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Extravaganza called McFerrin

A popular jazz musician and conductor, a unique vocalist, winner of ten Grammy awards, Bobby McFerrin is familiar to everyone, first and foremost for the uncomplicated, but the cult song "Don’t Worry, Be Happy". Our correspondent met with Bobby in Tbilisi, and today Nargis readers will get acquainted with this cult musician closer.

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Bobby, you have since childhood been attached to the harmony of sounds...

Yes, I was born in a family of opera singers, and from childhood, I was taught music: first, to play the clarinet, and began to reach the pedals – they transplanted to the piano.

And when did they re-qualify as vocalists?

It was, so to speak, a parallel process. But the serious "first attempt at writing" in vocals took place when I turned 17 years old. Over time, I realized that the human voice is the most versatile instrument, although I have not stopped playing musical ones.

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You played with many great musicians. Who else would you like to work with?

I have some unrealistic desires. For example, conduct an orchestra with solo Mozart, performing his own 40th symphony, at Carnegie Hall. Still, perhaps, would love to work with James Taylor...

Do you think jazz has changed a lot in the last quarter century?

Of course, because everything in life is changing. What I have been performing in recent years is not pure jazz, but a mixture of various musical styles.

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What kind of music do you prefer to listen to?

I listen to a lot of music, the most diverse. Well, and I feed, basically, with timeless classics and folklore of different countries. By the way, I am glad of the opportunity to listen to Georgian music, which I am not familiar with. Once, during a dinner at a Georgian restaurant, I heard several folk songs – surprisingly melodic, with complex, polyphonic harmony. Now I hope to listen to them again...

What is the history of the creation of your most famous song – "Don’t Worry, Be Happy"?

The melody came to me in my native New York, at the sight of an advertising placard with these words. From my school years, I was entertained by writing melodies to favourite phrases – sayings, advertising slogans... We had a lot of fun recording this single and the album as a whole. Everything was done easily, without tension. In general, then, in 1988, we were not worried and were happy...

Photo of Bobby McFERRIN

Is it still applicable to your life philosophy?

I do not have such a life philosophy, which would be worth talking about. Simply, I already know for sure that the hassle and excitement do not bring anything positive, and therefore are meaningless.

You are touring around the world. How much does your American audience differ from, say, European?

The American public is more accustomed to short hits, she is waiting for her to be quickly entertained and carried away. And Europeans are better prepared to listen to long and complex works because they were brought up on the classics. Americans are more interested in rhythm, more intelligible melody; Europeans – a musical idea with a complex structure.

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Your whole life, Bobby, is serving the music. Do you have enough time for something else?

I devote my free time to my family – my wife Debbie and three children. I like to walk in the woods, I love watching sports, thirdly and most importantly on TV...

Do you consider yourself happy, so intelligibly and cheerfully, in a musical form that has offered such a simple formula of happiness to all of humanity?

Maybe yes. In any case, once a day I am happy for sure – when I wake up! I thank the Lord and pray for him to extend this moment of happiness to me...

Bobby McFerrin Performs In Bologna

 

 Interview: Archil Bezhiashvili