Trashing the songs and recordings he’d been working on for the past five years was the best thing Samito ever did. That much is now clear: this adoptive Québécois’ hard-hitting first album is a hybrid of funk, electro, rock and traditional Mozambique music.
Initially slated for release last fall, Samito’s first album was to be called Xico-Xico, but it didn’t live up to the expectations of its creator. “I’d been working on it for too long,” says Samito. “When I listened to it at the very end of the process, I thought it was cool, but I was somewhere else completely,” says the artist, who admits it was partly due to differences between himself and a close collaborator at the time. “I decided to drop everything and start from scratch. Saying it happened quickly is quite an understatement. In about 20 days, I wrote and recorded a complete album.”
The frantic pace was encouraged by producer Benoit Bouchard, himself an accomplished musician, who ‘s worked with Chloé Lacasse and Fanny Bloom, among others. “He’s one of the first musicians I met when I got here 10 years ago,” says Samito, now 36. “As a matter of fact, he was my studio recording instructor during my studies. Last March, I played my very minimalist demos for him, and four days later we were in the studio with session players. We recorded everything over the course of one weekend.”
Alone, But Well-Accompanied
Working with drummer Jonathan Bigras (Galaxie, PONI), guitarist Funk Lion (La Bronze), bassist François-Simon Déziel (Valaire) and a few other collaborators such as top axe-man Olivier Langevin (Galaxie) allowed Samito to live a bona fide dream studio experience. “It was so much more interesting than working on my own in my basement,” he readily admits. “This album is the direct opposite of the other one. Even the writing is different… Instead of writing in the third person and being some kind of omniscient observer or narrator, I decided to accept my first person and to write about me.”
Through songs such as “LOL,” a critique of social media; a metaphor on assisted suicide entitled “Nara”; and “Tiku La Hina,” a story of identity, Samito shares his fears and inner struggles using a rhythmic mix of Portuguese and Tswa, one of the many languages spoken in his country of origin.
On “Here We Go My Old Friend,” he exposes his vulnerability and opens up about feelings of deep solitude. “Sometimes it feels like it comes with being an artist,” he says “It’s even worse for me because I’m an immigrant. I made a choice, as a teenager, to come here to love the American dream, but the road to the American dream is paved with failures and solitude. Even though I’ve totally integrated here, I’m still totally uprooted from my native land. As a matter of fact, it’s partly so I could be surrounded by people that I wanted to do a live album, something more spontaneous.”
Bringing the African Groove Back
The result is a spectacular meeting “between Mozambique and Lac-Saint-Jean,” the region from which producer Benoit Bouchard comes. A musician since childhood, Samito taps into all of his countless influences. “There’s gospel, rock, funk,” he explains. “There’s also a conscious attempt at bringing back a certain original African groove, a relatively edgy groove that you haven’t really heard in African pop music for nearly 20 years. The music over there now is too clean, as if Africans were attempting to copy the standard American format. The whole dark, visceral roots aspect of it has been expunged.”
Armed with this “cultural and historical melting pot,” the Révélation Radio-Canada 2015–2016 winner will go back to his hometown of Maputo this summer to shoot a video and release his album. “The recognition I’ve been getting over here for the last few months is starting to make waves over there. There seems to be growing interest,” says the artist, who left his country a decade ago to study music at McGill University. “But I’m especially anxious to play my album for my family. My loved ones know I almost gave up more than once and that the road to now was hard. I really don’t want to disappoint them.”
Feeling quite welcome ever since he arrived in Québec, Samito plans to improve his writing in French. “Words, to me, are the most important part of a song,” he says. “Even if I sometimes realize people couldn’t care less about lyrics if the music is good, I would still love to be able to write in French soon. Thing is, I don’t want to mess it up. For the past 10 years, I’ve seen countless artists from the diaspora who haphazardly attempted to sing in French. I want to take the time it takes to write and sing something good in French. I’m not sure exactly why, but I feel it’s something I owe the Québécois.”
Samito was awarded the SOCAN Prize at Bourse RIDEAU that was held in Québec City in February 2016. Among other things, the prize will allow Samito to be featured in a SOCAN showcase during the Rendez-vous Pros des Francofolies de Montréal alongside La Bronze on June 16, 2016, at 5:00 pm.