Content of an interview with
Steven Snyder of The World Online:
America's soul music craze may have come and gone three decades ago, but working musicians still use vintage Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett tunes to move folks onto the dancefloor. You hear that familiar brass meets rhythm-and-blues sound when Hollywood tries to evoke the swinging 60s, or TV commercials try to prompt baby boomers to turn nostalgic. For today's Global Hit, we meet a man who's reviving soul music, and giving it some political punch.
Stephen Snyder: Eric McComber's job description is complicated. Aspiring novelist, screen writer, political activist, and soul singer.
The Montreal native came to perform soul music not out of a sense of nostalgia - he's too young to remember the 1960s, but because it seemed like the right medium for his populist message.
Eric McComber: Soul music and blues music is poor people's culture, you know, Black culture from the south of the U.S., and a lot of it came from Louisiana, and there's a lot of Cajun music that uses French for lyrics, and I thought, "Gee, we could adapt these things and make them work."
SS: Eric McComber's songs are filled with angry people, not so much the Quebec Separitists you might expect, but down and out characters living amid poverty and alienation. While he's not the first French Canadian to mix social criticism with pop music, he may be the first to try it with a row of Memphis-style horns.
While the band never turns down requests to play covers of Mustang Sally or In the Midnight Hour, Jericho's originals are pure politics. The tune, The Complaints Department, is typical.
EM: That's a song about this guy who's on welfare, and he was being treated unfairly, and he's trying to find society's complaints department, and he just can't find it. He ends up saying, "Okay, if there's nothing else I might just go up there and kick somebody's butt."
SS: Jericho's name is borrowed from the Old Testament city whose walls were shaken by music. The title of the group's first album, Le Septieme Jour, refers to the seventy day, when Jericho's walls came tumbling down, and its people were once again free. McComber sees growing protests against economic globalization, such as the street demonstrations that accompanied this spring's Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, as harbingers of popular revolution. While he has no illusions about his band's ability to level corporate culture with a biblical trumpet blast, songwriter McComber says he's compelled to try.
EM: Well, songs can change worlds. Sometimes a song that you hear can polarize ideas or clarify emotions.
SS: This song Changer le Monde might be Eric McComber's musical manifesto. The lyrics proclaim his band's mission, to promote social change.
EM: That's really what's said in there. We're not up there to show our talent. We're not there to get up on stage and become, you know, overnight success. We're here to change the world, and that's our function as artists.
SS: Jericho is not well known. The group has never performed outside Quebec. But it's getting international attention - and selling CDs - through a website that showcases the band in English, Spanish and Portuguese as well as French. McComber is now planning a second Jericho CD, supplementing his band of soulful French Canadians with musicians recorded on location in Havana Cuba and Sao Paulo Brazil.