Think of One
Think of One is my favourite band of the entire alternative scene in Belgium. Their music is the ultimate fusion: jazz and waltz, rock and punk, funk and fanfare, world music and disco, it's all mixed in an exciting cocktail that's about three things: fun, fun and fun.
Think of One has many transformations: they're not a simple band. In their first incarnation they were a kind of rock-folk-punk band. The band was originally a collective living together in a house in Antwerp, who started jamming. Because most of the members also play in other bands, it wasn't always easy to get together to rehearse. But that wasn't really necessary, as Think of One is more about fun and improvising than about playing how it's supposed to sound.
Think of One recorded a first demo cassette (may 1996), which raised the interest of the local music press but not of the more general public.
The first album, called Juggernaut, was recorded in februari 1997 by jazz musician Dre Pallemaerts and produced by Peter Vermeersch and Wim Avonts.
After the release of Juggernaut, Think of One decided to produce a single, on an extremely low budget: they did their own recording and producing, and made their own cd covers out of coffee filters, adding track info and credits by hand. Needless to say, this is a very limited and rare release.
Think of One was at that time a very loose collective of musicians, with about 20 people playing along. The core consisted of David Bovée (guitars, vocals and composition) with Tomas Desmet (bass and vocals), Roel Poriau (drums), Eric Morel (saxophones, flute, vocals) and Bhaija 'Marakchi' Abdellah (derbouka, tambourine, djembe, and all kinds of Moroccon percussion instruments). Then there were many known and unknown guest artists: singers Anja Kowalski and Barbara Van Hoestenberghe, DAAU-members Buni and Simon Lenski, Han Stubbe and Roel Van Camp, Hungarian street singer Gabor Voros, brass players Jan Peeters, Benjamin Boutreur and Bart Maris (who would become a full-time member later), folk musicians Boris De Handschutter, Tom Theuns and Wouter Van den Abeele and Australian street singer Stephen Duncan.
To promote their releases, they decided to invade the Studio Brussel studios and hijack airtime with live performances during the Hallo Hautekiet program. The plan succeeded but didn't gain them much: apart from a few live sessions, Think of One's music is very rarely played on the alternative station. They had more success with the Walloon counterpart Radio21, where the producers really loved the idea (overall, Radio21 tends to be much looser and more 'messy' and sympathetic than Studio Brussel).
Marrakech Emballages Ensemble
The band, now smaller and consisting of David, Tomas, Roel, Eric, Marakchi, and Bart Maris who joined the core group, went to visit Marakchi's brother in Morocco (summer 1998) and decided to make some music with local musicians. They met three women, Amina, Aisha and Radiha, who had a band called B'net Houaryat that played powerful Gnawa music, using very strange instruments like metal pipes and car brakes. Just like Think of One's music, this wasn't a typical kind of music. As an extra, the two bands added a Lilla singer, Abdelkebir Esager, who usually sings at religious feasts where people dance in a kind of trance. The combination of Gnawa and Lilla is very unusual in Morocco. A demo was recorded in Morocco, but then Think of One had to return to Belgium.
About a year later the Moroccon musicians came to Belgium to tour Belgium and Holland with Think of One as 'the Marrakech Emballages Ensemble'. After the tour they still didn't have enough money to record an album, but thanks to some kind people at Studio Brussel they could record for a day in an old VRT-studio, because they had no money to rent their own studio. A part of the session was broadcast in the Bassta! program. The recording was made in a single take, in just one hour, and remixed for free by the technicians of Studio Brussel and Tom Pintens.
After their trip to Morocco, Think of One started with a new project: a fanfare band. They were joined by Tobe Wouters on tuba. The project started when the band decided to travel to the Avignon theatre festival with a Barkas van that also serviced as a mobile stage. The band would play on this stage while driving through the city, gathering people and going around for money (the song 'Naft' tells about this experience).
In the spring of 1999 they introduced Naft to the Belgian audience, playing some free festivals like RecyclArt.
As Naft, they provided a soundtrack to the play Kasimir & Karoline (summer 1999). I have seen the play, but remember next to nothing of the music. Some may have been songs that later appeared on Naft, but Kasimir & Karoline was more chaotic and carnivalesque.
In 2000, Think of One released Naft on cd. The music was partly recorded live in front of an audience in the Bruges club De Werf.
Naft is without any doubt the most succesful Think of One project to date. They have played hundreds of gigs, and everywhere they come the audience digs them. The old songs appear in new and fresh shapes with lots of improvisation, new songs are created and tried and changed, and some even older songs from the first Naft concerts reappear in some form. As long as there's fuel, Naft continues...
Marrakech Emballages Ensemble 2
The Naft cd was followed by Marrakech Emballages Ensemble 2, recorded in july 2000 and followed by a short winter tour with the Moroccon artists, ending in a concert in the café of the Monty concert hall where Think of One recorded Juggernaut.
This time, the Marrakech Emballages Ensemble had only two Gnawa singers: Amina Tkerkich and Lalabrouk Loujabe, and two male singers: Abdelkebir Bensalloum and Hassan Markhi.
During the production of the cd artwork, something went wrong and two numbers in the booking information telephone number were switched: instead of connecting to the Think of One managment, the caller would arrive at the telephone central of the Flemish extreme right party, Vlaams Blok! This remarkable slip-up was discovered just in time, and corrected on every cd by pasting a piece of paper with the correct number over the wrong one.
Sint Cecilia's Cirque Fixe
In the late summer of 2000, Think of One returned from Spain with a new project, which they introduced to the Belgian audience in Ghent and Antwerp. As far as I know, there have only been two or three gigs of this new concept, and I've missed them all. The projects is called 'Sint Cecilia's Cirque Fixe' and as the name implies, it is a kind of circus. They might look like the Juggernaut concerts, with fireworks and acrobats and other spectacular acts.
The official name is 'Sint Cecilia's International Solarpowered Underground Music Cirus' and the underground anarchistic paper Au Quai gives some more details: it has Think of One, flying light objects by Benjamin Verdonck and his 'Makery', and additional music by the Maskesmachien and others. A European tour is announced, but that is probably more of a dreamlike intention than a real plan at the moment.
Another project is Transfo, described on the official page as 'something electronic'. For the moment, that's all I know...
The fourth Think of One cd is Naft 2. It was recorded in the winter of 2001-2002 in Carcassonne, in the French Pyrennees, and was released in april 2002. Before the album, the song Tebie was released as a promo single. Naft 2 features brand new songs, but also some older songs that were being played at the beginning of Naft already (Slooreke, for example).
Marrakech Emballages Ensemble 3
The next Think Of One album is a third in the Marrakech Emballages Ensemble family! It was recorded in Casablanca by Tom Pintens.