When the chance presented itself to interview the members of The Barbosa Experience I jumped at it. Actually I leapt at it like a flasher leaps at an unsuspecting parent and their child from behind a bush, or garbage bin near a primary school. But I doubt that the authorities will frown upon what I did, and I am almost certain that nobody will require therapy. Well not anybody who is not in therapy at the moment.
I have been a writer on Running Wolf’s Rant for little over a while now and I have always wanted to interview The Barbosa Experience, which consists of Pedro Barbosa (vocals; guitar), Peter Toussaint (vocals; guitar), Rudi “Masjien” Oosthuizen (drums) and sometimes featuring Heine Van Der Walt (bass).
So on the 18th of September 2013 I got the opportunity to do just that – interview The Barbosa Experience. I got to sit down with two members – Peter and Pedro inside Aandklas Hatfield on an evening they were set to perform. What ensued was an candid conversation set to the backdrop of a bar alive with the chatter of patrons working their way to epic hangovers.
I’m sitting here at Aandklas with Peter and Pedro, guys please say ‘Hello’.
Pedro: Hello, hello!
Peter: Hello, hello!
Pedro: Hello, hello!
Just to get it out there so people know who the band are. Before we begin, let’s start off with a quiz and you guys can fill in the gap (both laugh). Without music, I would be . . .
Pedro: I’d be confused as…freakin’ hell.
Peter: I think I would be wrinkled and dried up and…about to die.
Peter: Because music nurtures my soul, and without that your soul…shrinks.
To the size of raisins? Like Spike, in the movie Notting Hill, says: “Just going to the kitchen to get some food, then I’m going to tell you a story that will make your balls shrink to the size of raisins”.
How do you define music personally?
Pedro: I think it’s an expression of an emotion that you feel at that specific time. Are you talking if I write music?
When you write music. When you play music – music as it presents itself.
Pedro: It’s something that you’re relating to, man. It’s basically as simple as that. I think – in my opinion – you wouldn’t listen to something if you don’t like it, and the reason you like it is because you find something that relates to you, that resonates.
Peter: I agree with Pedro. Music is the expression of an emotion, translation of an emotion into something. And when you make the music you express it [something]. When you do it right, then the listener will feel that emotion.
I take it that music for you is an experience, and experiential thing where besides performing it you become a part of it and it becomes a part of you. The question that most people like to ask is “My music, how does it make me feel?” Do you guys see your music as “MY” music personally, or the music that I make to share with people?
Pedro: Hmm, that’s a good question (laughs). What you’re basically asking is, “Are we commercial or not?” (laughs)
(Who’s asking the questions here?) Well on the one side of the coin you have people who become, or are commercial and they say they want to share the music, and on the other it’s all about driving the fancy car, they want the house and they want the trophy wife.
Pedro: Dude, I think it’s very simple. I don’t consider myself a musician. I consider myself an entertainer. When you see The Barbosa Experience it’s purely entertainment – it’s an entertainment gig. It’s making people happy, and it’s what makes me happy as well. BUT, on the other hand, I only play what I like to play. The covers that we perform is stuff that I’ve been hearing since I was 10, or however how many years old, and the music that I do enjoy playing and things that I’ve always wanted to play. I’m a songwriter by trade but I love other peoples’ music and I respect what they do. I suppose that’s it.
In as much as you being a songwriter, you’re also a fan and a supporter of other peoples’ music.
Pedro: Hell yeah for sure! I mean I really love bands like Matchbox Twenty and Foo Fighters and I actually follow them every now and then when I get the time and check what they are up and are about to do. There’s never anything wrong with that.
My follow-up question would then be, would you agree with the sentiment held by some writers that one cannot be both a writer and a reader, and how such a belief could be translated in music? Especially being the entertainers that you are and when having finished writing a song, you stand back and become a fan of what you’ve just accomplished.
Both: FOR SURE!
Pedro: Definitely. I think with Mrs. B especially, you record an album and you go out and start listening to it and it’s actually a moment when you’re proud of what you’ve done. It’s like having a baby, man. It’s my little baby.
Peter: It’s pride. But you hear that what you have done, and you look at it. And you listen to it. And you see that it’s good.
Pedro: And believe me dude, you have to love yourself. And you would know Menz; I mean you have to love yourself in order to step up on that stage. You have to be a bit ego-centric, and people go “Oh no” but you have to, otherwise you’re going to step on that stage and be shy and not be able to do it. So you have to be happy with who you are and what you do, to an extent.
So it’s a matter of being comfortable in your own skin, and being comfortable in a setting where people will inevitably judge what you produce because it touches them so deeply and it resonates with so much with people.
If I was to adopt the slogans that appear everywhere and I said: Support music because… How would you complete that sentence? And what would be your reasons for having finished the statement in that way?
Peter: Music must drive you. Music must bring that emotion out of you. If it doesn’t, it’s not worth supporting – local, international – I don’t care! If local [music] is good, then by all means support local.
And don’t use the “Local” tag to guilt people into supporting music that is of low quality.
Pedro: Yeah, like I always said when I used to teach – I always told my students “Never listen to what your friends say about your music”. Because friends will always say, “Ja no fuck, I think your music is great you know” or “Jis dude, it’s such a cool song”. And then they’d go to the other friend and say, “Oh my God! I wish he’d freakin’, you know, did something else”. And it’s creating that illusion that doesn’t benefit the musician. But I do support musicians. I will never cover a South African song, except for one guy whom I’ve always been a fan of since I was young – that’s Johnny Clegg. I love his music and I have performed a couple of his songs, but in general I don’t and I will not cover a local song. If you want listen to that band, then go and watch their show.
But on the subject of what friends say, I have always come up to you – since 2006 and Sundays at Cool Runnings in Hatfield where the ceiling fans would klap us on the head if we stood on the tables – and I’ve said to you that your music is great. You’d be on stage flogging your heart out, and many of us would come up to you say that your music is great. How has it changed then, since those days? And do you still have people coming up to you saying they love your music?
Pedro: Well you are interviewing me aren’t you? (laughs)
Ha ha! Fair enough, but do you get other people coming up to you and telling you that they too love their music?
Pedro: You do get new people all the time. It’s great. It’s always great to have new fans. One of the things that The Barbosa Experience encouraged is that people have approached me and have said that they love the fact that they can now hear my voice better because of the acoustic nature of the shows, where they can experience my voice more. But Mrs. B, well that’s Mrs. B and they’ve been going for a while so you still get a lot of attention from that side which is great.
With the name like The Barbosa Experience, how would you define the experiences as a band so far? Because it almost seems like a two-sided coin – on the one side it’s the experience that you want to give people. And on the other side it’s the personal experience that cannot be discounted.
Peter: It’s been a journey.
Pedro: The Barbosa Experience has been around for a while. It used to be called The Captain Barbosa Experience, which was during the days of Cool Runnings in Hatfield, and I only did that now and then, randomly – on Wednesdays – but when Cool Runnings closed down I didn’t really do it for a long time. And then last year (2012) I started and Peter approached me and said he’d like to jam with me and now we’ve got Rudi from Aandklas playing, we’ve Heine also a member of Mrs. B playing – so we’re jamming around. But it’s an experience, man. We don’t really practice, we get on stage we just mess around and have fun and you know. It’s actually what music’s supposed be about – it’s fun, that’s the experience. And you guys, the crowd and everyone else perceive it as how you want to. But it’s an interaction. It’s much of an interaction between us [as the band] and everyone else.
Peter: I must say that as a musician that because we don’t rehearse it boils down to listen, feel and play what is happening and that gets better and better each time we play together.
What were your first experiences with music as children and how far have they gone in moulding what you produce now?
Peter: Beatles, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.
Pedro: Mine were Queen and Bryan Adams. When I started playing, a big influence I had was Bon Jovi for example. I mean prior to that Quincy Jones was a big influence on me. My dad used to listen to a bit of jazz like Coltrane and stuff like and I really enjoyed that type of music. But I’ve always had a bit of a commercial ear. I’ve always adapted to, and always liked what in those days was called contemporary music.
So this was before and during the time when the term pop music meant the embrace of every other genre; and the pop icon of the time was Michael Jackson?
Pedro: Don’t tell anyone, please don’t listen to this but I was a big fan of Michael Jackson. When he turned into…
…a white old lady it all became a different story…
Pedro: (laughs) No, no, no. No really, when Thriller came out my mom said that they had to go and find the actual Making of Thriller because I was so traumatised because he turned in a freakin’ werewolf that I couldn’t sleep. I cried because Michael Jackson became this freakin’ werewolf.
Peter: (laughs at Pedro)
Do you remember the first song that you ever played when you picked up the instrument that was going to be your weapon of choice?
Pedro: I do remember. The first song I ever played was actually an original song, it was the first song I’d ever written. I used the chorus from the song (sings: Ooh baby I love your way) (Big Mountain version from the film Reality Bites) because I didn’t know how to write I was still busy learning, and I had someone else who could play. But playing guitar and singing, that was the first time that I did that and I used the chords from Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and wrote a verse that had that chorus basically. That was the first thing I ever played.
Peter: Ja, I think the very first song that I learnt to play was either Greensleeves, or most probably when I first picked up the guitar it was Smoke On The Water. I mean who hasn’t? But I do remember when I first saw a guitar and I was very young and that, I still remember. And from that day I knew I wanted to be a guitarist.
After these first encounters with music, when was it that you realised that you had fallen in love with music so much that you had to chose it as a career path?
Peter: When I was 6.
Pedro: Let me put it this way. I studied pharmacy. I studied marine biology. My parents told me when I was 16 that I should become a musician and told them that they were crazy because there is no money in music. So I decided that I’m going to study all these things, and only at the age of 20 I came to South Africa and that’s when I decided that music was the way to go.
Before we wrap up Part 1 of this interview and you guys head off on to stage to perform; if you could use three or four words to describe your music to me, what would they be?
Peter: BARBOSA EXPERIENCE!
Pedro: (laughs) That’s two words.
Pedro: It’s interaction, okay. I don’t know, it’s interaction, emotional, expression…
Peter: I will add three words, entertainment…
Pedro: There you go.
Peter: Oh actually, that already says it all.
Pedro: It’s all about feeling all that stuff. When you can pitch up at a gig and end up at a show that’s full of party and you play something, for example the Aerosmith song “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” and everyone’s singing at the end of a show, and everyone’s being partying – it’s the greatest feeling ever for a band because that’s not something that happens everyday and is not that normal to see it happening. It’s great.
Well thank you very much for your time. See you on stage.
Peter & Pedro: Cool.
Now after many interviews the interviewer normally frantically goes over their notes to see if any questions were missed – questions of an important nature, but this was not the way this evening was going to end. I headed into Hatfield Square where The Barbosa Experience were about to introduce themselves and their sound to an audience that had never seen nor heard them perform before. There was no way I was going to miss any of this. I found my spot at the side of the stage – away from the glare of the crowd – and strapped in for another energetic show.
From the first song the band had the crowd dancing, gyrating and in some instances it looked like some were even convulsing but I was assured that is how some of today’s youths get down. I even got a chance to become the cameraman when the designated cameraperson, Esnelda Botha, got tired.
And to make the evening complete, I was featured on two songs with the band on stage – Michel Telo’s “Ai Se Eu Tu Pego” and a mash-up of Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” and the Top Notes’ “Twist and Shout (Shake It Up, Baby)”. But since this interview has already shared a secret that very few people knew, that of Pedro’s love for Michael Jackson, I might as well tell one of my own. Throughout my entire school career I have been a member of the choir.
I loved the Vienna Boys Choir, and I listened to their music on vinyl so much that I promised myself that one day I shall number amongst their ranks. To me they were the equivalent of Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, just with better-kept hair and could sing in harmony.
That was before I realised that Adolf Hitler was Austrian and nobody could be certain that there wasn’t another Hitler in the making lurking behind a perfectly manicured countertenor voice. I was also in a quartet that sang Boyz II Men, Stevie Wonder and the odd Backstreet Boys songs.
I did leave the quartet because of creative and artistic differences. I think it’s because I wasn’t as good a singer as I once thought. So had the band been privy to these secrets, I wonder if they would have even let me anywhere near a live microphone. But apart from this secret, and in the absence of this knowledge The Barbosa Experience let me loose on their audience and a great time was had. This is testament as to the level of coolness of these gentleman.
If this was only Part 1, I cannot wait for Part 2! Please do yourselves a favour though, follow them on Twitter at @barbosaexp and head on over to the Barbosa Experience Facebook page to keep updated on where you can go and experience them for yourself.
Stay tuned for Part 2 (which will coming up in the near future in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.
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