Courtesy of Boby/Delgrés
When Paris-based musician Pascal Danaë visited the island of Guadeloupe for the first time, he was handed a letter that would later lead him to write music.
About a century and a half since the abolition of slavery in Guadeloupe, a small island in the Caribbean, Danaë said his father's older cousin handed him an affidavit of freedom for his great-great-grandmother, dated 1841. The letter included the names and ages of his ancestors, including his great-grandfather, who was just 1 year old when he was freed.
"All those stories you hear become so real ... and I guess that was part of what later led me to write music. ... I was given the key to where I come from," Danaë explained.
Danaë, who founded the blues-rock band Delgrès, often draws inspiration from his Guadeloupean roots and his parents' immigrant and working-class background. In fact, the band's name pays homage to Louis Delgrès, a prominient mixed-race abolitionist, soldier and rebel who was born in Martinique, and died in Guadeloupe in 1802.
"The reason why I picked that name [Delgrés] is because I'm from Guadeloupean origins, and I didn't know about the guy until very late in my life. He's a hero on that island. So, I decided to pay tribute to him and, through history, kind of go back to Guadeloupe, find my roots and reclaim them."
Courtesy of Boby/Delgrés
"The reason why I picked that name is because I'm from Guadeloupean origins, and I didn't know about the guy until very late in my life. He's a hero on that island. So, I decided to pay tribute to him and, through history, kind of go back to Guadeloupe, find my roots and reclaim them," Danaë explained.
Danaë's latest album, "4 Ed Maten," or "4 a.m." also pays tribute to his father and other working-class people, many of whom are immigrants in France, toiling away from sunrise to sundown in factories just to put food on the table for their families.
Danaë released the new album as a kind of performance filmed in a nameless factory in France, with the premise that the workers have all been fired and Louis Delgrès appears to entertain and energize a revolt.
"We ... pay tribute to these guys [factory workers] through my personal history and the story of my father," Danaë told The World.
"Aléas," the second track, is a song about separation, Danaë said, because that's also very much part of his personal history.
"My father moved to France in '58 with only two kids. He left my mother behind with three more kids. ... I was born when they were reunited ... so, I guess I was like, you know, a happy ending!"
Danaë said the song deals with the painful fact of separation as part of the human experience, whether it's through death or migration.
"When you grow up from West Indian parents in [the] French mainland, you feel very French. The other part of you is like, you know, you eat rice and peas and you have all these people speak Creole around you. But all of a sudden, you go [to Guadeloupe], you see that letter and then everything becomes ... another part of you is taking shape. It was really deeply moving," Danaë said.
Danaë's parents are no longer alive to hear his new songs, but he's confident that his father would be proud of the fact that he uses music to shed light on struggles that were simply taken for granted in the past.
He views his music as a way of showing gratitude.
"Our parents, grandparents, they would just get up in the morning, go for it, provide for their family and [not] ask too many questions, you know? But sometimes it's just for us to to stop for a while, to look at them and admire them for what they do, because this is not that easy sometimes."
"Our parents, grandparents, they would just get up in the morning, go for it, provide for their family and [not] ask too many questions, you know? But sometimes it's just for us to to stop for a while, to look at them and admire them for what they do, because this is not that easy sometimes," Danaë said.
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