Interview with Jenny Salgado
The guest star of Flashmag this month is an artist who has her art in the skin, and who is not shy to express it in words. Jenny Salgado Alias, J Kyll, is one of those who have marked Canada's Francophone Rap universe since the 90s, muse of Muzion a group founded in 1996; she has had with this group everything a rapper can expect of a career. Under contract with BMG Canada and Wagram France, she has experienced the biggest stages of the world and collaborated with the most prominent artists, like Kool Sheen, Corneille, Gage, Wyclef Jean, to name a few. Seasoned artist, she reviewed many genres, collaborating with the great figures of contemporary Canadian music as Sylvie Paquette, or Diane Dufresne, while composing poems and film music. 2 albums with Muzion and a slew of accolades including the Felix prices and urban music awards, J Kyll, was reborn Jenny Salgado and launched her solo career in 2010 with an album titled ... “Et tu te suivras “ (And you will follow yourself) an opus very well received by the public and critics. Busy between her social engagements and the work on her second album; Jenny sacrificed a few seconds of her precious time to talk to us about her career, the music, the place of hip hop in the global scale, without forgetting to give us her opinion on the pressing issues of today.
Flashmag: Hello Jenny Salgado, Flashmag and its readership are happy to have you today as the guest star of the month. You are welcome, the time of this interview our gallery is yours. Without delay we will get into the aim of the talk.
You were born from Haitians parents in Canada. If we had to talk a little about your childhood in Quebec and your integration into Canadian society what are the key moments that marked your childhood on the choice you were going to do later, music?
Jenny Salgado: I was born to Haitian parents in Canada, however, I remained closely linked to my roots I visited Haiti several times and I was impregnated by my Creole culture very early, and of course having grown up in a deprived area of Montreal as the St. Michel district, marked my childhood and this situation somehow put me on the paths of claims movements
Why did you choose to go in that area, what really pushed you there?
very early, music was part of my world, both when I was visiting Haiti, or at home when I was young, and it was normal for me at some point in my life to follow this path, when you come from a certain background the music is on you, no matter what, and it takes just certain circumstances for it to be expressed in you, and the choice is always yours to put it outside, and share with the public.
In 1997 you founded the group Muzion, how the creation of this group happened?
My brothers were already in the Rap movement, back then I listened to them all the time and then one day I decided to engage in their passion and we decided to work together and put on feet a group whose main focus was the rap in the trend of the times. Coming from a disadvantaged background is not always easy, as I said earlier it was important for us to make our voice heard, and music was the most capable channel to fulfil this objective.
Classical way, you sign with a big record company BMG Canada, at that level, you thought you were on the right track?
Of course, it was a big step, but we did not think too much about it, but rather about what we should show the world.
2 years later Muzion first album went out entitled Mentalité Moune Morne (Moune Morne mentality) that gives you the Félix award for hip hop album of the year at the ADISQ Gala 2000 and the price of the hip hop artist at the MIMI's 2000. This first album many years later what will you say about it?
First loves are sometimes those which are more remembered, it is a reference album, an introduction of our way of doing, and of what we were going to do in the music arena
In 2002 Muzion released a second album titled J'Rêvolutionne, which harvest a Félix awards for hip hop album of the year at the Gala de l'ADISQ 2003 and the price of the Francophone Album of the Year at Urban Music Awards 2003. This album is in the continuation of the first and confirms your musical commitment from the start, as committed artists; being in a big production house didn’t you feel a little bit apprehensive because of the sensitivity of some topics you were talking about?
• Ah, very good question initially it was situations and encounters, and in these meetings one must already know if people will keep their own definition and aspiration, even when they get together, it's always the way it goes in relations. And it is also this way in the relationship between artists and record label, I think when BMG met Muzion and sat at the table with Muzion, they already knew who we were, and what our artistic orientation and our ideology was in short. It’s true that, this is something that we were happy to do, but the way and the message that we carried was something that they understood, we will not change, and that this was not going to be purchasable. We as well, when sitting down with a multinational, we knew what was their format and their requirements. We knew that the multinational aims to make huge profits by selling as many units as possible, but at the same time the multinational knew that by signing a group representing a generation of individuals, who was more engaged in raising issues of people of their time, they could only capitalize on it, and I also think that the multinational could not really take the risk of changing our artistic orientation. What was , important to know was how far we could go to sell as many units, and how far the multinational would let us bring the truth. I think that it was done as honestly and as long as possible, and obviously, when we realized that it was no longer possible, links were dissolved naturally
You will collaborate later with artists like Wyclef Jean, Sylvie Paquette, Diane Dufresne and Gage, the hit Pardonne moi (Forgive me) has your stamp, whether to say a word about these collaborations, about you which one has had more impact on your art and your person? Without making of course jealous?
• Precisely without making jealous, well I think every artistic collaboration brings something special, we learn something new, experience is gained, precisely I choose with whom I collaborate, it is not always because the person is going to bring me more media exposure or allow me to sell more, it’s mostly, if with the person with whom I will work, everything will be done to honor the quality of work both by respect for ourselves, and for the public in front of us. In any case all the collaborations I've done, really made me grow. Sylvie Paquette I believe she is the first to have really asked me to write a song from beginning to end, put myself in the shoes of a character other than myself, she is the first in trusting me on that one there, and I think it brought me a lot. Then I had this collaboration with Diane Dufresne a great lady of Francophone song, it is one of the biggest meetings of my career, she’s someone who has no barriers and creates freely, she knocked on my door, at the time when I was a young black woman, a rapper in addition, she asked me to breathe a bit of me in some titles of her show sous influences (under influences) she made me an immeasurable honor. So was the collaboration with Michèle Lamont, a great lady of culture in Canada who wrote me a letter that I kept in my drawers. And of course there was this collaboration with the great Wyclef Jean, who with the Fugees group is among the first to have put Haiti on the map of the music world to have raised high the flag of our country. He managed to marry the different kinds of music, to make something awesome, from Creole music, to western sounds. One day he called us asking us to work with him, I didn’t believe it, and I still don’t, and of course we are still working together time to time, and same thing with all these people you mentioned we are still working together ties have remained strong.
In 2010 you decide to launch your solo career why? One way to reaffirm yourself?
It’s like you have read my mind! You took it from my mouth! (smiles) on the album title I put 3 dot at the start to mark everything that has been done before, and then there are the words “…Et tu te suivras” (and you will follow yourself) to mark the continuity, it shows, I had a long way, with Muzion and the Mornier Dynasty, we did many things together; but I think at a certain time, everyone must walk alone, to see your inner value, and to mark your identity . One must look in the mirror before making a speech; at least it was an important step in my career, as with all other group members. Also we had discussions together it’s still the same core, we are supporting each other in the Mornier Dynasty but we decided to introduce ourselves individually
Furthermore we realized that there were some changes as well on your solo album which is fewer raps, and J Kyll your surname from Muzion, became Jenny Salgado why? One way to rediscover yourself?
Ah (laughs) I love the color of this interview, really ... like I said I needed to be me, I had to stop hiding behind a pseudonym, behind a character even if the character itself is a Part of me. Finally Jenny Salgado is the complete me, that's why I'm not focused in the album on one simple façade, but to a brand that explores my artistic personality as a whole. It is an artistic album that has no style in itself, it also walks well in blues, rock, slam, rap, funk, reggae, as well as in poems sometimes raw. Language can be very strong in image sometimes.
... ET tu Te suivras your first solo album what does it represents in your career?
The title is quite revealing ... a renaissance if you want, for me life runs in cycles, interlaced cycles, this is also true for the beginning or the end, and Et tu te suivras is J Kyll who reintroduce herself to the world, she comes out of her shell and completely unfolds ... and I think this album is a reference, from then people know that I can go anywhere I have no artistic border.
Committed Artist, you are campaigning for hip hop music, as well as the place of women in the world, speaking first of Hip Hop music do you think it is going in the right direction? If in the 90s many had counted on the revolutionary character of the global rap movement decades later do you think the global rap movement achieved its primary objectives, namely an awareness of the global black populace? Do you think you have done your work as it should?
• (laughs) ah too hard ... if I’ve done my job? If rap has done its work? Wow! I would say yes, some may say no, but I'm a bit nostalgic for what was the Hip Hop. The hip hop movement was born of a socio-economic situation that persists. At the time there was talk of social justice, the bottom of the pyramid, and disadvantaged neighborhoods. Hip hop was born from the desire to say something to create something. With limited material resources we were able to make a beat with mouths, hands, or just hit on a table as the African did when they banged on drums, or when at the end of a slavery day, slaves sat around the fire and expressed their anger. This how hip hop was born, today in 2015 we lost a little of the soul of the slave who sought to blow off steam, who sought his freedom. It is hard to find it now, but it still exists. It's just that hip hop has become international, it has climbed some steps now he it’s on top of the pyramid, now it wants to tell the world that it exists at all levels of the pyramid it wants to claim an existence at the highest level, that is true with Jay-Z and Kanye West, and all the display of material goods that we see today some might find it pejorative, but if you look more carefully it is a way of saying that, we too, we exist and we want to be respected at all levels.
Of course you have those who are exploited and who for a few clogged breads will say anything. There are those who want to be rich, and accept anything for, and end up being manipulated. But still those who think that the nigger deserves to get into the highest echelons of society, who aspire to upward mobility and fight for this to be possible, I respect that. Do I want to be this type? That is the big question. I think I'm the type who think to represent the people and to carry its message, and not at all those who want to climb the ladder by showcasing material wealth, making a kind of bling while playing the game of those who behind wield the carrot and the stick. Are we going to see rap take over the truth? Probably, and that's what I want.
Many complain about the pejorative image of the rap movement, with some inappropriate fashion dress and the glorification of criminal life and whores, don’t you think that somewhere hip hop has betrayed the black populace of the world, creating to blacks even more harm and giving to them an image that is not always true?
Yes of course, then again I do not know who your listeners and readers are, but in general we tend to point the finger at the individual, we even tend to point a certain movement and give it all the wrongs, and forget, this movement is part of a structure that is much larger and it is this structure, we must look at. If hip hop itself has failed? It’s David and Goliath, actually the system structure is built in the way that one can legitimately ask the question whether the hip hop could have done differently? What is all over the media today as hip hop has not been decided by the hip hop itself, but rather a systemic structure that decides what must be broadcasted to the public. There are people who have lots of money they invest in hip hop and they decide what hip hop should be. Today, what hip hop is, it’s what these people have decided. Then they tell us today in 2015 this is the kind of music that the nigger does , this is what he is worth, this is his kind of woman, that's how they dress, yet there is a power in the system that decided that fate, but is it only that, hip hop? I do not think so, but it's simply that the system has much to gain if the nigger carries this kind of message, that is why this facade of hip hop is encouraged. As I often say the truth is now in the margin even if the real trend of hip hop it is still there It’s struggling to be heard.
The black history month was in February, during an interview with Radio Canada, talking about the integration of blacks into the Canadian social fabric and in the West in general you stated that we are not there yet, there are still here and there prejudices that prevent real equality of opportunity between members of different communities, don’t you think that before trying at all costs to integrate, the others one must first define itself. The identity problem of afro descendants is still a concern?
Very good question, there's a cultural festival here every year named the Festival FRO( the Foundation rest on the origins ), and this year we wondered if it was first necessary to close the doors, time for us to define ourselves, see congratulate each other, Instead of opening up to other communities. This is a question that continues and is still fundamental. I think that today in 2015 it is important that when we meet, to recognize ourselves as a people, instead of fragmenting ourselves, but as they say the master's tools cannot undo the house of the master, so when you find yourself in a host community, using their communication tools, it is a little hard to tell that community that she is not welcome. We live in their home we have no choice. In addition we have children, who are born here, and they will have to make a way into the Quebec society, like it or not, it is not by telling them to reject their host country that we help to give them a better future. Yet for us black people, it is important that we learn our history, that we know what our parents have done upstream to allow us to be who we are today , one should be able to live with this duality, namely the desire that our parents had when immigrating here and what ensued, while keeping our African soul.
One of the real criticisms that is made to the blacks in the West, is their economic dependence, black entrepreneurs that stand out are not legion don’t you think that when you work for others, you will always have to do what they want?
I think it is important to define who are them, and who are us? If we cannot clearly define this there will always be upside. We must first be defined as a people, and, and accept ourselves as a people, as individualists we will always be at the service of others. And before defining ourselves we first have to be others, and even when I believe to be working for my own good, in fact I will be representing others. We must rebuild ourselves, taking inspiration from our history, Haitian, and African; learn from what happened to black people in the world. If we look at the planet we may well find that despite the divisions of the country, the economic system still remains what regroups peoples, and the whole global economic expansion started from Africa. Africa was exploited to construct the globe. Anyway it's time for blacks to offer something special to the world; they have to think to offer what no one else can offer. Also the black man will gain respect because of his inimitable authenticity. However to give the black man, what he deserves, there’s still a long way to go, starting with ourselves.
Of African descent what is your view on the continent at the moment, and how important it is to you?
• On the first level of humankind Africa is the cradle of humanity, Africa is the beginning of everything, for me it's still the mother. Africa is my mother; I love her very much I respect her, but what is going on today? She lacks respect; she’s desecrated, a bit like it happens to almost everything. Men are in the process of bottoming, violating the planet down to its depths, the one that suffers the most is Africa, all started by Africa also the end will start by the end of Africa. For me today Haiti as well as Africa, it is the struggle between life and death, it is interesting to know who will win? But I remain hopeful, though. Many great thinkers have stated that, it’s from Africa or Haiti that will be born the revolution I'm not sure but time will tell, but what is beautiful is that Haiti remains standing like Africa and it's beautiful.
Activist you contributed to various events, as reporter for Radio Canada and film music composer you have also been a jury member of the black film festival in 2012 how these different activities contribute to your artistic career?
Already these are the causes that call me, it's not me who seek them, and every time I can contribute, I do it willingly, I express myself more through music, I use music to make a pause and reflect, to resurface our humanity that we forget from time to time, I return to the heart of human nature. Then there is the existence and there is action ... there are people doing great things not only through music, but I need from time to time to go on the field. Not only internationally, even at the neighborhood level it’s already great because if you can change something at the level of your street it’s already good.
The black music in general is selling less well and the majors are increasingly capricious as to contract with Afro artists who increasingly are forced to produce indie, how do you appreciate this new problem? In your opinion, how to fix it?
Oh, it's a great debate there too, where some can see difficulties, others can see opportunities. Record labels have become capricious, it's normal, they are in difficulty, technological change and social networks now allow those who really want to create and be heard to have the means to do so, one doesn’t necessarily needs the majors and this does not always please them, and they become more and more capricious. Even at the level of the image with very little means one can make a video clip. It's true there are those who still want to belong to the machine and probably benefit from its facilities, but they always lose something in freedom, and on the other side you have those who are trying to do things on their own in the long term they find it advantageous since they have more control over their art, and revenues it generates. And that's good
The visibility of Canadian artists is undermined because of the country in the southern border, if Anglophone Canadians are more likely to pursue a career in the USA and to become known by many, it seems that for French speaking artist the stain remains very difficult, Quebec seems to be far from France, the Caribbean or Africa, where there is a large market for these artists, in your opinion what to do to remedy this problem? One has the impression that the Quebec and Francophone identity is really harmed?
• Ah! It’s a big debate there too. The Francophone identity in North America is the largest debate here in Canada, it is the big question in the history of Quebec, and it is doubly difficult for a French artist to make a way in the Canadian musical universe. When an artist like Drake is pushed promoted to the highest level, behind there’s a will of governments, namely the state structure decided to give this artist the right thing so that he gets there. He has not done it alone, The red carpet was unrolled for him if this is done in the Anglophone Canada, here in Quebec it’s non-existent, since Quebec itself is still facing some crucial questions, it raises the question of whether to detach from Canada or continue to live in the federation with even more autonomy, or else forget this history of independence and stay Canadian but francophone.
Without interrupting you I can add that be an artist from Quebec in Canada is not easy, but to be a black artist living in Quebec is even more complicated and of course all my sympathy for this province that seems tiny surrounded by English and Spanish speaking countries.
There you are it’s complicated all over, to be an artist from Quebec in Canada it’s complicated and to be a black artist from Quebec in Canada then phew!
You are working on your second solo album can we have some first-rate information on its content and how it will look like? When can we expect it on the market?
You are a little bit soft and intellectual nowadays this is no longer the J Kyll of the 90s anyway?
Yes it's not J Kyll of the 90s, she has garnered experience. I circled the ring, like I said at the beginning of the interview we return to a stage where over the globe, there are claims of movements, and we also see some bands trying to do things differently, I want to follow this movement the timing is perfect to return to that, it is obvious that there is a brainy side who will stay but of course a free hand, will also be there. In the next installment I want you to feel the people's voice, the voice of the street, the street's soul, the soul of the base. I think those who have followed the evolution will know where we are. J Kyll and Jenny Salgado will have to live together; they can even have a dual
When can we expect it?
I work on it, the atmosphere is good, the soul is there already, right now I’m looking at the side of its impact on the people, I’ll put it out when the time is right, in principle it will be out sometimes in 2016
While concluding this interview do you have a special word to the public?
Ah firstly I am very glad to have met you. Now I know you forever, thanks to those who read us and listen to us because nobody is forcing them to do so, thank you for everything and especially continue to listen and to share, without desire to judge but by trying sincerely to understand, try to understand, try to know us before you judge us, this is what I wish for the coming years ... I wish for a return to the basis of real love
Jenny Salgado Flashmag and it readership say thank you for this cordial and open interview.
All the fun was for me this was one of the best interviews I've ever had; the questions were relevant enough, thank you again.
Interview by Hubert Marlin Elingui Jr.