A Symphonic Night of Hip Hop with Wyclef


January 19th, 2018

Wyclef performs with the Omaha Symphony

Wyclef: “This is a space I look forward to owning with all of the musicians that are coming up and that feels like, “Yo, where’s our space?”. Well, you found your space, now you’re part of the hip hop symphonic. This is the most important tone as we move towards legacy and I’m happy that I was one of those chosen to lead this chart and I plan to take the bull by the horn and run with it.”

MD: Three-time Grammy award-winning artist, producer and Wyclef Jean will be performing with the Omaha Symphony tonight in a Symphonic Night of Hip Hop conducted by Maestro Thomas Wilkins. Many don’t know that he was classically trained on over 15 different instruments as a kid after moving to New York from Haiti, at the age of ten.

Wyclef: “I don’t know I was just one of those kids who loved instruments and I loved hip-hop music at the same time. So, in my brain, I wanted to do hip-hop but I wanted to be the Bach or the Coltrane of it. And at sixteen years old a teacher discovered me, I was barely sixteen and put me into chorus in my high school and started teaching me about two forms of music. We were studying classical music and of course, jazz. And in jazz I fell in love with the likes of Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk. And then my favorite composer at the time, there was two, one was Gershwin and the other was Quincy Jones. This is how I am able to go from Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” to writing that, to writing Carlos Santana’s “Maria, Maria” to Lil’ Wayne’s “Sweetest Girl”. I always say I have the funnest time when I can just lay back and be a musician.”

MD: Wyclef stays relevant by continually reinventing himself. From writing “Killing Me Softly” with The Fugees to working with Carlos Santana, to composing with Indian Composer, Aadesh S. He says it’s positioning yourself in the composition.

Wyclef: “When you look at the television, it’s like mostly what’s promoted is the hip hop in the sense of, we are going to rap, we’re going to sing, you know, we’re going to throw them 808’s, we’re gonna kill the club and everybody’s going to sing along, right? But sometimes the average kid who plays saxophone is like, “where the hell is my space in this?”, and what I want them to know is, your space is within the composition. There’s a lot of us that are musicians first, and what we’ve figured out is not just to do the music, for it to stay in a four block radius. So, I want these kids to know their position is the most important position because the computer can’t regenerate or come up with compositions. It’s still going to take brilliant minds to come up with everlasting compositions.

MD: Wyclef has a passion for music education and bringing awareness of the similar issues we all face as an entire nation.

(clip from “If I Was President”)

Wyclef:” Well, the current state of our nation despite the fact that they want to make us seem divided, there is more unity now than division. It’s so important for people to really understand this. There is much more unity and I want people to understand that anyone who is in a position of leadership, there has to be the idea of moral understanding of how conversations are had. Because you are not addressing one particular person or one particular group, you are addressing a nation and it’s so important that we understand that. “

MD: I’m curious how you got your name?

Wyclef: “The name actually, Wyclef Jean comes from the reformatator being that my father was of Christian faith. In the 14th century at the time of Martin Luther you had reformatator by the name of Wyclef Jean who translated Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into English.”

MD: Throughout singing in choir and being raised is that how your developed your distinct vibrato?

Wyclef: “Distinct vibrato? Oh, you mean the ‘ahhhhh’? The wailing of the cry. Well, I’m a church boy, right and I’m a big fan of Bob Marley and I always used to hear Bob Marley do these cries, these African wails in his music.”

MD: And anything else you can tell us about the show this evening?

Wyclef: “Just for the advisory board checklist, when you are coming to see Wyclef, there are a few rules when you are coming to see a man from the Caribbean, an Island man. It’s important to bring two outfits with you because you are going on a carnival. I expect the first hour to be calm, cool and relaxing and the second hour you are probably going to want to take your shoes off and start dancing to the salsa, the Merengue and the Copa. So, make sure you are ready for that”.

Grammy Award Winning Hip-Hop Artist, Wyclef Jean will be performing with the Omaha Symphony tonight, led by music director Thomas Wilkins in “A Night of Symphonic Hip Hop”. The show starts at 8pm at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at omahasymphony.org or by calling Ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606.

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