#AuxSons is a collaborative, militant and solidary web media
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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