Tchangodei was born in Benin (formerly Dahomey).
His name means thunder and lightning.
He is one of the most surprising pianists I have ever had the pleasure to hear.
He has made more than twenty recordings as a soloist as well as with Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp, Georges Lewis, Mal Waldron, Sunny Murray, Sonny Simmons, Louis Sclavis…
The few records of his that I know arrived in the mail.
On their covers were splashes of color - pictures that he himself had painted.
Inside was mysterious music that sounded as if it had escaped from the paintings : straightforward, precise, rhythmic, and at the same time fragmented, expectant.
Perhaps this is jazz, so of course, we think of Monk - because he bets with incredible insistance on absence and power, rhythm and silence.
It's also a kind of literature beyond good and evil, laid out like a journey to the
end of night, alternating between furious tantrums and melancholy.
Somehow, Louis-Ferdinand Céline is nearby...

photo : P. Jalin 2002

Tchangondei never studied music, but as a teenager he would sneak out of the house every night and climb the wall of the community youth club, bewitched by the intriguing black and white keys of an old upright piano.
He would play for hours, trying to recreate the sounds haunting his soul. He idolises no one, and he seeks no particular melody.

" When I was about twenty, I got to meet Krishnamurti, the Indian writer, thinker and philosopher. I saw right away that this man was overflowing with strength and energy, and it filled his whole being.
He radiated absolute wholeness. I immediately understood that creativity only happens within oneself.
Actually, there are three instruments : you, the piano, and the energy. You have to play the first instrument well, but most people are only interested in the second one. That's the trap : then they only become good
technicians. "

This doesn't mean that spontaneity is the mother of Art, but rather that the most important work happens inside oneself.

This is how trance music comes to be, rearing up in the light and then scattering.
" Destroy…" he says," because you have to be in a state of perfect emptiness in order to harness the incredible energy that can never be captured with the net of thought or knowledge."

We could have mentioned painting, which is also, after all, about space and color … But he prefered to melt into the crowd after quoting the saxophone player Steve Lacy, " Nowadays we try to tame everything in order to avoid mystery, because it frightens us."

Yann Plougastel