Stromae: In Africa, I am considered white

My chat with the Belgo-Rwandan Stromae for Radio Netherlands Worldwide during Eurosonic Noorderslag 2011!

Stromae?
That’s « verlan » for maestro. Verlan is slang from Paris, but we use it in Brussels too. You take a word and flip it. Maestro becomes Stromae. I find it a bit more modest.

I don’t pretend I’m a maestro. I consider myself to be one just because I write songs behind my computer. My musicians are inside my computer. I’ll never compare myself to big composers like Mozart or Beethoven.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHoT4N43jK8[/youtube]

Since you’re Belgo-Rwandan. Are you well known in Africa?
The song Alors on danse worked well in Africa. Or at least in the French-speaking countries. The European French-speaking culture is influenced a lot by the African French-speaking culture. I know my single worked very well in countries like DR Congo. Also in West-African countries and in the north: Morocco, Tunisia. A little bit in Egypt, even if they don’t speak French. South Africa too. I’ve seen Gabonese people on my Facebook page. My hat off to all the African people who support me.

Let’s say you’ve been elected president of Rwanda. What would be your number one priority?
For Rwanda – I think, I’m not sure – we’ll have to focus on forgiving. I believe the actual president Paul Kagame is doing a great effort. After all, big crimes have taken place there. We will have to evaluate this genocide.

And your priority in Belgium?
In Belgium… there was no genocide, luckily. But people in Belgium are busy with similar stupidities – language stupidities. I believe people should come closer to each other. We are talking about human problems. As a president, I think you should take a step back. You should not think about your own interest, but about the interest of the people. But that’s an easy thing to say if you are not in power. I don’t want to pass easy judgements.

What is your personal relationship with Africa?

When I am in Africa, they consider me as white. Even a Black African who grew up in Africa, is seen as white. I don’t want to falsely get closer to an origin or another, without really knowing it. I don’t know much about my African roots. In fact, I never knew my father. But we danced a lot on music by Kofi, Papa Wemba and others. In Europe we danced too! In music, I think there is no more borders.

Thinking about the Netherlands, what’s the biggest cliché you can think of?
When I think of the Netherlands, I think of Gouda cheese. We eat a lot of Dutch cheese in Belgium. I think of beer too, but Belgium has a better reputation for beers. Weed, you’re very well known for marihuana. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that legalises weed.

Do you smoke any yourself?
Me? No. Never. Seriously. Seriously!

Being a role model yourself, who’s your personal role model?
Ibrahim Ferrer! He’s one of the singers in the collective Buena Vista Social Club. I’ve been listening to them for a long time. My mother introduced me to his music. It’s a good mix of all the music in the world. He’s inspired by the Congolese rumba, he uses the same congas. There are also Spanish and oriental influences in his music.

The Buena Vista Social Club has melancholy. It is full of modesty and simplicity. It is simply wonderful! But I believe there is a lot of melancholy in electronic music as well. Even the New Beat was very much inspired by Cuban music. These are the same kind of melodies I have been using in my music.

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