Robot Rock Redux: The 1950s French Robot Band ‘Les Robots’

Les-Robots-Music-1

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve got an interest in the use of genuine robots in pop and rock music. I’ve previously posted up pieces about the German all-robot band, Compressorhead, who naturally play Heavy Metal. I also put up a piece about how the Ur-androids of synth-pop, Kraftwerk, also used robot replicas of themselves on stage on one of their tours. Now it seems the use of robot musicians goes back even further than that by a couple of decades. The French engineer, Edouard Diomgar, toured fun-fairs, open air markets and even railway stations in the 1950s and ’60s with his robot trio, Les Robots. Called Oscar, Ernest and Anatole, these metal musos played the drums (Anatole), accordion (Oscar) and saxophone (Ernest), so weren’t quite ‘rock’n’roll’. The robots were operated by a series of punch-cards, where were read by photo-electric cells that then passed the information to the robots’ arms and fingers. Diomgar had been a POW of the Germans in World War II. He created Les Robots as a fund-raising exercise for his own charity, which raised money for other POWs. They even pressed a disc, available from Diogra himself. Most of the tracks were pieces composed by other musicians. There was a piece, Rock-Des-Robots, which Diomgar himself had clearly written for them.

There’s a short piece about them on Retronaut. This is a Tumblr site specialising in images from the past. These are often quirky snippets of social or technological events or developments, of which Diomgar and his mechanical musos are clearly one. Photos and descriptions of Les Robots and their record can be found at http://www.retronaut.com/2013/08/les-robots-music/.

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