Interview with Vicky Edimo
Flashmag this month, guest star, is a virtuoso of the Bass Guitar, Vicky Edimo is the precursor of the great Cameroonian bass players who travel the world distilling velvety sound of this instrument that continues to be emulated. Born in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital he moved at the age of 19 in Europe, his artistic journey will make him work with greats such as, Manu Dibango, Touré Kunda, Michel Sardou, Sacha Distel, Claude François , Johnny Hallyday La Compagnie Créole, the Gibson Brothers, James Brown or Bob Marley to name a few. Author of several solo albums, which the most recent titled Siseya was published March 9, 2015, Vicky Edimo in the lines that follow tells us a bit more about him and his art.
Flashmag: Hi Vicky Edimo is a great honor for Flashmag the trendsetter magazine to have you as guest star of the month.
Vicky Edimo: hello thank you for welcoming me
Flashmag: The music you find it at the age of 13, how? What gets you there?
Vicky Edimo: well! it's hard to say, I would say it is the divine; as child I bathed in a musical universe, and I remember when I was much younger I always had fun to make musical noise, tapping on whatever came to my hand, to the chagrin of my parents
Flashmag: Why among many instruments you opted for Bass guitar?
Vicky Edimo: my first love was really percussion, drums ... I stumbled upon the bass guitar at the age of 13. In fact it is a childhood friend who told me: "You know the Bass guitar is better for you" well I took his advice, working more on it, I made it my favorite instrument and the rest is history…
Flashmag: You will soon make a niche, in a very short time signing in a posh nightclub in Douala at the age of 16, this first contract how did feel about it?
Vicky Edimo: it was exciting while other neighborhood buddies were playing football I was going to make music.
I started to play first as a bass player in college Alfred Saker and after, when I left for Yaoundé my parents enrolled me at the college Francis Xavier Vogt a high school reputed for its music program, there I evolved more as a singer, but the Bass guitar was always there with me. So when I returned to Douala with the progress I garnered I became highly seek, I played with renowned artists such as Eboa Lotin and then I received an invitation from Cabaret Castel, the most exclusive club in the city back then. It was exciting and annoying for my parents because I was too young to attend clubs. But then I followed the music, I put my parents on a fait accompli and understanding, my father gave me the green light.
Flashmag: At 19 you take off for France a hub of African music, virtuoso of bass guitar, you will soon be noticed, what was the reception of African musicians during your arrival at Paris? leaving the Cameroon did you have a specific plan?
Vicky Edimo: it must be said that at the time there were not many African musicians who played in the professional community in Europe so it is not through them that I was received, but by French, English or other countries musicians. In fact the first African musician I met in the studio was Ray Stephen Oché, I do not know if he is still alive but he was the first to open myself to the afro jazz universe, he was the first with whom I recorded an album in studio and then little by little my name started flowing in artistic circles
Flashmag: You're a megatheque of contemporary music you have been in the inner kitchen of the greatest musicians of the seventies, and 80, for 4 years you worked with the orchestra of Manu Dibango and Playing in Parisian jam sessions you made some nice meetings, including trumpeter Ray Stephen Oché you were talking about earlier, who gave you the opportunity to play with Bobby Few, You meet also the producer Daniel Vangarde. Your cooperation will give birth to groups like La Compagnie Créole, Ottawan, or Gibson Brothers. The success of albums recorded with Manu Dibango or Gibson Borthers make you one of the most popular musicians in studio. You then record with Dalida, Carlos, Johnny Halliday, Claude Francois, Michel Sardou, Sacha Distel, even making interludes in the film music recordings and advertising. What represents this time for you? At that time with all the success and especially the recognition of your peers artists did you say that's it, I’ve made it, how did you live those days?
Vicky Edimo: not even now I do not think that I’ve made it, when we are still making music and that we are alive, we have things to learn, after the worldwide success of the album "" Cuba " of the Gibson Brothers I found myself being asked everywhere but before that I was already doing sessions with renowned artist from my homeland, Manu Dibango, Toto Guillaume, Eko Roosevelt, Elvis Kemayo, Andre Marie Tala and many others. So with the meeting of the Gibson Brothers and success that ensued I started to be in the cream of the artistic circles of the hexagon (France). Since I had played in every successful albums of that time everybody wanted to have me as a bassist in their albums. But I did not tell myself that I had arrived already, rather more it was going over, I told myself that I can do better, If I made it here already.
Flashmag: And how does that era marked the rest of your career?
Well it's that period that is sort of what I am today when I left Cameroon I did not have a thorough idea of my value as a musician it's true when I was playing people were telling me that I was good but I was just taking it as a polite compliment, even though I had confidence in me, I wasn’t making a big fuss ... that period is one of the steps in my career that I appreciate at its fair value.
Flashmag: Across the Atlantic your career begins when James Brown's manager, Charles Bobbit, asks you to redo the bass lines of two of James Brown songs. How the meeting happened?
Vicky Edimo: At that time I slept very little, sometimes I was leaving the studio at 7 am to go home at 1 or 2 in the morning, the next day. Well one night, I come home late from the studio, and I find a note from my ex-wife telling me to recall a number, regardless of the time when I get home. At the time there was no cell phone or voice mail. So tired I think I would do it later, but finally I decide to call, and I get on the phone a lady who tells me: “sir we are in a studio, at the Place de l’etoile, and there is an American here who want to See you in emergency. Well I decided to go see what it was. I arrive and I find a gentleman who asks me whether I was Vicky, I said yes, then he tells me what to do. I do the work and in the end he is very happy and asks me, "what do you do this summer? "And although at the time I was playing with Manu Dibango I explain to him that, it's cool to have done the job he asked to do, and nice to have paid it so well, and I tell him Actually I do not know who you are? Well he said I'm sorry that's my name, it was a name I already knew at the time, and it's clear that I was a little excited. Then he said he was the manager of James Brown and made me the invitation to go to work with them. Meanwhile, I told him to give me time to think about, since I was engaged in other projects and he called back a week later without asking me if I thought about it or not. He told me I talked to everyone here about you, we are waiting for you, can you get on a plane tomorrow or after tomorrow for the United States? And that's how I left.
Flashmag: You met the icon of reggae music around the same time while you played with Bob Marley what impression did he gave you? If you had to say something about your collaboration with this phenomenon what would you say?
Vicky Edimo: when I was in France as one of the most requested bass players, I spent so much time in the studio that I was getting a little irritable, I was getting a little big-headed as they say ... sometime later when I met Bob Marley, I learned humility above all, because the more I watched him the more I thought wow! For someone of this size, he’s so humble ... there are two people who gave me this impression. Bob Marley and and the bassist Jacob Asuns I met later in New York I thought someone so large it is not at all in the star system. A simple man but a huge talent, I have learned to observe humility and thank the Lord.
Flashmag: Your relationships with American musicians how were they? Some American musicians who have impressed you?
Vicky Edimo: of course some few have struck my mind at the time and even today there are American musicians who have an incredible dimension. In the other hand what impressed them was also the fact that I came from Africa many did not believe it at first, as an African, evolving with them at that level was a little curiosity.
Flashmag: And what about James Brown? A word about your collaboration with him?
Vicky Edimo: Well James Brown was the man ... when you work with him you had to be in tune, you had to be in osmosis with his scene presence.
Flashmag: In the United States you sign up for Berklee School of Music the most renowned in the US east coast why? Did you feel that you were missing something?
Vicky Edimo: not just the US east coast, but in the world. (Laughs)
It’s never enough we always lack something as I said earlier we always learn something new, there are some who are making huge hits and the next day we hear no more about them in music, you can never think it’s all good I have made it already unless you are an adventurer who is just trying to see what’s up ... one must never give up. Me in my ups and downs, it never crossed my mind. I always wanted to improve and be the best at what I do.
Flashmag: You are the precursor to the Pleiades Cameroonian bassist that followed. How do you assess what your compatriots on the world stage are doing, including a Richard Bona, Sabal Lecco, Etienne Mbappé or Emmanuel Pokossi NGOLLE I received on this page a few months ago? What is your relationship with the young generation of musicians?
Vicky Edimo: I am very proud of them, and they give it up back well every time we meet, it is always the big brother, little brother relationship, they give me the respect due to my person, I am very proud of them because I know where we come from and how things sometimes are not so obvious. Well I started running and when I looked back I saw that there was an army that followed. (Laughs) I have no doubt that I helped to inspire them but the path was done by themselves, I didn’t put their fingers on the strings… on their own they have worked to get there, and I am proud that they were able to give a meaning to their lives through this. I am happy for them.
Flashmag: Your career is marked more by performance in studio or on stage alongside the greatest, but you have published 4 albums only, one has the impression that your generosity has allowed you to spend a lot more time in the careers of others However, now when you look at what you have done if you had to do it again what would you change?
Vicky Edimo: well I would not change anything as an artist I've always had things to say while I was working for others, I produced personal albums, while being on the service of others it was a situation where I had not much choice it was necessary for me to answer the request of each other I trampled in this cycle, but I continued to make solo albums on my behalf.
Flashmag: Speaking of your albums Thank u Mama the first of all What is its origin?
Vicky Edimo: oh no prior to Thank u Mama I had already done 45 laps (vinyl) as Onguèlè - You are too Young- let me love You tonight, in fact I had 5 with Mr. Daniel Vangarde with whom we worked back then. he produced “la Compagnie Creole” and also my albums with Zagora label. But I did not have that solo career awareness I did it more because I had the opportunity to do so.
It was later when I finished with the Berklee school, that I had the opportunity to go to Nigeria, my elder sister was living there at the time, so I meet some musicians there and I found myself making a record, in fact it's the record company that asked me to prepare a disk so I had to do it in the allotted time, I only had two titles ready I had to compose the others very quickly and that's how Thank You Mama was born.
Flashmag: The second Ongwanemo and the third Jambo Africa are also funky albums jazz, afro beat and Makossa why did you persist in that way?
Vicky Edimo: During my career I have played with artists with such different styles, Makossa, Funk, Jazz, Afro beat and others, but me in the story where do I stand it's why I try to express in my music a melting pot of my journey, I take a bit of everything to express my musical experiences.
Flashmag: Speaking precisely about Siseya that is freshly out which the public is in the process of discovering, can you say something about the content of this album and where do you place this work in your career?
Vicky Edimo: there are many things that have inspired me, already I did not make a bassist Album, since I do not do just bass, as many know I compose I sing I arrange, I have a lot of arrows to my bow and I wanted to express an album a bit like when I started, a songwriter album, although through my songs the audience can remember my favorite instrument I wanted to do a song album in fact.
Siseya is a step in my career simply, if I am alive and healthy I would make another and another and so on. Now I made this one like that, may be the next will be totally different… instrumental or acoustic. It’s linked to mood, these are things that I do not actually calculate.
Flashmag: As a senior African musician and I would even say elder of the contemporary black music, what do you think of the direction the black music take these days? Many complain about the negative image conveyed by some feature of African descent, it seems that the entertainment industry regarding blacks has become a brainwashing tools that does not help the black community to reflect on the existential questions which nevertheless hit the global black community? Is there a chance to see again responsible musicians on the front of the stage? We are far from “get up stand up for your rights” of Bob Marley? When some are glorifying crime?
Vicky Edimo: But these artists you're talking about are still there, they are there, but the problem does not come from them, these artists are stifled by producers who prefer to do things a certain way to make money, they prefer to have artists they can manipulate at the expense of the music, for that they will not always take a true artist. because with this kind of artist they know they can make lots of money whether they drown a continent or a community they don’t care. High-flying African artists are out there, there is plenty of them. I know many who suffer from this state of things, of this lack of opportunity for them and that is unfortunate.
Flashmag: In your opinion what to do to remedy this situation? Although I should point out that with us at Flashmag we give prevalence to those artists who have a positive message?
Vicky Edimo: I do not hold the solution as such, I'm an artist I'm a business man but as you had mentioned yourself sometimes, a lot of media help this bad trend even if you don’t do into that.
But the problem is that back home we like improvisation, is not always competence, sorry to say it so bluntly, but it remains a truth, we prefer to help the boyfriend hoping to earn a little more money in fact it is as if you are managing an office and as boss you'll take your nephew or cousin to do a job where he is not competent, it also exists in the music, that kind of behavior. It makes me a little sick to say that, lot of high level African artists are there, especially as the generation after me with Richard Bona, also paved the way for another generation of musicians that make music that has nothing to do with the provocative dances of the butt , I'm not against, but I think it is important to say that in Africa there is also something else. the musical side is being disregarded ... you play 2 or 3 notes, you hit drums, you turn the buttocks and life is beautiful. I have nothing against but do not try to make people believe that our music is just that.
Flashmag: On the point of view of music making as a purist with the arrival of new software like MIDI and others, one has the impression that the machine is taking precedence over the man, how do you live this aspect of things in your opinion do you think the music would lose warmth if there were fewer studio musicians?
Vicky Edimo: yeah it’s alike, it goes together, technology makes things easier in a bit of time you can master a machine while it takes years to master the elements of music, it's true a young man can write some few notes on the computer publish it, and make a name of itself overnight, like I said I have nothing against, we must live with the time, it’s the era that want it this way. But these same machines are used as well by seasoned musicians who use them wisely.
It depends on the management, it is true that some musicians are anti Machine while some are just for machines, but by cons I think the ideal would be to combine the two you have to live with the time but do not let the machine take precedence over the musicality of the artist.
Flashmag: Another recurring problem in contemporary music is the drop in CD sales while the music broadcast on internet breaks all records? But the musicians complain of not receiving enough money from the major music distribution company on the internet, what to do to find a mind field? Do you think it is time for musicians themselves to take their destiny in the management of their career?
Vicky Edimo: oh yes that's the battle of the French government now with new technologies music is distributed in a different way, it's not like in the days when there was a million copies there was a million of albums sold, now you make 10,000, and 9,000 copies are pirated and that too is due to the signs of time. The battle now is to plug these gaps, piracy is really a serious problem that often harms some artists. If it continues like that artists will not have a choice. When you are an artist today regardless of whether you are working on music you must also be able to put it in the market. Artists must provide the means to realize their music and make themselves known. Unless you have the chance of hitting a patron who wants to take the trouble to support your Project. Music today has taken many other forms of exploitation. However, there are a lot of things to see, things that have nothing to do with art. The commercial aspect of the thing took over the ascendancy.
Flashmag: And the business men musicians, don’t you think that this will make things less efficient we got used to see the musician work on his/her music while others are responsible for promoting and distributing his/her music?
Vicky Edimo: Today too we have no more choice but to be musician and business man, meanwhile we must make a distinction between business man and business man, if the business is to do anything and put it on the market just to earn lots of money then, it is questionable, but if one makes music with a good artistic expression it’s legitimate to provide the means to sell his art.
Flashmag: You are promoting your new album Siseya can we have an idea about your near future schedule, in addition you are now in France when do you return to the States, have you planned some dates for your fans on this side of the Atlantic?
Vicky Edimo: the idea behind making an album is to discover the many. Here in France it’s not so obvious I have to work to open some doors, but it's true that’s it is fresh it has just come out, so we'll see how it will evolve we will have dates and concerts stay in touch by my web site www.vickyedimo.com
Flashmag: The last word in relation to Siseya?
Vicky Edimo: Well I would say to the public to buy the album, so they can realize themselves what it returns to.
Flashmag: Yes I would say it is a very good album that I had the opportunity to listen some excerpts I urge the public to make a detour is not every day that you can listen a Vicky Edimo work.
Flashmag: Vicky Edimo Flashmag and its readership say thank you for this interview.
Vicky Edimo: It is I, who thank you
Video Excerpts Njohe
Interview by Hubert Marlin Elingui Jr.