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INTERVIEW: Marius Billgobenson

Hi Marius, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you so much VENTS Magazine for your interest in my work; and I would also like to cease this opportunity to keep you guys posted that, as a songwriter, I feel happy to be surrounded by your presence and support, and that the development of my expected release ‘The Sum Of My Pardon’ is surely coming together!

Can you talk to us more about your song “The Sum of my Pardon”?

My song “The Sum Of My Pardon” is a declaration for the secluded voiceless communities seclusion, and in this present case featuring as many as other communities, Forest People – sometimes referred to as pygmies – spend their life living in servitude to Bantu landowners down in the Congo Basin Rainforest and that I would like to pay my pardon and that of my bantu ancestors – if I may dare to do so on their behalf.

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

Above all, inspiration comes from daily life observations formulated by ventures we face, surrounding disputes about the spread of trades which divide rich and poor, but also the growing disparities in wealth and between “winners” and “losers” in the course of globalization, or the growing vulnerability disenfranchised communities face on a daily basis, caused by multilateral enterprises to respond to local and global problems. While I have always questioned the role of my voice, as a songwriter that invite the potential generation that care for others, to widely unfold the carpet of what happens abroad in the margin silence, and to revitalize core human values and to contribute as one in crafting a change for the better…  The song is actually expressed in a jam sensibility, combining at the same time two songs from the same CD repertoire Katanga and Muti Wa Buti Maka:

  • Katanga:  For centuries, Katanga has been representing a permanent foundation for war. It is located in the extremely rich region of Democratic Republic of Congo endowed with massive natural resources. According to social actors across the world, war and death prevail more than life, peace and prosperity. The song therefore applies irony to highlight irrelevant alternatives provoked by politicians to enable issues such as ethnic wars, tribulations and divisions among the societies. As a result, I’m teasing political and development actors performing across the Katanga universe, questioning their ability to either create their souls or make up their hearts differently in a diverse world, while casting forth their day without asking for extra time for neighbours. Intrinsically, the song attempts to persuade war initiators to stop acting in ways that do not favour the unity of the world. It therefore asserts everyone deserves peaceful unity. As a result, the reader questions if maintaining such distort renders the world a better place for all social actors. Katanga is performed in French and Batéké language.

  • Muti Wa Buti Maka – The generous Tree:  With regards to Muti Wa Buti Maka, Forest People, sometimes referred to as the “Pygmy” continuously have the message that the universe is comprised of diverse communities. Thus, the tree symbolizes the world. Conversely, its fruits eaten by men as they bathe, dance, and cry together represent families’ celebration in the world. The message however affirms that, the world also lacks equilibrium. This is because various changes have radically spawned the notion of private profit at the expense of a common cleanliness. As a result, the changes have encouraged selfishness, wars across global nations, as they were also experienced since the origin of conflicts affecting global social harmony, but for the “Village and Forest People” in particular.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

I really would appreciate if more tools such as Music Video could be available to promote awareness and dissemination while portraying experiences of my fieldwork, but at this time, I am really stuck, exhausted over who holds the catch actually – it appears as to represent the dream as made by a wordless dog, which cannot be shared with another dog or even with his likely ‘master’…

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

As you certainly now have noticed, my repertoire questions causes formulated around themes that I beg my pardon for like environment destruction – where deforestation in the context of the Congo Basin. Here I am featuring through the song ‘Happy Man In My Singing Woodlands’; the consequence of the deforestation gives ease to seclusion that, in turn, bridges the dehumanisation of a human being from being a part of a united community. War experiences in our lives have become more frequent while generating costs, which street children expressed in my track ‘Show Me The Way To Shine’. However, nowadays, we are all aware of rape against women which also became an essential topic that needed some more awareness and action. I addressed this in my song ‘Seeking Togetherness’. While I formulate an invitation to social actors widely to give a hearty cheer to the spirit of Kalanga – women who died under the war in the Congo, raped by rebel soldiers, I also plead Love at the center of our lives, reflected in the songs ‘Kissing Your Love Again’ or ‘The Kingdom For Love’ to reveal how much Love plays a key role in fulfilling and solving the despair and problems people face across diverse societies. Thus, I dare to define life here as the status a person sustains after all infirmities. Consequently, naming the album after this particular track – the Sum Of My Pardon – representing the formulation of my pardon having been witnessing all these memorable moments of our common imperfection.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing and the recording process have been a process over the past three years, mostly based on online experiences regarding the writing, and the collaboration with many different amazing people, drawing inspiration from my life experiences.

For example, I can share with you the recording process for the song Baye Baya, which was released from StudioPros in Los Angeles: https://studiopros.com/featured-artist-marius-billy/

Blending different styles together – how do you tend to balance them together?

My tendency to blend different styles together comes from the context of my repertoire storytelling in which each performed topic becomes unique in itself rather than being influenced by a common reality of all expression. In this context, my attempt to lay all track in the same expression style was really complex to frame due to different circumstances throughout the production process. I would also like to stress difficulties I faced in the online process with English as a second language, while distant collaboration may have also affected the product from borders based on the way to express self and the immediate adaptation to be learnt and adapt the emotion, the mood and the unexpected style sometimes transcribed out from my preliminary ideas away out from original inspiration. Financial limitation also matters in such a strived process, that I would better simulate my Pardon, portraying each reality as it happened in the development process.

How has your upbringing influenced your music?

Having been growing up amongst the polyphonic sounds of the Congo Rainforest, I have repeatedly been witnessing happy men singing in the woodlands, that have impacted brilliant souvenirs from my childhood experiences deep in the Congo. Accordingly, my strive over the claim on behalf of Forest People always questioned my motivation whether the passionate musical culture of Forest People represents a voice for a community or a contested identity? But music roots of my childhood may have been influenced from guitar lessons from missionaries as well as from my father who was a gospel choir instructor in village of Ingoumina – the former Swedish Mission Mission Post of my childhood.

As a young man with a college education but no real prospects for employment in Brazzaville, I was led back to the forest regions of my youth in pursuit of my passion for music and a search for the roots of African music styles, as well as those of Jazz, Rock and the Blues. My life came full circle and I again encountered Pygmies.

But something had changed. They were no longer year-round nomadic hunters and gatherers living off the land. They were wearing modern clothing, working the land in servitude to Bantu landowners, living in abject poverty and standing one step away from losing their oral history.

Little did I know, as a young man, that my life, and my own survival, would become so entwined with the fate of the Pygmies I encountered as a child? It is now my life’s work to see that the Pygmies and other Indigenous groups who are the last remaining thread connecting us to our ability to live in balance with the natural world. It is imperative that they survive, physically, as a unique ethnic group, but also psychologically and historically as a unique community and culture of people. Little did I know that a group of Indigenous people, called the Sàami in Northern Sweden, as well as Swedes, Pygmies, Americans, Germans, French, Dutch, Norwegians, Finns, Mexicans and English would become an integral part of making this work possible along the way.

In 1998, during the second Civil War in the region near Brazzaville, a Pygmy Elder, named Mbou to “live with his fire”, asked me. He meant by this that it was in my charge to ensure the survival of his knowledge and his community’s historical way. Mbou could foresee the erosion of life, as he knew it, and his father knew it, and his great, great, great grandfather known it. He had the wisdom to realize that the Pygmies could no longer survive without the help from the very outsiders who have encroached on their home in the forest. As you will note it along this investigation, difficulties were not the least. In my case, questions related to the lack of financial means and my limits for the English language. (More about this story could be explored from my paper published at the University of Umeå from the link bellow: http://admin.humlab.umu.se/files/pdf/billy_marius.pdf cf. page 7 through 8).

What role does Sweden play in your writing?

The role of Sweden in my writing process was an essentially beneficial one. Far from assuming that Sweden has been the best place for all my writing, as each country is unique in its genre, but more could be positively acknowledged from such an host country of peace stated from lessons learned above all from Sweden as well as from its neighboring countries, regarding issues related to indigenous peoples. The writing process from my situation after intense trauma from the war in my home country needed freedom for me to start releasing the experiences I went through. At the same time and again, the stability I found in Sweden allowed me the time to really foster the writings I started drawing from centuries. Furthermore, Sweden allowed me access to the infrastructure without which my dream would have not been able to be reached out.

What personal experiences did you get to explore on this record?

Allow me to honestly share the fact that I’ve got a blended knowledge from the writing and the recording process. Beyond a world music collaboration years in the making, I have been learning a lot in the fields of songwriting and music production, while meeting amazing people around the globe and produced this very first debut of my music career. Throughout this experience, I also now have found my rhythm and this has influenced my life. A new sound crossing over many genres, from world music, jazz to R&B and beyond. I can’t wait for you all to hear it and come along to implement a generation that care to achieve change together as one in an age of rapid global change!

What else is happening next in Marius Billgobenson’s world?

Just keep being connected follow me in social media and sign up to my website, and be part of the journey to share people’s real stories to reach potential leaders and actions that let us stay top of mind from upcoming great events planned to come.

Follow Billy on: Facebook | Twitter | SoundCloud | Instagram | Official Website and go to http://afriqueprofonde.org/ to find out more about his charity.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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