Born in Quebec, Canada, singer song-writer Genevieve Labbé’s music is inspired by many years of travels and is infused with jazz and world beat music.
ANNICK: Welcome to Treasures of Wonderment, Geneviève. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I know how busy you are.
GENEVIEVE LABEE: Thanks for taking me out for a virtual hot chocolate! (I don't drink coffee).
ANNICK: Geneviève, you are a Canadian musician who writes, composes, and performs your own musical material which is wonderful. Writing children's songs is delicate but I noticed that the lyrics and your music are very uplifting and refreshing, where does your inspiration come from?
GENEVIEVE LABEE: You’re starting with a big, big question! What can I say... Love. Yes, love for life, love for children, and a deep sense of gratitude for the Creator. Love for music, that amazing language of the soul that humanity has been given to share. Love for the musical diversity to be explored as well.
ANNICK: I trust that you are completely fluent in French and English, but do you sing in other languages?
GENEVIEVE LABEE: For the moment, my songs are mostly in French because I live in a French-speaking environment. I love singing in different languages; Asia, Africa, South-America and North-America’s First Nations. I’m also hoping to produce an English version of Sous un même soleil, (Under the same Sun) many people have asked for it, it’s all a matter of time and money!
When children hear songs from around the world, I’m sure it contributes to building a sense of world citizenship in their young hearts. For me, wanting to contribute to a better world is an impulse from the heart and I believe music can nurture that.
ANNICK: The children, parents and teachers love your music and the lyrics full of hope and joy. Do you perform most of the time in live concerts or do you spend more time with the kids at school?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: So far, I have mostly been performing in concerts. I’ve done a few schools and daycare shows, and I’m working this year towards offering concerts followed by workshops in schools.
ANNICK: That's wonderful. Born and raised in Québec, I believe. At the age of 16 you traveled to Senegal. That's a pretty young age to have traveled so far away from Canada, isn't it? Can you tell us more about your trip to Africa?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: Yes, born in Québec city. It was a one month study trip on sustainable development to Sénégal, a wonderful learning experience. That’s where I fell in love with African rhythms; music is everywhere when you are in Africa.
ANNICK: Not only you went to Africa but also traveled to Vietnam, India and Australia. Not quite a globe-trotter but definitely a world-citizen, you are. Anything you would like to share with us?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: I love to immerse myself in other cultures. So I'm not a world-traveler in a touristy way, I prefer to stay in a place and get to know its people. I lived two years in Vietnam, one year in India and 6 years in Australia. Living for a while in a community and getting to know local musicians gives you a deep appreciation for their music and culture. It is that grassroots connection that has inspired me, and which I try to pass on to children in my
music. I was always on the go until I became a mummy! I've been raising three children in the last nine years and have produced two shows. No time for hopping on a plane or a bus yet! But I am preparing to tour a bit with the
shows as my children are becoming involved as well.
ANNICK: I understand how difficult it is. I raised three children, as well but I must admit that I am quite impressed by all you have done in your life. What an amazing woman and musician you are. Do you ever relax? What gave you the desire to sing for children and not adults? Is that because of your own children?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: It just happened. I have never looked at children as a target audience, they are people like you and I. But they are at a stage of their lives that I still feel very connected to; years of wonderment, dreams and exploration. I sang in many different contexts before with bands, developing my own poetry and singing since I was about 17 years old. I had many magical moments in my life, and some of the most magical ones were with children -
-Singing with children in villages in Sénégal, working with kids in an orphanage in Vietnam, playing soccer with my young aboriginal neighbors in Australia, being a volunteer teacher for Baha’i classes in a public school in Australia.
I have always found communication with children very inspiring. I’ve also met many vulnerable children and I've always felt a strong impulse to reach out and try to help them. When I returned to Québec after about eight years of living overseas, I had just become a mother and my heart was so filled with gratitude. I wanted to give something back to life, and I felt that connection to children even stronger.
ANNICK: Yes, I am sure that you had some magical moments in your life. So many stories to share with all your friends and family. How important is it for you to teach hope, joy, love, peace to children?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: I love children because they are filled with light, and they are hungry for beauty, meaning and love. Of course they love entertainment, so if I can mingle music and education on stage, it’s great fun for everyone ! Uplifting children’s hearts is the most important thing that I can do, I believe. But that doesn’t mean that we should hide from them the realities they will face as they get older. Our world has an urgent need for peace. Peace in the family, peace between neighbors, peace between different religious and cultural communities.
I see children as potential agents of change. The theme song of my first album says ‘the world is like a garden that will need caring, it’s up to us to make it flourish like our friendship.’ In my new production about the environment, I try to tell children about issues of equity, and the individual’s responsibility behind pollution. I am rejecting this materialistic culture that tries to make them believe that purchasing this and that will make them happy.
ANNICK: Yes, I think that many of us repudiate materialism, and it's wonderful to see that you are teaching the children how to detach from this material world that should only teach about love. When you perform are you always on your own or do you have a band?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: I find the teamwork and the synergy of improvisation just too much fun to work on my own. I have two different shows. 'Sous un même soleil' (Under the same sun), has songs that talk about friendship, valuing cultural differences, honesty, world peace, etc. This production is aimed at children aged 4 to 12. For this show I work with two multi-instrumentalists, a dancer and a small choir of children.
Yesterday I had the première of my new production, called Vox-planète (Voice of the Planet). This show talks about environmental issues and is aimed at children aged 8 to 14 years old. I work with a percussionist, a guitarist and a multi-instrumentalist. We’ve built instruments from recycled materials and created songs that we enjoy performing together.
ANNICK: There is no surprise to anyone that children love being around you. Is there anything specific that you are trying to accomplish with your music and would like to share with our readers?
GENEVIEVE LABBE: My personal agenda is to do my best at what I feel is now the time for me to do! My audience (children, parents and teachers) constantly gives me so much positive feedback and I feel so blessed to be welcomed into their hearts. To me that’s an indication to keep going in that direction. I love to maintain balance and meet new challenges in my musical life. So I also work as a singer in other contexts where I can sing jazz songs, Latin music and some of my own compositions.
ANNICK: You have changed so many lives, I am sure. Wishing you and your family health, happiness and peace. Thank you for answering my questions.
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