LETTER is the new album from piano prodigy Sofiane Pamart. The one-word title of each of the 18 pieces is taken from the sentence “Dear Public Your Love Saved Me From Solitude Forever Sincerely Sofiane P.S. I Wrote This Album In Asia”. A love letter from which the artist will share the most beautiful passages on 30 November at the Opéra Garnier de Monte-Carlo, as part of the Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival 2022. He joins us for an interview.
Tell us about the inspiration for your new album.
Sofiane Pamart: The album was inspired by the changes in my life between my first album Planètes, with which I first became known and began to assert my identity as a pianist, and the moment when my music really began to have an audience. People started leaving me reviews. I felt my life being transformed! When I was composing my second album, there was already something deep inside me which had changed and which really inspired me during the writing process. Then I embarked on a long journey through Asia – travel is always a great source of inspiration for me! – and, unlike for my first album, I already had this audience with whom I had some history. So I really wanted to express my gratitude, say thank you to these listeners to whom I owe everything.
Where do you think you fit on the music scene?
S.P: I feel – and it’s a privilege – as if I am turning into a strength something that initially could have been considered a weakness: expressing myself alone, just me and my piano. Without singing, without rapping. At the beginning, I think this was a surprise to many. So I really had something to prove. But today, I can finally enjoy the fruits of my work. Freely affirm what has always been important to me. Affirm my identity and not act based on what others expect of me.
“Play big and for everybody”, what does that mean for you?
S.P: I really want to speak to the heart, to emotions. For me, any cerebral aspect is secondary. Of course, you can reflect about music but that’s not what interests me the most. Above all I want to stir real emotion. In seasoned music lovers as well as those who aren’t necessarily experts, irrelevant of class. I want something very all-encompassing, it’s really important to me that this is music for everyone. Something that really touches peoples’ hearts, their lives, their truth. And it was also a way for me to step away from the more scholarly side of classical music.
How do you feel about this iconic venue and this festival?
S.P: I’m so honoured! I already have some history with the Opéra Garnier. The one in Paris, where I was lucky to enough to spend an entire day, with the opera house just for me, to film the video for Alba with my friends from Bon Entendeur. It’s this type of place that inspired my childhood dreams, that I could only admire. And then, little by little, I dared to say to myself that one day I would appear there, that I would manage to make it part of my own story. And it’s this dream that is coming true today with an audience ready to join me in this prestigious venue to hear what I have to offer them with my music.
This venue, this festival... Are there similarities between you and them? Not really a fan of being labelled... You spent your youth listening to rap while also learning to master the classical repertoire at the conservatoire. What has this double “education” given you?
S.P: Firstly, I have sought out what seemed to me the to be the qualities of each approach: the rigour of classical music, its culture of excellence, of perfectionism, teaching that has been passed down through the centuries from teacher to student. I love this culture and find it fascinating, even if, of course, it can lack spontaneity, carrying with it the weight of the giants who have written its history, its codes. It’s a style of music with heritage, whose codes can sometimes appear remote from real life and the here and now. And that’s exactly what I get from rap. While classical music often demands you take more time to really feel ready – and you’re never really ready! – rap is the music of the here and now. Whether you’re ready or not, you go for it! You record freestyle! You get up onto a stage with a video camera even if it’s your first project…
In terms of personality, what would be your “classical” side and your “rap” side?
S.P: Well, I think that my classical side is my technique: my fingers! And rap is everything else!
Another label that you have enjoyed shaking up is one of image. Your style is elegant, exacting, with attention to detail. What does that say about you?
S.P: I like playing this game of dress-up where we make the most of ourselves. A bit like when we go to the opera, of course. Where you carry yourself a certain way, where you behave in a certain way. We have fun making the best of ourselves, we put ourselves on show and feel good. A way of learning to love yourself too maybe. I also find this feeling in the world of luxury. In fact, I really like working with high-end brands that want to tell a story, provoke a sensorial experience on every level. That has always fascinated me and I try to reproduce that in my art.
Your image has led you to be named the “New Face of Luxury” at the Salon du Luxe in Paris and to have numerous collaborations with prestigious fashion houses and brands. Is it therefore possible to reconcile recitals, hip-hop and high-end?
S.P: Yes! For me, this reconciliation is more a question of attitude as my recital remains classical. The music I compose can't be hip-hop. However, in terms of attitude, I have hip-hop points of reference and this is more my culture. And that’s where you find this reconciliation, in your state of mind.
For you, playing the piano is telling stories, creating scenes, travelling... So when you hear “Monaco”, what images come to mind?
S.P: So far, I have only made a short stop in Monaco by boat. I haven’t really had the chance to get under the skin of the city yet. But I imagine that in Monaco I’ll find this princely side, this luxurious and high-end side, the high-end imagery that fascinates me. I can’t wait to discover all that. And I’m lucky because this date at the Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival comes just after a big concert in Paris [ed. at the Accor Arena at Bercy on 17 November], a prestigious, celebratory event, and just before embarking on my first concerts in the United States.
What type of melody or which piece defines Monaco?
S.P: Off the top of my head, I would say Album on LETTER! I imagine a gold-plated melody, sparkling like a precious jewel. You will find that in Album, with its arpeggios and trills, in the game being played by the whirling right hand. That could definitely evoke this shiny side, this energy that Monaco initially inspires in me.
What can we expect from Sofiane Pamart on the stage?
S.P: A solo piano recital. And it will make me so happy to play my music, with my own particular flow, in such a prestigious venue. I am obviously preparing a special performance and a special look.