Alain Missala breathes new life to music roots
The artistic year of flashmag starts with the scent of the roots music in a city of northern Europe known for its cultural diversity. In Berlin we met Alain Missala a musical treat that is matched only by his musical journey, an archetype of the self-taught globetrotter. In 1999 living in Senegal he released his first album Psalm 139 a real alchemy of several African genres such as Makossa, Zouk, Reggae and Rumba, and then it will be Europe and Germany, where he will continue in the same wave, releasing an opus named Jesus Care in 2006 an album in the genre gospel music, a snap probably to his grandfather pastor who once in his native Cameroon made him his debut in the church choir. In 2005 Alain Missala will still have time to finish his studies, pocketing an MA in international economics. In 2009 it will be the release of Soul Experience an album rooted in Afro acoustics and R & B. In 2011 it’s the meeting with his African fellow Daveman with whom they will form the Foulaa System a band that blends traditional African music, with pop sonorities thus was born Afro pop. Today Alain Missalaa is one of the must seek names of the groove music in Berlin he works with the most experienced artists in the genre, anticipating the release of his next Album Notes Of My Life an album that ad in the African rhythm genre and Jazz. Alain Missala is the guest of Flashmag this month in the lines that follow he tell us a bit more about himself and his art.
Flashmag: Hi Alain Missala Flashmag and its readership are happy to have you as the guest of the cultural page this month. To start if in my introductory remarks there is a brief definition of your biography and musical journey, I still want to know why Alain Missala has chose a career in music? Alain Missala: Hello, oh yeah why I got into music, I have always been into music it was a little family approach my grandfather was pastor very early I found myself in the choir of the church with gospel music, where I cut my teeth and when I left Cameroon for Senegal in 1995 I continued along the same lines next to the church and of course it's there that I take my first instrument, the guitar at the age of 17. In Senegal I got my high school degree and then I went to Germany to continue my higher education, I have a Masters degree in International Economics. But next to the music I have a normal job related to my academic career, meanwhile I still remained very attached to music which it's a bit my balance my landmark . Music is a huge part of my life, in the cultural and spiritual perspective. Flashmag: when you felt it was your thing? Alain Missala: I've always felt that music was an intrinsic part of me, a second nature in fact I finished my studies in 2005 and yet I always knew that music would take a very important place in my life although currently I do not live only from music, but if the music alone was to become my livelihood I would be much happier. And of course I'm working on it and I want the music I make not only to showcase Africa, but to be something respectable and respected Flashmag: at 17 you leave your Cameroon Natal for Senegal where you will improve your knowledge of music, Senegal, a country that has seen Jacob Desvarieux, he lived there in his childhood one of the most famed musicians, we have received on this page, how the trip to Senegal influenced your artistic career? Alain Missala: Senegal has had a fairly strong influence since I went to a country with a different culture from mine, from the human point of view, and musically there were influences of rhythms like M'bala and of course a good Afro Cuban presence in Senegal with Salsa, and who says Salsa also means Jazz chords and this interested me ... since i went to Senegal so young about 16, 17, culturally I was really influenced this opened me to new horizons with great artists like Yossou N'Dour with whom you touch a bit of pop, and Western sounds but more importantly we remain in an African style with a mix of local rhythms with sounds of the black diaspora around the world, such as Afro Cuban music and historically we know that Senegal was a door out to Europe and the Americas so there's all these influences, in the play of words and strings which is very interesting to me. Flashmag: your favorite instrument is the acoustic guitar why did you choose to make it your main instrument? Alain Missala: for me it is an instrument that is pretty hot, it has two value is already quite telling when you listen to the notes of a guitar player, it is very evocative and even if one do not sing, the guitar can allow us to express ourselves it is an instrument very close to the man with capital H it's an instrument that has enough warmth it affects in a particular way the sensitivities of each of us, younger I've listened to a lot, before the age of 17, when i borrowed one, and I have kept it until today it is the instrument that inspires me the most. The Wood, the sound that comes out of this instrument is quite expressive, as when I play it a certain way I can produce sounds that remind me of my native Africa, it is very close to some of our traditional instruments, sometimes when I put paper between the strings I can reproduce the sound of rain on corrugated roofs of my town of birth Douala, or the sound of a xylophone. It is an instrument not always accessible to everyone , but when you have one and master it, it’s a huge source of inspiration Flashmag: if you had to define yourself musically speaking what would you say? Alain Missala: it is always quite difficult to define myself musically, since I have myself done a musical journey it’s a question that i often ask myself whether I am a gospel musician jazzist or other pop soul, I in fact I say I'm a musician of the world I am multicultural, I am possessed by all that makes me a citizen of the world but I'm also an African who left home for other horizon, and on his journey he was influenced by a host of different cultures I'm actually a musician of the world even if I do a lot in what I call the afro jazz, but in fact, I would say I am following the footsteps of the pioneers in the genre like Richard Bona and the great uncle Manu Dibango, all these people, and both American musicians have greatly influenced my music. So I'm a musician who loves the colors that take a little of what offer the world but still very inked to Africa, I sing in my mother tongue with the sounds of the world, Indies, Arabia, the Americas bring fragrance to my art .. Flashmag: In 1999 you released a debut album what is the genesis of this album when it is known that the first album is not always easy for debut artists? Alain Missala: the Genesis is from my personal experience at the church level is a gospel album that I made to give thanks to God for the voice and the gift he gave me. This was a period or self-taught, I learn to play this instrument ,in 2 weeks I was able to play and sing at the same time playing ranges of re ,sol… and I thought wow! There is something, and then I realized that i had to give thanks to God for this gift but it is also the genesis of a first experiment, in this album I tell a lot of things of life it 'is mostly an album based on faith and hope even if it is primarily a thanksgiving album. Flashmag: 5 years later you export your talent in Germany at that point you feel that Africa was not enough to your artistic quest? What reception have you received in artistic circles in Germany? Alain Missala: I go mostly to continue my studies, and of course the music accompanies me through, since I always have my guitar in my bag, I form a small group of gospel and then I grow up in all that I had started to do before but without forgetting Africa and today even if it is getting very large I keep in touch with local musicians I also just come from Cameroon where I have meet friends, with them we try to see how we can encourage young peoples who are struggling, so that they can make the profession of art in the best conditions. In Germany I had a very positive reception since my arrival, Germany has become more open to African music I remember that in the early 2000s Richard Bona was coming to perform there, the Jazz club was always full; it’s true that now when he comes he plays in larger rooms, this proves, the public who loves African music has expanded. same for other Africans like Salif Keita. Germany remains wide open regardless of the language you use, when your chords affects the public the rest follows, when you are open and that you have the creativity you can manage to make it happen, it’s what is going on with me right now. Flashmag: In 2006 a second album Jesus Care was released a full album in the style gospel music why did you choose to do a Gospel Music Album? Alain Missala: yes as I said earlier I had a group of gospel music and as I said earlier my influences from an early age with my grandfather who was a pastor and more like the first album, this album is the result of my inner experiment, strong enough, at that time I had an operation of the vocal cords for a year I could not sing it was a period of doubt and I said Lord if one day I can to sing again I would do an album gospel and that's what happened Flashmag: in 2009, the 3rd album Soul Experience will be out an album inked in R & B and African acoustic how was the welcoming of the public for this album? Alain Missala: very interesting the reception was friendly, living in Germany there is a song in German in this album and like I said as a musician of the world it was a bit of a way of touching the various horizons and grow artistically. Flashmag: Despite three good albums that have nothing to envy to what is produced for example in the US, you still remain little known to the public, it is due to your lack of exposure to the main Stream Media or to your production that is not made by the majors? Alain Missala: I think this must be due to both the media and myself, I think if I have to do just the music I would not have gone for a Masters in Economics, 6 years of study during which I had to make a compromise, however, the music I did not necessarily do it because I wanted to be famous, but simply, it is part of my life, I do it because I love what I do. I have studied and I have a job that caters to my needs it's true that music brings me whatever it brings and I'm proud of that ... I do not seek that fame and I know that if this does happen, it will happen if I take it much more seriously and that is what I am doing with the album that I make, and also grow musically touching the tops like Jazz, and in a second plane to expose myself a little more and that's what will happen this year, a management team will now take care of that side as well as the labels meetings are planned, and if I travel to the US in the days to Come it would means necessarily that the work has paid. Anyway there are a lot of requests and myself I have grown tremendously. Flashmag: 2011 you meet with Daveman together you will make a melting pot of African traditional music with pop, you created the Afro pop and the Foulaa System group what can you say about this collaboration how did you meet Daveman? And where are you with the Foulaa System? An album in the lab? Alain Missala: I met Daveman in 2006 he was also a student i found him in a music scene. I was doing Gospel and him Reggae and we convinced ourselves that we had to do something typically African, because there are not too many African musicians in Germany who are in the African music but for German people to understand what we were doing, since it is a country that is not francophone or closely linked to Africa as France or Belgium, we said we have to find a way to be understood, and basically we had to make a good sauce by mixing a bit of all that, so we added pop sounds to traditional African music thus was born Afro pop and Foulaa System. And that's how the Foulaa System became something foolish in Germany we have videos on YouTube that are doing well some even recorded a million views. With Foulaa system we have produced an album last year an album that continues to sell very well we toured, we have done the tour of Germany we hope to tour Europe as well. It is true that each of us has his personal project, in any case we represent Africa in its diversity sometimes we use clichés to make music a little more fun. And theatrical sketches it lets off steam from us anyway
Flashmag: your single of 4 titles Notes of my Life since November is available by online streaming on Sound Cloud, as a prelude to the album. Speaking Notes of my life what inspired you this opus, where do you place this work in your career what represents this album?
Alain Missala: I work with musicians friends, the saxophonist and the guitarist are also music teachers , i have been working on this album for a year since, I finally told myself that I had to take my music a bit more seriously you told me earlier that you as a journalist you were surprised not to know me, well that's what I have heard a lot of people tell me that i had to make myself known a little bit more, since last year there has been a strong demand that pushed me to work a little more on the project. This album is going to represent the album that will make me a musician because whenever people asked me are you a musician? I was answering them I'm part time musician , this album also represent my musical career I feel that this will be the breakthrough piece.
Flashmag: you don’t mind about making jazz a genre that is still reserved to a certain audience? Alain Missala: No it does not bother me I am a world musician, I'm not an atypical jazz musician I call it Afro jazz I'm more world music than jazz, what I do, is to showcase all my musical influences, and I added the diversity of jazz. what is good, is that I have the opportunity to be on an African Music Festival, a Jazz festival and a world music festival. Flashmag: you are back in Germany after vacationing in Africa how is the African scene today? In your opinion what is missing to take local music up? Alain Missala I think it's infrastructure investment, it is not the creativity, Africans have always been very inventive, I think it is a gift we must recognize to them. However, it is necessary to put discipline in the way of doing things with more discipline, African music would be better seen in the internationally scene where it’s already nowadays, but alas what hurts me a little in this African music today, is that it becomes more and more for young people a copy of what is done in the US so it's not really the typical African music as we would recognize ourselves when listening to Makossa or Rumba from Congo, it's true that the language is still African, but when I watched the videos I've seen down there, i did not recognize the video of African musicians with scenes much more picturesque, it is not bad as such to show big cars gold chains but when it becomes essential for some to be noticed it becomes dangerous for African culture. But still there are musicians who remains in the roots and they are fighting for a spot on the podium, it's true some are eager to pour into facility and if this continue we will no more be able to know if it’s American or African music in the way things are going, however we as African we do not need to copy anything when one is already original Flashmag: by the way the black American music comes from Africa though. Flashmag: while we are closing this interview do you have a word towards the public, what's your agenda of the near future? Alain Missala: the calendar is not in my hands, but it is sure that in 2015 we will see me much more on the international scene, the public must remain connected if they like what I do, if they are interested about what I make my website is online as well as my Facebook page and of course Sound cloud and YouTube where you can hear and see what I'm doing. http://www.missalamusic.com/ Flashmag: Alain Missala Flashmag and its Readership say thank you for this interview Alain Missala: It is I, who thank you for the work you are doing with heart for culture without asking for compensation but the good for all. My compliments to the entire team of Flashmag.
Interview by Hubert Marlin Elingui Jr.