I’ve been a French music fan since I was a child, though over the past few years I’ve lost much of my understanding of the language (I plan to rectify that this year). However, keeping up with what’s happening in France, Montreal and other French speaking music spots is something I’ve rarely let slide.
Back in 2010, I had a brief fling with the song, “Alors On Danse.” But besides a passing enjoyment, I never paid much attention to who the artist was.
Then I became a fan of the artist Stromae, particularly his 2013 song “Papaoutai,” and 2014’s “Ave Cesaria.” And recently, after going on a video binge, I stumbled back on “Alors On Danse,” and finally put two and two together.
What I have found fascinating is how much he has transformed as an artist since that 2010 hit. He is officially a huge international sensation (millions upon millions of views on Youtube), an incredibly intriguing multi-dimensional persona, and garnering great world wide success. On his recent tour, the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier sat in the audience. And he recently contributed the Lorde led Hunger Games record, “Meltdown,” featuring Q-Tip, Haim and Pusha T (sounding way too much like Kanye) to the movie soundtrack.
The son of a Flemish mother and a Rwandan father, Belgium born Stromae (Paul Van Haver), has cited his wide range of musical influences as Jacques Brel to Cuban Son to Hip Hop, Rumba and beyond. In his late teens he formed a hip hop group and focused on his goal to become a rapper, but after dissolving the group he took on a new musical outlook, gathering his many influences, unique style and persona into what we now know as Stromae (Stromae is actually a French reversal of the word Maestro).
Stromae’s visuals are, in my opinion, a tour de force, each offering deeply unique glimpses into life, the diversity of our world and how we live our lives and view ourselves within it. But even more so Stromae is fearless in his artistic exploration. His endlessly watchable videos, most notably “Tous Les Mêmes,” is a prime example (and boy does he make a good-looking woman). He’s also not afraid to tackle troubling issues in his lyrics — music should be about life and not just fantasies and illusions to create envy and mystique around an artist.
On a superficial level I find him a stunning mirage: boyish in appearance, yet masculine in carriage. A deep sexy speaking voice that could put me to bed with a smile. (Listen to him here, in his interview with Gilles Peterson). And An ambiguous ethnicity that though Flemish and Rwandan, can appear Moroccan, Ethiopian, Brazilian or Cuban. What I love even more is that the sounds of all those cultures can be found in his music, creating rhythms that get my body moving instantly—he is on my concert “must see” list for 2015! And the boy can dress, mixing colour and quirkiness in a way that feels original and authentic.
© Chaka V. 2013-2015. All rights reserved.