Quentin Dujardin admits he’s never walked the Camino, the ancient pilgrimage route that winds through northern Spain to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. But that hasn’t prevented the guitarist and composer from creating the soundtrack for the French documentary Sur le Chemin—which follows walkers on the long and arduous trail—or working with Santiago vocal quartet Ialma, which will join the Belgian musician at this weekend’s Mission Folk Music Festival.
Dujardin has taken his share of roads. “I began in classical music, which was imposed on all of us in my family,” he says, reached at his Brussels apartment. “At 14 my father played me a jazz album which had a big impact because I first heard improvisation—and after that my quest was to understand jazz and to improvise. But after years of that I decided to put myself at risk in terms of a learning experience by going into the street to play—though not here in Belgium.”
He first went to Andalusia in southern Spain for immersion in flamenco guitar and strings. “I took a path of great freedom away from the baggage of classical music and jazz, and started to mix it all together, with a lot of influences from world music. I travelled in Spain for many years, and in that time I was also in Morocco discovering the music of the Berbers. I went to Madagascar for African influences, to Mali for the blues, to Paraguay for its stringed music, with harps and guitars.
“I wanted to bring something fresh into my music—and very different from what I’d had as a learning experience. I just carried my guitar and my pack. The only map was the road and my encounters along it. So it became a kind of routine—three months travelling, a month back in Belgium for concerts and recordings, then start again, for eight years.”
Around the time Dujardin was recording his sixth and latest solo album, 2014’s Le Silence des Saisons, his music caught the ear of Sur le Chemin’s director, Freddy Mouchard, who asked him to come up with ideas for the film’s soundtrack.
“He said, ‘I’ve just one special request—that we feel what the walkers feel when they cross over from the French spirit to the Hispanic spirit,’ in the sense of inspiration,” Dujardin recalls. “I thought of Ialma and listened to the traditional roots albums they’d done in the ’90s—quite a lot of it a cappella—and remixed one of the pieces to see how it could work with moods and images in the film.”
Mouchard was impressed. Dujardin proposed to Ialma that he should rework their recorded vocal music with different sonic ambiances. Sur le Chemin came out in France this spring, and Dujardin and the women of Ialma are working on a new record together to be called Camino.
“At the same time we’re trying to tell their own story, which isn’t just about music,” Dujardin says. “The singers’ personal histories are very marked by emigration. Their parents and grandparents were forced out of Spain by the Fascists under [Francisco] Franco, who also banned poetry, music, and use of the Galician language. Some in the family were executed. So there’s a very emotional charge for Ialma around Compostela and Galicia. Today they travel between there and Brussels. We want to let them tell of the road they’ve travelled.”
Ialma is a big family. “Behind the four women on-stage there are several generations of women who’ve inherited the tradition orally and pass it on to their daughters and nieces,” Dujardin says. “Ialma is like a simmering pot of singers and musicians. They’re really looking forward to the trip. It will be the first time we’ve all played together at a festival.”
The trail winds on.
Quentin Dujardin and Ialma perform Saturday evening (July 25) at the Mission Folk Music Festival.