While he was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Black2Black Festival” in March, Stromae answered some questions for Conexaoafrica.
-We know you are from Rwanda, but that you’re also Belgian. Would you like to talk about your childhood, and about your relationship with your dad?
It was a rather modest childhood, in Brussels, but we’ve never missed anything though. We had enough to eat every day, yeah we didn’t have the bright new Nike shoes, that’s for sure, but it went rather well. My father, hm, he went back to Rwanda when I was three. He died in the genocide, but he did round trips back to Belgium, though. I have seen him a few times but actually, I didn’t know him very well. So, for me, a dad was an abstract notion, because, even though I could see what it was in my friends’ families, it was different for me. My older brother took this role a little. But I think the African tint that I’ve had has been created also by, like, a lot of aunts who lived in Brussels, etcetera, who weren’t my family by blood but yeah. They were from Congo, Cameroon … everywhere. So it made an African touch through the European prism. And especially through music.
-Everyone knows about your success, your explosion with “Alors On Danse,” the confirmation with your album Cheese in 2010, then the recognition with Racine Carrée in 2013, so we’d like to know: what’s your point of view about this success that’s first a mix of a lot of different styles, enormous, lightning fast and yet stable, and also inter-generational, because it touches as well children as adults?
Stable: it’s a nice compliment, but I think it’s still difficult to say it after only 2 albums.
Lightning fast: okay that’s true, that’s undeniable, besides, I didn’t choose that. And all I can be is really thankful for all the attention, because I’d like to emphasize that even though it’s always me that people see, there are also a lot of other people who work as much as me, too. But also when I take a look afterwards at last year, I think it made some damage to me, too. I think success is violent, and the word “extraordinary” makes sense as much positively as in the negative way. Because it goes fast, it can hurt a little. But it’s always difficult to complain about it because it’s so positive, and the negative part is so little that it’s always really difficult to see, especially during the euphoria. And I’m not someone who complains a lot, also.
Inter-generational: for me it’s a wonderful compliment. To have a 5-year-old and his grandfather dancing to one of my songs…and then there are parents who feel funny about saying, “Yes, I’m not the right age to listen to your music, but…” Sometimes it makes me feel bad when people who are 2 times older than me, come and apologize for liking my music! Seriously, they can listen to whatever music they want to!
-Jacques Brel, you’re often compared to him…
I often say that I’m sorry for him (laughs). Okay, but yeah it’s a really nice compliment, that’s for sure. To be compared to someone like him, I won’t complain!
-In the album Racine Carrée, there’s a lot of African links, for example this tribute to Cesaria Evora. Is that important for you ?
It was really important, yeah. Also Orelsan, a French rapper, helped me write this song. We wrote it together: it’s at the same time a tribute to Cesaria Evora, but also the story of some crazy guy who thought he had been in love with her but he’s just a fan, liar, and yeah, Orelsan helped me finding the right words I was searching for. It was important for me to make a tribute to her, but also to that kind of music I listen to a lot. I listen to a lot of different styles, like hip hop, french chanson, and my music is like a big mix of everything, it’s important for me to do that.
-You often say Papa Wemba and names like that, in interviews…does Stromae feel more Congolese than Rwandan?
(laughs) Actually, Congolese have dominated African music, even in the world, we have to recognize it. After them, it’s been people from Ivory Coast, then Nigerians now… But there’s always really good musicians everywhere. But yes, there’s also other ones like Franco, Zaho too, especially because it makes you laugh at first but in the end it talks about rather sad topics. But I don’t feel more Rwandan than Congolese.
-You’ve lived in a Belgian (with your Belgian mom) but also African environment, like this little African part created in Belgium.
Yes, I think it’s more the place we lived in, like all my aunts I’ve talked about before, who weren’t even my real family (I discovered it when I grew up), but just my mom’s friends… it taught me that communities, we do arrange them, we make and break them a little when it’s the best for us, I think. Because if I go to Rwanda, I’m seen as white and if I go to Belgium, I’m seen as black. And, it’s true that it’s important to know where we are coming from but we also have to know where we’re going and… knowing who we are first, what we want to live, say, think. I want to visit more and more of course, discover people in general.
-Can you talk about interbreeding like in Brazil for example, since it has been important in the construction of your personality and also in your work?
About Brazil , they are so mixed that finally, we don’t where anyone’s coming from…we can probably find it approximately… And as I said earlier about the fact to make communities, I think it’s normal, it’s human to get close to people who are like us. But I think Brazil is a good example of “big mix,” because it’s also a lot on the historic side, and because… there’s a negative side but also this positive side to be mixed and… yeah…I think it’s really good for us, especially for the mental health.
-Have you ever done concerts in Africa?
Yes I have , but not on the sub-saharan part though. But we’ve planned to come in May/June. We’ll announce that more precisely ASAP.
-Any other projects planned in Africa?
So yeah, first the tour that we’ll announce. And maybe, also a little surprise for the very end of the tour, but I won”t tell anything yet because I hate to promise false things, but I hope it’ll work out and yeah, it’s important for me to go there!
-Last little question a little more ” funny”: do you have a girlfriend?
Yes, I do! (laughs)