ALES CESARINI QUARTET featuring PAYOH SOUL REBEL. The double bass player Ales Cesarini presents the ‘Black Mantra’ album at ‘Teatre el Musical’ on February 24th. It is a look at the different ways of understanding music, without any kind of prejudice, from his experience in disciplines such as world music or reggae, to jazz in a tangential way…an attractive sound and full of nuances. To this end, he introduces the magnificent voice and discourse of the singer Payoh Soul Rebel, as the guiding thread of this special work. Also appearing in this project is Baptiste Bailly’s tasteful and impressionistic music on the piano, and David Gadea’s fusion of world music and Mozarabic rhythms on percussion. Alessandro Cesarini is one of the most active figures on our jazz scene. His versatility and ability to explore and integrate different styles – jazz, flamenco, African music or reggae, among others – is not the result of an anaemic eclecticism, but of a style that fuses with intensity and elegance the energy that this musical nomadism invites.
EXCLUSIVE ’24/7 VALENCIA’ INTERVIEW WITH ‘PAYOH SOUL REBEL’
24/7 Valencia: Let’s start with the new album, ‘Black Mantra’ by Ales Cesarini. You are the key singer on this album. Please could you tell us a little bit about the songs you appear on, starting with ‘Rocky Road’?
PAYOH SOUL REBEL: Well, Rocky Road is a song about unrequited love. It talks about a guy who chases the love of a girl, but she doesn’t reciprocate his efforts. He feels as though he is walking along a rocky road and keeps tripping up. The song is about suffering. In reggae, we would call this track a sufferer. It’s when songs express a great suffering or pain.
24/7 Valencia: The next track is ‘DTS’. What’s that all about?
It stands for Dubitatur tension sexualem. We decided to have this song’s title in Latin to be a bit less obvious. The subject matter is somewhat erotic as it discusses a sexual tension that hasn’t been resolved. This sort of genre has its own codes and jargon to cover discreet topics such as these. It also has slack influences from Dancehall, a genre of Jamaican popular music.
24/7 Valencia: Tell us more about the track ‘UB Free’.
‘UB Free’ is a song that I did a long time ago at home, as a soul song. Normally, in soul music, there are themes of romance but the context of this song is much more social. It encourages people to think for themselves, search for inner happiness and to do so before they become slaves to society.
24/7 Valencia: The next track is quite atmospheric and called ‘The Lovely Sweet Banks of the Moy’.
Well, this is a song that is typically Irish and with a certain political content. It is a traditional song and we decided to record it as minimistically as we could with one piano, a friend on percussion and my vocals. Music channels experiences and I can empathise with this and understand the feelings behind the music…
24/7 Valencia: Let’s talk now about the autobiographical song, ‘Biopic’.
It’s called ‘Biopic’ because it is the story of my life. There is a parallel between a film that talks about the life of a person and this song that talks about my life. It’s about how my life was when I was younger. When I was five, we were living in a very small flat and I had to sleep in the living room. I didn’t have a bad childhood; I didn’t lack food or clothes, but we didn’t have luxuries. Also, it has to be saids that luxuries had a lot less importance in the 70s and 80s than they do in today’s world. From there, I moved around a lot and was in and out of jobs. I was sent to France to set up printing machines and when I came back, I was fired for defending a colleague whom the manager had started insulting. I then left to work in a hotel and then when the 2008 crisis came, I lost my job.
Also, COVID-19 in 2020 changed things too. Before the pandemic, I had more or less established myself as a musician. I had reasonable wages with a certain stability… but then when this terrible virus arrived and everything changed. I had to change the paradigm again: I started looking for things on the internet to make money, selling vinyl records and doing recordings. When I wrote the song ‘Biopic’, I hadn’t moved flats yet, but I had to change shortly afterwards. I still live in an apartment with my wife and son. So, that is basically the story of how I went from being a young rascal from a humble barrio who used to be involved in drug dealing to who I am today…a more responsible person.
24/7 Valencia: Are you taking about selling marijuana back in the day?
Yes. I went from selling weed and pills to getting a job, moving cities and finally becoming a singer on stage and recording artist. This is all part of my upbringing and the real life story that has led me to where I am today.
24/7 Valencia: Let’s talk about the track, ‘I need a Mantra Roof’.
This is a song inspired by the ‘Mighty Diamonds’ song, ‘I need a Roof’. We thought the theme fitted very well here. The song starts by urging people to remember what Marcus Garvey said, that all you need is a roof, food on the table and love in your heart.
24/7 Valencia: A key word from Marcus Garvey is emancipation. Marcus Garvey also influenced Bob Marley…
Yes. He was a very influential Jamaican activist. There were not very many examples of rich, successful black men and Garvey served as proof that the colour of your skin did not have to dictate your quality of life. Just because you were born black, you did not have to endure a life as a poor, downtrodden individual. When people saw Garvey, a successful black businessman, they learnt that their colour did not define them and that they too could be educated, earn money and have success and this was very encouraging for them.
24/7 Valencia: Tell us about ‘Hole in my Chest’…
With this one, a melody came to me that at first sounded like country. I like all styles of music, but I have a special affection for country music. This song is interesting due to the striking combination of styles as it starts as a country track but ends as an Arabic theme with ‘Mozarabic’ rhythms that Ales Cesarini is drawn towards. Like all country songs, ‘Hole in my Chest’ is a sad song about feeling alone, lost and as though you have wasted time in your life.
24/7 Valencia: Could you tell us more about your musical influences…
To be honest, all types of music! I started off very young when I was seven or eight years old. Every time we walked past a Music shop, I was always stunned by the displays and fascinated by the fact that several people could play different instruments to create one song!
My musical influences have varied from heavy metal to black music… like R’n’B. I also liked funk and soul. I would basically listen to everything that would fall in my hands. I started listening to reggae on the radio from a very young age too for instance, ‘Baby I love your way’. I freaked out when I discovered Bob Marley CDs. I listened to everything that excited me, moved me or surprised me and I especially liked something that sounded different. This was a time when I was really discovering music and I was a DJ in my house. I also began collecting house records and started listening to jazz.
It was when I moved to Valencia that a friend of mine called José told me I should get serious… with my singing. He was the one who convinced me to start out. He was teaching at an academy where I recorded a song. One of José’s students, the renowned guitarist Alberto Tarín listened to my recorded songs, liked them and suggested I did a live concert… with these songs and topics. Of course, I jumped at the chance. This was about 20 years ago!
24/7 Valencia: Let’s finish with your upcoming concert at MUV! festival. Could you remind us of the date?
Payoh Soul Rebel: It’s on the 24th of February in El Cabanyal at ‘Teatre El Musical’ with Ales Cesarini Quartet. I have sung on Ales Cesarini’s previous solo albums (‘Nyabinghi’ and ‘Dandelion’) and we’ll be playing songs from the new album, ‘Black Mantra’ too.
24/7 Valencia: Good luck with the concert…
Payoh Soul Rebel: Thank you very much…
Interview by Will McCarthy
Interview transcribed and translated by Imogen Hockings
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’.
‘Payoh Soul Rebel’ plays with Ales Cesarini Quartet at ‘Teatre el Musical’ as part of Muv! festival on Friday, February 24th at 20h…
Teatre El Musical
Address: Plaça del Rosari, 3, 46011 València
More info about ‘Payoh Soul Rebel’…
‘Black Mantra’ by Ales Cesarini featuring Payoh Soul Rebel: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1mIBxDYjBpcJikWfQOjDks?si=cMnsSBBOT56bGGfq-3J2_w