Interview with Wally Badarou a seasoned musician
He is best known in the arcana of music professionals and less from the general public. He is the epitome of the maxim implying that popularity is not always synonymous with artistic genius, yet he is the nec plus ultra in regards to music composition, he has worked with some of the biggest artist of this era from Mick Jagger to James Brown through Manu Dibango, Papa Wemba or Yossou Ndour. He has also composed score for movies winning Oscar. We were fortunate enough to have this encyclopedia of world music who kindly agreed to give us a few minutes of his precious time to answer our questions. we are grateful for this opportunity and it is almost a certitude that the public will appreciate, in its just value this affable and informative chat, with this global music icon.
Flashmag: Wally Badarou we are pleased to have you today as the guest of this month. The time of this interview our gallery is yours. You were born in Paris France, from Beninese parents you spent more than 10 years in Africa. A question you already answered a thousand times, but which is still relevant. why have you finished musician specially when above all we know that aviation has always been your passion?
Wally Badarou: The world is such that today, more than ever, it never ends only when the eternal rest arises. For the general public, I'm a composer, musician, producer, certainly. For a more limited audience, I am also an actor, and director maybe one day. For others, I am also computer developer. In recent years, I became also defender of copyrights around the world, and many European parliament members only know that about me. Truly, I am multifaceted, in permanent evolution, but rest assured, aviation hasn’t left me.
Flashmag: once you decided to enter the music, when did you finally felt that it was the way? Did you have any doubt at a certain point?
Wally Badarou: I have doubted during the three years I spent studying law at the University of Paris X, Nanterre. I even ended my student deferment for military service, just to take time. Then after my release of duty, I started to attend recording sessions over time, I realized that I could live with and pay my rent. Thus, the music gradually took over and one day the college benches were out of my sight.
Flashmag: In 1979 you release your first solo album Back to scales tonight will
follow in 1983 Echoes, Words of mountain in 1989, 2001 colors of music for yoga silent poetry and musical trilogy in 2009. If you had to say a word about these personal compositions, what do they represent for you? Today when you look at them what feelings do you have?
Wally Badarou: They are everything to me. Any other work, fruit of collaboration, illustrious / or successful as it was, is only secondary to me, compared to my personal works. From conception to completion, they say everything about me.
Flashmag: In 1997 you put yourself at the service of Africa and advocate for the organization the Kora, Awards which reward excellence in African music and of course we remember the title So Why that saw the collaboration of Yossou Ndour, Salif Keita and especially Papa Wemba who just left this world why did you think it was necessary for Africa to have the Kora? do you think the Kora have since fulfilled their goal which was to make things move in the right direction?
Wally Badarou: I am of those who think that the best way for the artist to campaign, it is through its art. I have always considered myself to be at the service of my roots from my early music, without even thinking. Then one day, on the project of my friend Ernest Adjovi, I realized that, unlike all other continents and of all the great nations of the world, Africa has not yet designed a way to declare the world, as to itself, those of its artists it intended to celebrate by a free and sovereign manner. The Kora were - and continue to be despite all – inhabited by this brilliant vocation, and I am extremely proud to have brought the humble lights that were mine, even if the idea of competition in the arts seem absurd to me, it is ultimately the idea of commemorating our culture and tribute to some of our greatest that finally convinced me.
Flashmag: It was one of your closest collaborations with Papa Wemba what impression he left you?
Wally Badarou: A great modesty, the brand of the greatest. A kindness and confidence that never failed me since. The talent we know of him of course as a bonus
Flashmag: the development of your career proves that you are open minded and generous enough to work for others to help them achieve excellence, at one point don’t you think that you take more time for others, and less for your solo career, especially since we know the business of artist is often full of selfish individual?
Wally Badarou: I always thought that working for others, was ultimately working for me. My music is found in all music which I have worked on. I have absolutely no feeling of having sacrificed anything of my solo career for others. mine took a path that has always been its own, singular, unique, nothing comparable, and I am far from complaining, quite the contrary! There is hardly a model in my domain, and I dig my furrow as a perpetual pioneer. Ask yourself this. How many African musician composers non singer are armed with so few personal works compared to others, happened to know similar notoriety?
Flashmag: You are a close friend of Chris Blackwell founder of Island record a major production company but apparently you never really wanted to be under contract with that kind of production house why? In the long run do you think this has influenced your career?
Wally Badarou: In truth, I've never been religious about the size of those with whom circumstances have led me to sign. At the beginning of my contract with Blackwell, Island records was just a (large) independent company, and only became a major once absorbed by Polygram, that then become Universal. Majors or independent, the key was to succeed in having the team promotion to my side. Talking about Chris Blackwell a maxim was displayed on the walls of the company headquarter: "If you do not Promote, a terrible thing happens. Nothing! " That was true in principle, but in reality in my case when "Hi-Life" breaks out in Africa and the Caribbean in 1984, Island are neither promoting nor distribution the opus...
Flashmag: The Cameroonian musician Jay Lou Ava said: before to be on top you had to be good and now you have to be stupid, do you think he is right to say so since must of the later major artists in the domain are famous for the sake of fame not of music?
Wally Badarou: It will always be the fate of popular music. In the 60s, there was already talk of "summer hits" and "stardom". The star system has always wanted to take over, I cannot say if this is truer today than yesterday. But it is certain that new technologies - and the phenomenon of zapping have multiplied, helping the exponential rise of the number of contenders bursting to get the top spot and now it’s more difficult to define if the emergence of artists is based on true and lasting values. The preemption to rapid stardom, that is erected as undisputed reference as blurred the lines. It was to be expected.
Flashmag: Many think there is commercial music that file stadium and good music that has a small audience why? some would say the good musicians are rare diamonds and necessarily very few can afford the luxury of having them is that true? Or rather it is related to the refusal of some to accept anything just to be in front page, the ideal as Jacob Devarieux stated, is to do good music marketable to many at the since time, is this still possible?
Wally Badarou: That is the problem of "serious" music, elitist by definition, opposed to "pop" music, popular by definition too. It is a fact that we cannot celebrate and deplore both. Jacob is absolutely right: this is the task that falls to any artist because, in short, perhaps is this, the definition of masterpiece sophisticated and popular all at once. Are masterpieces still possible? We must wait the test of time to answer really. Only Time will tell.
Flashmag: is this anecdote true? while you worked with James Brown you were asked to give him all the product of your artistic work is it true? why this album with James Brown was never released?
Wally Badarou: it’s true and, in view of this disagreement, it is the same reason why it was never released. In a state of law, marketing cannot be done with the agreement of the parties involved.
Flashmag: As a studio musician you've never had the frustration of working for the success of others?
Wally Badarou: No, as I have already explained, It’s only my music I do in the end. The case of the group Level 42 is eloquent in this regard. Also, a system of remuneration for neighboring rights has been established and strengthened throughout the world (rights of interpreters, musicians, producers, etc., other than pure copyright) rights that show the collegiality in the creation of what the public receives final.
Video So why
Flashmag: It is impossible to mention all the artists you have worked with, however I would like to hear a word about each artist that I would quote for your work and collaboration.
Flashmag: 1985 Mick Jagger She's the Boss- how was it?
Wally Badarou: Funny, because what we envisioned together a few months ago, in view of the praise he made to me about the album "A Child's Adventure" of Marianne Faithfull, it should have been different much more intimate. By choosing Bill Laswell as a producer, he finally opted for a more rock and more aggressive approach. It is a hard worker who has my respect, and who had the elegance to send me an autographed copy, it's rare.
Flashmag : 1979 Myriam Makeba- Comme Une Symphonie d’Amour ?
Wally Badarou: Funny too, because you imagine that, given her absence during my session, and I was not told that it was her singing, I have long wondered during my track recording session, who was this voice so resembling ...
Flashmag: 1981 Jimmy Cliff: Give the People What They Want?
Wally Badarou: Modesty and humility the mark of the truly great
Flashmag: 1982 Grace Jones Living My Life?
Wally Badarou: curious question on "Living My Life", the third album about which there was nothing special to remember, a certain routine is finally being installed, compared to the first two, "Warm Leatherette" and "Nightclubbing" which, for once, were much richer in emotions as they were those of the encounter and discovery ...
Flashmag: 1982 Joe Cocker Sheffield Steel?
Wally Badarou: A warm and authentic being, nothing manufactured. And probably thanks to the expertise of Alex Sadkin, engineer co-producer, this album is the sonically most successful of the Compass Point All Stars.
Flashmag: 1986 Fela Ransome Kuti Teacher Do Not Teach Me NonSense?
Wally Badarou: He had brought the village in the studio ... There were so many people that Mick Hucknall (Simply Red) did not even know who was responsible for what when he came by, like all the curious to say hello. Fela did not know me back then, and I wanted to leave him entirely free to make his music as he intended, contenting myself to ensure that the technical follow him and not the other way around. He was grateful to me. Such a hero that even today I have difficulty to realize the opportunity that was mine to just work with him.
Flashmag: 1988 Manu Dibango Electric Africa?
Wally Badarou: Our oldest brother all of us, he is the one who first, after my release of my military service, called me to a meeting, a decisive phone calls over in my decision to make music my profession; it’s him who also who, while speaking about me during an interview, made me aware of the fact that I was ultimately: a painter.
Flashmag: 1988 Melissa Etheridge?
Wally Badarou: A great lady in a superb album which I had the honor of working with, without ever having the chance to meet ... Things of Life.
Flashmag: 1988 Julio Iglesias Libra?
Wally Badarou: An affable and funny person, far from the polished image of the crooner that we have, wearing shorts and t-shirt, and bare feet he came to my studio to talk to me, like a connoisseur, about his passion for Pro -tools a just emerging technology back then, the first digital recorder finally affordable.
Flashmag: Serge Gainsbourg?
Wally Badarou: Gainsbourg was ... Gainsbourg, nothing surprising. At five, with Alain Chamfort, Lio, and Bamboo, we formed a strange assemblage in this house rented to an actress in Beverly Hills. It was my first trip to Los Angeles. feeling of strangeness, quickly diluted in the serious of the studio atmosphere.
Flashmag Herbie Hancock?
Wally Badarou: Again, the genius is recognized by its charisma and hospitality. It remains one of my absolute masters, and I still do not know by what star how our roads eventually intersected.
Flashmag: Stevie Wonder?
Wally Badarou: He's a legend: I have never met - and even less - worked with him. It is also one of my absolute masters. But, oddly, I never really wanted to meet him (neither he nor any of my heroes indeed). I do not think it's for fear of being disappointed. I simply do not believe that our meetings can really produce anything superior to what the incredible magnitude of his works have already occurred. It would be, at most like with Paul McCartney purely friendly meeting.
Flashmag: Speaking of black music do you think it is going in the right direction? both from the point of view of the quality, and of the message it carries. There is tendency that seem to prove that the global black diaspora has been formatted by that we see on TV don’t you think that for example, if black peoples are increasingly perceived as criminal’s men and women of little faith, black music has greatly contributed to it? who should we blame the media that broadcast what they receive, the producers for supporting such projects, or the public that consumes downstream what it receives?
Wally Badarou: So many questions in one paragraph lead me to suggest you a little more reserve in your affirmations. I do not see a single comprehensive direction of black music in general. There are as many as territories, languages, peoples, and therefore destinies. If a certain desperation has set in, following disillusionment movements of emancipation, and that some harshly confronted by the political and geopolitical realities of all kinds, undergo a certain radicalization in the lazy method, aggressiveness and even vulgarity, it's possible. But I rather not make it a permanent trend nor a generality
Flashmag: The journalist is also the transmission belt of interrogations of the populace, nothing personal … but bluntly put many are indexing the influence of the most popular trends like Hip Hop ... Now talking about technology and music. Before the focus was to have good musicians in the studio who made their living by playing tracks in the composition of musical projects. Today the coming of “electronic engineers” who have no musical training but make millions of dollars has changed things. The studio musician is an endangered species. In your case what do you prefer the composition with computers or musicians that bring more life in projects warm thinking in spite of cold calculus of machines?
Wally Badarou: The electronic musician that I am; will make you a known response known as Norman answer: yes, and no. Everything will depend on what audience ears, now accustomed to the cold perfection that machines "may" produce, decide to accept or reject, any notion of "human" imperfection. Judging by some few facts, as the return (relative but lasting) of the vinyl, the craze for mp3 (quality degraded in comparison to the CD), the success of live concerts (where imperfection, even computerized, reigns), although it is hoped that in the presence of algorithms that can replace authors, composers and interpreters, humans will be, for a long time, eager to deal with humans when it comes to culture. But it will be pretentious to say where, when, and how. how and how much the easiness, convenience and above all money, eventually will impose on you all the acceptability of rampant universal automation. No sector will be spared ...
Flashmag: Your pedigree can allow us to ask the question what is success? what is the best way to achieve it?
Wally Badarou: I usually define it, as the intersection of two curves: the aesthetic trajectory of the artist and the public tastes. There is, it seems, a jackpot, when the two meet. I say "apparently" because the hardest is yet to come: how to make it sustainable? For that matter, like to know the best way to achieve this, one answer: the diversity of cases, trajectories and imponderable is such that any recipe in one or the other remains drastically impossible. That's why I only recommend one thing: be yourself and seek only excellence in your own scale of values. It is much, much more rewarding if you are successful, and more consoling on in case failure.
Flashmag: Later in your career you made film music composition in 1985 especially with the kiss of the spider woman a film of Héctor Babenco, starring William Hurt who won the Oscar for best actor. The film was the first independent film to be nominated in the category of Best Picture, Best director and best screenplay Are there any specificity in film music composition compared to the rest?
Wally Badarou: A huge: the soundtrack composer creates in regards somebody else creation, images of the movie director. The imagination of one depends on the imagination of the other. The film composer is hardly perceived as a full-fledged composer, apart from the case (very rare) of those whose fame as artist in their own name has managed to precede their job of composer of film music. This dependence can be frustrating for some.
Flashmag: If you have made the synthesizer your main tool, you enjoy as well touching other instruments, have you ever tried to play all the instruments to compose music?
Wally Badarou: I play guitar, bass, percussion, vibraphone, melodica, flute, organ, acoustic piano of course, I've never limited myself indeed.
Flashmag: Have you ever had in your career people who didn’t believe in your potential? if so how did you handle these skeptics? as an African it has happened to you at least once in your career I'm sure?
Wally Badarou: Any new project has always been a risk-taking for those who proposed it to me, and the possibility that I am not at the level was always part of the equation, in my mind at least, whatever my precedent successes I could stand on. That's the beauty of our businesses. glories and fortunes are doing nothing, you're never sure of anything. But far from being a handicap, I have always found it rather a motivating challenge.
Flashmag: You touched on all styles of music, nowadays when you are given a project what decides you to take the challenge?
Wally Badarou: Too many things to be summarized in a response. Each case is specific and involves artistic elements, aesthetic, ethical, friendly, moral, social, family, financial, what do I know, of all types and in all combinations. But today, in truth, I devote myself to only one project: my trilogy is far from over.
Flashmag: Speaking of the future since 2009 you have not published any solo work is there any hope to hear hope a new album of Wally Badarou in the future? do you have any projects you are working on these days, or are simply you simply continue your lecture in universities?
Wally Badarou: Since 2009, I do one thing: The slow and progressive release of "The Unnamed Trilogy", the equivalent of 3 CD, which only 5 titles are now available (online only), and whose " Colors of Silence "(limited release) was just a foretaste. I know, it is extremely slow, but only for the moment.
Flashmag: In closing this interview do you have any advice to give to those who are entering or an in this business already?
Wally Badarou: Yes, as I said. Stay yourself. What we praise on the greatest, beyond their genius is their authenticity. Talents, there are many around us. But when there is genius, it is revealed only by that.
Flashmag: Flashmag readership and say thank you for this interview.
Wally Badarou: All the pleasure was mine
Hi Life Wally Badarou
Interview by Hubert Marlin