Exclusive Interview with Andayoma


Andayoma: French Caribbean vibes + Jazz classics + Creole groove!

Singapore’s jazz and world music circuit for 2012 kicked off in fine style with two performances at The Arts House by French-Caribbean singer Andayoma. She was accompanied by Tan Bon Gee on drums, Mario Serio on piano, and Tony Makarome Yue on bass (Tony also plays the mridangam and just returned from playing in Chennai, but that’s another story altogether!).

Born in Paris and of French-Guiana heritage, Andayoma began her musical career in gospel choir, with the Golden Gate Quartet in 2000. The jovial and charismatic singer has been performing in Singapore since 2006, after moving here with her French husband. Andayoma has also played at the Esplanade with Singaporean band “The Alter_Natives.” Her stage name is formed from the names of her two daughters, Andaye and Lheoma.

Andayoma released an album in 2011 called “Palette of Colours” (featuring a dozen accompanying musicians), and included some of the tracks in her Arts House performance. The setting in the Living Room was cozy and comfortable, and Andayoma was as much a charming hostess as entertaining performer. “You are late, darling” she said to a concert goer who walked in after the first song. She sang a birthday song for two friends in the audience, and she even singled me out and sang two Caribbean songs since she knew I was a fan of zouk! One song was also dedicated to “all the men whom I am not supposed to love but love anyway!”

Singaporean jazz vocalist Bevlyn Khoo, who sings in French, also joined Anadayoma for a couple of tracks, especially the memorable “Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher” (“These boots are made to walk”). I picked up a copy of her CD “Bistro Affair” with 14 French songs – more on that in another review.

Smooth, sensuous, and joyous, the performance was the perfect way to begin the 2012 music calendar. The 90-minute set covered a wide range of jazz classics and Caribbean swing, rendered in English, French and Creole – with Andayoma seamlessly switching between French and English. The songs “Caresse Moin,” “Once Upon a Summertime,” “The Man I Love,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” and her French/English interpretation of the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic “Waters of March” really stood out. She ended with the Kassav classic “Kole Sere” and then was joined by Bevlyn Khoo for Pink Martini’s “Sympathique.”

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In an exclusive interview for Jazzuality, Andayoma shares the story of her musical journeys and influences, her experiences in Asia, and trends in the industry.

What’s it like to perform in Singapore and other parts of Asia?
I will surprise you. I went to countries like Canada and French Guiana — the audience was really great and warm. I still do not know why, but I can only make Singaporeans dance and not my people! In Singapore, I am home when I sing. My entourage is super mixed: White, Black, Chinese, Malay — and I just like it. I show off my knowledge of Chinese by saying Ni hao ma? Wo shi fa guo ren!

A part of rhythm, music is a language. I am cool, I will never put people in a difficult situation if they cannot get the Caribbean and Latino rhythm. It also good for me in order to adapt myself to others. I don’t want to stay too much in my comfort zone.

What are some highlights of your experiences here?
My first Concert at the Alliance Francaise in 2002, and at the Waterfront at the Esplanade in 2009. My first album “Palette of Colours.” The musicians here are very respectful and very patient. They taught me everything. I am a ‘Made in Singapore’ singer!

Do you fuse jazz sound with Asian sound as well?
I haven’t tried yet, but I am thinking of the erhu.

I love zouk, especially bands like Kassav which I heard during my college days in the US! What is the status of zouk music these days? Do your songs include zouk as well?
I am impressed! Zouk is still very strong in France, in the Caribbean. There is also zouk in lusophone and anglophone Caribbean Islands. There are a lot of bands. Yes, it is my niche in Singapore and I compose very classic jazz in Creole.

Who are some of your favourite jazz musicians?
Dianne Reeves, Billy Holiday.

Who are your favourite French Caribbean stars?
Kassav — and if you listen to the lyrics, some are really good. Also Exile One, Malavoi, Ralph Tamar, Joseph Mondesir. They just don’t talk about love. They draw life – do you see what I mean? [flickr id=”6688318569″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”center”]

What music influences did your family have?
My unfaithful grandfather was known as a brilliant musician. I would play clarinet and the banjo. None of his kids took music lessons. It was a curse: fame, money, unfaithfulness — and he would rather pay for his friends than for his own family!

What music did your parents listen to, and what music did they encourage you to play?
My father would kill us with his meringue and other Latino music. I was listening to Lionel Richie, Whitney Huston, carnival music, French songs, Earth Wind and Fire — and of course zouk! My mother would listen to Chopin. I can’t remember if I ever listened to a jazz album then, or I was not aware. I got to be consciously aware of jazz only when I reached Singapore.

What new album are you working on?
The first song is “I’ll love you till I love you no more.” I am trying to express the truth. Love is not an easy task. And the ‘happily ever after’ is in fairy tales and I hate it. The album will talk about us, our human strengths and weaknesses. But I need to look inside of me sometimes and it is not always nice!

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What are your thoughts on smooth jazz and lounge music?
It does not help jazz at all or maybe it does! It may popularise jazz because it is actually not very popular and some people find jazz boring and for intellectuals. Smooth jazz and lounge music look like Chinese restaurants in France (I will deny I said that!). Jazz and classical music have become kind of unreachable for many people. You can dance to jazz if you dare.

But Hotel Costes and Buddha Bar from Paris are very popular worldwide!
Buddha Bar I do not like. Maybe I prefer Hotel Costes. Maybe I should keep my opinion to myself, I am a very conservative mother!

[flickr id=”6685715705″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”small” group=”” align=”left”]How much musical mixing happens between French and Spanish Caribbean music?
Your favourite “Same Same but Different.” We usually use the same instruments but the rhythms and languages are different: merengue, soca, reggae, zouk, salsa. Look at jazz as well: same “slavery stories,” same instruments. America came up with bebop, jazz, work songs, gospel — and the French Caribbean came up with beguine, mazurka and so on.

And what about mixing between between Caribbean and French forms like chanson?
We kind of have French Caribbean chansons! Very introverted. We moved on. Joseph Mondesir gave it a new pulse and the energy of a young singer.

What was the inspiration for your first album? What were some highlights in producing it?
The idea of Palette of Colours was born when my grandma reached 100 years old. The inspiration was looking at my kids growing, my friends suffering. Expatriation is not always easy for women (men as well). I discover that I love singing, I just like it. I am kind of shy. I do not express my opinion to a lot people. I am better in a one-to-one relationship. But when I sing I can share my point of view and it is like in church, you cannot stop the pastor to say, “I do not agree!”

The highlight was a betrayal from someone I like! Also my faith, stubbornness, and pride (that’s not good!). And the musicians. It is the only moment when we just do not “sin!” The second album will really need a musical direction.

Tell us more about where you grew up, how you came to Singapore, and why this is your new home!
I grew up in Paris, then I went to French Guiana when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was living first in my grandma’s house. Kids would ask for fairy tales. I would ask her: Grandma, tell me how grandpa was so mean to you, how difficult was it to raise 7 children? She would say, I just love it — and I would sleep peacefully! My aunty would tell me, aren’t you sick?!

As a good wife, I followed my husband here from France, that is how I came to Singapore. I don’t have to get along with all Singaporeans — but the ones I know, we can speak about everything, I have a good laugh. You have to have a good sense of humour! Some are a bit stiff sometimes, but so what. I am maybe too liberal for some of them. I don’t think I want to leave the country, I will have to find a Singaporean husband if my French husband wants to leave! Ooooops! And I love the sun…

What do you miss the most about the Caribbean?
The food! The rice with red beans and fried bananas…

What made you attracted to jazz when you were in Singapore, instead of pop or rock or some other kind of music?
It suits my personality. There are waves in jazz. I like to hear the progression of the chords. Rock and me – forget it! I could have sung pop songs but I really believe that jazz came to me naturally. Jazz has this honesty and I mean every word I sing. I found classical music too stiff for me even though it can be very beautiful.

How did you go about learning jazz?
It’s a mix. Babes Conde started giving me singing lessons and she strengthened my interpretation of the melody. Mario Serio is teaching me the vocabulary of jazz. Dr. Thomas Manhart and Stella Zhou are also in my singing journey.

Was it difficult to pick up jazz in the middle of your music career?
The musical language of jazz is something I have to get used to in order to interact with the musicians. Of course I have doubts because of my age, but only a few doubts!

What is about jazz that makes it easy to ‘fuse’ with other forms like Caribbean and chanson?
In my humble opinion, Creole has something French language does not have. The simplicity of the words, the sound of the words maybe.
Allow me the following example. Three languages:  I will use Present, Past, and future of the verb “to love.”
French  – Je t’aime, je t’aimais, je t’aimerai
English – I love you, I loved you, I will love you
Creole – Mo kontan to, Mo te kontan to, Mo ke Kontan to
Love and kontan do not change. But don’t get me wrong, French is a beautiful language! What I am saying maybe biased as well.

Do you also sing about race, politics and gender? How can music help address issues of bias and discrimination in society?
Progressively, I am addressing these issues in my songs. As a Black Caribbean woman I am not shy to sing about race, the ungratefulness of society (eg. the track Roots in my album Palette of Colours). Being discriminated does not affect only Black people; being a bad person is not the trademark only of White people. Cowardice and stupidity are good friends to us all. That’s what I would like to say in a very jazzy way.

What is your message to the audience?
I have four kids, the fourth one’s name is Music and I would like  to share that with you. Thank you! My warmest French Caribbean kisses..

Album: Palette of Colours
Label: Plaza Mayor Company
Artiste: Andayoma
Released: 2011
Tracks: 9
Duration:37 minutesTrack listing:
I Don’t Know
Nou Te Ka Vibre
Caresse Moin – Marie-Jose Alie
My Child
But Not For Me – George Gershwin
You’re So Lonely
I Just Wanna Be
I Can’t Resist You


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Interviewed by Madanmohan Rao  on January 12, 2012 in Singapore
Editor & DJ, World Music and Jazz; Bangalore
Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com

– The first photo was taken from Andayoma Singapore’s Facebook
– The photos in Singapore were taken by Madanmohan Rao
– The rest were taken from Andayoma’s official Myspace


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