Byline: Robert Murphy
PARIS — For Mirwais Ahmadzi, on the brink of becoming France’s next big pop export with the release of his album “Production,” fame comes in the form of “La Madone.”
Madonna makes a guest appearance, singing in French and English, on his new album, and she’s asked Mirwais to compose six tracks for her new album, due in September. Additionally, Steven Sennaoui, who directed Madonna’s “Fever” video, created the erotically charged clip for Mirwais’s first single, “Disco Science.”
Although the Madonna factor is sure to bring the 39-year-old musician a wider audience, Mirwais is hardly a musical neophyte.
In the early Eighties, he stood at the vanguard of French New Wave, playing guitar and composing for the cult band Taxi Girl. When the group disintegrated in the wake of the drug-related death of its drummer, Mirwais branched out. He founded the pop duo Juliette with singer Juliette Desurmont and composed his first electronic solo album. Both efforts, however, found little popular success.
“She’s incredible,” raved designer Jean-Paul Gaultier at the launch party for Mirwais’s album here last week. “She’s always looking for something new and knows how to find sharp talent because she keeps her thumb on the pulse of the times.”
“Working with Madonna was intense,” says Mirwais, who is of Afghani extraction. “She’s very instinctive and knows what she’s looking for.”
Madonna was introduced to Mirwais’s sound by Sennaoui, a mutual friend, who snuck a copy of the unfinished album into Madonna’s office at Maverick, her Los Angeles-based record company.
“It happened so quickly,” Mirwais explains. “As soon as she heard the tape she contacted me, and soon after we were working together.”
Although it may seem an obvious choice for Madonna to fish for new talent in France, where the so-called French Touch has made a splash lately, Mirwais’s sound is hardly synonymous with the movement that has produced bands like Air, Daft Punk and Dimitri From Paris.
“Mirwais is much more intellectual and has a darker side than French Touch groups,” says Frederic Sanchez, famous for his runway music, who hosted the launch party for “Production” at his eponymous music-shop-cum-gallery. Gaultier, model Laetitia Casta and designer Jean Colonna were among those who stopped by. “It cross-references a wide range of music, from Serge Gainsbourg to Kraftwerk and Arvo Part.”
“The French Touch is drawing to a close,” Mirwais insists. “The movement was characterized by hedonism, but I think electronic music can plumb deeper.”
For Mirwais, that translates into making music reflective of today’s world.
“An artist needs to translate what he lives into his art. When I go out, I don’t see happiness everywhere. There’s more despair in our world than joy.”
It would only be telling half of the story to label “Production” an exercise in gloomy auditory existentialism. The album may use somber rhythms, but it also has an upbeat side.
“My scope is large,” Mirwais says. “I want to try to push electronic music to a new level. It can have the same reach as rock or rap, which draws on many different everyday situations.”