with interview, by Nadia Aci.
Jowee Omicil, a man with such a smile and always brilliant interventions, is a Jazzman of his time.
A poly-instrumentist blower of Haitian origin, he lives in Montreal, and travels from festivals to festivals through this world that seems to be his village … Hence the name of his label?
“Let’s BasH!” His latest album is jubilant: it addresses both body and spirit with a clever mix of creole, gospel, soul or folklores of the world, from Colombian Cumbia to Cape Verde passing by almost all the continents.
“JI want jazz to become popular again. ” “Let’s just bash !, it’s my onomatopoeia to say: show love! It’s not an injunction, just a suggestion, “he says. “You have to tell stories with music. Otherwise, it sounds hollow. Music, I do not do it for myself, but for people to find a refuge there, a loophole”.
The musicians who accompany him in this adventure come as his music, from all walks of life:
Kona Kahsu from Liberia (bass),
Jonathan Jurion de la Guadeloupe (claviers),
Jendah Manga (bass) and Conti Bilong (drums) both from Cameroon,
Michel Alibo (bass), Emmanuel Bertholo Tilo (drums), and Justwody Cereyon (bass) from Martinique,
Jean-Phi Dary from French Guiana (keyboards),
Nenad Gajin from Serbia (guitar),
and finally Jeffrey Deen from Canada (percussions)…
Photo ©Couleurs Jazz
Our colleague Nadia Aci has asked 3 questions to Jowee Omicil that we post here:
Nadia Aci : Who has influenced you most musically during your journey?
Jowee Omicil : I was born in Montreal on December 1, 1977. When I was very young, I listened to the singers who were on the radio: René Simard, Ginette Reno, Céline Dion, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Nana Mouskouri… Then came the period Jackson Five, at around 6, and the discovery of hip hop around 9-10 years old : Run DMC, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy… In 1995, I discovered Black Science from Steve Coleman : I felt hovering like a flying carpet! There was also Tutu, from Miles Davis and Marcus Miller… a real slap in the face.
But my greatest influence, in all areas of life, was my father. As a pastor, he wanted me to learn to play an instrument to accompany the assembly. That’s how I started making music, when I was 15 years old. Late for a musician. Until then, I was passionate about sports. I played pingpong, baseball, ice hockey … I was listening to hip hop during these activities, it motivated me. I had not yet understood that the music was in me. I was initially tempted by the piano, but for the harmony of the ensemble I had to choose a wind instrument. I opted for the alto saxophone, then two-three years later my brother offered me a soprano saxophone. I loved Kenny G at that time, I’m not ashamed. I made a lot of covers of his pieces, for weddings, communions, all kinds of events. And then, I discovered Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane… I did not realize before practicing that they also played the soprano. Gradually, from year to year, I began flute, clarinet, and trumpet.
Au fond, ta musique c’est ton expérience. J’ai transposé ce que m’a transmis mon père dans ma musique : son comportement, son éducation, ses mots, ses consignes, ses conseils… Ce que tu es sort de ton souffle. Tes adversités, ton vécu, tes peines, tes joies… tout cela se révèle dans ton son, si tu es honnête. C’est pour ça que j’ai choisi le jazz. J’ai commencé avec la musique classique, mais encore aujourd’hui, si je reprends Basically, your music is your experience. I have transposed what my father has given me in my music: his behavior, his education, his words, his instructions, his advice … What you are comes out of your breath. Your adversities, your lived, your sorrows, your joys … all this is revealed in your sound, if you are honest. That’s why I chose jazz. I started with classical music, but still today, if I play Bach or the 40e Mozart’ symphony, it is always jazzified. I love their melodies, but the groove I hears different. A musician like Mozart clearly traced the road for people like me. He offers us a disturbing melody, and we have to do our trick with it. And jazz is the only language that offers total freedom of expression.
Nadia Aci : If you could go anywhere, in what place would you dream to play?
Jowee Omicil : This is something I often say privately, but today I will publicly admit it:
I would like to go and play in orbit, in space!
An experience : « Jowee in orbit » ! It would be completely global. TEveryone could listen to that sound at that very moment! Every time I speak of it, I make the journey, and I know that one day I will really do it. It will be a mission of space love. Bring everyone together in one agreement. There we can say: “we are together, at that moment we really loved each other.”
Nadia Aci : Do you have a favorite musical venue to share with our readers?
Jowee Omicil : Many places touched me during my career: Cape Verde, Venezuela, Haiti, Montreal … But a moment that really marked me, it is the concert that we did on July 22 in the basilica Of Tabarka, Tunisia, on the occasion of the Tabarka Jazz Festival. I’ve never seen such an audience: 4,000 people with an incredible energy, like a rock concert! I like to live the moment, so the last concert is still the best. The next one is in Mindelo, Cape Verde. If you rest the question on August 6, my answer will be Mindelo. If you rest it on August 16, it will be Martinique, because everything always goes on evolving. Passion must help me to surpass myself every time. I make myself accessible as an instrument, as a sounder, where I play does not matter. Every situation is unique. Every time I play in front of an audience, my set is different, and the last is always the strongest. Our mission is to conquer the souls of people, and we can only be grateful for the grace we have been given to accomplish it. Today, for me, Tabarka was the best concert, and therefore a place to discover. Too many souls …
NB : You can find the “3 questions à…” on Nadias’ blog Hit the Road (but only in French).
Let’s listen to the album “Hit” Couleurs Jazz, on Jazz Village/PIAS label – April 2017.