French electronic pop pioneer Dominique Dalcan searches for his Lebanese roots on “Last Night a Woman Saved My Life”. In the new tracks, we hear the voices of ten female singers from the Arab world and Iran and an acoustic-electronic crossover between the Orient and the Occident.

Dominique Dalcan has a varied musical biography that ranges from pop to club culture to soundtracks. He is considered a pioneer of French pop because he rejuvenated this genre with electronic music back in the early nineties. He then crossed ambient, jazz and breakbeats under the name Snooze and created soundtracks for films such as the Golden Globe-winning “My Life in Pink”.

He has also collaborated with big names such as Caetano Veloso, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Camille and Autechre and won many awards. But only now, at the age of 59, has he realized a project close to his heart with the album “Last Night a Woman saved my Life”, which brings him back to his origins. Dalcan was born in Beirut, but was adopted, came to a Lebanese family in France as a baby and grew up in the banlieue of Paris.

Lebanese coming out

The album was triggered by a multimedia project that Dominique Dalcan realized in 2020 at the Centquatre cultural center in Paris. In this sound installation, Lebanese women talked about their everyday lives, their dreams and hopes and Dalcan composed the oriental-electronic carpet underneath. This brought to the surface many things that had been fermenting inside him for a long time. After all, he didn’t know the culture of his homeland at all and he didn’t have more than a few fuzzy early childhood memories of sounds. So he went in search of the voice of his unknown mother and did so by inviting ten female singers from the Arab world and Iran to sing on his album.

The voices of women

The first collaboration was “Loin de ma terre” with the Algerian singer and songwriter Souad Massi. Her voice reminded him of tapes of the legendary Fairouz singing that he had heard as a child. The song is also one of two duets that Dalcan sings on the album.

Nine further collaborations followed: with the Egyptian Dina El Wedidi, the Tunisian singer and qanun player Hend Zouari, the Iranian artist Rezvan Zahedi, the Syrian jazz singer Lynn Adib, the legendary Lebanese vocalists Bernadette Yammine and Yara Lapidus and the young Sudanese singer Sulafa Elyas. All of them have strong, personal voices and most of them are real discoveries for people outside their home countries.

“I like working with women. they’re a source of inspiration and lucidity. They unlock things in within me allowing to go forward. Linking and binding. The desire to be among others is what’s lacking in today’s society”

The Arab melancholy

Dalcan wanted to live out what he calls his great Arab melancholy with these 11 songs. He does this by thematizing the longing themes of exile and migration in the song lyrics: “Loin de ma terre” translates as: Far from my homeland or “Mon coeur est solitaire” translated: My heart is lonely.

And by crossing his electronic know-how with the sound of the Arab world, with instruments such as qanun or oud, with arabesques and lyrics in Arabic, with Araboandalusic elements or samples from old Arab films and some songs that had to be recorded with a smartphone.

He, who has long been known for his unique blend of organic and synthetic elements, has defined a new style with “Last Night A Woman Saved My Life” (the title is also a tribute to the disco music of his youth and the track “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” by Indeep), which he calls “my personal folklore”: the electro-Arabo chanson.

NMR (photo: press Dominic Dalcan)