The French Connection

The French Connection

Paille: Flying reggae's flag in Martinique

Observer writer

Friday, May 15, 2020

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For the past 16 years, French-Caribbean reggae/dancehall artiste Paille has been a strong supporter of the genres.

He has performed tirelessly at high-profile reggae festivals including the Dancehall Paradise Festival in Colombia, where the gap through music is bridged despite the obvious language barrier.

Paille, who is from Martinique, recently collaborated with Jamaican singer Etana on the track Lover Boy. This not his first foray into the Jamaican market having worked with Etana in the past, and collaborated with dancehall act Konshens.

He explained how the collaboration with Etana came about.

“People have always been looking for me in genres made for fun, for the stage. It then became very important for me to bring up more consistency to my approach, to reach my audience differently, to surprise them. Many years ago, my producer at the time discussed a possible collaboration with Etana's team and he proposed this song that radiated tenderness,” he noted.

“It is about a very classic love story but it is also questioning simple happiness, the strength of the sentiment in a world that seems to be more and more selfish, where everything can be consumed. I also believe in the musical challenge, in a way that Etana has this voice that everyone has recognised for years and it became essential for me to get over the basic “fast-style singing” and be sure that each part lifts the melody up,” Paille said of the song,

Paille has been influenced by Jamaican music since he was a teenager. He grew up listening to Shabba Ranks, Papa San, Buju Banton, Cutty Ranks, Garnet Silk, Beenie Man, Capleton, Sizzla and Sean Paul, among others.

“The storytelling of our daily life is still very necessary today. Jamaica is undeniably the starting point of it all and collaborations like this one help bridge the gaps a bit more. In my opinion, there should not have been any issue about language and origins. Music comes before the ones that make it, and a good song from Switzerland, Jamaica, or Martinique, will always end up finding its audience,” he said.

He spoke about the reggae music scene in Martinique.

“For 20 years it was the lead genre in my island, for its rhythm and the message. There were some emulations around it with albums, concerts, and so on. MC Janik, Metal Sound, Ruff Neg', Sael, Straika D, Admiral T, and more recently Kalash, have become not only local references but also across Europe. Right now, the boat is rocking as many more urban and hip-hop genres get the youth's attention. The reggae and dancehall economy is more fragile. However, it remains present, events are a bit decreasing, but they operate in a larger scale. Popcaan was in Martinique last year; Busy Signal, Mr Vegas and Konshens the years before.”

Paille has hopes to one day work with Jamaican producers; he has already received beats from various Caribbean-based producers.

“I have worked with a lot of people in 15 years but my circle is very narrow. Deejay Gil is the biggest deejay in Martinique; he is also my beat maker and my sound engineer, and beyond that, he is my friend. With the success of one of my songs Run Di Town, Caribbean producers and promotors have shown some interest in what we do. Walshy Fire from Major Lazer sent me some beats, beat makers from Trinidad and Barbados as well. This perfectly matches with this idea of creating out of my comfort circle,” he said.

Paille, whose real name is Yoni Alpha, is from the city of Sainte-Luce, which is located in the south of Martinique.

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