Not every artist in popular cultures is the person we make them out to be as fans. Many of the hugely successful musicians in the world are nothing more than a mouthpiece for other people, singing music they didn’t write and conveying no particular message. Then there are artists like Joe Samy, from Seychelles, whose singular goal in music is to spread the culture and beauty of Seychelles through lyrics.
Musicians are commonly categorised as being soulful individuals who express a deep connection to people, places, cultures, or history through their art form. However, listening to the majority of the music coming from some of today’s global icons in music leaves something to be desired in the minds of fans. Some music might strike a chord with listeners, but by and large many musicians churn out the same songs in different genres that appeal to the current tastes of the masses.
The true artists worldwide are those that speak from the heart with their music, who express a true devotion to their culture or society through the words they sing. Joseph Samy is one of these artists. A self-taught musician, Joe Samy’s music seems to echo the culture and identity of his native Seychelles with every note, every chord and every word.
A Seychellois, Born and Raised
Joe Samy, as he is more widely known, is a native of the Seychelles whose talent and character extend far beyond being classified simply as a musician. Make no mistake; Joe Samy is an extremely talented musician whose first recorded song came at the young age of 13. According to the man himself, Joe Samy’s first song was recorded alongside a popular musician in an effort to raise awareness of the plight of a community in the aftermath of a fire.
What was noticed by many then, and is still recognized today, is that Joe Samy had a wealth of natural musical talent. In a brief interview with Kreol Magazine, when asked about his formal musical training and education he identified himself as being entirely “self-made.” But it is not the young age at which Joe Samy began performing or his natural abilities that garner attention for the musician; rather it is the soul of the Seychelles that he expresses in each and every song.
Ask Joe Samy what his most popular song is and he’ll tell you that there are songs he considers his most popular, and then those that his fans considered to be the best. When Kreol Magazine asked him that exact question he identified songs like “Vini au Carnival” and “The Sun is Shining in the Seychelles” as some of his favourite.
At the same time, he admits that these songs are probably not the most popular among the public. Remaining humble as ever, he admitted to Kreol Magazine that “I think the public/audience is more powerful than the panel of judges. So I leave it to the public and the public naturally adopts these songs. I am very democratic in my thinking.”
More than a Musician
Joe Samy is rightly referred to as an artist rather than simply a musician. This is not to disrespect his musical talents or minimize his accomplishments as a musician, but rather to give equal recognition to the other artistic endeavors he embarks on each year. In fact, if you allowed Joe Samy an opportunity to describe himself, “Artist”, might be exactly the term he would use.
In addition to his efforts as a musician, he has also exercised his abilities in fields such as television production/direction, journalism, and teaching. Make no mistake, Joe Samy is an accomplished singer, songwriter and loves to play the guitar and harmonica, but by his own admission these pursuits are not his main objectives in life.
According to Joe Samy, his musical endeavours are his hobby and it is his hobby that makes him happy. But his life, as he describes it, is all about his 15 plus year career in television. Over more than a decade on television, he has reported on, directed, and produced several environmental and cultural pieces in his native Seychelles.
Two separate pursuits might be enough for most people, but Joe Samy has one more trick up his sleeve. Though he does not currently teach anywhere, he is also a qualified teacher.
Sharing Seychelles with the World
Joe Sammy’s music career has focused, much like his television endeavours, on spreading the culture of Seychelles across the islands and around the world. His efforts are easily seen in the titles of his music (see those listed above), but also in how his music is used across the Islands. Some of his most widely heard songs include those used to celebrate the local Creole culture.
The main title hymn used in the Festival Kreol was written and performed by Joe Samy, and adopted as the official sound of the festival by the Ministry of Environment. He even went so far as to record the track in three different languages to increase its international appeal.
Recently, Joe Samy teamed up with Air Seychelles to release an album in conjunction with the airline’s growth in the Asian market. Some 20 years after the release of his last album, he put together an album of songs featuring lyrics that describe the islands of Seychelles as well as the people and the local Creole culture.
The album was part of Air Seychelles push into the Chinese market, in particular, and aimed at gaining attention for the Islands as a tourist destination for Asian travellers. On the album, which will be available in local markets in Seychelles around the New Year, listeners will hear Joe Samy strumming away on his acoustic guitar and playing the harmonica in his signature sega style.
Despite a successful career across a number of fields, Joe Samy believes his most important work is not yet done. When asked by Kreol Magazine about his future endeavours, he gave the kind of answer only a humble man could provide:
“To keep on living a happy life, to make sure that my daughter gets a career. I think that a woman should be doubly educated than a man now and a woman without education is nowhere. I make sure I take the cow to the water; I give her everything that I can.”
In the face of all his own success, in television, music, and journalism, Joe Samy hasn’t lost sight of other responsibilities and hopes to give all he can to the success of future generations.