Monday, 7 September 2009

Wally Badarou

Wally Badarou's parents Daouda and Emilie were African medical students studying at the Faculte de Medecine in Paris when he was born in March 1955, the eldest of 3 children. His earliest musical memories were of his father playing a mixture of classical music and movies soundtracks such Maurice Jarre's Doctor Zhivago & Lawrence of Arabia and Lavagnino's Empire Du Soleil.

In 1962 at the age of 7 Badarou's family returned to Africa, settling in Contonou which is in what is now known as Benin. He was then exposed to a wide range of musical influences from traditional African through French 'ye-ye' and Bossa Nova to American R&B and pop. Although interested in music and showing some expertise on the piano, mandoline, flute and melodica, in his youth aviation was Wally's main passion.

It wasn't until after his family returned to Paris in 1971 that music became a bigger part of his life, becoming part of a band as the organ player at his parent's request so he could look after his younger brother, playing Jimi Hendrix songs and their own Afro Beat compositions. It was around this time that Wally discovered Stevie Wonder's Talking Book and Innervisions albums, these were to later be very influential in his own songwriting, production and performing, another album he states as having a large influence on his career is Thrust by Herbie Hancock.

After completing his school studies, Badarou went on to study politics at the Law University in Paris. He also began playing with a number of less 'amateur' bands, mainly from the French Antilles and for agreeing to play gigs with a band called Tchango received his first synthesiser, a Korg 800-DV. Struggling to balance his studies with his fledgling musical career Wally faced a choice and decided to cease his studies to purse his musical ambitions full time.

He released his first output as part of a duo called Wally & Shane in April 1977, shortly before being called up for national service. Following his 12 month stint in the military he decided to resume his studies, a short lived choice as he only lasted a few months before returning to the studio. With 2 previous musical acquaintances he formed the band Pi 3.14, they released only one single on Barclay Records but Badarou was then retained on a solo recording contract releasing his first solo album Back To Scales Tonight in 1980.

From 1979 onwards his session playing career exploded, he went on to record with artists such as Level 42, Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Marianne Faithful, Sly an Robbie, Gwen Gurthie, Mick Jagger, M (of Pop Muzik fame), Talking Heads, Robert Palmer and Manu Dibango, the list goes on and demonstrates just what an important and influential keyboard player Badarou had become by the early 80s.

Perhaps his best solo album, Echoes, containing tracks such as Chief Inspector, Mambo (heavily sampled on Massive Attack's Daydreaming) and Endless Race was released in 1983. Following this he went on to make 2 further albums, Words of a Mountain in 1989 and Colors of Silence (Musical Poetry for Yoga) in 2001. Much more of his time since the mid-eighties has been spent producing music for other artists including Fela Kuti, Level 42 and Youssou N'Dour and creating film scores.

1 comment:

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