French singer Madjo gets Africa dancingBy | Tuesday, May 29 2012 at 14:53
Celebrated French singer Madjo has been on an African tour, performing in a number of countries including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, Kenya, Congo-Brazzaville and Benin.
In Cotonou, the performer wowed many with her voice and fingers on the drum, producing original, spectacular sounds. Africa Review's ESTHER TOLA spoke to the artiste to understand how the artiste's sound and style has evolved over the years. Here are the excerpts of their conversation.
AR: Tell us something about yourself.
Madjo: I launched my first album Trap Door almost two years ago. Since then, I’ve been touring France and other francophone countries. I’m currently on an African tour. I sing in both French and English. I don’t really like qualifying my music. What I’d say is that my music is quite eclectic. Everything arises from vocals and on stage I’m surrounded with choristers and the whole lot is completed with percussion instruments and bass. And it’s a mix of pop, soul and tribal music.
AR: In Mina language (spoken in Benin and Togo), Madjo means “I’ll get going”. Is your name African?
Madjo: Not at all! Madjo is my stage name but it has something to do with a house I grew up in. My real name is Cecile but I wanted another name as an artist. Then I associated the names of my childhood's house owners; they were called Madeleine and Giovanni. If my stage name sounds African it’s not on purpose. Nevertheless, my grandfather is Senegalese so I have African blood. My father is white but was born in Korhogo in Côte d’Ivoire and I spent a year in Kenya with my family when I was ten years old. We were living near Thika, about one hour drive from Nairobi. I have beautiful memories of that stay; it was a very beautiful place. Then I can say Africa is part of my history but not regarding my musical influences.
AR: When did you start your musical career?
Madjo: I started a few years before I recorded my first album. I had a passion for music so I went to Paris in search of a producer. There, little by little, I met musicians, a touring team, found a music label and then I ended up recording my first album.
AR: Apart from Cotonou, have you performed in other African cities?
Madjo: The trip to Cotonou is part of my first African tour. I have already performed in Addis-Ababa in Ethiopia, Pointe Noire in Congo Brazzaville and I have other concerts planned across Africa.
AR: Previously you mentioned your musical influences by passing. What are these influences?
Madjo: My music is influenced by many artists, mostly Anglo-Saxon, such as Nina Simone, Rickie Lee Jones and other great English bands such as Pink Floyd, the Beatles…. Well many artists, who sometimes don’t have much in common.
AR: Why do you sing in two different languages?
Madjo: Well first I used to sing a lot in English from the beginning, I used to make covers of existing songs in English and then when I started writing my own songs it came naturally. To me, English is a beautiful language, easier to pronounce compared to French which is more complex. That’s why I like mixing the two.
AR: Among your songs, which are your favourite tracks?
Madjo: I really have a thing for the song entitled Coeur Hibou (heart of owl). It is a song I wrote as a poem. It’s related to a poem Apollinaire’s bestiary. You know many of my lyrics in French are inspired by French contemporary poetry. And then I like mixing those words with melodies.
AR: What is this African tour offering you in terms of new perspectives?
Madjo: Well, I already feel that Africa is a very rich continent, evoking very strong emotions within myself. And I’m persuaded that all these beautiful things I’m feeling here will inspire me for the writing of my second album.
- Why Obama is visiting Tanzania
- Somalia lists 1,345 foreigners in Mogadishu
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- After Berlin Man, two reported cured of HIV in Kenya
- Botswana bans fruit and vegetable imports
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Ethiopia's anti-female cut crusader honoured
- Another politician for the Kenya Cabinet
- Tough life for Eritreans two decades after independence
Beyond the ballot