Hear the hurdy-gurdy and other weird instruments

Roman Baudoin (left) with a hurdy-gurdy and Mateu Baudoin with a violin.
Roman Baudoin (left) with a hurdy-gurdy and Mateu Baudoin with a violin. PHOTO: NICOLAS GODIN

The Baudoin Bros would have you know that they are not, in fact, brothers. "We are cousins. Our fathers are brothers. But we have been playing music together for 15 years," says Mateu Baudoin, 35, the younger cousin.

Together with Roman Baudoin, 39, he is part of a duo that specialise in folk music from the Gascony region in south-west France. They hail from different towns located near the Pyrenees mountains in France.

The cousins will perform their acoustic sets in Singapore from May 18 to 28 at several community venues including Kallang Community Club, Woodlands Regional Library and Temasek Polytechnic.

They will play unique instruments which come from the Gascony tradition.

Mateu plays the violin, a percussion instrument called the tom-tom, and the fifre or flute, and he also sings in the Gascon language.

Roman plays the hurdy-gurdy, a stringed instrument in which a crank is turned to produce sounds, while wooden keys are pressed to provide the melody. The instrument creates a sound similar to that of a bagpipe.

Speaking to The Straits Times over the telephone from the city of Pau where he hails from, Mateu says music has always been a big part of their lives.

The cousins have been part of a traditional Gascony folk band, Artus, for the past 15 years, and their fathers - who can play these instruments too - passed on their love for music to them.

The duo are also influenced by more modern folk musicians such as American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

Mateu, however, eschews describing their music as "traditional".

"Traditional music is a false term, you know? It doesn't mean anything. When you play music, you play music of today," he says.

The cousins contemporise the music they play by using distortion and effect pedals, and dress in casual clothes. The songs, however, are traditional compositions comprising both high-tempo melodies and sad, slow songs.

Mateu laments that it is tough to play such instruments in France, where they are linked to a "peasant" lifestyle. "It is considered uncultured and viewed in a negative way. I don't like that. But the music is so rich and we want to share it with people," he says.

Their performances in Singapore would be their first as a duo outside of France, and Mateu says they are prepared to get some strange looks from the audiences here.

"They will be surprised to see these French people playing weird instruments. But maybe they will think it's normal for us to have strange instruments. We are not worried, it will be cool."

Nabilah Said

•The Baudoin Bros will perform from May 18 to 28. Confirmed locations are Temasek Polytechnic, Kallang Community Club, Woodlands Regional Library and Asian Civilisations Museum. Admission is free. Go to voilah.sg/Baudoin/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'Hear the hurdy-gurdy and other weird instruments'. Subscribe