#AuxSons est un webmedia collaboratif, militant et solidaire
10 February 2020
By Jean-Luc Thomas
Playlist de Jean-Luc Thomas

What is there to say about the ocean, the sea, the water…these elements so close to me?

It has given me so much, changed me so much, provided so much. From my long snorkeling dives during my teenage years where this silent world, full of colours and diversity, contrasted so much with the din of the surface.

My experiences as a seaweed collector in the 1980s off the coast of Bréhat. My long walks on the Sillon du Talbert at the time of important decisions and life choices. This sea gave me a taste for travel, the adventure of meeting other people, improvisation, meditation, hospitality…

In this playlist, I have chosen songs related to all these places that I know, but also to all those that I do not know.

To the denizens of the deep, the whales and dolphins that I admire so much. To the algae, crustaceans, but also to fishermen, seaweed gatherers and other coastal alchemists.

From the abyss to the fish market, from the mouth of the river to the middle of the ocean, from the south seas to the Baltic, from the fairies of the Blasket Islands to the Orixas of Salvador…

Thank you Mamae Yemanja for this creativity, this soothing and inspiring force. I hope that, in time, we will understand the vital importance of respecting this common (mother) sea.

Jean-Luc Thomas

© Didier Olivré
© Didier Olivré


Jean-Luc Thomas was part of the first generation of flutists to integrate the wooden transverse flute into festoù-noz groups (traditional dance music).  Originally from Tregor, Thomas was born into a family that did not practice music and he himself never took classes. There was nothing that would point to his musical vocation during his childhood and adolescence. What was needed was a first encounter, which proved to be the decisive blow.

One night in his final year at Guingamp, the young man got the chance to attend a concert by Matt Molloy, a major Irish flute player known for introducing bagpipe-specific flairs into his playing. To see him, listen to him, it was like love at first sight. To Thomas, he seemed to be glowing.

With no contacts in the music world, he enrolled in the university in Rennes and upon his arrival at this city, he bought himself his first flute.

As a professional musician, Jean-Luc has played in several fest-noz groups, including Pellgomz, and then Hastañ, which seek its audiences out and has no trouble filling venues. In conjunction with this, he put together the trio Jade in 1996 with Dominique Molard on percussion and Issar Marachli on the oud.

From that point on, he would go on to try blending all kinds of instruments: the Arabic ney and the Peul flutes, the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and the bansuri (Indian flute), as well as take an interest in Brazilian music.

All these experiences, however, bring him back to the wood flute, the one he feels he has “a history with”. And right away, a new adventure grabbed him, the group Kej, which he formed with the contrabassist Pierrick Tardivel and the guitarist Philipe Gloaguen. At their side, Thomas learned how to improvise and met experienced jazzmen like Bojan Z, Dominique Pifarély and Francois Corneloup.

In 2003, Jean-Luc Thomas and Gaby Kerdoncuff founded the label Hirustica, thanks to which he got the chance to record numerous albums, which would also serve as encounters and exchanges, such as in 2009 on Arri eo ar momant, with the guitarist Yvon Riou, and then, in 2012 with La Belle femme qui pleure with the tuba player Michel Godard. In 2005, the Serendou project took root when Jean-Luc crossed paths with Yacouba Moumouni, the virtuoso singer and flute player from Niger.

In 2014, he released the album Translations, the result of a long association with David Hopkins, known as Hopi, who has hundreds of instruments (including no less than 200 flutes). He introduced Thomas to the music of the Indians of Amazonia and New Guinea, in particular by listening to 70s vinyls. The next album, Magic Flutes, will be recorded with Ravichandra Kulur, the last flutist who played with Ravi Shankar.

Jean-Luc Thomas has never ceased to seek out meeting others, to go and see what never gets shown in the media, to take the measure of men around the world, even in countries that are lesser known to Westerners.

Jean-Luc Thomas has never settled for formulas, tricks, and shortcuts. Because, for him, human dignity is not marketable: “We receive such great things,” he still wonders. “My flute opened the doors to the world”. And it’s a whole world, that in return, his flute invites us to discover.

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