Joined: 31 Dec 1969
Location: HMI World
|Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:07 pm Post subject: EMELINE MICHEL (MARCH 1999)...KOMPA MAGAZINE ISSUE 9!
Interview conducted by Patrick Desvarieux
She is known as the Queen of Haitian music. This is our interview with the very private Haitian Diva that originally appeared in issue 9 of our sister publication KOMPA! MAGAZINE. In this "KM Classics" interview, Emeline talks about motherhood (She gave birth in October 2000 to a baby boy), being a star, diva, her separation from Papa Jube, her opinion on other Haitian female artists, sex, and much more. This is Emeline "The Queen" Michel in her most personal interview ever. Grab a seat and enjoy. (Interview conducted in March 99). A KM Classic.
K.M.: What have you been up to? We havenâ€™t heard or seen too much of you since your last album came out in 1996? Whatâ€™s the lowdown on Emeline?
Emeline: (Laughs) A lot. I was going through a time where I needed to reinvent myself. Sometimes you get too caught up in trying to do too many shows and you end up not realizing that youâ€™re giving them the same performance all the time. I did not want that to happen to me.
Iâ€™ve been doing a lot of shows, for example I had to prepare for three months for a show that I did in August in France called the "Jazz Festival of Nantes" where 10.000 people on a bridge called the Pont Moran attended. It was one of the best shows that Iâ€™ve ever experienced. Iâ€™ve also been working for the last three years on my new album, my baby entitled "Kimbe La". I think itâ€™s going to be a very good representation of me. A lot of personal and professional things that I have gone through recently have made me stronger. These experiences have made me discover a lot of things about life that I needed to know. (She bursts out laughing and says no when we ask her to elaborate) There are a lot of songs in English on my upcoming album and for those that are going to say that Iâ€™ve left my people and culture behind, (She laughs again) I have two or three traditional songs that Iâ€™ve included for them and for my pleasure as well. Itâ€™s going to be a Haitian/American album.
K.M.: Is that the album that you are recording for the giant international music label Sony?
K.M.: When did you start recording the album?
Emeline: Oh my God. Long story. There are songs that Iâ€™ve recorded that wonâ€™t be on this album or any album for that matter. There were inner conflicts with people that Iâ€™ve been working with. Some people think that they can really stop me from being and doing what God wanted me to be. I think itâ€™s impossible. I donâ€™t want to say any names. Thereâ€™s a lot thatâ€™s been going on, even with the record deal I can admit there was a lot of friction. At this point Itâ€™s not about a record deal, Itâ€™s about who you are, who you want to be, what your dream is and how strong you are. (Confidently smiling) Iâ€™m happy that no one can stop me.
K.M.: We heard several unconfirmed reports that you had lost that contract for one reason or another,
whatâ€™s the story?
Emeline: As of today talking to you (Jan 9) I havenâ€™t received a letter telling me that Iâ€™ve been dropped. There are a lot of people who want to see bad things happen to you and that is probably how those rumors got started. I have a lot of people that show me nothing but love and appreciation and I feel very blessed and spoiled. Thank you God. At the same time, you get people that say "I canâ€™t stand her but I donâ€™t know why".
K.M.: Do you think thereâ€™s any reason why certain people would want something bad to happen to you?
Emeline: Weâ€™ve never had any artist that came directly from Haiti thatâ€™s made it big. Wyclef that weâ€™re promoting as the best to ever happen to the Haitian market in a sense thatâ€™s true because heâ€™s worked hard, but Wyclef was raised and went to school in the States, not Haiti. (She pauses) Thereâ€™s a force that we canâ€™t even control. Why do talented Haitian musicians like Ti Manno never make it far? Iâ€™m not afraid. I feel that my life is in Godâ€™s hands. Who ever wants to do something bad to me is going to blow right back in their faces. Iâ€™m Godâ€™s child.
Thereâ€™s a lot of hatred in the business. We donâ€™t have examples of togetherness. Itâ€™s just ridiculous. People that have the opportunity to open doors for you and your country men just close them in your face. I found out that a very big international Haitian artist told people on my label that I would never cross over because and I quote "Sheâ€™s on some Caribbean shit". This is after the person told me that he liked my stuff and my voice. The person looked me right in the face and said that we were going to work well together because he thought that I had a vibe similar to Sade (the singer) and then behind my back even before we even stepped into the studio, he back stabs me.
K.M.: How did you get the contract, in other words how did Sony find out about Emeline Michel?
Emeline: Papa Jube and I met in New York and started working on some songs, that was before anything personal took place between us. We put a demo of three songs together and just sent it to Ruff House Columbia. At the time, I was working on a Caribbean album. Anyway, they called and said that they would pay us in order for us to stop shopping the demo around to other record labels because they wanted it badly. They even told us that it was the quickest deal thatâ€™s ever happened. It was even written in papers of the music industry. Weâ€™ve had the deal since 1997.
They wanted all sorts of flavors from alternative to hip hop. I guess they were probably a bit skeptical about the Caribbean flavor. I fought for it because itâ€™s important for me. I canâ€™t be Mary J. Blige, I canâ€™t be Lauryn Hill, I have to be Emeline Michel because Iâ€™m from the Caribbean. That flavor is my passport.
K.M.: Tell us more about the upcoming album?
Emeline: First of all itâ€™s Emeline. There are some songs that have kind of a hip hop flavor, not totally. I would say a new sound. Most of the songs are in English and they deal with a lot of my heart, my soul and a lot of my experiences that Iâ€™ve been through. Personal stuff.
K.M.: So you know certain people will be reading the liner notes on the album very carefully donâ€™t you, just to find out if youâ€™re speaking about them. (Laugh)
Emeline: Good for them. (Laughs even louder) Itâ€™s about love. Thereâ€™s a song called "Revelation time" that Dady from Boukman Eksperyans brought to Papa Jube three years ago and I just fell in love with that song. It will be one of the singles released from the album. Thereâ€™s "Kimbe la". That song is in creole. Iâ€™ll let the people judge by the words. Thereâ€™s also a song called "What was meant to be". The album will be released on Sony France, then in Canada before coming to the States afterward.
K.M.: When will it be released?
Emeline: My deadline is March. Hopefully on my birthday.
K.M.: When is your birthday?
Emeline: (Laughs out loud) I donâ€™t want to say. Iâ€™m a host of fire. (Laughs again)
K.M.: Iâ€™m sure a lot of your fans would love to know so that they can send you some cards and gifts.
Emeline: Oh yes. (Her eyes light up as she starts laughing out loud) In that case March 21st. (Laughs)
K.M.: Tell us about your beginnings in the music business? Who and what inspired you to get in this industry? Who discovered you?
Emeline: From the start Iâ€™ve always been into Sara Vaughn (legendary Jazz singer) and Al Costa from Brazil. Sara was the reason why I went to study at the Detroit Jazz Center because at first I wanted to sing jazzy tunes. Then I met Ralph Boncy (ex-husband and brilliant lyricist) as of today, I have only good things to say about that man. He and my good friend Beethova Obas later structured the direction that Iâ€™ve gone to in my singing. I was a soloist in a church choir in Haiti at twelve years old.
K.M.: When you first started, your mom used to make your costumes for you. Where is she now and is she still as involved in your career as she used to be?
Emeline: Sheâ€™s more into her prayers now. She doesnâ€™t make costumes anymore because sheâ€™s getting older. Sheâ€™s living in Chicago. I speak to her every day. Weâ€™re just like sisters. In fact, I speak to her more than my own sisters.
K.M.: How many sisters do you have?
Emeline: We are three. Theyâ€™re both gorgeous. Iâ€™m the middle sister. I love them both.
K.M.: How has your family reacted to your super stardom? You are basically the first lady of Haitian music right now. Are any members of your family or friends acting differently towards you now ?
Emeline: (Laughs) I will always be "Loulounne" to my family. Iâ€™m no one to them. Iâ€™m nobody. (Laughs) They just love me for me. Their door is always open to me good or bad. When I first got the deal, the first thing that I did was bring my whole family to New York. We went on the Circle line boat ride in Manhattan.
K.M.: If they had asked you ten years ago where you would want to be today, what would you have said? Are you where you want to be right now at this stage of your career?
Emeline: I would have said a singer and no Iâ€™m not where I want to be. Where I want to be is a secret. However, I would like to see more young female Haitian singers emerge. I would like to open a school for potential singers in Haiti. When I was growing up I did not have that opportunity and thatâ€™s why I had to go to Detroit. That would be one of my dreams.
K.M.: You are very removed from the Haitian music industry these days. Why? Would you agree with those who say that you have surpassed the standards of the Haitian artists, therefore youâ€™re looking for bigger and better things. Maybe you might feel theyâ€™re beneath you?
Emeline: (Laughs hard) Itâ€™s an accident. Because of all the traveling that I do, I just canâ€™t keep up with all thatâ€™s happening. (Stops and laughs again) Donâ€™t look at me like that. Please. (Laughs again)
K.M.: Name two Haitian albums that came out this year?
Emeline: (Laughs, she hesitates and says) Strings and Zin. (Laughs again) Iâ€™m good.
K.M.: Emeline, are you a "Prima Donna", or for lack of a better word, a diva?
Emeline: Canâ€™t you tell? Today you are over at my place doing this interview. Am I a diva? (Sheâ€™s laughing again as she tries to keep a serious face so that I can answer her question) You have to say it, am I a diva? (Laughs harder this time) No. Iâ€™m very down to Earth. Iâ€™m not a star. Have you noticed that when a star pops up in the sky at night, in the morning itâ€™s not there anymore? (That wonderful point catches me off guard for a minute and silences me) Iâ€™m very easy to work with. The musicians that I work with are like my other family.
K.M.: This is what Iâ€™ve heard. Emeline has the ability to seduce you without even touching you. With one glance, one gesture, the way she holds and sings into the mike. What do you say to that? Is that true? Is that the real Emeline, or is that an act?
Emeline: (Laughs for a good twenty seconds) I donâ€™t believe in acting. I donâ€™t do anything. I just enjoy being a woman. I enjoy dressing up, taking care of my skin, spending some time at the spa for a steam bath. I use loads of healthy vitamins. I drink a lot of water. I go for a glass of wine occasionally with my friends, but I donâ€™t drink and I donâ€™t smoke. I really hate to fly on planes.
K.M.: Does that mean they have to get you drunk before they put you on that plane?
Emeline: Since I donâ€™t drink very often, I get very happy when I do drink. (Laughs) If a man thinks that they can get to me by taking me out to dinner and then by offering me a drink to get me drunk, theyâ€™re in trouble because all Iâ€™m going to do is sleep like a baby. (We both laugh out loud for a good ten seconds)
K.M.: So whatâ€™s the best way to get to Emeline?
Emeline: (She laughs again) Iâ€™m a mind girl. I like smart people. Intelligent men move me because I feel that I have a lot to learn. I also enjoy a good sense of humor. The rest of it is being a gentleman and behaving yourself. (Laughs)
K.M.: Do you consider yourself sexy? What is your favorite body part and why?
Emeline: Oh my God. It depends because itâ€™s a matter of taste. Someone whom you might not find good looking could be attractive to me. They might have a certain way that they walk or talk that can make them sexy. It depends on the personâ€™s taste.
K.M.: Is there a part about your person (body) that you would change and also what is your favorite body part about you?
Emeline: (Laughs) Ouuuuuh, I wonâ€™t go there (she says playfully as we both laugh out loud) My family used to tease me about my eyebrows when I was younger by saying that I had "Plume yeux bourique". I donâ€™t believe in perfection. When youâ€™re not perfect it makes you look more natural. If you take care of your insides healthwise, it will glow on the outside.
K.M.: What is the real Emeline like? What do you like to do? What are your hobbies away from the stage?
Emeline: I love reading. I enjoy a good book. I read a book called "The Alchemist", a great gift from my good friend Beethova Obas. That book gave me wings. Itâ€™s the best book that Iâ€™ve ever read. I also love to relax by sitting by a mountain whenever I can find one and enjoy nature. It relaxes me. I also love dancing.
K.M.: Iâ€™m reading the liner notes to your last CD. "Protect me God against these poisonous lizards. Watch them, watch them. You see brother Mitch, they have not succeeded in making me fall." (Translated)
Emeline: (Reacts and screams playfully as she seems surprised by the fact that I read the notes on the CD. She becomes reflective for a few seconds and then responds) I think I was bitter. You canâ€™t count on anyone to make you happy. You canâ€™t count on a man in your life to make you happy. I had a lot of bad experiences. People that I thought were really my friends let me down. I was going through a rough time. Some things I do regret, but I canâ€™t change that.
K.M.: Who and what are you talking about?
Emeline: It has to do with people in the industry and some close personal friends who deceived me badly by being jealous. It just blindsided me. Today Iâ€™m very happy. I try to be a better person not a bitter person.
K.M.: Hereâ€™s a question that everyone wants to know. Are you still married to Papa Jube?
Emeline: Weâ€™re not together anymore. Weâ€™re still working together but we are separated.
K.M.: Divorced or separated?
Emeline: Not divorced yet. Separated.
K.M.: Are you in the process of getting a divorce?
Emeline: I wonâ€™t go into any details about that, but I know for sure that we are not together.
K.M.: Youâ€™ve been involved in two high profile marriages in your life so far? First with Ralph Boncy who happens to be a very big, influential and respected man in the business with a lot of connections. Your second marriage was to Papa Jube, a highly respected name in the business also with connections. How do you respond to allegations that you married these two gentlemen in part to further your career?
Emeline: Itâ€™s ridiculous. If you had to interview these men, they will tell you that I never wanted to be married. I never wanted to jump into anything like that, especially with people that I work with. They are great people. Why should or would I do that? (talking about the allegations) Donâ€™t I value myself? Am I not good enough to make it on my own? When I met Ralph, I was singing already. I had the song "Ayiti Peyi Soleil" that was playing all over the radio. Ralph did not marry someone that he found on the streets and made an artist out of. He did not give me my voice. (laughs) Of course he helped me a lot in my career. Why canâ€™t someone that you are married to or living with help you out? I think part of a marriage is helping each other go forward in life no matter what the circumstances. It should not be to make you go backwards. I thank God that he gave me the intelligence not to jump into a relationship with a stupid man. It doesnâ€™t matter what profession the guy is in. Whether itâ€™s an architect or a doctor, I would hope that they would support me in what I do the same way that I would support them. Thatâ€™s what part of a marriage is about. I hope these men (Ralph Boncy and Papa Jube) can say that I helped them go further and not backwards. If they thought that I wanted to be with them just for that, they would have sensed it because they are very smart.
K.M.: You were also allegedly linked to a French or Canadian producer after the dissolution of your first marriage. In fact you left Haiti to go live in Montreal where you produced an album. Were those allegations true that you were involved with him?
Emeline: I was living in Paris and I moved to Montreal because of my career. I moved because they (her record label at the time) wanted me to use a producer that was living in Canada. I move a lot because of my career. I donâ€™t even know how long that Iâ€™m going to be in New York. I have propositions from Japan and also in Haiti, so I donâ€™t really know if I will be going away again.
K.M.: Was the video for the song "Elle est toute seul" (Amandine) biographical? Was it about you and was it some sort of a cry for love, camaraderie and affection?
Emeline: No. Itâ€™s kind of an accident. The song suited me because of the situation at the time. The situation that I am in right now (her separation from her husband) and I donâ€™t want to give away any details, Iâ€™m not responsible. Not at all. (She says convincingly) I wash my hands that Iâ€™m not responsible.
K.M.: What situation?
Emeline: When it comes to this relationship (her marriage) that probably , whatever God only knows is not working. I am not responsible. (She catches herself realizing that sheâ€™s spilling her guts and goes back to the question) "Elle est toute seule" was like a picture of my life, but when it was written I wasnâ€™t by myself. (Nervous laugh)
K.M.: Were you involved with a French/Canadian music producer?
Emeline: Not at all. Not at all. (laughs) Why is it important that much who Iâ€™m involved with? (smiles) I was never involved with any producer. These men that they know (Ralph Boncy and Papa Jube) thatâ€™s it. As far as I know myself, I can count on my fingers how many men Iâ€™ve been involved with so far. Why is it thatâ€™s whatâ€™s interesting to a lot of people? (smiling)
K.M.: Who are your favorite singers in the business? American and Haitian?
Emeline: I have favorite songs. I love Lauryn Hillâ€™s voice. (Fugees) Thereâ€™s something very strong and true about her voice. I also love Sara McLaughlin. (Pop singer) As far as Haitian, I love Boulo Valcourt. (Caribbean Sextet) That man has something very special about his voice. Thatâ€™s about it. (laughs)
K.M.: Any favorite Haitian bands?
Emeline: Yes I do. (she thinks for ten seconds as she tries to remember the name) I love Dadou Pasquetâ€™s voice. I used to love (expresses with admiration) Magnum Band when I was growing up. You know, I donâ€™t go out that much to Haitian parties and dance. If I do go, I dance but I dance by myself because I donâ€™t know how to dance compas. (laughs) I invent my steps. If Iâ€™m dancing with a partner itâ€™s hard for me to keep up because I will step on his toes. (we both laugh uncontrollably)
K.M.: Iâ€™m sure there are a lot of volunteers out there who would love to show you how to dance compas?
Emeline: (laughs) No one can accuse me of not liking my culture. (she hesitates) Put some congas next to me and start playing, Iâ€™ll just go crazy. Iâ€™m just more attracted to that type of sound. Traditional congas.
K.M.: Please give us your personal opinion on these singers. Alan Cave?
Emeline: He has a great voice.
K.M.: King Kino?
Emeline: Kino is a performer for me. Heâ€™s more of a stage presence. He has an attaching personality.
Emeline: Tantan has a nice voice. Yes, yes, yes. Definitely someone that expresses himself pretty well.
K.M.: Do you realize that in an interview we had with him, he indicated to us that he would love to work with you? What do you say to that?
Emeline: Itâ€™s an honor for me. I think Tantan has a voice that comes naturally. A sensibility and "douceur" that comes out of him that I like.
K.M.: Joel Widmaier?
Emeline: Whoa! (excitedly) Donâ€™t even ask. Great singer.
Emeline: She sings very well. Iâ€™ve always thought that itâ€™s a shame that she doesnâ€™t try something solo because she definitely has the potential.
Emeline: (Instantly) Iâ€™m sorry. She is not my favorite singer. (small laugh) She has a stage presence but sheâ€™s not my favorite.
K.M.: There are very strong rumors of a feud between you and Zshea. Is that true? Do you guys actually dislike each other as weâ€™ve heard so many times around the Haitian music circles?
Emeline: I donâ€™t have time for those things. (laugh) I donâ€™t have time for that. I donâ€™t know about her, but I donâ€™t have anything against Zshea. When I say sheâ€™s not my favorite singer, I think the whole concept (of Zsheaâ€™s act) is a bit kinky and vulgar. I agree she has a strong presence. She canâ€™t be on a stage for you not to notice her, but I canâ€™t say sheâ€™s the best voice Iâ€™ve ever heard.
K.M.: Does it have anything to do with the fact that Ralph Boncy (your ex) is managing her career?
Emeline: No way. Thatâ€™s not true. Thatâ€™s stupid. (laughs)
K.M.: As a matter of fact, when you played at Planet Malibu in October and again in December, I noticed that the two of you never really acknowledged each otherâ€™s presence. I donâ€™t even think I saw you guys speak to each other both nights and you ladies certainly had plenty of time that night to say hello and converse if you wanted to. Why?
Emeline: Iâ€™m too old and mature for those kind of games. I donâ€™t deal on that level. If someone has a problem with me, come and talk to me and say Emeline you did this or that , I donâ€™t agree with it and I no longer want to be your friend.
K.M.: Why didnâ€™t you say hello to her?
Emeline: Because I donâ€™t care.
K.M.: Is there anyone that you havenâ€™t worked with that you would love to work with right now? Who?
Emeline: There are so many people. Boulot Valcourt is so talented. I want to do the French version of the song "La Pesonne". A song with Beethova Obas on an acoustic album is coming right after my new album is complete. I also have a plan thatâ€™s already in the works where Jocelyne Beroard (of Kassav), Tanya St. Val and I would be singing on a song together about women. An artist from Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti. Itâ€™s a nice project that Iâ€™m working on.
K.M.: I canâ€™t go without asking you this for all of our readers and your fans. What kind of men attracts Emeline Michel? What do you look for in a man?
K.M.: (laughs) Healthy men. Healthy mentally and physically. Itâ€™s a package. Sensitive. Somebody that really knows (emphasizes it strongly) how to get his way with me. Someone that can sense me. Thereâ€™s always a cue. Itâ€™s all about energy. When Iâ€™m in front of someone that I really like, my heart goes beep, beep, beep. (laughs hard) Intelligence and a good sense of humor are very important.
K.M.: Do you believe in love at first sight?
Emeline: I do. I do. I still do. I must be doing something wrong because Iâ€™m not too lucky in that department.
K.M.: Sex on the first date?
Emeline: No, no, no.
K.M.: Pregnancy before marrying?
Emeline: For some reason it sounds like a contradiction because I believe in God, but I tend to believe in whatever makes you happy.
K.M.: Speaking of that, do you want to have a child someday?
Emeline: Yes I do. (she lights up) Not someday, soon. I want to have a kid badly. This year I felt it more than ever. Inside me, mentally and spiritually I was ready for a kid.
K.M.: Are you seeing anyone right now?
Emeline: No. I need a year sabbatical to put my heart where it belongs.
K.M.: Are you dating at all?
Emeline: No. (laughs) I have volunteers, but theyâ€™ve come at the wrong time. When youâ€™ve been in a relationship that doesnâ€™t work you have to take time out for yourself to find out where you are. Things happen when you are not looking and right now Iâ€™m not looking. Iâ€™m praying and I know God will send me the right one.
K.M.: Do you have any final words that you would like to say to your fans and people in the business in general? Itâ€™s your podium.
Emeline: I want to say thank you to everyone that comes up to me and hugs me and gives me encouragement for the work that Iâ€™m doing. Donâ€™t stand and look at me like Iâ€™m from the planet Mars if you want to say hello to me. Iâ€™m happy when people stop judging me and love me for what I do. Show me love. Remember itâ€™s your love and appreciation that keeps me going. You are the force behind me and when you show it to me, it makes me even prouder to represent my culture all over the world. I love you very, very much.
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