Interview: Avalanche Kaito – A Sonic Beast With Three Heads (April 2024)

Words by Marco Canepari / Photo by Tom Lyon

You don’t need to lose yourself in a dance frenzy to make sense of the radical and unorthodox musical essence of Avalanche Kaito, but it certainly helps! We discovered this first-hand in late October, enraptured by the Brussels-based trio as they unleashed their avant-garde Afro-post-punk sound and premiered tracks from their upcoming album at WOMEX in A Coruña.

The following day, we engaged in a conversation that spanned several months, aiming to probe deeper into the themes of Talitakum. Here’s the result of our extended interview with the musicians, touching on their personal journeys, the inception of the band, their forthcoming release, how Brussels has shaped their sound, and their future aspirations.

The story of Avalanche Kaito is one of serendipity, cultural exchange, and an unyielding desire to shatter boundaries. At its heart are three musicians: Benjamin Chaval, the band’s rhythmic anchor; Nico Gitto, a guitarist with an ear for the unconventional; and Kaito Winse, a griot from Burkina Faso, his voice the catalyst for their unique sound.

Their collaboration began six years ago in the Belgian capital, when a chance meeting set their musical paths on a collision course. “It all started in 2018, the year Kaito arrived in Brussels. We met and started creating a fusion of noise, rhythm, and crazy sounds. Our rehearsals soon led to a short tour, although at that time, we were part of a different band called Le Jour du Seigneur,” Benjamin recalls. Their initial project was short-lived, but the spark had been lit – their sonic sensibilities were a potent mix waiting to combust.

Kaito’s move to Europe was spurred by a pivotal meeting in Benin. “Kaito could tell you more, but there was a moment in Benin when he met a girl who introduced him to Brussels. She exposed him to new music and bands, and among all the ones he listened to, he chose us,” Benjamin shares, highlighting a decision that would change the course of their musical lives.

Another crucial element in the band’s development was the involvement of Michael Wolteche, their current manager. “His involvement came about because I knew of his work with the Chouk Bwa band,” says Benjamin. “He was open to collaborating, which led us to seek a label. Glitterbeat showed interest, and that’s how our first album came to be. Then, the pandemic hit, and in its aftermath, we connected with Nico. Since then, we’ve performed over 80 shows together.

One of their latest gigs, their showcase at WOMEX back in October, was nothing less that electrifying, fueled by excitement and a tightly-honed pre-show ritual. “It’s actually our second time at WOMEX,” Nico clarifies. “We were supposed to come last year, or the year before, but we couldn’t. So, yes, we’re very happy to finally be here. Performing late at night on a big stage is a really cool opportunity for us.

Kaito describes their pre-performance routine: “We prepare together, all three of us… before going up, we hug each other, as if we were going to box or play football. And then we say, ‘don’t be afraid’, and remind each other about the importance of good timing.

Avalanche Kaito’s music is an act of communion and translation: not of language, but of culture and artistic vision. “Composing music with Avalanche Kaito starts with the lyrics and stories of Kaito,” Benjamin explains, “But sometimes it can also begin with a rhythm – Kaito taught us some amazing things, rhythms I’d never even imagined.” He elaborates on their dynamic creative process: “For example, we have a song inspired by the idea of reproducing the sound of the mill – a machine that produces flour. So, this song is called ‘Moulin.’ It’s on the EP.

In what Kaito shares with us, there’s an ocean of dreamlike material… It’s a huge source of exchange, and we mix it with our own stories,” Benjamin says, describing their iterative, collaborative process.

For Kaito, music is a universal language, and his role within Avalanche Kaito is that of a bridge builder. “It’s crucial for me to bring the culture of my village to the wider world,” he reflects. “Initially, it felt like a personal journey, but when we play together, it becomes a shared cultural expression. With time and exposure to different cultures, I feel my ability to transmit and express myself through music grows stronger.

Nico highlights the distinctiveness of the band within their broader musical lives. “Despite our involvement in various projects, Avalanche Kaito stands out as a different and enriching experience,” he says. “It offers a unique source of inspiration that I haven’t found elsewhere.” He emphasises that it’s more than just a band; it’s an artistic laboratory where they can push themselves beyond their usual comfort zones.

The depth of textures, sounds, and rhythms we explore is truly inspiring,” Nico underscores, highlighting the project’s impact on their individual musical journeys. “For example, on the new album, there are guitar sounds from Kaito’s tradition – a very deep source of texture and rhythm. It’s very inspiring. We like to share energetic, trance-like music with people. That’s what we do, even if it’s noise, rock, or something more unusual.

Their upcoming work, Talitakum, explores spiritual themes and reflects on the universal nature of life and death. Kaito observes that these topics transcend cultural boundaries. He explains the influences shaping their sound: “I’m not sure if this album is more spiritual than the others, but I definitely talk more about life and death. After all, they’re two sides of the same coin. People everywhere, no matter what they’re doing, end up talking about death at some point.

My biggest inspirations are my mother’s fairy tales, like the one in ‘Tanvusse’. The world of the griots, with their rhythms, is like fertile soil for creativity. Ben’s machines, Nico’s guitar improvisations, the videos we watch together… it all gets inside you and comes out transformed. And of course, living in Europe has influenced me too.”

We eventually ask him to guide us into the meaning of the album title “Talitakum”, a word with transformative power. “Talitakum is a Hebrew word. I heard it at religious ceremonies in my village and loved the sound of it, so I made a song out of it. If people came to my village, they’d be blown away by the unique energy we’ve infused into this word – it’s something completely new. In a way, we’ve taken a culture and expanded it beyond its own language,” he says. Benjamin agrees, adding, “Yeah, that’s a great way of summing up what this album is about.

Kaito reveals the stories behind Talitakum, connecting them to his experiences. “It’s more than an album – it’s a distillation of how I see the world, my past, and my hopes for the future,” he explains.

Besides exploring life and death, I talk a lot about my changing relationship with my homeland, where I’m now more of a visitor,” Kaito reflects. “I describe this in ‘Donle’, detailing my journey from the capital Ouagadougou to the village – what I see on the road, the children who come to greet me, and finally arriving at the family hut. Benjamin even used a recording I made of the traditional welcome song sung by Tenin, my brother’s wife.

In ‘Shoya’, I talk about passing on knowledge and inspiration between us musicians and our three daughters, who are just starting their own journeys. They represent the future. The great divide between the world I come from and Europe, where I now live, is also a theme in ‘Viima’. I talk about different fruits, those found here [in Europe], and those found over there [in Burkina Faso] but not found here: to, kwisere, mara, djemene, ngou, guru. Finally, like any good collection of songs, ‘Lago’ is about love and seduction – that’s part of the world too!

Delving deeper into their geographical roots, Avalanche Kaito thrives within the vibrant music scene of Brussels, a city they see as essential to their formation. “Brussels is like a cultural hub of influence, with a lot of musicians and places where you can play and collaborate,” Nico remarks. “It’s no surprise we connected with Kaito there.

The members are deeply embedded in the city’s artistic community. “There’s a lot going on in Brussels – we call it ‘plaque tournante’,” Benjamin notes. “I have another band called Why the Eye, and there are many other projects.” Nico shares his enthusiasm for fellow Brussels-based artists: “I’m a huge fan of Aymeric de Tapol, who creates amazing music with synthesizers that sounds like it’s from the middle of Africa. And also Yann Le Guet… They’re good friends of mine. Aymeric is even recording Kaito’s solo album.” These connections illustrate how Avalanche Kaito is just one thread in the rich tapestry of Brussels’ musical landscape.

Kaito remains grounded in his Burkinabé heritage. “My village, Lankoué, symbolises the essence of the world to me. It represents the idea of kaladounia, which means here is the world,” he explains, hinting at his debut album title out through Rebel Up! “However, I also have other projects, including shows for companies and dance performances in the Netherlands. Additionally, I’m in the midst of developing an opera slated for release later this year or in 2025. My Burkinabé roots deeply influence my work; I hold immense respect for musicians from there. They’re a significant source of my inspiration.

Despite the ongoing challenges Burkina Faso faces, Kaito stays true to his role as an urban griot. “Personally, I can say that I don’t understand politics,” he admits. “But as a griot artist, my message is one of peace.

Looking ahead, the future is bright for the trio – an album release, boundary-pushing collaborations, and a burning desire to explore uncharted territories. “The album is coming out in a few weeks’ time, in mid-April” Benjamin shares. “We also have a big concert in Brussels at Bozar on the 20th, and they’ve asked us to write arrangements for the Let’s Zing Ensemble! choir, featuring pieces from our new album.

Their upcoming collaboration with the choir highlights their willingness to experiment. “We’ll perform together, and they’ll interpret some of our pieces,” shares Nico. “We’re eager to experience this; it promises to be unique.

The true nature of Avalanche Kaito’s sound defies simple explanation. Nico reflects: “It’s the sound of a machine that breaks. A beast with three heads – traditional, electrified, and wired.” Benjamin adds, “The sound of Avalanche Kaito, I think it’s in a science fiction too. That’s what I’ve been told.” The elusive, ever-changing qualities are what make them so compelling.

With boundless enthusiasm for new musical territories, Benjamin shares their manifesto: “I’d say, let’s go deeper into the divergences in form, both on record and on stage… let’s prioritise surprises in duration, instrumentation, and how we approach harmony.


Talitakum, Avalanche Kaito's second LP, will be out tomorrow, 12/04, via Glitterbeat Records.
You can listen to and order your copy HERE.




Photo ©: Tom Lyon