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Music

Singer Patrice has a thing for melancholy songs

Famous for smart lyrics and an instantly recognizable voice, Patrice Babatunde Bart-Williams is one of Germany's hottest musical exports. He also goes by his African middle name, but is widely known simply as Patrice.

German reggae musician Patrice

Patrice has an affinity for melancholy songs

German singer-songwriter Patrice performs in English and Patois. Foremost a reggae musician, he integrates elements of jazz, neo-soul, R&B, hip-hop, funk and folk into his thoughtful songs.

His genre-bending sound comes together on an album called "ONE," released in September 2010. Deutsche Welle caught up with the performer, who sees his songs as a way to bring up problems while offering solutions.

DW-WORLD: In September 2010 you released your eighth album. Why did you decide to call it "ONE"?

Patrice: "One" is the first number. It connects. It stands for unity and originality. It represents everything that begins with "uni," like universal, universe, and so on. It stands for individual, but also the opposite, like loneliness, uniqueness. One is in all of that. It was important to me to make an album that includes many different things that I love - music, topics and words that I find beautiful - and combine them into one and restrict myself to what is essential to me.

Some listeners say the music on "ONE" sounds more serious than on your previous record, "Free-Patri-Ation." Do you agree?

The cover of ONE by Patrice

On "ONE," Patrice strikes a more serious, melancholy tone than on previous CDs

It's serious but also positive in the sense that I try to present ideas for resolving issues, not just questions to which there are no answers. I simply like melancholy songs. They're the ones that give you goose bumps and move you - in a different way than happy songs. Feel-good songs about the sun shining are also great and important. But they touch you differently than melancholy songs. Each has its value, and we need both.

Is that why the first single, "Walking Alone," also explores a certain dichotomy between loneliness and solitude?

Everyone thinks they're kind of strange and that everyone else is normal. I think we all know that feeling. And in a world where people have more and more supposed friends on Facebook and MySpace, you still feel like you're on your own at the end of the day and that the big heading is "loneliness." Even though the profiles - which we present with idealized self-images of ourselves - are related to others, there's no true relation from one real person to another. So there's more loneliness.

But to some extent I love being alone. For me it's a great luxury to have time to myself, to think and let my thoughts wander. So it's not just about good and bad. It's both.

You and your partner, German soul singer Ayo, have two children together. How has fatherhood changed you?

Having kids makes me funnier. You really come up against your limits. A child is the ultimate mirror. You want the child to do something, and he simply won't. He resists, does his own thing. At some point you just have to laugh because all your attempts are futile.

Ayo plays guitar on stage

Like husband Patrice, Ayo also hails from a small town in western Germany

Sometimes I'm more worried about looking like a dad who's afraid of growing old - dressed like his son and hanging out in skate parks. We have a lot of fun together. Of course there have to be limits. But I don't think that's what makes me serious. Thinking about solutions to problems makes you serious; humor is always the answer.

You were born the same day that your African grandfather died. Your middle name, Babatunde, means "return of the father." Are there similarities between you and your late grandfather?

My father died when I was 11, and my mother didn't know my father's father that well, so I'm not sure. There are a few strange stories. For example, my mother says I once talked in my sleep, as if conversing with someone, in a language I didn't know. There were stories like that, but who knows - maybe they just read a lot into it. My father used to say I had healing hands. When he or my mother had a headache, they told me to hold my hands over their heads. The headaches went away.

You've lived in New York, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Berlin, Hamburg, Paris and Kerpen-Brueggen, your small hometown near Cologne. Where do you feel most at home?

Always here, no matter where I am. It feels good to move around from one place to the next. I like that. But I think Brueggen is the place I know my way around best. It's small and manageable. I know the people, they know me. For me it's laid-back and convenient.

Interview: Marc Muehlenbrock (df/gsw)
Editor: Rick Fulker

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