch.”
After about 20 minutes on the road in the bus – Les corps infinis blaring from the speakers – we stopped by a seemingly abandoned building, that turned out to be the home of The Montréal Foundry. As in, “the place where one strikes while the iron is hot.”
“I wanted a really fucked-up place,” says La Bronze. “I asked a friend, and she took me there. I loved it, because there were a lot of possibilities, a lot of space, and we could use everything: the blacksmiths, the fire, all of it.” That, and the fact the heat from the foundries’ flames was perfect for the album’s opening track, “Canicule” (“Heatwave”).
In that hot place, we were welcomed to a makeshift bar, located between an assortment of metal tools and a wrought-iron staircase. The only thing reassuring about the makeshift bathroom – literally, four small walls surrounding a toilet – was that there was a first-aid kit inside it. In the main area, three blacksmiths were busy heating up metal, surprising the incredulous crowd each and every time sparks flew.
After the spectacle of fire, La Bronze – wearing a yeti costume – took to the stage, lighting her own face with a blue light. The songs followed one another feverishly. Nothing else mattered for anyone who was there. It was a universal experience. “It was such a great evening,” says La Bronze, still emotional. “People were grateful to live something entirely new.”
The show we witnessed, stage-directed by Yann Perreau, was memorable for several reasons. One of them was the arrival on stage of four French horns – arranged, on the album, by Mathieu Pelletier-Gagnon – who played the last pieces of the evening. But also because Nadia’s mother and her friend, who together with her, sang the solemn Arab chant that opens “Khlakit Fkelbek.” “It’s a traditional Moroccan chant that’s sung at weddings and other important events,” says the singer-somngwriter. “It talks about God, and it’s a really symbolic song.”
“Khlakit Fkelbek” is the first song she’s written in Arabic. “Language is just a medium, to me,” she says. “What matters is the essence, the emotion. I could write in Mandarin. I’d love that. Actually, no, I couldn’t, it would really not be any good!” she laughs.
Ever since she sang an Arabic version of Stromae’s “Formidable”, a cover that has so far been watched more than 2.5 million times on YouTube, Europe has opened up. “That experience really re-connected me with my roots,” says la Bronze. “It really wasn’t hard to write in Arabic afterwards. The purity of this project became self-evident. I dove right back into my origins. It was easy.” Partnerships to release the album in Europe are being formalized, and the artist admits to being “flabbergasted” by the opportunities that materialized in the wake of that cover.
Following her eponymous album, released in 2014, and Rois de nous, an EP released in 2016, this new flame has powered La Bronze’s Les corps infinis. “My producer [Clément Leduc] and I stepped into an imaginary bubble and we shared the same vibe from start to finish,” she says. “When I create music, there’s nothing too pre-meditated or rational. I never have a work plan. It’s all instinct.”
From this unbridled and free creativity emanates a powerful vibe of freedom that permeates all of her work. “I have this feeling that I can access it with greater and greater ease,” she says. “It’s my biggest quest, as a human being, and this record makes me feel much more at ease with who I am, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it made me more mature or adult… I still feel like a teenager in my daily life.”
Thanks to Clément Leduc and Francis Brisebois, La Bronze was able to expand on the idea of creative bubbles at the SOCAN House in L.A. “‘Canicule,’ ‘Beaux’ and ‘Les corps infinis’ were recorded there,” she explains. “The change of scenery was awesome, and we also took in the nightlife, the palm trees, the beach.” The change impacted her artistic approach, and became a way to “explore new inner zones,” she says. The final product is a collection of 11 songs that range from ethereal electro-pop to rock, “but all of them were composed on the piano”, La Bronze is quick to point out. “That’s how I can dive into my emotions.”
To her, all stages of the production are like different canvasses, where she draws her own sketches. “I’m involved in all of the composition processes, and I have to OK with everything, right down to the press release,” says la Bronze. “It’s super-important to me.”
In a context where women are increasingly vocal about their desire to be more involved in their music, La Bronze is no exception. As a matter of fact, she’ll have the privilege of sharing her bold spirit with young women thanks to the series Code F on Vrak TV. “The message I want to get out with that show is to own who you are, from A to Z,” she says. “No circumstance can rob you of your essence, or diminish the grandeur of your existence. I want women to stand up and impose their puissance.”
As for the future, La Bronze foresees a career path where out-of-the-ordinary environments will become more common, in order to make life onstage ever more exciting. “We’re going to take this album as far as it can go,” says the musician with aplomb. “I’m satisfied with every fraction of a second of every song I have in my hands, right here.”