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Jean-Philippe Rykiel

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b. Paris, France. A member of the famed Parisian fashion family Rykiel, Jean-Phillippe chose to pursue his career as a musician and arranger instead, making his name by collaborating with African musicians. In 1993 he was cited by Folk Roots magazine as ‘the only western musician to play successfully within the Manding and Wolof idioms’, a tribute based on his work as co-arranger and keyboard player on Salif Keita’s Soro (Stern’s 1987), and Youssou N’Dour’s Eyes Open (40 Acres 1992). Influenced by Thelonious Monk as a youth, Rykiel learned piano from the age of six, and was subsequently sent to a special school for the blind. His first contact with African music came in the late 70s, at which time he was an enthusiastic fan of progressive rock groups. Captivated by the music he heard through a Ghanaian friend, Federea Agyeman, they formed a new band with former Gong members Didier Malherba (saxophone) and Winston Berkley (bass). Named Bloom, the group never recorded but played widely around French jazz clubs at the turn of the decade. Later he and Agyeman travelled to Ghana just as the Rawlings coup took place, but through jamming with local musicians Rykiel secured himself a place in Senegalese band Xalam. He joined them on tours of the USA, Canada and Japan, working on two of their albums, Xalit and Apartheid. It was at a Xalam rehearsal he first met Keita. His relationship with N’Dour also began in the 80s. This led to his work on Eyes Open, co-arranging alongside the artist’s regular keyboard player Habib Faye, and making several concert appearances. Other African artists he has worked with include Ousmane Kouyaté, Boncana Maiga and Tata Bambo Kouyaté.

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Paris, France

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