Born in Douala, Cameroon, Etienne Mbappe is the master of technique and rhythm not only on bass but through his smooth/deep vocals sung in his native Cameroonian language as well.
Etienne studied Classical Guitar and Classical Contrabass from 1978 to 1983 at the Conservatory of Chevilly in France. Between his studies and roots, he has created a great musical genre of his own, transcending the boundaries between African music, funk, rock, jazz, and classical. His songs are powerful and energetic, yet are graced with his beautiful vocal harmonies and downtempo rhythms for a truly dynamic experience.
While Etienne has toured extensively in France and abroad with the Orchestre National de Jazz, Su La Take, Jacques Higelin, Michel Jonasz, Joe Zawinul, and played on Ray Charles’ last album in 2013, he now devotes himself to his solo career and touring with Bill Evans, John McLaughlin, and Steps Ahead.
“How Near How Far” marks the debut of Mbappé’s new band The Prophets – featuring Christophe Cravéro (acoustic and electric piano), Anthony Jambon (guitars), Clément Janinet (violin), Arno de Casanove (trumpet, flugelhorn), Hervé Gourdikian (tenor saxophone), and Nicholas Viccaro (drums, percussion). With the great trumpet/tenor/violin frontline leading the way, The Prophets explore eleven Mbappé originals, which touch on some international traditions while bridging cultural divides via deft musicianship and a thoughtful, conversational improvisational approach. “My music is influenced by places I have traveled, people I meet, colors I see, flavors that I taste, fun that I’ve had, and, sometimes, the pain that I feel,” Mbappé explains. “We live in a complex world today. I want nothing more than to bring that joy and understanding to people through music.”
That was a fantastic demo you just did!
EM: Thank you it was a lot of fun,
Who were your influences?
EM: Well, first of all, I was born in Africa, central Africa, in Cameroon, and my first bass influence was there, most of them were living in Europe, some in the States, and I would just listen to them, copping them, playing like them, and those were who spoke to me, and then way later I discovered Jaco Pastorius, and others like him and learned about them and found that they too, learned from these brothers, the roots of it all could be traced.
What’s coming up in 2018?
EM: I have another tour with the great John Mclaughlin. February we do a tour in India, then South America, and South Africa, and later in the year we do a tour in the States. Also, I’m working on the 5th album, with my band Etienne MBappe and the Prophets, and I am also working on a project with my son.
Since we’re here at NAMM, what gear do you use?
EM: EBS, I’ve been using EBS now for almost 20 years now, I use M basses, I just love sounds you know, I use what’s best for me, and I’m loyal to them.
Thank you so much for your time, and I hope 2018 is an excellent year for you
EM: Thank you! My pleasure, you as well
Written by Tony Lepre. Photos by Renee Jahnke.