Music app

Wyclef Jean on the score for “The Chi” and his new musical application, Sodo

Wyclef Jean has always loved to compose, and now he is full time on season four of Showtime’s “The Chi”. This season picks up with Kiesha (Birgundi Baker) meeting potential adoptive parents for her child, and Kevin (Alex Hibbert) telling his girlfriend Jemma (Judae’a Brown) that he loves her.

Creator and screenwriter Lena Waithe wanted him to mark his next film after hearing him re-record his movie “Queen & Slim” just out of passion for the craft. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Jean.

Waithe says of his work: “I loved what Wyclef was doing from the very beginning. He really taps into the emotion of the scene. He draws you in like no one else can. Score is so important when it comes to storytelling, and we’re always on the same page about what each moment needs. “

In an interview with Variety, Jean explained how music is in his blood and in his DNA; he had mastered music theory before he even knew what it was just by playing church instruments by ear. Fifteen months of lockdown have nurtured his creative soul, he says:

You’ve done a lot of things with the line-up for “The Chi”, covering “Is This Love” by Bob Marley, celebrating 25 years of “The Score” by the Fugees and your “Run That Back” podcast. How would you say this past year has been for you?

For the creatives, it was crazy. We elevate creativity, inspiration and aspiration.

During COVID, I was trying to find time to develop a rating and source app, something like Jingle Punks, the audio creation agency, but I was heading into the future because I feel like the source music is dead because they put anything in it now. So, I worked on this app, Sodo. Sodo is also a magical river in Haiti. It is a place where our culture, the idea of ​​spirituality, the drums and Africana and this spirit come together.

With my target and the composers with whom I work in this format, half of them come from the neighborhood. They are young kids, 19 or 20, and they love Gershwin and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.

I had long been inspired by Quincy Jones, and it was ground I wanted to attack from the moment I hit 50. I wanted to attack it like never before and it kept me sane. .

And here you are marking “The Chi”. and compose episodes. How did it happen?

The art of scoring comes from high school. When I was 15, my father was a pastor and he had a church. Anyone who knows the church and the cowl, there was always a new instrument coming every three weeks and you have to learn how to play it. So I think I was familiar with 10 to 12 different instruments that I could play by ear, and I was the conductor. But I also liked combat rap because it kept me from fighting.

I remember being in the cafeteria playing the circle of fifths starting with C minor 7, working your way down. I could hear it and a teacher, Valerie Price, asked me where I had learned it. I told him, “I can just hear it.” I’ll never forget how she told me to close my eyes and play. She asked me what I could hear as I played it. I said, “I see numbers: 1, 3 and 5. On my left hand I see 1 and 5. Keep in mind that I didn’t know what the theory was, and it got me. asked about the instruments I played and what I didn’t play. I told him I didn’t play double bass because it hurt my fingers. The next week she started me on it.

My very first music video was me as an extra in “Don’t Sweat the Technique” by Eric B. & Rakim, playing the double bass. This is where the love began.

Now I am obsessed with theory. My first scoring test was “Life” with Eddie Murphy. I was aware of scoring. I told my agents that I wanted to do something difficult. I didn’t want to do anything with beats.

Fast forward to recently. Lena Waithe and I met at Jeff Bezos’ and we talked about scoring and the app I was working on. She told me how hard it is in Hollywood to find someone to talk to about Hugo’s 99 Problems. and Bach.

Then she came on my podcast, “Run That Back”. And here’s something (I did) when I was little: I turned down the volume for movies like “The Godfather” and “Once Upon a Time in America” ​​and re-recorded them in my head. And I did it with his movie “Queen & Slim”. So I played her back and she said, ‘Okay, you’re going to score one of my movies.’

When I had the opportunity to score “The Chi”, I was so excited because it brings me back to the fundamentals of my institution, which is jazz.

Were you a big fan of the series?

I was. I felt that with season one, season two, and season three, I understood the tone of the show. What I wanted to do was take that key and give the characters voices in the character’s key.

And we notice it this season with the character motifs and the guitars and piano. I think back to when Kiesha is with the baby. Talk about the different instruments you used.

I am a big fan of orchestration. I’ll hear it in my head and do a demo on my patterned keyboard. The first thing I wanted to do was tackle each character and give them their voice. With Kiesha, it was about the simplicity of harmonization. It was never too much because she has so much on her mind, and there is an innocence in her. Then there’s what she’s been through as a woman, and how she survived that pinned her down to be the ultimate hero. Every time I composed it, sometimes it could be a voice, a piano or even an acoustic guitar.

On the other hand, with Kevin, if you play it again, you will still hear that Miles Davis horn. It was a muted horn. For me, it was Kevin’s thing. Again, he’s that kid from Chicago, and that’s how it goes. That horn and that muffled sound was his friend. It was Kevin’s thing. As if you always hear that muted horn. Sometimes Kevin has nothing to say and you just see it in his face. So I was able to translate this horn to speak for it.

The problem with composing for TV is you don’t know where it’s going to end up, so how did you navigate the score with that nothing?

When I scored episode one, I didn’t let anyone overhear it because I was nervous as hell, and everyone was nervous as hell. It took a little while because I knew I had to set the tone. You can’t define it in episode two or three, you have to define it in one.

So you build the roster around the first level characters, and from there whatever they shoot at you, you add it. If a new character comes along, you add to that. After the first episode, all we’re going to do is carry that emotional tone of each character.

Along with the sheet music you also have the musical soundtrack which is a big part of each episode. How did you find this balance? You see it sometimes in the transitions because they show shots of streets where it’s a needle drop, and in another scene it’s this familiar pattern.

I worked with Derryck (Big Tank) Thornton, senior vice president of Sony Music Supervisor. To think about how to get a score inside (other) music (choice)? It is not easy. This show is so focused on music. There’s a part of my DNA that’s a producer, and Tank is also a producer and he can give me his favorites.

It’s magic because we work together and we love each other very much. Some people like to mark sheet music and then put on songs. I like to know what his songs will be and the magic that we pick up is, “Is it a song or is it this score?” “

And my style of score is very unorthodox because it can go from a tune from Gershwin to Kanye West, depending on how I feel about a scene.

I like to understand the content that the music supervisor is going to put in place: why does he think this song should be in this scene? What is the emotion he is trying to capture? The music supervisor is as important as the scorer, because if we don’t have a freeze, and we melt together, the shit starts to sound really weird. If I put together a scene and it goes into a musical cue, I guess I have an advantage because I understand this world – I know why that trap song or that Adele or reggae song has to be here. So I’m going to score backwards, and not fight it, but complete it.

You speak of a trap. Why is trap music slow to hit the radio here in the United States and take off?

My daughter is 16 and is on all streaming platforms. She knows all the rappers in the UK I think there are two sectors in the United States. There is what they put on the radio and what they want to be hot. But the children broadcast what they want.

Anything hot from UK, anything hot from Brazil, anything hot from America is a combination of their entire playlist. I have the impression that the people who get lost are the Conservatives who are on the radio. These radio curators, sad as it may sound, will not be relevant as they will eventually have to adapt to whatever works in streaming courses.

Earlier this year you covered “Is this Love?” by Bob Marley. You always remember the first time you heard his album “Legend” or anything from him. What is your first memory of having listened to it?

I just Port au Prince, Haiti and he’s from Kingston, Jamaica. But I come to America and I am still a refugee. You hear my music and I talk about what’s going on with me and how the world needs to be better.

When I first heard Bob Marley, I felt like someone was driving me home. I learned that there is something called singing and there is something called vibration for different things. And the people who have a vibration are the ones who become immortal: Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse. What I heard from Bob Marley was that vibe, and that’s what connected me to him.

“The Score” had a huge impact on music and children today are still discovering it. Talk about the impact on generation after generation and what it means to you.

When you do something pure for the culture it will outlive you and the kids will always find it. Somehow we were able to find the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. It was our parents’ music.

“The Score” is timeless. It’s like when you hear Bob Marley’s “Exodus”. Our thing was not to make music, let’s be a movement. Everyone makes music, but not everyone is a movement. Once you become a movement they could never get rid of you, and the music becomes a part of that movement and it becomes a part of the lifestyle of every generation.

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