Gabriel Yacoub
The Simple Things He Said
 More of this Feature
• Gabriel Yacoub: Part One
• Gabriel Yacoub: Part Two
• Gabriel Yacoub: Part Three
• Gabriel Yacoub: Part Four
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• Gabriel Yacoub (official site)

Gabriel Yacoub PK: As someone who sings mostly in French, what do you find are some of the challenges of singing in English?

GY: It's strange to me because when I sing in English I feel like I've got something missing, like a leg or a hand missing. But I like it because I've always listened to American or English music in English music since I was a kid and I really like the sound of the language, but honestly, I feel like I don't have the full potential for singing in English but I know that sometimes people like that. The songs I sing in English are very special also, because one of them was a gift from a very good friend Richard Shindell ["You Stay Here"] - he's a wonderful songwriter and we've been good friends for a very long time, so it was a gift from him so I'm very proud to sing it in English. The other one is a song that I originally wrote in French but that some Anglophone singers wanted to sing in English. The first one to show up was Dave van Ronk, the late Dave who was a very good friend of mine. One day he came to me and said [deepens his voice],"I want to sing this song," but he wanted to sing it in English, so I had it translated.

PK: In some of your songs, both lyrically and musically, you draw a lot upon traditions and folklore. Is keeping traditions alive something that is important to you?

GY: Oh yes, definitely. To me, traditional music is something which is very deeply rooted in me. I've been working on traditional music for almost 30 years now, and it's one of my passions - I really love the poetry, I really love the idioms, musically and poetically. It's also a huge part of my inspiration. When I wrote songs about modern situations like today, the words I would find or the way I would address that would be very strongly inspired by ancient songs, or sometimes I would use words that no one else would use in a song because I just think they are beautiful and they sound beautifully and they really mean exactly what I feel and what I want to say. And also I use old instruments and things like that.

PK: There are also a lot of cultural influences in your music - does your own cultural background influence you musically?

GY: Do you mean my own French cultural background?

PK: French, and also I understand that your father is Lebanese.

GY: That's right - to be honest, I don't feel a connection with that culture. The only things that I learned from his culture was something from a personal approach that I made maybe when I was a teenager, but my father never tried to teach me the language; he didn't speak at all about it - he probably left Lebanon because he didn't want to hear about it anymore and he kept myself and my sister totally away from that. So, if there is any, I think it's probably in the blood somewhere, but it is not cultural really.

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