Jean-Paul Bourelly

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Spontaneous improvisation, creative blending of elements from diverse music genre and implementation of indigenous /local instruments as well as modern technology contribute to the uniqueness of Jean-Paul Bourelly’s music. In an interview with AFRITOPIC, Jean-Paul talks about his music and project engagements.

Afritopic: Under which category would you list your type of music?

Jean-Paul: In every field of profession, people like to categorize and define. This is also true in the music field. We are breaking the rules of categorization by bringing different musicians from different nations and music backgrounds to produce music. The resulting sound is new with elements ranging from Jazz, Blues, Funk and Soul to Afro Beat. This strategy allows us to grow. It is creative, practicable and functional. We cannot grow if we conform rigorously to a specific music category. It is necessary for us to reinvent and improvise spontaneously. Referring to the music of my band, we hear some people saying, “The music is not pure jazz anymore, not pure soul anymore”. My answer is, “Of course, it is not that anymore. We are moving. We do not want to be stagnant and get stuck to the specifics of a music category. We want to keep moving. Our music is a continuous movement. This is necessary for us and our music to survive”.

Afritopic: How did you get involved in the Black Atlantic project and what did you want to achieve with your concept?

Jean-Paul: The contact was established through my involvement as a conceptualist in The Backroom project at the House of Cultures, Berlin. Stars including Dou Dou N’Diaye Rose, Hassan Hakmoun, Southern India’s drum master Palgut Raguand and Voudou group Ayibobo participated in the events of the project. I was approached and asked to conceive an idea focusing on music that would fit into The Black Atlantic project. Due to the success of The Backroom project and my background as a Haitian that grew up in the southern part of the US and with extensive experience in the New York music scene, I was arguably the best choice to develop a music concept for The Black Atlantic project.

I decided to develop a music program that would portray the richness and diversity of Black Heritage. I wanted to include different musicians from North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and around the globe. In different parts of the world, for example in Brazil, different styles of Blues and Jazz are developed by implementing traditional and local instruments. By so doing, the music is brought to another level, another dimension. I was able to bring musicians together who are masters in their own music genre. Following short rehearsal and sound checks, these musicians including me on the guitar delivered music that took all types of Black music to a new dimension. This is a testimony to our creativity.

I understand music as a combination of elements. I do not have to be an Afro Beat guitarist, Juju guitarist or a Blues guitarist in order to produce harmonious rhythms in an Afro Beat, Juju or a Blues band. All I need to do is to understand the elements of the music the band is playing and deliver elements of my own music that complement the elements of the band’s type of music. This is why I refrain from categorization of music. The Black music has survived and attained worldwide recognition through changes. It is a big challenge to regularly employ creative changes. But we have to take up this challenge in order to survive. We have to continue to change elements of the music before the main stream or the dominating power understands it enough to take it away from us and capitalize on it. Continuous change is the formula to our survival.

Music was a crucial means of communication for Blacks in the slave trade era. It was a means of survival. Today, Blacks in general are still struggling to survive. For survival, we need to be creative. Our creativity has helped us to keep our identity and cultural heritage. The dominating power keeps promising equality. But we are still waiting to see equality being implemented. We have no option other than to be creative in order to survive.

Afritopic: Music was and is definately a means of communication. In which way do you think we could improve communication between people of African descent?

Jean-Paul: We now have other means of communication. A good example is what you “AFRITOPIC” is doing. You are presenting a means to link us together in a network. That is what the main stream media like CNN is doing. One of our problems is lack of information due the difficulty of making information available to people of African descent in different countries around the world. The internet would definitely help to resolve this problem. People who are curious and thirsty of information may now access the internet for their needs. Hopefully, we would have more people like you providing information on the net.

Afritopic: When did you develop interest in music?

Jean-Paul: While growing up in Chicago, I became a lover of the guitar through the influence of Jimi Hendrix’s music. I told my mother about my interest in playing the guitar. She told me to work and save to buy one. So, I worked, saved, bought a guitar and started playing without any conventional training. I was playing on the streets some of the chords from the music I heard until I got to a point that I felt I needed some formal training. I started private lessons and later received a scholarship to study at the University. I did not stay long at the University. I decided to go to New York because all the music artists that I liked were in New York. In New York, I got into the music business and worked together with various artists in particular Jazz music artists. New York was like a melting point of a variety of Black music with ascents derived from African rhythms and multi-languages. My activities in New York played vital role in my career as a music artist.

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Jean-Paul Bourelly

Afritopic 2004


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