Joan Bibiloni, the award-winning Mallorquin composer, guitarist, percussion addict and producer with a Deia connection stretching back decades, is enjoying an unexpected but well-deserved upsurge in popularity thanks to aficionados of the Balearic sound.
A wooden mic
Joan was born in Manacor, a town on the eastern side of Mallorca, in 1952. In the early 60s, like teenagers all over the world, he fell in love with The Beatles, Stones and the British Beat Boom. But, he was more fortunate than most Spanish kids.
As Joan says, “Although Franco was in power, Mallorca was a bit of a political oasis. Because of tourism, people born here had more of a chance to hear what was going on outside Spain’s frontiers. We had The Kinks at the Bullring in Palma, The Animals on the Paseo Maritimo and, incredibly, Hendrix at Sergeant Peppers in Palma.”
By 1964, Joan was in a band with a couple of other guys. If I understand him correctly, their microphone was a piece of wood attached to an amp by the string used to bind sobrassada, the bright orange Mallorquin sausage.
Joan released his first single in 1966.
A life in music
From then on, Joan’s life was music. In his twenties, he formed the prog-rock band Zebra. After he met Pepe Milan, formerly of Euterpe, the two of them became Milan & Bibiloni, a blues-folk duo.
The Deia connection came about through musicians Joan met at the fabled Guitar Centre in Palma, which existed from the 1960s to the 80s. Anyone who was anyone on the island played there.
In 1975 or ‘76, Joan began playing guitar for Tony Anderson, brother of Jon Anderson, singer in British prog heavyweights Yes. Tony had briefly fronted Los Bravos, who scored a US number 4 hit with Black is Black in 1966. Working with Tony coincided with Joan moving to Llucalcari, just up the coast from Deia and Mallorca’s smallest village. It was then that Joan became part of the Deia music scene.
Joan played with Daevid Allen on Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life, Daevid’s second solo album. He also produced the Kevin Ayers LP Deia…Vu in 1980.
Speaking of those Deia Daze, Joan says “It was fun. Everything had some kind of comic approach. We couldn’t stop laughing. I remember Kevin cooking the best fish curry I ever had in my life. My time in Llucalcari also taught me to cook, converse and appreciate nature.”
Somewhere along the line, Joan also played with Larry Coryell and ex-Velvet Underground legend John Cale.
In 1982, Joan created his own label Blau to showcase musicians from Mallorca and the Balearic Islands as well as his own work. Inevitably, the music on Blau reflected the unique Balearic vibe.
Music From Memory
Joan’s own solo releases on Blau have a jazz fusion sound but by 1984’s Una Vida Llarga I Tranquila he was experimenting with tape loops, drum computers and synthesizers. For Joan, “the studio is my palette”. It was this more electronic work that caught the ear of Dutch specialist label Music From Memory. In 2014, MFM released vinyl-only LP El Sur which highlighted Joan’s “unique ambient fusion and sundrenched Mediterranean beach boogie”.
Asked how the Music From Memory connection came about, a laidback Joan says “I don’t know how they found me. I have a small amount of friends and followers all over the world, I guess.”
Inspired by the Balearics
For Jim Breece, co-owner of the Balearic label which will release the Balearic compilation on 22 June, Joan’s Pinzells – originally on Joan’s own Balears album – is “the perfect introduction for this collection: a gentle, dreamy classic from the past leading effortlessly into the sound of today”.
Jim, who learnt his craft soundtracking the sunset at Ibiza’s Café Mambo, defines the Balearic sound as “ a feeling rather than a sound…the common link is freedom”.
For Jim “there’s a earthiness about Joan’s music. It’s summery, fine and light. It’s recorded and mixed very true, it sounds delicate. You can hear the soft rhythm of the Balearic Islands in his work.”
Emotionally configured by Deia
Above all, Joan’s time in Deia was, for him, “A fantastic plateau. I was emotionally configured by the area.” Today, what he loves most about the village are the memories of the people he met and the magical times which helped inspire his music.
And, now that Joan is reaching the wider audience he deserves, more discerning listeners are discovering the blissful Balearic magic of his work.
Music From Memory: www.musicfrommemory.bigcartel.com
David Holzer is a freelance writer who has been coming to Deia for almost 20 years. Apart from loving the village, he is fascinated by the – without being too pretentious – cultural history and significance of Deia.