Who is Stromae?
On the bustling streets of New York City, a svelte, young man dressed in an alarmingly bright, patterned polo shorts set and loveable, awkward charm performs with an acrobatic dance and musical keyboard. Passersby look on with curiosity, others mockingly so. All oblivious, deafened rather to the brilliance and rhythmic originality of the eccentric entertainer, moreover his undeniable superstardom. 3.5 million plus records sold, ground breaking sold out concerts, global multi-platinum status and critical acclaim, Stromae, an inversion of the word (mae)stro, boasts fans of the likes of Madonna, Anna Wintour, Kanye West and Lorde. He is for all intents and purposes, a worldwide kept secret, Stateside at least… until now.
Born Paul Van Haver in Brussels, Belgium to a Rwandan father and Flemish mother, young Stromae found focus in music, studying percussion instruments initially and later expanding to the keyboard. Escalated by his musical and multicultural backgrounds, his sound is an original blend of harmonic samba, salsa, electro pop and hip hop styling. His 2009 breakout single, a hypnotic track, “Alors on Danse” translated, “so we dance” reached number one in several European countries – Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Turkey, to name a few. Lyrically, the hit touches lightly on the woes of life and our cultures’ tendency to use a good time as a band aid. His follow up album, 2014’s Racine Carrée has also achieved tremendous success, certifying 12 times platinum by the Belgian Entertainment Association and has yielded, three chart topping hits, “Ta Fete,” “Formidable” and most notably, “Papaoutai,” an idyllic fusion of jolting melodies and Congolese beats, loosely recounting his father’s absence as a child [his father, an architect went missing during 1994’s Rwandan genocide].
The first version of the track was totally personal. But then I wanted to have more objectivity. The [third] version was more aggressive, a teenager vision, like, okay I hate my father because he wasn’t there for me and I decided just to grow up and say, okay, actually the real question is, “What’s a father?” because you’re almost 30 and you have to become a father as soon as possible. – Stromae for Elle
The Belgian sensation’s rare ability to address vital issues – single parenthood, cancer (Quand c’est), STDs (Moules Frites), etc. against electrifying, captivating beats speaks to the universal appeal of the charismatic songwriter. He is for all intents and purposes, a worldwide kept secret, stateside that is… until now.