Name: Omar Péne
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, composer
Current release: Omar Pene's Climat is out via Contre Jour.
If you enjoyed this interview with Omar Pene, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I consider myself as a citizen of the world, everything that happens around me concerns me and interests me.
Speaking of global warming, for example, it is obvious and it is a reality that we live, it is a global problem that arises. In Africa, we are also concerned, especially since we are suffering from the effects of global warming. I said to myself why not talk about it, to raise awareness among decision makers, so that these people find solutions - because it is serious, it is a global problem and what is happening in Africa, we do not talk about it much.
We must react and bring the voice of Africa to be heard if ever there are disasters because Africa will be a region that will suffer heavily from the consequences of this global warming
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I do not believe in chance or coincidence. I am someone who is interested in humanity. I live in Senegal, I am African, but I am also a citizen of the world. So I am interested in everything that happens, especially since I have my voice to carry. I am an opinion leader.
I find that there is a lot to say and I use my voice to carry the good word simply.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
In relation to my experience, what is happening around me.
There are events that happen every day and that challenge us. My source of inspiration is not found elsewhere than in my environment. It is my daily life ... many things happen in this world and as we live in a big global village, we are all interconnected, we are aware of everything that happens in this world. And as they say, we have a voice, a niche ... we use it not only to exist but also to propose.
I confess that I don't write because when you write you are fixed ... until the moment I am in front of my microphone in the studio, I only take notes. I'll look for where I'm going to go. For the subject that I want to address. I have it, and then it happens in the head
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
As I am a creator, I create at every moment, it is my job. I am very awake. And all these drugs or stimulants, I don't need to look for them elsewhere because I have them in me. I live with it.
In concrete terms, even before I make an album, or when I know I have to do something, I know where I want to go, what subject I'm going to dwell on, what events happened.
I think that you shouldn't put too many things in your head, but when I have to do something, it comes by itself.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
There is no difficulty ...There is a subject that is there. And, it's like when you go to school, when you have to do an essay, they give you a subject and you develop. The music is already there, I sing in the music.
When I record in the studio, what I usually do is that the musicians play the music first and then I will sing in the music. I already know where I'm going and what I have to do.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
When I choose for example the subject of climate which is on my album, I know that I am going to sing about global warming, what brings us to the warming, what it is necessary to make to counter this warming and I develop from that.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
It depends on the reaction of the people. For whom these words are intended. When it is necessary to talk about it with professionals like you (journalists), you ask me questions about global warming, terrorism, I am already well equipped, I know what I have done and why we have global warming.
So the way you want to explain the theme you have chosen so that people can understand in depth, where you have to go because anyway these are things that exist.
When we talk about terrorism, there are people who are victims of terrorism, and today, these people, when you talk to them about this theme, they feel concerned. And I believe that it is also that.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
In relation to that, I think you are either a writer or you are not I have never had anything written for me, I have always written my songs myself. It's not very difficult for me because I always know what I'm going to do and where I want to go ... and since I want to propose ... because it's something you want to give.
When it comes out, it doesn't belong to you anymore, it belongs to the public. And in view of the reaction of the public to what you give them, their feedback that you receive, that you can imagine, you can evaluate what you have done, how people have received it and know if it is positive or if it is negative, if people understand you or not.
It's about these reactions ... it's my job ... because if you don't master them, you have to try to do something else
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
When you're writing, you're set ... in my case, when I'm in front of the mic, something new can always happen but always in the same direction. When I want to say this and finally I say it differently, that's why I don't write. So I've thought, this is what I'm going to do, but when I get to the microphone I have other ideas, but they are in the same direction.
Because I have to think that I am addressing an audience and that people understand what I am saying and make it easy for them to listen. I always look for words that are simple enough for them to understand. And so it can happen. I stay in the same spirit
When we sing in Wolof ... a word in Wolof can have 3 or 4 meanings. I always choose the simplest one so as not to put the listener in difficulty. I always make sure that the one who listens to me, for whom the song is intended, can find himself.
So, in front of a microphone, there can be changes of words, to try to simplify the things, always in the same spirit, always in the same direction.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Of course we can always speak about spirituality. It's a job but it's also something else, not everyone is a creator... it comes from very far as you are considered as someone who creates and it's not easy at all.
That's why artists play a special role, because when we say a painter who paints his picture, you have to get in front of it and you may not understand anything ... you have to be able to understand and that's the role of the creator because he knows what he's doing, but you, as a layman, don't understand anything ... we see paintings being sold for huge sums of money and maybe they don't understand ... That's why I think that the creator is the one who gives, and that people understand the value and that's extremely important.
A creator is a being apart.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
The only thing is that you have to know how to use it. We live in the digital age which brings us a lot of things. In our profession, we use platforms to sell our music because the public and especially young people do not consume music as before. There are new technologies which allow us to be engulfed, it is necessary to be able to benefit from them, by using them wisely.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
When I'm done recording music and I'm done singing, there's a whole staff of people who are there to listen and everyone brings their appreciation as well
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
For all that, there are professionals in the matter.
It's a work in progress ... when you sing, there is the sound engineer who records and then there is the one who does the mastering, it's his job. Until the product is available, each one makes his work.
I work with professionals who know their trade and generally one is never disappointed and one manages to be able to leave a product of quality because it is a product which is intended for the sale. It is necessary that it is of quality. It is all that one asks
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I don't feel empty. I still want to do something.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Everyone is a creator in a specific field. Everyone in his field tries his best. So that this creation can be used as widely as possible, that can bring happiness to people, that the people who use it can have pleasure, can live better, feel better because a creator never tries to do harm ...
This is the definition that I make of creation.