I was among the some 11 650 people who gathered at the Bell Centre to see Stromae on June 18th. What is it about him that I find so irresistible?
Warm and cold
I’ve always thought that electro music was for party animals and being the nerdy type, I never thought I could relate to Stromae. Things changed about 10 months ago when a biracial friend posted the Papaoutai video on her Facebook.
47 seconds into the song and I heard this guitar, the same one that is ever-present in Zairian music and in many African songs (think of the African song Waka, Waka covered by Shakira). I used to feel that there was something cheap and easy about Zairian guitar in general. Since this kind of guitar is part of Africa’s musical heritage, I’ve always felt a bit uneasy about not liking it. But everything changed with Papaoutai. The warm sounds from its African guitar wedded with the cold vibe of electro music gave birth to a beautiful sound that overwhelmed me.
In his 2nd album Racine Carrée, other examples of that reconciliation between Africa and the Western world are the songs Ave Evoria – spiced up with a Cape Verdean influence – or Moules frites – with a chorus that has clear African accents. I never really thought of Stromae as African but throughout his show at the Bell Centre, he proved that he was in touch with his black roots sometimes with the intonations of his voice and other times with « tribal » dance moves.
A picture is worth a thousand words
During the show, I also observed that the geometric design of his clothing (including his socks!) was a perfect match to the metallic and futuristic background of the scene. You can tell he and his team are perfectionists!
Strangely, I was expecting him to be less attractive than on TV but he looked just as good. He is very much like a giant puppet or a ken, which makes him look a bit unreal. But the depth of his lyrics attests to his realism and intellectualism. Everything is so contradictory about him: tall height with small measurements, dark-skinned with light eyes, Black from his father’s side and white from his mother’s side. Oh and he sings depressive lyrics over a festive music.
Seeing an individual so full of contrasts encourages me to stand up for my many contradictions without even trying to understand myself. I enjoy listening to his pessimistic lyrics and festive sounds to get the blues and get into a good mood all at one. My favorite songs are: Te quiero, Carmen, Tous les mêmes, Ta fête, Sommeil and Alors en danse. (For some videos and the translated lyrics into English, check out Stromae Youtube channel).