A sold-out audience gathered at Brisbane Powerhouse (6 February) to ponder, wonder or study what the stars are up to via the medium of MZAZA's new album and its theatrical incarnation: ‘'The Birth And Death Of Stars'.
"So here we are, a collection of breathing hearts," welcomes our narrator – French-Sephardic singer and chief songwriter Pauline Maudy – as stage and screen carve out the gentle glow of these story-beacons, traversing the dimensions of sound, sight and community.
The theatre show that accompanies (or rather, carves a new access point for) the songs on the album was developed in collaboration with Benjamin Knapton (Circa) and features the work of Brisbane artist Emily Devers and Finnish collage animator Laura Matikainen.
All hands and the many voices in the band knit together an exquisite image of origin: The crisp air of snow-capped mountains; sunny petals of flowers filling meadows, leaping in the breeze; the confronting, cleansing nourishment of warm, salty water.
MZAZA (em-zahzah) carefully guard tradition, while they guide and goad it into the 21st century, expounding on the 'hoverings' of dogmatic, political and interstitial pressures applied to the physical act of being human.
Upholding the forms and flavours of French-Balkan, Mediterranean folk music with lyrical accoutrements from Ladino (Hebrew and medieval Spanish fusion) culture and the Australian sky, the album itself was aptly recorded in Greece, and mastered in Tasmania.
Admirably, the team behind this album and show also managed to meld cat videos (the animated art kind) with murder ballads, romance, Romance-language-level interpersonal drama and euthanasia.
The six-piece enclave thrive together on stage, with percussion, accordion, Flamenco guitar, violin (and its ancient cousin the shah kaman) and double bass.
The moods curated by MZAZA sway and bound, frolic and hunt, gathering wayward cosmic energy and serving 'Stardust' on a saucer. "Just a cloud of stellar dust, the Milky Way as my gown."
Perhaps there's a simple, bold truth in the track titles alone: 'You, Me & The Cosmos', 'Lucifer' and 'Some Kind Of Circus'.
Opening track of the album, 'The Ether' ('Bout de Fil') initiates the idea early. Its translated lyrics read:
'You loved me well on our lonely island /
'You were my compass, my boat, my summer /
'I loved you well under the star filled sky /
'They said it might not last forever'
Here's to not burning out just yet.