Traditional music on urban beats
I don't know if people who like folk music also watch the Eurovision song contest, but this year's edition proved that the show is worth watching now and again. The Turkish winner Sertab is not the reason for my saying so, but the Belgian band that came second with only a few points less. The band is called Urban Trad and, according to their founder Yves Barbieux, the band mixes tradition with urban beats. The wonderful sales figures of their new post-song contest cd Sanomi show that they do so in a very successful way. After having interviewed Yves Barbieux twice, I will try to paint a portrait of this Belgian group in this article.
Urban Trad didn't start as an official group, but as a project for which Yves was asked by his manager Wilfried Brits. Wilfried wanted to do a project with music in the style of Hevia and he definitely wanted to do something with the song La belle gigue by Andre Bialek. Yves had had the idea of working with traditional music for some time and when he heard of Wilfred's plan he started to mix the Bialek song. In this way the foundation of Urban Trad was laid and Yves could begin creating other songs for their debut album One o four. Most songs that can be heard on this cd were not written especially for this album, but were songs that Yves himself already played in an acoustic setting. Yves chose the songs he wanted to record and then looked around for musicians he would like to play with. Luckily, most musicians liked the project and were very willing to play on the cd. Having good musicians was important, but Yves also claimed a big part for the sound engineer Nicolaas Vandooren who knew how to create the urban beats Yves had in mind. When One o four was released, it received quite a bit of attention. Although it all started out as a once-only cd project, Yves suddenly got requests for concerts. He brought together a group of musicians who liked touring and slowly the "project" band developed into a real band.
After One o four a lot of things changed. Yves really felt the urge to work with a steady group of musicians. Together with four musicians who were also on the debut cd and four new musicians he formed a new basis for the band. One day, Wilfried, the manager, started to tell Yves a long story about the Eurovision song contest; explaining how good it would be for promotional purposes. Wilfried had probably expected Yves to dislike the idea of taking part in such a contest, but Yves liked the idea right away and even thought it was quite an amusing plan. He knew that they did run a risk (suppose they would finish as number 20 or so), but somehow he felt it was worth giving it a try. So, very shortly afterwards they found themselves in Riga. For the band it was all a kind of game and they were quite relaxed ... until the moment the points were given. Suddenly they realised that they had a good chance of winning the contest. Before, they had hoped to finish with the first fifteen, but eventually they came second. When they returned to Belgium, they were welcomed as real heroes. Over 30.000 copies of the single were sold and the cd was gold in no time. According to Yves, the song contest has brought about good things only. The band is now known all over Europe, but they still perform at the sort of festivals and in the kind of concert halls they like. Very unexpectedly, the 2003 Eurovision song contest has turned out to be a very successful one for this Belgian band.
Internet site: www.urbantrad.com
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Photo Credit: Urban Trad at Folkwoods 2003, photos by Finn Snaters: http://www.finnfoto.com/
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