|AN INTERVIEW WITH MILENE BEY
December 28, 2005
Special for THE NEW TIMES HOLLER!
© Amir Bey, 2007
Milene Bey, vocalist, painter, writer, dancer, comedienne and actress now living in Fort de France, Martinique, has recently come out with a new CD titled ESCALES. Her journey in the arts began in Paris, where she was born to Martiniqué parents. Her first activities there centered on dance, and she later toured many other cities in France and Europe, including Paris, and several cities in Tunisia, Italy, Spain, and Germany. In the late 1970s she came to New York City, where she felt the call of the Jazz muse. She joined workshops given by pianist Barry Harris as well as the vocalist Jeanne Lee. She later sang in ensembles led by Jeanne Lee, Jamil Moondoc's Jus Grew Orchestra, Tan Dun, Michele Rosewoman, and Montego Joe, to name some. Possessing a charismatic, sultry stage presence, she led groups that included Newman Baker, James Wideman, Lonnie Plexico, Cindy Blackman, and Fred Hopkins, along with many others. Eventually she felt another calling and left New York to "return" to the verdant home of her ancestors, Martinique, which allowed for her to explore many of the musical skills that she acquired in New York as well as those she hadn't for sometime: painting, writing, acting, and dance. The following interview was conducted on the shore of the Caribbean Sea at Bellefontaine, a town on the west coast of Martinique and at her home in Fort de France:
MILENE BEY’S “ESCALES” ALBUM
The Holler!: Tell us about your new CD.
MILENE: Well my new CD has been a pleasure to make because it's been a gift of life and working on it had a magical vibration to it. I didn't think a CD could be really a projection of the artist. Because you have to spend a lot of time redoing it, and you spend so much time perfecting it that you lose what's natural, you lose yourself. It can become something else.
The Holler!: The title is ESCALES; what does that refer to?
MILENE: An escale is a stop in a journey when one is on their way to somewhere else. That's how I see myself, that I'm not limited to where I am at a given moment, that I'm on my way to a destination beyond where I might be, like a bird who is flying freely and might stop somewhere to rest or like someone who has to make several stops before getting to Martinique!
The Holler!: You have a variety of songs in ESCALES, originals by you and some Jazz classics like Body And Soul; with the lyrics in French, Creole, and English; how would you describe your music?
MILENE: Well, I'm not mixing things just for the sake of putting different things together, and I don't like to be catalogued. My love is Jazz, I am a Jazz singer. This is certainly not Zouk, or another form of music.
The Holler!: Listening to the tune Les Mots, I thought of Nina Simone.
MILENE: That's the one that sounds a little like poetry. In that piece I'm singing only with the drummer, Jean Claude Montredon.
The Holler!: How did you make the change from New York to Martinique?
MILENE: I'm a traveler. I'm someone who needs to move; I’m someone who's attracted to other places. New York attracted me because of its size, the thickness of its culture. Martinique is exciting because of its Caribbean identity. New York doesn't need to affirm its identity. It's true that it's a melting pot; it's a melting pot of races and brings out all of those different colors and influences.
The Holler!: You could almost say that the New York phase was transitional for you.
MILENE: Yes, it was like taking a break before getting to Martinique. New York is huge and has all this variety of people. Imagine if you had all these people fighting for their identity in Martinique! New York is huge, people from everywhere. Martinique is very small, but you have people from everywhere from the Caribbean Diaspora, the many colors of what we are.
For further information about Milene Bey and her new album and video contact MIZIK LABEL by visiting their website at www.miziklabel.com or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org at 596-699-44.36.66 -dial 011 first for overseas dialing- or read FRANCE ANTILLES'S December 26 feature article on her.