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Interview: The Banyans

Interview: The Banyans

Interview: The Banyans

By on - Photos by Yannick Souyri - 2 comments

"It’s a real pleasure for us to see that this music, which was created 50’s years ago on a small island, is today expanding all around the world"


The color of The Banyans

The Banyans are one of the latest and greatest additions to the burgeoning French roots reggae scene. The band’s 70s flavored debut album Stepping’ Forward was dropped last year and United Reggae has had a chat with lead singer and front man Dévi about the new album and the French reggae scene.

The Banyans

The French reggae scene is big and has grown in recent years. There is a large pool of producers, sound systems, bands and artists from France and from the French Caribbean and sun-drenched islands like Guadeloupe and Martinique. But France is often synonymous with beloved local artists Pierpoljak and Dub Inc.

A number of new local acts have however been coming forward in recent years. Donkey Jaw Bone recorded an album with Derajah and deejays such as Ilements, Tiwony and Bigga Ranx have gained attention worldwide.

People recognize themselves in the messages

One of the most recent additions to the scene is the six piece band The Banyans, led by Amsterdam-born singer and front man Dévi. He’s happy about the strong interest in reggae in France and for the increasing interest in bands like his.

“The reggae movement is really alive in France and reggae music brings a positive energy, a conscious message and a spiritual strength, so in this time, more and more people recognize themselves in this message,” believes Dévi, and continues:

“It’s a real pleasure for us to see that this music, which was created 50’s years ago on a small island, is today expanding all around the world.”

Music without borders

In France, several local acts sing in French, partly because of governmental regulations that oblige radio and TV to play 70 per cent French speaking music. The Banyans have however chosen a different path.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve always listened to Jamaican music, so it was natural for me to sing in English and I associate English with reggae culture. For us, the musicality of this language is more appropriate to this music. Also, we play the music for everyone, without borders. English is universal, and it’s better to be understood everywhere,” explains Dévi.

The color of The Banyans

Steppin’ Forward is a mature piece of old-school roots music, heavily influenced by artists such as Bob Marley and Burning Spear. The organ is blistering, the horns are lively and the guitars are sharp, though never dominate.

“Our sound is inspired by Jamaican music from the 60s to the 80s, and of course by other genres as well, like soul, blues, jazz etc. Each member of the band brings his own musical identity with his inspiration, education and culture. That makes the color of The Banyans,” says Dévi, and adds:

“We work with the arrangements to find our sound with ingredients from the reggae roots of the elders. Steppin’ Forward was born from the inspiration of reggae culture,” he explains, and continues:

“But when we write our songs, we bring our own vibration and feeling, and we are turned towards the future. We have to bring hope to this generation as it is said our song ‘Dreamer’.”

When they worked on the album they were driven by the love of life and to always stay strong whatever happens in life.

“Music is freedom and it is our way of living. We bring our little stone to the wall that the elders built. Everyday we’ve a chance to help one another, to forgive or to do something positive for us and everyone. ‘Life is one big road with a lot of signs’, that’s what Bob Marley said, so we go forward on this road. Step by step we build our reality.”

Celebrated by veterans

Over the past five years The Banyans have played more than 300 shows and shared stages with Aswad, The Wailers, Anthony B, U-Roy and Clinton Fearon among many others. And in the teaser promotional video for Steppin’ Forward a number of these artists praise the band and wish them good luck.

“They give us strength and inspiration, and all of them always say that we should never stop what we do. It’s a big honor and a real pleasure to have met a lot of the legends from Jamaican music. We have to learn more and more from them, musically and spiritually, like their way of playing and their way of working,” he concludes.

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Read comments (2)

Posted by Donatien on 05.25.2014
Hey Unitedreggae, sorry but in France it is not 70% of French music but 40% :) Cheers

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