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Stipe, Maal Take Giant Leap

Chris Blackwell knew he wanted to be a part of the documentary 1 Giant Leap as soon as musicians Jamie Catto (Faithless) and Duncan Bridgeman played him the rough demos of songs they’d written for the program. The same man whose gut feeling led him to sign Bob Marley and U2 to his Island Records imprint heard what the two musicians had to offer and gave them the green light.

“I loved the music of it,” says Blackwell of the documentary due out in March. “I loved the way the music was put together. I loved the different influences of the music, integrated as they were together. Basically, they had the music and then what they did was a mixture of filming the people performing the music and also having different people talking about whatever the main subject might be.”

Bridgeman says the project – basically a multimedia global field trip – began simply: “The basic idea is really coming from our belief that we as humans are much more the same than we often think we are. Therefore the more diversity you show the more unity shines through. We were inspired by other artists who had mixed music from different cultures and made it work – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by David Byrne and Brian Eno, and Passion by Peter Gabriel, for example. We also loved the idea of mixing spoken word with music, so it was out of these passions that our project was born.”

With Blackwell’s blessing and financing, Catto and Bridgeman set out globetrotting with a laptop and a digital camera, making stops in twenty-five countries worldwide, including Senegal, Ghana, Uganda, Bombay, New Delhi, Bangkok, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Along the way, the two interviewed the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Stipe, Dennis Hopper, Brian Eno, Stewart Copeland and Robbie Williams on topics such as love, spirituality, sex and death.

Some participants were handpicked while others signed on as the project snowballed. “People like Hariprasad Chaurasia, Michael Stipe and Tom Robbins were personal heroes of ours and so when we got the opportunity to include them we jumped at the chance,” Bridgeman says. “However, a lot of the artists just appeared at the right time. We knew we were doing something pretty cool and so had no hesitation in asking anyone. Jamie is the master of the cold call, so if we could get in contact we would try. Thank God for email and telephones.”

More impressive to Blackwell than the celebrity cameos were the man-on-the-street segments. “What is great about it is a couple of the people who speak on it really sound like philosophers or gurus and are really very simple people. One is a shopkeeper I think, and one is a mechanic. They’re regular people. They mixed regular people with some intellectuals, with some actors, with some writers. The idea is not really to pump the well-known people any more than the lesser-known people. So all of their points of view are of interest. I think that’s part of the main message of the film.”

Rapper Speech of Arrested Development worked on several tracks for the project, including “Braided Hair,” which he recorded in the living room of his Atlanta home when Catto and Bridgeman came to town. “To me it feels like a folky slide blues guitar riff,” Speech says. “I have an affinity towards blues and folk music. To me, it’s sort of a mixture between that and it sort of has this old De La Soul beat behind it.”

Blackwell classifies 1 Giant Leap as a DVD/CD/Cinema project and sees it as the prototype for what he’d like his Palm Pictures company doing much more of in the future. “We’re really only interested in artists who are interested in the visual medium themselves,” he says. “The visual interpretation of the song in forms like videos are sort of more like commercials for the songs; they don’t necessarily need to be so highly intense. Like a commercial the video is very far from a track, it’s a hard-sell type of thing. That’s not necessarily the case for musical DVDs. I see the visual being more as an accompaniment and visa versa.”

The 1 Giant Leap Track Listing:

  • Dunya Salam – featuring Baaba Maal
  • My Culture – featuring Robbie Williams and Maxi Jazz
  • The Way You Dream – featuring Michael Stipe and Asha Bhosle
  • Ma’ Africa – featuring Mahotella Queens and Ulali
  • Braided Hair – featuring Speech and Neneh Cherry
  • Ta Moko – featuring Whiri Mako Black
  • Bushes – featuring Baaba Maal
  • Passion – featuring Eddi Reader, the Mahotella Queens and Revetti Sakalar
  • All Alone – featuring Eilean Shona
  • Racing Away – featuring Grant Lee Phillips and Horace Andy
  • Ghosts – featuring Eddi Reader
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