Erika’s daughter, passion for reggae – RFI Music

Princess Erika, 2022.

©Thomas Baltes

Everyone remembers Princess Erika’s first punch, Too much blah blah, Far from being a “one-hit wonder”, the Cameroonian princess has acted in cinema, theater and on TV and has released five albums. The sixth just arrived, I’m not a saint, with original music played by solid musicians, against the current offer. Over tea, Erika talks about her current events and explains why it feels good to talk badly about your enemies in song.

RFI Music: How was this sixth album, the first in 11 years, structured?
Erika’s daughter : This is a new team I work with.
Didier Sustrac, whom I met in 1995 at Polydor, called me so we could do a title together. I get on the train, I arrive in a remote area, I meet the manager, Yvanna Zoïa, and the producer Louis Ville. We were looking for the right pitch and Louis got it, found the right microphone.
When I started singing, he let me know “No, sing normally”. In short, I feel that he feels me. Yvanna is also brilliant. The next morning, I called him back and told him I wanted to work with him. And he offered me Louis. I work with Dubmatix, who send me their composition with two chords cheap. Me, I compose, I play guitar and piano, I try to layer my melodies. We tested, I sent Louis a vocal and guitar guide I’m not a saint, he gave me film music. I told him I wanted Geoffrey Oryema’s guitar, knock à la Gorillaz, and he took the voice he needed. It’s nice and smooth, and I love it. I’ve released singles, but no albums for a long time. I’m working on a project with Kris and a beat maker. Tyrone Downie had been working on the title but the producers pissed me off we stopped everything. My job is to write songs, I work with my guitar, keyboard and Garage Band (music creation software, notes editor). So we started working on a song with Louis. We found a co-producer, Laurent Bandras, grants, a studio, we moved forward quietly. We sent the album to EPM, Anne Sylvestre’s label, the guy listens at 10am, 2pm he says “I signed”.

Sounds range from reggae to blues through soul…
Louis finds identity in every song. This is what I call the French variety in the literal sense. And what feeds the thread is me, my text, me flow, the way I tell. For NeatMy favorite song, about the girl I wasted so much time on when I started making an album with Kris, Louis told me “Funky, but reggae”. I like to work like that, we never repeat, but there is a unified sound.

Album opens with African womanwhose first stanza is in English…
I want to tell my story. At the beginning of my career, I sang in English. We’re going to London. I started with Black Heart Daughters where there was my sister and Patricia Ndiaye, we were singing African woman. I am 16 years old, we are fascinated by Africa, we have never been there. It was something that was dreamed of, and I want to give you the answer thirty years later. What has happened ? What’s left of those years? Patricia went to Africa. I stayed, but we made the same observations. I returned to Cameroon recently to bury my father. I noticed that the cities were hell, but the villages remained very united. People are back in the village, Dakar and Yaoundé, it’s crowded, it’s dirty, there are beggars everywhere, it’s a miracle court and above the ghetto, we see very secure villas, crazy. It is said that Africa is corrupt, but it is mainly held by big corporations which are of Chinese origin and no longer French. I want to be this small, resilient village.

Between Neat and You give me troubleyou look a bit angry…
This is a little personal revenge. I can write songs. So when I’m annoyed, I make it. The guy from the second song came to get me for something, he didn’t get what he expected and he got mad at me for it. He will recognize himself. Me, when I was done, I didn’t think about it anymore, and just like that, I didn’t get cancer or an ulcer. I’m not as flexible as I thought. I’m not very good, actually! (Laugh)

Too much blah blah used as advertising jingle, do you regret it?
On the other hand, I am very happy because it is an advertisement, it allows me to have cash and make my projects. This song has its life and I have mine. You should be grateful. Being reduced to that is someone else’s problem. I know I didn’t just do that, and thank goodness I did. For me, it’s important to be happy and realize what I’m doing. People, it’s after. Me, I know that I did six albums with a lot of stuff on it, it’s there. I thank my muse today, for creating it Too much blah blah in 1988 with Drummie Zeb from Aswad, who had just left at the age of 62. I am alive and well, I am happy. I have faith, and I always want to “tube”, don’t lie. Artists always want to do something that will last.

Erika’s daughter I’m not a saint (EPM/Universals) 2022
In concert at Nouvelle Ève (Paris) Tuesday, 7 February 2023.

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