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Soul:ID (Afropean Soul band)
The Soul:ID story begins in Africa, where three-quarters of the band originate. Their journeys brought them together in Brussels, Belgium where after years of working as studio musicians and backing vocalists, they decided it was their time to step into the spotlight. Soul:ID is more than just a band. Their unique story has given shape to a concept - dubbed - “Afropean Soul” - which reflects their virtues and beliefs. Soul:ID tells the story of today’s African and Afro-Europeans overcoming ethnic, social and economical barriers while promoting positive messages and images of what functioning multiculturalism can achieve. Helena Rea caught up with Soul:ID as their debut album Sex, Love and Philosophy was released...
Helena Rea: The second track on the album, ‘Believe’, for me had a hint of Stevie Wonder’s ‘70’s album Innervisions. Is his music one of your influences?
Urban Deep: Definitely.
Dad’D: I’m a huge fan of Stevie Wonder. I don’t know if you've heard the whole album [Innervisions] because there’s a few songs of his that I like the sound of. That’s a huge compliment. Thanks.
HR: What other major musical influences have been instrumental in the way your career has been shaped?
Urban Deep: Mine personally is the hip-hop side of things. As well as, I’m a huge fan of D’angelo.
We picked the name Soul:ID. The "ID" stands for identity because we are four different persons we are four different identities. Culturally, we come from four different countries and there are also different artistic identities so we have different individual appearances. The soul is the common ground and our common link.
V: I’m from Rwanda, so traditional, classical music form Rwanda. Bob Marley is one of the greatest artists, who else? Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding.
Dad’D: I’m into Stevie Wonder
Tchaï: I’m a nostalgic. I really like, in the past, Grace Jones or nowadays, Kate Bush. But, yeah I like all sorts of things.
When we work together it’s like, without knowing it of course, we just melt these things together. That’s why you can find, for example, ‘True’. That was not meant to be a cover or anything like that. It comes out of my love for Spandau Ballet. He [points to Dad’D] brought the track to us and we were going to brainstorm some lyrics when I came out with [sings the opening of 'True'], and we were like: "Yeah, that works." All of a sudden we realized we had a cover. There wasn’t supposed to be a cover on the album, we didn’t want to but we interpreted this song and we're really happy about it.
HR: How would you describe Afropean soul to someone who hasn’t heard of the term?
Urban Deep: That’s actually interesting because we chose this term on purpose because it’s not really defined. We wanted to get out of being categorised as this or that, so we chose "Afropean". We’re not the only ones but there are not too many Afropean musicians out there.
It has to do with the roots of where we come from which is partly African and growing up in Europe. We didn’t want to be categorised.
HR: Three quarters of the band hail from Africa, but in which country would you say you’re made to feel the most welcome?
Tchaï: That’s interesting because we’ve been to many countries but we had a very overwhelming experience in Rwanda.
Urban Deep: We were the first urban act to ever play Kigali in Rwanda and their responses where amazing.
We toured in the U.S. where some nights were better than others. Interesting enough we toured with Zap Mama and I remember a show we did in Dublin, Ireland. That was amazing. Actually we find we are at home everywhere in the world we have been.
HR: I see you have a Japanese website too. How big are you over there?
Tchaï: We haven’t played there yet but we have friends who went over and they brought us back a couple of pictures from the promotion of our album.
Urban Deep: Yeah, it’s like the mega stores; the huge chain music stores, had huge life size posters of us. Actually it went great but because it’s so far away, it’s the other side of the planet, we didn’t get the feedback straight away. So it’s hard to actually say because we’ve never played there.
HR: Do you plan to tour there in the future?
Urban Deep: Definitely.
HR: As a group, where do you have the most conflicts? And where would you say you all see eye-to-eye?
Urban Deep: I think what is interesting is that we all are four very different persons and we all try to be very proactive. Obviously, you have different opinions, which I think is going to show individualities and personalities.
V: Yeah, three guys and one girl.
HR: [To Tchaï]: How do you feel about that?
Tchaï: I think we could actually write a book about it! We’ve been together for five years as the band but we’ve known each other for ten or fifteen years. So it was just coming from friendship to making an album together. And now we are going a step further; which is trying to build something that is more about music, because of all the experiences we got through the years are shaping something that is going to, we hope, go beyond music - and go to a lot of projects that we are thinking about and talking about in Africa.
And that’s something where we all have evolved, and we created this together, which was sometimes hard and sometimes good. We are just really really close to each other. We have conflicts about important things and trivial things, at the end of the day we go in the same direction.
Urban Deep: Something that was quite amazing when we played Africa was that the local media really picked up on the fact that we come from different African countries. We have actually been entitled ambassadors of peace because these countries are actually in conflict and they can feel that there is a genuine friendship amongst us. Coming from countries that are at war this is quite symbolic.
When we realized how much that actually creates reactions it’s something we can be proud of. It’s really something we should use and work in a direction. It’s not something we planned but it’s a great opportunity to be able to do something with your music. It’s not just promoting your music but also making a statement.
HR: If a movie were to be made about your life who would play you and why?
V: Cuba Gooding, Jr., because he’s suave.
Urban Deep: It might sound far fetched but Denzel Washington, because he’s very strong.
Dad’D: George Clooney, because he can be funny.
Tchaï: Emma Thompson, because she is very dynamic and funny. I like the way she is.
HR: If you got bored of this industry tomorrow what would you do for a day job?
V: Teaching, I love helping people.
Urban Deep: I love negotiating contracts so I’d like to be a lawyer. There’s something about the way they think, I think it’s interesting.
Tchaï: I would be interested in getting involved with production, like writing scripts.
Dad’D: I would love to stay in the creative arts but by painting.
HR: What’s the one thing in your life that you are most proud of and why?
Urban Deep: Actually being able to put something together that other people call inspirational and that we can actually change the planet to become a better place, that’s great.
Tchaï: The most beautiful day of my life was when I stopped my day job and started doing music. So I’m very happy that day came.
V: Even though I left home for Europe, I didn’t forget my mother language or where I’m from. I’m proud of my roots. That’s what my mother used to try to make me understand.
Dad’D: My answer is easy, I have two sons and that is what I am most proud of.
HR: Thank you for your time.
Sex, Love and Philosophy is released on CD from Urban Deeper Underground from
Click here to buy Sex, Love and Philosophy on CD from Amazon.co.uk
This interview was conducted on 22 October 2008