The Wire

News

Charles Duvelle of the Ocora label has died

French pianist, field recordist and musicologist died on 29 November in Paris

Charles Duvelle died in Paris on 29 November, it’s been reported by Le Monde. A pianist, recordist and photographer, Duvelle ran the Ocora label for much of the 1960s and 70s and undertook some of its most ambitious recording expeditions in the early 60s.

Born in 1937 in Paris, he spent his childhood in South East Asia, and returned to France to study piano at Conservatoire De Paris. In 1959 he began work at Pierre Schaeffer's Société De Radiodiffusion De La France D'Outre-Mer or SORAFOM, a colonial broadcasting service that worked across Francophone Africa. "I discovered a lot of tapes [...] Music, too,” Duvelle said of his early years at SORAFOM in a recent interview for Sublime Frequencies. “Very badly recorded, but to me completely new and full of originality. This was real modern music! This was my real discovery of the world’s contemporary music, and not only that of the Western world.” SORAFOM was later renamed Office De Coopération Radiophonique, aka Ocora, and Duvelle would later take on running its record label, specialising in recordings of traditional music.

Duvelle had previously recorded classical and jazz, but in the early 1960s he worked outside Europe for the time, with a recording trip to Niger. Later expeditions to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Madagascar followed. His recordings and photography were the subject of a recent Sublime Frequencies book, The Photographs Of Charles Duvelle: Disques Ocora And Collection Prophet, which included an extensive interview with Hisham Mayet.

In the mid-1970s Duvelle moved to the US, before later returning to France, and in 1998 undertook a new series of archive recordings from Benin, Papua New Guinea, Niger, Mauritania, Congo, Burkina Faso and elsewhere under the title Prophet.