Tell me about growing up and how music played a role in your life as a child? Music was all around me. In my culture it was very important. Everyone around me played music all the time. We play music to celebrate, to mark a death, to reconcile with others. In my part of Africa music is all around you. It’s so much a part of your life that music just pulses through you. You understand its sensibilities. It’s a part of you.
When did you first start getting into music? I was raised in a musical culture. Everyone in my entire family is a musician of some sort. My parents both used music as a part of their livelihood. My father was a traditional medicine man and my mother was a singer and dancer who helped people to resolve disputes through music. We were able to get ahold of music from other places and I loved to listen to good music of all kinds. I particularly loved Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. When I was 8 or 9 years old my parents started to record their traditional music. We of course didn’t have access to a studio but we had a stereo cassette recorder. They would carefully record an entire album on that tape recorder and I would hold the beat by taping a drinking glass or a coke bottle. I wasn’t into their style of music. I wanted to listen to my pop or reggae heroes. My father said, this kind of music will come back to you later. Someday you’ll understand it and crave it. He also said that he knew that someday i would sing all the time. He was right of course.
What excites you most about music and being able to be an artist? Music brings you joy. Its also a way to give messages and say things that are important to the world in a way that people will really listen to. To be a good musician you have to be a good communicator. To express things to people without creating division. It’s not what you say, but how you say it that allows you to get through to others. I love that I have the opportunity to do that and I love seeing the way that people love our music.
You’re an athlete and musician how do you manage both and be able to dedicate 100 percent to them? I approach both music and sports the same way. You have to give everything and work harder then anyone else to be a champion in either profession. That being said, I’m still an athlete but I’ve stopped competing at this point. To maintain the level of a champion athlete you need to train constantly and it would leave no time for music. I had many of the same goals in professional athletics as i do through music. To inspire people and connect with them. In athletics however, you work hard and you either Win or you don’t win and that defines your success. In music the audience either likes you or they don’t and that defines your success. So in music it’s a race to reach and connect up with your audience.
Can you describe the feeling that you get when you perform on stage? It’s amazing. there’s no feeling like it, except perhaps winning a race. When you get onstage you change totally. You’re bigger then life for a few moments because that’s your moment to become the very best you can be. To express yourself fully in a way that is separate but a part of the experience the audience has. When you perform you finally have a chance to communicate with people you really love purely to be pure love for them and to communicate with a kind of truth you can’t bring to any other part of your life. I love so many people in my life. I really love people in general in fact. I really love seeing the audience react with pure joy to a performance. I have a habit of inviting audience members up on stage or leaping into the audience which makes the security people at bigger venues really upset. (Laughs) I just love sharing my music with all of the joyful fans in the audience. It’s hard to express how wonderful it is to know that all of your hard work in rehearsals is making people so happy.
What up and coming projects are you working on now that you can update your fans on? We are almost done recording a new album entitled “Faso” or “Homeland” in English. Its my third solo album and the first since forming this band and I’m really proud of it. Many of the members of my band K-Bass and Farafina Musiki, contributed to it and while the message of the music in all of my albums is always meaningful and the rhythms are always strong. With Faso we’ve raised the bar technically however. I think our current fans will really love it. We hope to release it later this year or early next. In other news, I recently returned from a trip to Africa where I did some media appearances to introduce my music to the Ivory Coast and surrounding regions. The response has been very positive and we will follow it up with much more soon. We have a couple of big concerts coming up too, including a benefit for Imagine No Malaria, an international Malaria relief foundation. As you may know Malaria is a very serious problem in Africa.
Why this career and not something else? Music has always been with me. It’s always been a part of me. Whatever I do I sing, just as my father told me so many years ago. We have a saying in Bambara which translates as. “Music is not a serious thing because everyone makes music, yet music is for serious people”. What this means is that everyone in my country plays music but only the most serious musicians can make an impact on many and be taken seriously as a musician. I’m more than serious about music. It’s my passion, my joy and my life’s blood. I was born to make music.
What ultimate goal are you trying to achieve with your music career? Of course I want the quality of my music to be better and better with each album and each performance. I want as many people as possible to hear what I have to say. Just to stop and listen to my messages and understand. I want to give people perspective. I want people to say “I relate to what he’s saying.” Most importantly, I want to use my music to help to fight poverty, injustice and discrimination in this world. Poverty is the worst problem we, as a human race, have. Whatever I gain, I will turn it around and find ways to help others with it. The more people hear me the more i will work to inspire others to help one another. If you’ve experienced going to bed hungry as a kid you can’t let that happen to someone else if you can help it, the more Each of us has, the more we can give.
So many people suffer hardships, from financial hardships to a feeling of loneliness or hopelessness. I want to tell people with my music that they are not alone, that they can find a way to succeed. That they can find a way to better themselves and I want to help them to be joyful and just abandon themselves to the magic of good music