Is it an over-simplification to associate Marième with the sun? The zingy songs on her new solo album, Petit Tonnerre, reveal her affinity with nature, and echo the sounds of summer. “I even made a vow to bring out an album every summer,” she says. The singer-songwriter also has a knack of attracting artists to her. She’s held onto these loyal partners, and to her desire to be part of a band from her time with the hip-hop combo CEA. Bob Bouchard and Lou Bélanger, both founding members of CEA, did the musical production on Petit Tonnerre, and the musical arrangement was done by Claude Bégin, who also worked on her previous, self-titled album. Karim Ouellet, formerly from the Quebec City group Accrophone, and with whom Marième has performed, also played guitar on a few tracks. “We’ve been working together and performing on stage for years… It really means something to me to make music with all these people. It doesn’t make sense otherwise. And I’ve built this reggae-pop world with them.”
“I first held a microphone at a fairly young age. And because of the colour of my skin, it was much more significant than I wanted it to be.”
Marième sees this second album as a fresh start. She switched to a new record label, from Tandem to Coyote Records. Musically, she goes for pop with a hint of reggae, the music her father listened to while she was growing up. And this time around she’s concentrating more on her songwriting. “There were a lot of cover versions on my first album: “Laisse- tomber les filles” by France Gall and “Une africaine à Québec,” inspired by both Tiken Jah Fakoly and Sting. For this second album, I was pregnant and I wanted to make it more personal. Anyway, there’s a stripping-away process involved with writing. Also questioning. I wanted to be relevant and understood. Personal and universal. A huge challenge…”
The topics resonate with her true self. Marième brings up love, family, and revolution with a healthy dose of the positive. On Petit Tonnerre, she addresses issues about identity, her own questions. An interesting choice for a woman brought up in Quebec in the working-class Limoilou district, and daughter of a French-Canadian mother and Senegalese father. At one poiont, she sings: I never wanted to represent my people, never wished for that/singing loudly what others quietly muttered/ Telling their story while telling mine/ Never forgetting the blood that runs through my veins. Marième expands on her lyric: “I first held a microphone at a fairly young age,” she says. “And because of my skin colour it was much more significant than I really wanted it to be. My rapper brother Webster and I genuinely represented something. We were the only two black people in Quebec City. It can be hard to be black in Quebec, or white in Senegal. I soon found myself championing a community, as a role model who had to get in touch with her history and roots. Now I feel more ready to take on that role.”
Marième’s roots and her desire to be loyal are so strong, and run so deep, that she made a conscious decision to go and live in Stoneham, the mountain located near Quebec City. She belongs there. She knows the scene and she understands its ways. The different hip-hop clans of Quebec’s north and south shores built bridges over time and are now collaborating onstage. This current solidarity, enjoyed by everyone in Québec City, goes unnoticed in Montreal. “I lived in Montreal for a year,” she says. “I often go back there for my job as a host. And I tell myself it’s important to have some local heroes, people who decided to stay in Quebec City, people who are making a difference. We can’t all leave.”
Marième is now all about creativity. “I love writing so much that I’m already working on some new songs,” she says. And although she’s the mother of twins, her life revolves around music. In Stoneham, she lives opposite the recording studio she goes to every day, pushing her double stroller there. It’s a convenient schedule that gives her time to create. “Women are often worried that children will slow them down,” she says. “It’s the opposite with me. It makes me want to take on more and makes me better organized. I can’t put everything else on hold for three months to make an album. I just can’t do that anymore.” After securing several high-profile shows opening for Snoop Dogg and Sean Paul last summer, Marième is getting ready to hit the road again in Quebec this spring, to spread some more of her good musical vibrations. And to announce the return of her favourite season.
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“Something inside me shifted when I performed with Jean-Pierre Ferland in 2011. I sang ‘Le soleil emmène au soleil’ reggae-style on my first record. I was standing there with Ferland in front of 80,000 people with their Quebec Summer Festival badges twinkling on the Plains of Abraham. By myself on the stage with Ferland and his band, my inner doubts melted away. I felt able to continue on this musical solo path, I felt I had the strength to take responsibility for my choice, alone.”