Today we have Marius Billgobenson with us and in this exclusive interview you will get to know a lot of things about him and his music. So, here we go;
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Read Marius Billgobenson Interview
Q1 How did you come into music industry?
Ans: I come into music industry because I have had a burden to voice, the burden that made me shine for silenced voices. There are times, when you aspire to achieve something, and all the forces are against you, however, some amongst them touch you so hard that you become someone you never imagined. I believe that Jazz creates a platform for people, and leads them to the right decision. Additionally, jazz can be used as a weapon to fight for civil rights, which will salvage the forest groups by calling for political actions on the marginalized communities.
Being far away from home changed my realities about life after, especially after failing to achieve my long expected dreams. I started working harder and saving more to actualize my dreams. Dozens of years passed and music remained the only thing resolved to, and I put all my efforts towards it, while still working for the Congo Embassy in Sweden. I had dreamed of own producing my music, due to lack of resources, and I picked StudioPros in Los Angeles to produce my music while still in Sweden. By use of modern technology, it was possible. Today, I can access the best studio technicians, engineers, while CD Baby is publishing my music.
Q.2 Who was your inspiration for music?
Ans: When I was being raised at a place near Congo River Basin, most are the times I witnessed the performance of the polyphonic singing by humble Babongo Pygmies, whom I refer to as happy men from the nearby woodlands. I could not deny the impact of the brilliant souvenirs in my childhood experience. However, the passion for their culture and music kept on invoking questions on the possibility of committing my voice one day to reveal to the world about the prominent traditional community. In spite of that, the guitar lessons from the missionaries and my father who led the gospel choir in the village played a part in my music roots.
Another great who scanned my mind remains Herbie Hanccock in Head hunters, using bamboo whistle actually used by the pygmy head hunter during their hunting sessions. I found that experience fascinating, while building Jazz from such an instrument. I actually repeated and released the same experience, building my song Baye Baya from use of the same instrument.
Q.3 What is the name of your debut song?
Ans: The name of my debut song is Sun Shine, which will be released in my next album.
Q.4 Say something about your musical journey?
Ans: As a young man, I was one of the musicians in a youth organization at my church called CBE, while I had an opportunity to lead a music tour with my gospel choir in Scandanavia. During the trip, we stayed with Peter Sandwall, a renowned pianist from Sweden. Sandwall and others encouraged my choir to perform some more traditional songs in our repertoire of jazz and gospel, and we reorganized the choir’s repertoire accordingly while on the road. We altered our repertoire to include mostly traditional songs mixed with modern instruments. Over 70 audiences throughout Scandinavia enthusiastically received our music.
After witnessing the fascination of foreigners for the traditional music of my culture, I began to search for recordings of roots music in TV and radio stations in Brazzaville. My search was unsuccessful, since most of the musicians at the time were playing and recording imported styles. This led me to engage my search in the rural areas, and I found that Forest People held the roots of the music I was seeking.
After graduating in 1993, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in South Africa, where I witnessed Zulu musicians performing their traditional music. I perceived that it was well-publicized and well-received in South Africa and the rest of the world. I saw the need for encouraging people in my own country to follow this example.
In 1996, I collaborated with the US Cultural Center in Brazzaville to organize a cultural exchange exhibition. During the exhibition, I played traditional instruments and performed with Pharaoh Sanders, a prominent African-American saxophonist. Sanders, who played and recorded with John Coltrane and many other jazz greats, Sanders expressed to us his interest in our traditional music, including the Pygmy people. Although Sanders was unable to meet any Pygmies because of the difficulty in reaching them in the deep forest, but the conversation left a strong impression in my mind.
In 1997, a civil war broke out in Brazzaville. After the fighting abated, I obtained a special permission from the Minister of Arts and Culture, and went deep into the forest. I selected a band of 15 Pygmy musicians from seven different tribes and brought them to the city for a month tour, where we had the opportunity to perform several shows and workshops in collaboration with the French Cultural Centre. I called the group Silambam’, which means “live with my fire.” An old Pygmy man named Mbou, a famous storyteller and musician in Pygmy areas gave this charge to me. This man, whom I now affectionately refers to as “Silambam’”, gave me this torch to carry. he responsibility to save the dying flame of Pygmy culture so that future generations would know the songs, stories, knowledge, and history of their ancestors.
Yet I perceived a break in the information that is passed down through oral tradition in deep Africa, and the knowledge from one of Earth’s most ancient cultures might be lost very soon. I did not take my charge to “live with my fire” lightly, especially upon learning later that my friend Silambam’, a key source of ancient knowledge, had died.
Silambam’s performances in Pointe-Noire combined a demonstration of Pygmy lifestyles and some of my original songs played with Pygmy percussion. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that a display of Pygmy culture had ever been presented in Congo. They were well received by audiences, journalists, and organizations such as the Lions Club. From that experience, I earned a special recognition for my efforts from ACNU (the UN Association for the Promotion of Human Rights in Congo), the Congolese Art and Cultural Minister, the French Cultural Centre, and the Regional Cultural Minister in Pointe-Noire.
After seeing the positive response from the Silambam’ project, I thought it was important to document the Pygmies in the forest. With equipment donated by sponsors from Sweden, I spent about three months researching in the forests near Zanaga before my supplies ran out. Another civil war began towards the end of 1998, and my uncle and I decided to return to our villages. On the way, a gang of vagrant youths attacked us, stole my clothes and equipment, and beat me severely. They took my cameras, but luckily did not take all of the film or my documents, and I was able to salvage some my research until today.
From what I had learned abroad about the enthusiasm for traditional African music, I believed I could create an organization that would host artists from other countries in order to promote a cultural exchange and give exposure to the artists and musicians from deep Africa at: afriqueprofonde.org
Through the help of Justin Perkin and Ayari De La Rosa artists respectively from the United States and Mexico, Afrique Profonde established an office in the US in order to facilitate communication and administration. Beginning in June 2002, Afrique Profonde was proud to host the first International Artist in Residency Program in the Republic of Congo and Central Africa.
For lack of stability in the country though with presence of many rebels at time in the jungle. I was unable to continue my activity and moved from the country, where Sweden become what I call home.
Q.5 Who helped you most in your journey?
ANs: Well, as you may have noticed, along my long journey I met amazing people in my path, always ready to help, as they could. Not to list all of them, but Swedish pianist Micke Haglund, vocalist Karolina Karner and Teresa Pirelli, guitarists Conrad Boqvist and Patric Skog or sound engineer Markus Enghag at Sound Vision remain an exception. Last but not least remain my producer Kati O’Toole and all the team at StudioPros in LA.
Q.6 Who gave you some pieces of advices?
Finally, actually away from my native Congo and through the guidance of David Randle, my songwriting coach from LA,
Q.7 What do you do for fun?
Away from my musical activity, swimming, biking, sauna with friends and walk with my wife remain the mean activities for me.
Q.8 Let us know something about your future projects
Ans: Above all I would like to restart residency program between artists and scholars from the west at the middle of forest People down in the Congo, to promote knowledge sharing and inspiration to create new bodies in the field of art and music.
Q.9 What is your message to your fans?
Ans: Well, as a Fan my closer friend, I just wanted to keep you posted that there’s no music without you engagement presence. Therefore, I would like to invite you to subscribe to my mail list facilitate our communications. Do visit my website at billgobenson.com or explore my music from Radio Airplay at jango.com and become Fan but don’t forget to provide me with your email address please. I am so thankful and feel happy thanks because You exist. Therefore, let’s make each other SHINE and spread LOVE and HOPE to ALL!
Q.10 Any message to new artists?
Ans: To new artists, far from making a dictation for the purpose of their projected journey, I just would like to stress that a musician is and remains one of the instructors in our society at first stage. In addition, the role of music in the construction and the negotiation of identity and of place is becoming more and more essential in our society. Let’s be a force together!