Stromae completed six of the eight scheduled dates of his 2015 African tour before he was unfortunately forced to cut the tour short for health reasons. Here’s our report on the African tour, which was updated as it unfolded.
Stromae has arrived in Dakar, Senegal for the first date of his 2015 African tour. The stage is ready for tomorrow night’s show!
Stromae held a press conference today in Dakar. We’ve translated a few excerpts from the video below.
“I’m a little apprehensive, obviously. As with every continent we’ve been on, in any case that I know less well than the one I grew up on, so… because I’m scared of the unknown, so… I’m pretty rigid and calculating, so when I’m faced with the unfamiliar I lose my way a little bit. It’s obviously the unknown that makes me a little scared. But it’s the excitement obviously, as with each time we go on stage, it’s unexpected. So it’s positive, it’s great.”
He tells us that it was Romain Bilharz, artistic director for Island France and Island Africa, who invited him to come to Africa in 2013 to “unblock” himself. “Because I have a little trouble working with other musicians, he had to force me a little.” He has good memories of the trip. After meeting some other musicians (he mentions “Tibass” in particular by name–see photo below), he did some recording. He mentions a kora player (he doesn’t say his name, but it was Noumoucounda Cissoko) from whom he recorded a sample that he used on “Bâtard.” He talks too about enjoying evenings out on his previous visit to Dakar and Abijan, drawing knowing chuckles from his fellow musician, friend, and production partner Didier Awadi (who he worked with in 2013 and who also served as promoter for the concert in Dakar), but says he’ll spare us the details.
In response to the question “Why come?” he replies “Everywhere they want me, I come.” “Particularly, because on this album, musically Africa is certainly hyper-important, so it’s hyper-important for me to come here.”
He discusses a little of the reasons why the team chose these particular countries, ending with “We’re trying to go more or less everywhere, of course our priority is French-speaking countries, even if we’ll go other places for particular reasons…it’s a way of condensing our trip here in the best way, while trying not to displease anybody.”
He takes a moment to clarify that “Carmen” is not an criticism of Twitter or of social media in general, “It’s just a kind of warning about our behavior on social media, it’s not an attack on the social media particularly. Poor social media, it’s not their fault if we behave like that on them.”
“I don’t have a message. I tell stories, and then everyone pulls what he wants to pull from the stories that I tell…I tell the story of humanity, in fact. That’s all I do, no more, no less…To live together, that’s all…it’s just a slice of life, that’s all.”
He talks about encountering a new audience: “I confess that, as with all the audiences I discover, necessarily, yes, I’m apprehensive, of course, because I don’t know how they’re going to react, I don’t know if they’re going to laugh at my jokes…well, with that, in general, if they don’t laugh, I’m pretty happy. But no, I’m apprehensive, even if there’s a real enthusiasm…you never know how it’s going to go.” He says he’s apprehensive in the United States too, even though the situation is different there because his work in the U.S. is “a project in development.” While “here, there’s an expectation…there are people who know ‘Papaoutai,’ but don’t necessarily know Stromae, there are people who know Stromae, and there are plenty of others. So this is the audience that I’m going to try to meet, to greet, to get along with, and then to convince…I have to prove myself, in fact.”
In another interview, Didier Awadi, local promoter of the Dakar show, says that Stromae wanted to start the tour in Senegal because of his “good memories” of his first trip there in 2013. Awadi promised “a high-level show” tomorrow in Dakar, comparable to the artist’s shows in Europe or the United States.
On May 15, Stromae arrived in Cape Verde in preparation for his performance at the Gamboa Festival in the town of Praia the next day.
At a press conference, Stromae expressed how touched he was to be in Cesaria Evora’s homeland. “Obviously, due to Cesaria Evora, I’m very touched to be here. I haven’t had the time yet to discover everything, but I quickly understood why I was so moved by her (when I met her),” the artist explained before tearing up.
During his performance in Cape Verde, Stromae even descended briefly from the stage into his very enthusiastic audience, which included many younger children.
He even had the chance to meet Cesaria Evora’s grandson after the concert. Joao Pedro Evora wrote on Instagram, “Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for this WONDERFUL concert and the MAGNIFICENT performance of AVE CESARIA I was just uncontrollable lol..you are without equal and I will even dare to say that you are THE Michael Jackson of our time. I really hope to see you again soon to finish our conversation.”
In Cameroon on May 18, Stromae expressed how he’s excited to be in Africa, and how being there is bringing up many emotions for him as he discovers what he calls “the other part that is in me.” “When I was in Cape Verde I cried a lot, feeling all these very heavy emotions. Whether it’s onstage, or even in a press conference, or even all alone at home…but it’s not even sadness, it’s really a mixture of a lot of things. A kind of homecoming.” Although he’s been too busy to do very much cultural exploration, he seems excited to mention his discovery of the Cameroonian artist Jovi, in particular his song “Et P8 Koi” which he says he “likes a lot.” The song’s title roughly translates to “so what,” and its message addresses problems caused by stereotypes and tribalism in Cameroon. As far Stromae’s future plans, he says there is a “strong chance” that he will return to Africa after he finishes the American leg of his tour this year. Watch the interview here.
We also learned that a French company called Code Films is working on a documentary film called “Stromae African Tour,” which will explore both the personal and professional sides of this tour that is so important to Stromae. See their work in the video “Cities” which explores Abijan through the eyes of Ivorian singer Serge Beynaud.
There were some bumps in the road pre-show in Douala, Cameroon. Even as the stage was being set up and the musicians were testing their equipment, workers were filling in a large hole in the ground just in front of the stage.
But in the end, the show went on successfully.
Stromae descended into the crowd as he had in Cape Verde:
Here’s a video taken from the side of the stage by David Claverie, who is apparently part of the film crew for the 2015 African tour. Watch to the end for an interesting view of sound engineer Johan Milet working the board during “Merci,” and Stromae working the crowd (even climbing the scaffolding a little)!
When Stromae and his team arrived for the next date of the African tour in Abijan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on May 20, they were greeted by an incredible surprise. About 60 locals cheered from the roadsides (wearing the colors of the official sponsor of the Abijan concert, MTN) as traditional drummers drummed. The local Stromae Fan Club also dressed in traditional costumes and even performed some dance steps.
Watch this video to get the full effect of the royal welcome in Abijan!
On May 22, Stromae appeared in an interview on the stage of the television show “C’Midi” in Abijan. In Part 1, the National Ballet of Côte d’Ivoire performs on the set to welcome him.
In Part 2, after the interviewer asks for his thoughts on a clip on the history of the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, Stromae replies that as he sees it, this story is not only the story of Africa, but of the world.
“C’est horrible. Et ce n’est pas une chouette case en effet. C’est horrible, ça m’a touché et ça me touche encore de voir qu’on n’arrive pas encore tout à fait à vivre ensemble en fait. Et ça c’est vraiment diffi… (It’s horrible. And that isn’t a great box as a matter of fact [referring to the numbered box on the screen that the presenter just showed him]. It’s horrible, it touched me, and it still touches me, to see that we haven’t managed to live together yet, in fact. And that’s really diffi…)”
Breaking down in tears and then collecting himself, he apologizes and explains: “Pardon, pardon, pardon. En fait c’est bizarre parce que ça fait déjà trois fois que je pleure en emission, en interview. Je suis désolé pour ça. Ca m’est arrivé quand je suis arrivé au Cap Vert. En gros, le guide nous expliquait que peu importe d’où on vient, le Cap Vert, on est tous concerné indirectement par cet endroit-là. Peu importe la couleur. C’était tellement fort et lourd… A chaque fois que je dis qu’on n’arrive toujours pas à vivre ensemble, j’en pleure, parce que c’est vrai. (Pardon, pardon, pardon. In fact it’s bizarre, because that makes three times already that I’ve cried during a broadcast, in an interview. I’m sorry about that. That happened when I arrived on Cape Verde. Roughly, the guide was explaining to us that no matter where we come from, Cape Verde, we are all affected indirectly by that place. No matter what color. It was so hard and heavy…every time I say that we still haven’t managed to live together, I cry, because it’s true.)”
“Et le vivre ensemble, vous le prônez partout où vous passez dans cette tournée? (And living together, you preach it wherever you go on this tour?)” asks the presenter.
“J’essaie (I try), oui, j’essaie,” answers Stromae.
UPDATE June 2: Stromae returns for his next date in Africa on June 6. Here’s a little video message posted by The Agency, which is promoting his June 10 concert in Brazzaville, Congo:
Un petit message de la part de @stromae à la #team242. Ils vous attend à son concert le 10 juin au palais des congrès. #congo #afrique #brazzaville #pointenoire #concert #musique #stromae #music #genre #song #songs #pop #love #instagood #beat #beats #party #partymusic #lovethissong #remix #favoritesong #bestsong #photooftheday #repeat #listentothis #goodmusic #instamusic
Translation: “Brazzavillians, hello. This is Stromae, and I want to invite you to the concert that I will give on June 10 at the Palais des Congrès. So please, come one, come all (literally, ‘come numerous’). And…see you very soon.”
It’s interesting to note that Stromae uses both the feminine and masculine forms for “Brazzavillians” and “numerous.” It’s standard for French-speakers to just use the masculine form and consider everyone covered. But Stromae typically uses both forms of a word, making a special effort to include women and girls whenever he speaks.
The show on in Libreville, Gabon took place on June 6, two years to the day after the video for “Papaoutai” was released. That video introduced us to Karl-Ruben Noel, who was just shy of 12 years old when he played the role of Stromae’s son in the video.
The audience in Libreville received an extra-special treat to mark the 2nd anniversary of the clip: Karl-Ruben, who is a professional dancer under the name Rubix Criminalz, was carried out to the stage with Stromae to perform “Papaoutai.” Just days away from his 14th birthday, Karl-Ruben exploded onstage, first dancing alone during the second chorus while Stromae remained frozen in his mannequin pose.
On the next verse, Karl-Ruben stood motionless as Stromae came alive. After taking several turns alternately freezing and dancing, the two danced a reprise of the video choreography together. During the makossa/congolese extended remix at the end of the song, the two danced together, grinning like a couple of kids at a birthday party, and Stromae even handed the microphone over to Karl-Ruben to sing “où t’es t’es.” “Il est gabonais alors!” (So he’s Gabonese!) chanted Stromae. As Karl-Ruben waved the flag of Gabon, Stromae made the point again: “Il est d’ici, de chez vous.” (He’s from here, from your home). “This isn’t my real son, but this is the real son from the ‘Papaoutai’ video, ladies and gentlemen!” “Ruben! Ruben! Ruben!” chanted Stromae as Karl-Ruben basked in the spotlight, grinning, draped in the Gabonese flag.
Karl-Ruben also appeared onstage with Stromae and his musicians for the final a cappella at the end of the concert:
Despite their age difference, the mutual respect between the two artists is obvious, and their shared affection highly touching. Karl-Ruben tell the story of how he came to play the role of Stromae’s son this way:
“The choreographer Marion Motin knew my brother Deyvron and contacted him for me to do an audition. I was selected and I went with him to Belgium. It was magic, the studio, everything…this experience was crazy and unforgettable. I ate well! (laughs) The choreography of the clip is a mix of ideas from Marion, Stromae and myself. Stromae is nice, he is a character that’s true, but what you see on TV is also really him. Even what he says in his lyrics, that’s what he is. “
On June 9, the day before his concert in Brazzaville, Congo, Stromae had the chance to meet some some local “sapeurs.” These Congolese dandies’ style is one of the inspirations of Stromae’s personal style. Coralie Barbier, designer of Mosaert’s clothing line, has also mentioned being inspired by Congolese “sape” for Mosaert’s pieces, which Stromae wears regularly.
The name “sape” comes from “Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elégantes (Society of Tastemakers and Elegant Persons)” and is influenced by the French verb “saper,” “to attire.” Photographer Baudouin Mouanda has spoken of the role of the sapeurs following the Congolese civil war: “For the traumatized population, the attraction of the sapeurs was to show that you had to have hope. Their message was, ‘We didn’t get dressed up to stay at home! We have been spared by the hostilities and we are lucky to be alive. There’s no point in fighting; we can talk and take each other by the hand.’ The sapeurs often advocate this peaceful message. That’s why I, as a photographer, wanted to follow them. Images travel and spread messages. I want to show that a joyful Africa exists.”
Dressed by Gueye Mamadou, Stromae paraded in the streets and shared a moment with the sapeurs around a beer.
Stromae has had the opportunity on this tour of Africa to explore in more depth some of its many cultural aspects that fascinate him. Stromae’s exploration of Congolese “sapologie” comes after he also, in Senegal, tried the traditional art of Senegalese wrestling. His interest was probably sparked by Yékini, which he described as “a beautiful 400-page comic book about Senegalese wrestling with the entire history of contemporary Senegal woven in.”
Onstage in Brazzaville on June 10, Stromae was joined by Congolese artist Casimir Zoba, known as Zao. Zao performed his song “Soulard,” which was part of the inspiration for Stromae’s “Formidable.”
Here’s a moment from the concert in Brazzaville that has Stromae making one of his clever puns onstage. This time it’s between “avec les bras levés (with the arms up),”which is what he usually says during this part of “Alors On Danse,” and “avec les Brazza levés (with the people of Brazza up).”
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Unfortunately, the concert in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was to take place on June 13, was canceled. See our report on the cancellation here.
Unfortunately, the much-anticipated eighth and final African concert in Kigali, Rwanda, which was to take place on June 20, has also been canceled due to Stromae’s health concerns. See our translation of the cancellation announcement from Stromae’s management here. His time in Rwanda was to have been important both professionally and personally for Stromae, and this premature end of the African tour is a tremendous disappointment for many.
There is no word yet on whether the Rwanda show will be rescheduled, but organizer Judo Kanobana of Positive Productions remains optimistic.
In a press conference on June 16th, Kanobana said “Stromae has always said that Rwanda is special to him; his falling sick doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the Rwandan concert. We’re definitely sure that he will come but we can’t say when.”