Nguyên Lê duos with Paolo Fresu and Dhafer Youssef                                (2006) ACT 9444-2

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1       Stranieri                  5:59             Paolo Fresu / Nguyên Lê

2       Byzance                  4:24             Dhafer Youssef / Nguyên Lê

3        Muqqam                 2:43             Dhafer Youssef

4        Mali Iwa                 6:26             Nguyên Lê

5        Zafaran                   6:00             Dhafer Youssef / Nguyên Lê

6        Domus de Janas      2:17             Paolo Fresu / Nguyên Lê

7        Kithâra                  2:18             Dhafer Youssef

8        Chelsea Bridge       3:00             Billy Strayhorn

9        Safina                    3:26             Dhafer Youssef / Nguyên Lê

10      Des Prés                 2:19             Paolo Fresu / Nguyên Lê

11      Thang Long           5:32             Nguyên Lê

12      Neon                      3:11             Paolo Fresu / Nguyên Lê

13      Mangustao              7:25             Dominique Borker

14      Lacrima Christi       3:13             Paolo Fresu / Nguyên Lê

15      Beyti                      2:53             Dhafer Youssef / Nguyên Lê

total time  61 :05

Nguyên Lê : electric, acoustic, fretless, synth, e-bow, vietnamese guitars; computer programming & electronics                                                

Paolo Fresu : trumpet, flugelhorn & electronics

Dhafer Youssef : oud, vocals & electronics 

Recording, editing & mixing by Nguyên Lê at Louxor studio, Paris Barbès, from 01/2004 to 12/2005

except « Mangustao » & vocal solo part of « Byzance » recorded live at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, oct 22, 2005 by Christian Ulbrich

Mastering by Philippe Teissier du Cros at studio Boxson, Paris

Produced by Nguyên Lê

Executive producing by Siegfried Loch

Photos by Laurent Edeline

Thanks to Greg Cohen for his great title, and to Xavier Gatinel for the translation help.


Stranieri means foreigners in Italian.

Byzance is one of the ancient names for the city of Istanbul, Turkey. In french it also means wealth & abundance.

Muqqam (Persian) musical mode; (Arabic) scene.

A (reversed) sample of Papua vocals was used in Mali Iwa, name of a ritual dance in New Guinea.

Zafaran is the Arabic name for Saffron, a yellow and precious spice discovered in India which spread out in Spain (paella), Italy (risotto), North Africa (couscous) & France (bouillabaisse).

Domus de Janas - House of the Fairies – are prehistoric granite constructions in Sardinia. This tune features a (vocoded) sample of a choir from Sardinia, « Confraternita ‘Su Cuncordu ‘e su Rosariu’ di Santu Lussurgiu ».

Kithâra : string instrument sister of the lyre in ancient Greece, sharing some common roots with the oud and the guitar. This piece celebrates the meeting of the ancestor of the guitar (the oud) with one of its heirs, the vietnamese guitar, which bears scalloped frets, and is usually played in southern Cai Luong style.

Chelsea Bridge is a jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn, a mainstay of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Safina (Arabic) : the Vessel. Title of a manuscript by Bin Ali Bin Isa (19th century, Algiers), compilation of arabic poems.

Des Prés - From the Fields.

Thang Long - Ascending Dragon - is one of the ancient names for the city of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Neon – modern light

The Mangustao title comes from the delicious Mangosteen tropical fruit, as well as from the chinese philosophy of the Tao. This piece (a melody by Dominique Borker) was previously recorded on Nguyên Lê’s « Tales from Viêt-Nam » CD and is also the title of a CD by vietnamese singer Huong Thanh.

Lacrima Christi is the name of an Italian wine from the Campania region, on the sides of the Vesuvio volcano.

Beyti (Arabic) My Home.


Depuis longtemps je voulais réaliser un disque entièrement fait à la maison, et développer au maximum les potentialités du homestudio. Les trois albums de Huong Thanh (Moon & Wind, Dragonfly & Mangustao) sont ainsi faits, mais je n’avais jamais encore mené l’idée jusqu’au bout sur un projet personnel. Ce n’est bien sûr pas qu’un enjeu technique (que j’aime relever), mais aussi un choix humain et musical. Pour cette expérience confidentielle et familiale, j’ai invité deux de mes plus proches amis à enregistrer dans les conditions les plus détendues, à donner le meilleur et le plus profond d’eux-mêmes dans l’intimité de mon salon. En l’espace de deux ans, et entre quelques avions, Paolo Fresu est venu enregistrer quatre séances d’improvisation totale quelquefois ponctuées de quelques thèmes très simples. Durant l’été 2005 mon voisin de Barbès Dhafer Youssef est venu travailler et nous avons construit ensemble la musique de nos premiers concerts en duo, puis de cet album. Exception à la règle, deux titres comportent des enregistrements de notre deuxième concert, remaniés à la maison (finalement il n’y a pas loin entre la scène et le salon !)

Autant la musique était volontairement interactive, ouverte et spontanée dans sa création, autant la post-production devant l’ordinateur est solitaire, méticuleuse et patiente. C’est là que le duo devient solo, qu’après guitariste je deviens producteur et ingénieur du son. Les longues improvisations (45 minutes quelquefois…) sont composées de phases où les musiciens cherchent une idée, la développent et concertent dessus, cherchent une autre idée, etc… Par un abondant travail d’editing j’ai voulu retrouver l’essence de ces moments et les faire apparaître comme des thèmes : révéler la structure compositionnelle de l’improvisation , voire même l’orchestrer et l’arranger a posteriori.

Le souffle sarde, la transe orientale, le mystère asiatique se rencontrent et croisent sur le chemin des danses hindoues ou tropicales sous les éclairs de néon, un dragon ascendant et une épice que le monde se dispute... C’est le son de l’imaginaire qui ouvre les portes ! Un grand merci à Paolo, Dhafer et aux voyageurs immobiles de « Homescape ».

For a long time, I had in mind to produce an album entirely done at home, and fully develop the potential of the homestudio. Huong Thanh’s three albums (Moon & Wind, Dragonfly & Mangustao) were done that way, but I had never yet fulfilled this idea with a personal project. This is not only a technical challenge (that I like to take up), but also a human and musical choice. For this confidential and family-like experience I invited two of my dearest friends to record in a most relaxed way, to give the best and the deepest of themselves in the intimacy of my living room. In two years time and between numerous planes Paolo Fresu came to record four sessions of total improvisation, sometimes punctuated with some very simple themes. In the 2nd half of 2005 my neighbour (in the Barbès district of Paris) Dhafer Youssef came and we built together the music for our first duo concerts, and then for this album. As there are always exceptions to every rule, two titles include live recordings from our 2nd concert ever, which I reshaped at home (finally the stage and the living room are not that far from each other !)

The creation of this music was intentionally interactive, open and spontaneous, whereas the computer post-production is lonely, meticulous and patient. Then the duo becomes a solo and, after being a guitarist, I become a producer and a sound engineer. The long improvisations (sometimes 45 minutes…) are made of phases when musicians look for ideas, develop them, shape them up, and then look for another idea, etc… Thanks to an important editing work, I tried to find back the essence of those moments and reveal them like themes : the compositional structure of improvisation is unveiled, and then orchestrated and arranged a posteriori.

Encounter of the sardinian breath, the oriental trance, the asian mystery : on the path they meet along with hindu and tropical dances under the neon flashes, an ascending dragon and a treasured spice traded all over the world… This is the sound of imagination opening the doors ! My warmest thanks to Paolo, Dhafer and the motionless travellers of « Homescape ».

Nguyên Lê, Paris, jan. 2006