When you're born a broke artist, the only way to get people to know you is to play at all cost! If you are left to yourself and may have a value, your aim is to give yourself away instead of hanging yourself.
A creator must spend his money and not pay attention to his health while being wise enough not to live too fast a life which purely relies on hypothetical luck.
When you have the nerve to think you have more imagination than the rest of the lot, you must always look your best, stay proud and dignified, regardless of the place and of the situation.
But before meeting the audience, there are hundreds of letters and audio material to send all over the country. And don't forget to use the most polite language in order to appeal to the producers...
When we sent our first mail, a youth club in the suburbs of Paris, asked us if we could share a festival with other groups as our music intrigued them.The show took place in the afternoon, on a sports' playground, in the middle of an impressive fortress of buildings where you could see a cable on every balcony.
Without making a hasty judgement, the thought we didn't belong there crossed our mind, especially after having heard the other musicians' parts. Most of them played rap.
Half an hour before the show, an important crowd invaded the grass. Most of them had a tan.
Our arrival on stage made them turn cold although the 2 first groups had given them what they expected...
Part of them went for a drink, the rest of the audience either formed remote small groups or chatted away without looking at us.
By excluding us, they probably wanted to hurt our feelings but they were surrounded by the strength of our will.
Our determination got to them and they tried to destabilise us by shouting repetitively « Undress! Fuck off in the lue !». What the devil would Céreyna have done if she had listened to their every word , I ask you? All this lacked precision.
During the second song, exasperated by our cool, they moved on from protesting to violence and throwed us cans, but nothing worked. Pure nerve kept us going. We just wouldn't abdicate. Its in the midst of this unbelievable commotion that the brave Céreyna started her third song « Jouhéla » that was about the adoption of an African child. As soon as the first notes started, the aggressive souls lost their strength and those who yelled gradually become silent. Those few simple sentences had transformed the situation altogether and those who had found exile at the other end of the ground were slowly coming back. « Jouhéla » bowed down to the audience while the whole audience was applauding.
Then, the concert changed unexpectedly and as we had become more than respectable, we even added the 2 first victims of our recital at the very end and this time they were more than successful.
Usually, when those shows occur, you must wait until the last artist has passed before loading your material in the cars, but there, without even yelling « Hey, porter! », our material crossed the stadium as if it were an old caravan, there were so many porters we only had to carry our clothes that were wet with sweat. This amazing episode ended with signing a series of auto graphs behind the van. We signed on posters, on CD covers, on Tee-shirts, on caps and even on skin. As we were about to leave, a late fan who was as tall as a guitar ran towards the singer: « Hey, Ma'am, can you sign me an autograph? » .« What's your name, buddie? » With the same sense of humour and smile of the great Louis Armstrong, he burst out laughing :« Come on, I'm Jouhéla !».
Isn't Halloween meant to be a happy entertaining feast ? Some have no doubt about it but others find it vile and repulsive. Indeed, NAGAKANAYA's song « Halloween's pavements » enabled them to oppose those two views in the most singular way.
One evening, 300 guests were sitting and the group made the shape of a U, as it happened during banquets in the Middle Ages. We had hung up an enormous balloon which measured a meter long full of confettis at the center of the ceiling; Céreyna was meant to burst it open with a butcher's knife...
That evening, « Halloween's pavements »ended our recital. When the time for the solo had come, the singer seased her weapon and moved towards her crime dressed up as a witch. Her threatening look did not terrorise the audience.
The knife was about to reach its aim when, all of a sudden, an old hysterical woman violently caught the criminal hand in order to sease the knife. Very professional, Céreyna focused on singing until the very end without forgetting about bursting the balloon. She found it very hard to stay close to the micro as the fight was getting tougher and tougher but she was singing.
« How shameful! How shameful! » yelled the granny who kept on twisting our favourite witch's song. Without noticing it, the angry hag went through all the 2O th century's dances that she must have hated. However, the intensity of the fight made her let go and she found herself on the floor. Just after, the song was ending and the freed confettis splashed an overjoyed audience. And our old hag got up again , in this noisy madness, afresh and in rage, she showed how angry she was again using a language everyone was only too happy to hear...
Unexpected events in show business sometimes remind you of previous ones: Charlie Chaplin also had an ass in his circus, so did we, but only for an evening!
Nowadays, fashion dictates you should have the in haircut, short and tidy. You hair should be correctly brushed behind your ears or above your head. This dissuades fleas and relaxes those who quite recently despised long hair as they associated it to dirt and to music played by the barbarian type, you can medidate on this topic…
However, the most respectable musicians of the long hair years are always there and, except when they’re bald, they’re always wearing their mop…
Resistance doesn’t stop here. It seduces the tough and nostalgic. But not only them. In the year 2000, one of our albums landed in a local bar which used to be trendy in the seventies and eighties; our music obviously seduced for nearby associations organised a concert especially for us…
How amazed we were when we saw a crowd of hairy fans, all generations mixed, in front of the beautiful scene which was built for us. No doubt we were in a fertile land where the local psychologist had his hairdresser as a patient. Those people obviously didn’t reject their past by selling their old vinyl records to the second-hand dealers. On the contrary even the hairy youth were attracted. Indeed, those kids made their hair dance in front of the stage, laughing at their parents’ combeb hairdo. The older ones, behind, would be more reserved and of course approved of their childrens’ behaviour. As we were eager to please and go beyond their expectations, we wildly excited this new generation and our energetic attitude created panic, the fear affected the kids’ hairdo. We couldn’t help ourselves from finding this giant brush hilarious. When the encores came, curiousity generated excitement which undid all sorts of hairdo from poney tails to curls.
On that evening, when they came to see Naga, even the baldies wore wigs as if this was happening 3 centuries ago at one of Louis XIV’s feasts, not a very rock n roll show !
Fires in the bush
If you think that Naga, a rock n roll missionary, has set Africa on fire, well you're wholly wrong, even if we are planning on going there one day. This new story happens in real Brittany...
The decor: a stage in the village's center, villagers who are strangely fond of good music and most of all a barman discovering tendinitis as his hand presses the beer pump. The cash flowing in largely soothes the pain.
Our performance, that day, was split in two parts, in the beginning and at the end of the evening; during our second session, we were playing « Body Building », a title that reminds you of round muscles, the style was rock peplum. Céreyna is very fond of those songs based on a theme which enable us to make a fan come on stage and it's fun for everyone to see one not as toned as Mister Universe. Were we going to be contented with with one model as we usually are? No, by five beer lovers who could curiously still stand up. A miracle! However, disciplined, lined up and unashamed, our one off athlets undressed until they were naked. Fortunately for the sake of appearences, pants have become a substitute for this vine leaf that is so difficult to contain when your arms are too busy finding the ideal position to make the original bigger ( let's remember who invented the elastic band).
The song was heard in the most cheerful atmosphere , our heroes played the part and gave us immense pleasure. Then, as the song ended and as the audience was applauding, we heard « bush fires, bush fires » but what was the crowd on about?! We soon knew. Our Hercules heroes who knew exactly what it was all about, each seased a lighter, then took off their pants and finally set fire to their hair as the crowd cried « yeah ». They then dressed up again, thanked us and left carefully not walking all over the wires.
If this countryside tradition had taken place in winter, we could have warmed up.
My first performance
This first event happened when I was a child between the nappy changing period and the acne stage.
In my grandparents' garden, in Ille-de-France, I had created a stage with 4 bottle boxes, a door and 3 broomsticks combined with an old rag for the curtain.
The tickets were made out of the wrapping paper a company famous for its sticky chocolate used. A chocolate so sticky you could lose your denture. That's why the elderly didn't buy it anymore , their tired palate had gradually become a desert.
My one man show contained a few jokes found in the Vermot calendar, an extract from the Avare ( Molière's play: the Miser) with various characters, a small flute piece by Mozart and an imitation of Gene Kelly.
On the gate, the poster announced the understandbly price of 1 franc and the start of the show at 4 p.m. Half an hour later you could come in for free. Things got even worse, at 5 p.m I picked the fruit from the peach tree to give it to the courageous type. At 5.30 p.m, a miracle occured as I stood miserable on the pavement holding the tray. Exceptionally, a mother urgently needed someone to mind her young son. The minder was supposed to be a member of her family who was her neighbour but he was absent...I'll let you guess the rest.
Oh! What had I found there! My first client. His sweety pie smile would have delighted crooks...
My first impression was right. During the 3 first parts, his nose was in the tray. Seeing this silly billy stuffing his face with half ripe fruit made me want to see him catching diarrhoea.
When « Singing in the rain » started, one of those July storms burst and sent us away to play cards in the living room. Between 2 games, I saw my curtain and its broomsticks falling apart under the water.
During 20 years of hiring, you no doubt think we have gone through a lot and seen all kind of folk!
Don't expect me to blow my own trumpet, to invent hopeless drum players, guitarists with one arm or mute singers. However, deaf ones are real and even belong to the listening team in record companies.
As it is the case for matrimonial agencies, hiring always starts with the small abusive ad; if the quest is often over the top, the answers go to extremes when it comes to liing which humiliates the impressive types. And it's in this childish context that encounters happen and it begins that way.
E.g: the candidate shakes your hand and without giving you the chance to say a single word starts telling you all about his referees...
« Hi I'm Smith the drum player, Tom Baguette was my teacher, you must surely know him! »
You stay mute and go « hum »
« My bass guitar is a must have from Charlie cymbal, so you can see what I've got! »
« hum »
« I played with the heavy ones, the lower ones and recently with the splash, you must have heard of them! »
There you are fed up and go « No », it's soothing.
Then comes the testing stage. The drum player overdoes it, you wonder, or he doesn't do enough, you get bored, he plays so wrong you get lost, he plays well, you worry. Yes, for diamonds are rare and times during which you can benefit from a perfect alliance don't last long enough, especially in a world where unstable bands are legendary; my mantra is build, rebuild but it would take more than this to affect Nagakanaya's two leaders' strong faith.
In the list of candidates I saw, there was this drum player who did not own a drum and who asked us to buy one « that goes without saying! »; the one who wanted his girlfriend to play « how sweet! »; the buger who wouldn't attend rehearsals and came late at concerts « how handy! »; the melancolic bass guitarist, as often in this category, who found it hard to hide his arthritis « you must take care of yourself, my dear! »; this pant and male underwear duo made of a bass guitarist and of a drum player, always together and impossible to work with « no comment! »; this singer who thought his big time had come when he heared a few members of the audience applaud, he left us just after his first concert and who now as far as I know has found a job which involves exterminating rats « Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the poorest of them all? »; that arrogant singer, as large as she was tall, who actually believed she was as talented as black American singers. After listening to her, our honest opinion made her flee and this capricious woman is still running. And what about this tall, blond, curly singer, dressed in leather from head to toe, who had a good voice and could sometimes imitate others, well he certainly charmed us... But there's a but, he couldn't go anywhere without his 2 brothers with whom he was living. Two pieces of junk, ugly yukky drunks. One always wore a striked suit which would have made a gangster from the thirties go pale. He never washed his hair as he had found a subtle economical way to save on gel. The other one, I must acknowledge it, was cleaner, he only had his thumb and his little finger on his right hand. As he was bored during rehearsals, he suddenly felt the urge to roll my cigarets and this dangerous operation gave my tabacco the pleasure to fly and me the pleasure to pick it up.
One evening, during a studio session, our new tenor arrived redrawn by Tex Avery, his clothes all torn in a surrealistic fashion.We were stupefied. And he only said « family problems! ». Cherry on the cake: the two drunk bastards suddenly fell over the drums. Its owner could have murdered them! This unfortunate episode sealed the end of our collaboration and lead us to another much more restful and fulfilling experience as far as I'm concerned: Céreyna.
The producer's mistress is gorgeous, sophisticated, expensive, uninteresting. We' ll stop here to be polite. The artist's lover may be tall, small, dressed or not. She may come from the best part in town or the sleazy districts, she's always different, motivating, full of life. She's the stage... You don't have to be 13 to make it lively, sometimes a little genious may fill up many places. You must have some genious in case of emergency for this high up beautiful place can conceal big surprises and you must adapt. Indeed, those who organise concerts may be lost or have no sense of responsibility, who knows?, and they do try to get the whole show ready and often they do it with all their heart. However if they don't deserve to criticised for this very reason, you must admit they have big defects. Let's forget about the old-fashioned posters, the sound in the streets or the sparkling tinsle and let's focus on more practical details. When an organiser can find a room with a stage, many worries fade away, but if it's not the case, here is why we arrive 2 hours in advance:
1st category_ The pavement.
Neither high nor steep but very wide, how many times have we fallen down on this dump for dogs' shit, sometimes watered by the only Breton drink which doesn't contain alcohol: rain? However, on this hostile territory, we've sometimes been successful and made promising encounters, so there you are.
2nd category_ The farmer's truck.
High, a little steeper but not very wide, made of rusty steel or moldy wood, it has an unusual strong smell city dwellers aren't fond of. We may ask ourselves why! One day, in a village set high up in the countryside, one of those trucks was just against the chuch's terrace's wall. It was 4 meters'long without a completely uneven part to stand on, yes indeed, we were devastated. It was a place where you would be devastated! Fortunately, a few good souls solved this ridiculous problem by putting an even floor. The ridiculous size was a problem and we solved it that way: the drum bass was put on the brand new floor, Céreyna and her decors stayed above the wall at the right and I, at its left. In order to add to this lined up presentation, light glowed on the stage and the church surrounded by trees. Our « rock » version of this sound and light show we had just set up impressed the villagers so much we were invited, after clearing up the material, to a 3 stars restaurant where we enjoyed an unforgettable feast, under the eye of other late guests. To end the day, a cook wearing his « toque »burst into singing while he served our dessert. At tha very precise moment, I knew he was the reincarnation of the orange cooked duck we had just eaten...
3rd_category: the smaller truck
It's a frequently used type of stage and let alone its steepness which is a little narrow, it can make our life much easier but there is a defect: When the driver brings the truck, he doesn't care if the ground is suitable, he leaves it there and goes. You arrive and then notice this type of truck isn't even. If you have to fix the hight, you can use a crank to make it stable. If there's a problem to do with its width, it's a disaster. If the Titanic's orchestra managed it ok, it's because they had no material with wheels.
In an atmosphere we love, during a motorbike drivers gathering, our temporary stage was set up in a steepy field. Like the perfect handyman, holding the gauge with my turned up sleeves, I kept on turning the crank forever. I just didn't understand! The gauge stopped moving. Indeed, the wheels which kept the stage steady were no longer touching the ground and the first part of the truck layed on the ground. The horizontal surface was no longer perfect but you could use it. One hour later, a terribly long shower wet the ground which made our stage definitely stable. Once it was over, our macadam knights came out of their tents and spent a memorable time in our company.
The next day, I think the driver fetched his partner secretly hiding his immense joy.
To end this topic, I'll tell you about our English friends' unfortunate adventure I witnessed in the Cévennes. Their stage was set up on an island in the middle of a small lake. Ideal decor, great surroundings, powerful sound, good lighting and a wide audience were all around. Only the eternal fireworks were missing. But where had the damn things gone?
The more than wise fireworks'technician, had set them all in the small woods surrounding the stage. And a BANG went at 10 p.m , in the middle of the show. At the beginning, the musicians didn't react, the famous British cool! However when the louder stuff made itself heard, everything changed. You could hear an « oh! » here and an « ouch » there for the lovely blue ones , red ones, yellow ones and all the other ones were diing on our trapped artists. The group hid under the stage and as they remembered the blitz, they waited till the bombing ceased, their nose in the dust. Once there were no munitions left, the local authorities reached the island on a small boat. Then without even offering a cup of tea to please our victims, they invited them to admire the moon safely but using a much less spiritual language. The singer was the first to come out and as he rubbed the dust off his leather trousers and jacket, I take pleasure in imagining he said: « Well if the French want to compet with British humour that way, they still have a long way to go. »