Habib Faye is a big man. Considered one of the top five bass players in the world and his stature in the musical world is with the biggest. He’s worked with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Springsteen and most notably as Youssou N’Dour’s musical director for more than twenty years. His rhythms and melodies have been supplying the life blood of his many compositions with Youssou and now his own solo project.
Habib Faye is wordly, and he is a proud Senegalese. And in a reverse way he brings Africa to Jazz. As we all know the roots of Jazz are African, and Jazz is an art form born in America. But here Jazz and Folk music go back to the continent of their musical origins. When strapped with his bass he’ll stir the Darwinian rhythmic origins deep in our blood, and when he glides his fingers on a guitar his sound tingles the nerve endings of your skin. He’s simply a master musician.
I was invited by his producer, Carlos Rodriges, to listen to Habib rehearse in a Geneva studio. I had listened to his new album, H2O, celebrating the planet’s most precious gift. A subject close to his African heart. To see the strong built man with a huge smile play was an awakening. I fell for his music, his talent and charisma. His musical fluidity indeed reflected the albums inspiration. I decided to come back and film his rehearsal and edit a simply honest video clip of his performance.
Habib and his group were preparing for his live premier at Paris’ legendary jazz club, Le New Morning. While filming with my assistant and accompanied by my son Sebastien, Carlos asked us to come and film the historic premier performance in the city of lights. Why not? An all expense paid trip to Paris for three in exchange for two hours of filming. Life is made of decisions. We had made ours.
That night I was inspired. I edited the video in just a few hours that glided by like minutes thanks to the constant flow of music. In this case the title song H2O By the next day it was on Youtube. Two days before his premiere. The day of the show we were on the TGV to Paris. We went to the venue for a quick scout of the location and then strolled the streets in search for a place for dinner. Ironically we ate hamburgers in Paris. Big thick perfectly cooked beef slathered with melted cheese , caramelized onions and huge thick, ah ah, French fries! Best in a very a long time.
The show was success. The cool mix of intellectual African and French fashionistas had filled the old club. They were here to discover and hear a musical gem hidden deep in the night of the Parisian streets. Habib Faye had performed for years in front of thousands of spectators all over the world, this was the first time he was not behind the star and orchestrating the band. This was his solo debut. He was front stage and he was on. Occasionally looking back to his men supporting him, he took full control of the stage and gave his anticipating audience what they wanted and more.
He’s is a simple human being with enormous talent. After the show we all went to wine and dine Parisian style. That meant popping a bottle of champagne in front of our Best Western Hotel and kebabs around the corner. He doesn’t smoke or drink. Not like the rest of us. But we all enjoyed the cheap middle eastern “bouffe” and the run of the Kebab joint. And a cold sidewalk cigarette.
Habib Faye left for Dakar the next day, and we jump in the Metro and made our way to St. Germain to find bistro that setrved a steak frites. Must have a steak frites, a glass of red wine and a cigarette when in Paris. Preferably outside at a sidewalk café to people-watch and smoke. (Only thing missing was ma cherie). Oui, oui!