A talk with Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ
Flashmag this month will meet a globetrotter of music that played on all continents. Born in Cameroon, at 14 he will be initiated to the bass guitar, later he will play alongside renowned artists of the Cameroonian scene as Ndedi Eyango, Moustick Ambassa, Jean Dikoto MANDENGUE, Vicki Edimo, Alhaji Toure or Roger Saba Lecco to mention only those . In 1986 he traveled toFrance to polish his mastery of the art of music and then crossed to Germany, where he will spend 25 years playing music both in the studio and accompanying artists on stage. He went on tour around the world with the Decoding society of Roland Shannon Jackson, James Carter, and Jef Lee Johnson. Later he will also tour with the Indian jazzist Trilok Gurtu with whom he will immerse in musical diversity and mixture of genres, then it will be the classical music, with Claude Chalhoub, well known in film music. Meanwhile he will make a visit to the United States and Los Angeles in 1999 to obtain a degree from the Los Angeles college of Music. His experience has allowed him to work and guide on the scene new artists such as Ayo'o, Nneka, or Y'Akoto. Currently based in Chicago Gros Pokossi NGOLLE is our guest star this month in the following lines he tells us a little about himself and his art.
Flashmag: hello Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ, we are happy to have you as our guest star this month. A page which has seen over the years famous artists such as Ray Lema, Sally Nyolo or Tweet, to get to the aim of this talk, first the inevitable question, why did you choose the music? ` Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: Well when I was 14 one of my neighbor in Nkolndongo at Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon was on vacation, from France he had brought with him several guitars he had distributed to kids at first I was a little shy I didn’t really want to play, but I realized that all my buddies thought only about playing music and I was on my own, alone in my corner then one day I decided to play with them and I got addicted , I decided to play the bass guitar I made it my specialty and I continued until today. Flashmag: how did your family reacted to your choice? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: My father told me if that's what you want to do, go ahead but my son atleast be sure to feed your family Flashmag: why did you decide to travel toFrance ? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: I felt cramped in the country, I had to discover different backgrounds so I went to France. Flashmag: AfterFrance you crossed toGermany and Berlin how you filed your luggage in Germany? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: After France had my residence visa of 3 months was about to expire so I went to Germany at the time it was the only country where as a Cameroonian you could go without visa. In the meantime my license to work in France was granted but because unfortunately I was not in France at the time, my work permit in was cancelled so I had to stay in Germany in spite of myself. Thus begin a long career, I also remember that in my debut in Germany I was welcomed in Hamburg by the father of a well-known Cameroonian footballer Choupo Moting. Flashmag: Someyears later you began working with the American group The Decoding Society how this happened ? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: While I was still in Cameroon in the early 80s' I met Roland Shannon Jackson, the front man of the Decoding Society, we stayed in touch for a while and one day in 1994 he asked me if I could join them on tour it was a surprise trip I did not really expect, so I started to work with the Decoding Society for over 2 years I became a regular in the United States, and in 1999 I went back to school. I graduated from The College of Music of Los Angeles, in California. Flashmag: Speaking about music school did you think it was important for you to attend a school of music? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: Yes, definitely, it has filled some of my shortcomings and for me it was a new challenge, I am never happy with the present state, I’m always trying to improve my present for a better future. Flashmag: Later you’ll get other musical experiences working with the Indian jazzist Trilok Gurtu how was it? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: A beautiful musical adventure, I had the opportunity to meet a variety of genre of Indian music, and folklore that is not very far from genres that are found in Africa, I worked with Trilok for over a year. Flashmag: Continuingyour musical adventure you will make classical music with Claude Chalhoub? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: Yes indeed, a very good experience at the Jazz Fest, which Wayne Shorter was part of the artists’ line up, Claude Chalhoub, needed someone who can make the groove for his plays, we made contact, and this was the beginning of a very rewarding experience. Flashmag: you are amongthe musicians from the shadows you are behind the artists on stage or recording in the studio how do you live this situation yet without people like you there is no production. Possible? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: This is true, but everyone has to do their work, I doesn’t bother me, there are those in front, while we are behind and we have to do whatwe have todo, and then I also believe that when the time will be right I would do a little more proactive stage, but for now I'm focusing on what I have to do. Flashmag: you helpedthe careers of new artists such as Ayo'o, Nneka, or Y'akoto, how were done these meetings? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: the German scene often evolves in a closed circuit, the musicians know each other every one knows who is doing what. So legitimately we approached and we worked together I contributed to the major Albums of Nneka for example. I am proud of the success experienced by these girls (Ayo'o, Y'akoto) on the international stage.
Flashmag: as an Africanmusician I'd like to have your opinion on the fact that African musicians to this day do not break too much on the American scene yet it is not the talent that is missing, why about you? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: The US market is very closed, the American public is not open to other genres of music, for a storefront in the United States generally one must make the kind that is practiced by the US it’s a fact. While the African music that is still considered the world music, folk music, or ethno, does not always happen. Even if there were major hits like Manu Dibango, and Hugh Masekela. Flashmag: you're in Chicago for some time now, how is it? Do youencounter other African musicians? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: In Chicago there are not too many African musicians compared to New York or Los Angeles, but I am in constant contact with musicians such as André Manga, or Prince Ndedi Eyango who is back in Los Angeles. For the rest since I am in the United States have done almost all the festivals, Lollapalooza, Coachella, the David Letterman show with Nneka, and many others. Anyway I always thought that it was in the United States that it had to be this is where it happens. Flashmag: presently what are your projects? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: Well I think the time has come for me to make an album, it's true someone like Richard Bona made us realize that it was possible to make an album on listening music. It will be a little bit in the genre of listening music. Flashmag: Speaking ofthe actual trend of music, what about the pop music which is a music that virtually doesn’t last with tubes that disappear completely after 3 months? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: I think it is a commercial music that is made just for this purpose, to sell quickly and good if possible, and in any case the high production in the genre necessarily always pushes the previous productions towards the exit, this is what people must understand. Flashmag: as we are closingthis interview any advice to future generations and the public? Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ: For young people who engage in the musical adventure I say work work work, and to the public I say thank you to be confident on us. Flashmag: Gros Pokossi NGOLLÉ Flashmag and its readership thank you for granting us this interview good luck.
Interview conducted byHubert Marlin Elingui Jr.