Interview: Grace Barbé/Kreol Daughter

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Interview: roots
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With roots in the tiny Indian Ocean nation of Seychelles, home to a unique culture that fuses Africa, Europe and Asia, Grace Barbé is a singer, songwriter and musician whose music, like her mixed heritage, reflects and celebrates the diverse influences of her Creole culture. The combination of afro-funk, island roots and reggae sung in Creole, English and French laced with a modern pop sensibility has created a fresh vibrant sound in the world music scene.

Grace has recently released her debut album, Kreol Daughter and will be appearing at the this years WOMADelaide. Check out her music – it is as funky as a breath of fresh air can be –http://wp.gracebarbe.com.

I recently spoke with Grace about her music for TheOrangePress.net:

 TheOrangePress: I will start by going backwards. What did winning the WAMI (Western Australian Music Industry Association) Award in 2008 mean to you and your music?

Grace Barbé: In 2008… well, that was my first Award in WA and it kind of recognised why I am doing music and gave me the motivation and inspiration to actually keep doing it, and know that I can be recognised for my work. I’ve won three other WAMIs after that so it has been fantastic.

TOP: Your music is beautiful… I am very interested in the Seychelles influence on the music. I listened to a YouTube clip of ‘Fatige’ and  – I am a muso – it took me a little while to figure out what time-signature that was in… It was a beautiful groove. Is that part of it – the crossing over (of rhythms)?

GB: It is not the ‘Sega’ but it is influenced by the ‘Sega’ from the Indian Ocean Islands… but on quite a few of my songs I’ve got quite a bit of crossover happening between Afrobeat music, the ‘sega’ and a bit of afro-funk in there – it’s quite a complex track!

TOP: I’m glad I didn’t try to dance to it… but I ended up dancing to it anyway… Now, you collaborate with James Searle; can you give me some insights on how you guys collaborate… how do you work together… who does what?

GB: Sure. Yes, Jamie and I – I call him Jamie – we’ve been working together for almost ten years now. We were in bands together in the past in Perth. He’s from the UK and he grew up on reggae music and African Music and he lived in Tanzania for a year – so he’s got all these influences and a rich collection of African music and Afrobeat… he was so fascinated by the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean Islands and he was lucky to head over there to the Seychelles and Mauritius and do a bit of research. We came back with all this information and these rhythms, thinking it’s crazy not to be doing something with this – properly, with proper production. We started working on reggae first; we had reggae bands – and once we’d done it for a while and we studied the industry and how it works, we’re thinking there’s a lot of reggae bands out there – if we want to stand out we need to do something quite unique. And here I am, a Seychelloise living in Perth – it would be crazy for me to not go back into history and bring all that into my music. So that’s what we did: we started introducing the Sega rhythm and the crossovers, the Afrobeat … and pop and funk… introducing it to the band. And in about five years, with the lineup I have now, it took about that long to play the rhythms the way that we do now.

TOP: Oh really?

GB: My drummer is from Amsterdam and he’s never played sega before but he grew up with the African rhythms – he’s been to Guinea and knows about the African rhythms… he’s got the 6/8 feel already, but you’ll fine that the 6/8 rhythms from around the world, they sound familiar but they’re all a bit different. But he had to learn how to play the Sega from the Seychelles and Mauritius properly.

TOP: Talking about collaborations, on Kreol Daughter you’ve worked with Jeremy Allom (UK producer and engineer: Massive Attack, Bjork, Sly & Robbie, Maxie Priest) from the UK. How did that come about?

GB: Well he lives in Perth and I didn’t even know that. And it was through someone in the music scene who mentioned it who’d worked with him. We thought we’d go and see what he’s like, and we really liked his work. He’s fantastic to work with and he loved what we were doing.

TOP: He understood where you were coming from?

GB: Absolutely. He being from the UK and working with major reggae artists… with the reggae on the Kreol Daughter album. So that’s why we brought him onto the project, because we knew that he specialised in that particular genre. And the other tracks he mixed really well, the non-reggae tracks on the album…

TOP: Was he very hands on? Or did he just let you do your thing?

GB: He was a hands on engineer and mixer. Jamie Searle is my producer and I co-produced with him. So it was myself, James and Jeremy in the studio pretty much and it was fantastic …I tried to stay in the background and watch these two guys at work. It was my first album so I learned a lot through the process…

TOP: And are you happy with how it all turned out?

GB: I’m very happy…

TOP: So you are doing WOMADdelaide in March?

GB: I am.

TOP: And are you looking forward to that?

GB: I am. It’s been my dream for the past few years to play at WOMAD, finally. It’s my biggest gig so far I would say… one of my biggest and my priorities are for WOMAD for the next few months.

TOP: That’s wonderful. One last question: What’s your view on current music?

GB: On current music? Well, I try not to get too caught up or too stressed about where the music industry is going, and where music is going. I try to eliminate that as much as possible in my own work, so I can focus on doing what I do – because what I do is genuine, it’s fresh and it comes from my heart… and I’m putting as much as I can into it, and it shows: it reflects in the reaction of the audience. I listen to a lot of other musics… I find that pop music is getting really stale. I grew up on pop music as well, I’m an 80s child… but it’s getting very stale and its all the same. It definitely means that I’m not taking little influences here and there to put into my own style… it’s very important for me to push the foundation of who I am as an artist from the Indian Ocean islands… that’s what I’m focussing on.

Published February 2012 on theorangepress.net
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