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Byron Shire
September 18, 2021

Real Kreol from Seychelles

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Grace Barbé, World Stages, Lismore Town Hall, Saturday

This Saturday sees world music and food come to Lismore City Hall with the inaugural launch of World Stages, the one-day multicultural festival produced by NORPA and the Con. One of the featured performers is the beautiful Seychelles islander Grace Barbé, a genuinely exotic world-music star. We spoke with Grace leading up to her World Stages performance.

Who would you list as the most significant women in your life? My mother first and foremost, but I really admire Bette Davis too!

How have they helped shape the woman you are today? My mother is a dancer and actress and was very much involved in the arts when I was growing up. She gave us a love and knowledge of our culture and encouraged us to play music and dance!

Bette Davis – I really admire her for what she did and the times in which she was working; her character and style really connect with me!

How has the music and performance of Grace Barbé grown over the years; what have you learnt or changed or evolved in your performance… ? Stylistically we’ve moved away from doing a lot of reggae and towards the music of my own culture – Sega, Seggae, Mutya and Tsinge – the Kreol music from Seychelles, Mauritius and La Reunion. This is really a result of trusting my instincts and just being totally true to myself (still love reggae though!)

What have you retained? The joy of performing and making music and the desire to communicate that.

What is the key foundation for you as a performer – the thing that keeps you going in an industry that isn’t always perfect? I do have a strong desire to represent my culture and to preserve and spread it. Absolute belief in what I am doing keeps me going!

How have other musicians helped nurture or inspire you? Growing up here in Western Australia we have a large Seychellois community and I was lucky enough to be mentored early on in my career by some legendary Seychellois musicians – Perley ‘Tonper’ Hoareaux, Sonny Morgan and Jacques Letourdie.

How does your Kreol culture inform your work? Fundamentally – and intentionally. Fundamentally because I am a product of my culture, and intentionally as I feel my mission is to represent and express it. We do enjoy fusing our Indian Ocean rhythms with other styles – reggae, afrobeat, funk, latin, rock and pop… we’ll try anything!

Who are your favourite musical collaborators? Jamie (Searle) my co-writer and producer has been my main collaborator from the start and really helped me bring my music to fruition and to reach its full potential. The musicians in my band, Freddy Poncin, my longtime drummer, Mauritian keyboard player Thierryno Gangou, Mamudo Selimane, an amazing guitarist from Mozambique. I’ve recently been working with my sister, Joelle Barbé, who is an incredibly talented drummer too. Dan Carroll, who will be playing guitar with us at World Stages, is not just an amazing player but a remarkably talented recording engineer – he’s engineering our current album.

I’m lucky enough to have written a song with Jean-Marc Volcy – one of the greatest Seychellois songwriters and a cultural icon for us…

Is it always important for you that music can be danced to? Melody and rhythm come first for me… Dance is never far away from what I do, but I do write slower songs – they don’t get performed as much, as the band is more oriented towards dance music!

What should we expect for your World Stages performance in Lismore? Energy, colour and heat!

World Stages, Saturday 1–10pm at Lismore City Hall. Children under five free. Tix at NORPA box office 1300 066 772.

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