Stromae says racism is a 'fake problem'

(Photo Credit: Bertrand Vandeloise)

By Robert "Rob" Redding Jr.

Editor & Publisher

BRUSSELS, Nov. 26, 2013, 8 p.m. - Belgian singer Stromae says that racism is a "fake problem" that people use to be "angry."

"The problem is not racism," said Stromae, whose real name is Paul Van Haver. "The problem is not community. The problem is just money. I think that people get angry and I think that's the problem...It could be a reason to fight against people and find fake solutions."

The hit artist - who says he has been called a "monkey" as a racial slur while being raised in Brussels - is known for a his musical mix of sobering poetry and realism. It is this sometimes stinging realism that made him sing about being called a monkey in the streets of Brussels that has now taken him to the top of the charts in 19 European countries, more than 40 million views on YouTube, 388,000 followers on Twitter, and receiving an award for Best Belgian Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

During a wide-ranging interview with the Redding News Review radio program, Stromae said one of the album's biggest hits "Formidable" was about being verbally attacked by a homeless man while walking the streets of Brussels with his "first love" and about monkey being a "famous word" or slur that blacks are called in Belgium.

"You should be really sad to say that to somebody that you don't know," he said of a man who once called him a monkey.

Stromae, who was born of a Dutch mother and Rwandan father, said that he actually finds it funny.

"To laugh about that in place of being angry," he said. "Because it is energy just lost and I don't think that it is really important."

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Stromae lauds his mother for helping shape his consciousness with trips to Bolivia and Peru. He said the trips helped him learn that they were really "not so poor" and that racism can apply to any race against another. His father died during the country's genocide.

"I thought that racism could exist only from white people to not white people...even if you are black you can be racist."

Although his father was from Africa, where men are killed if they are gay, he defended dressing as half man and half woman for his latest song "All the same".

"We don't talk a lot about sexuality in [the black] family," he said, "but I think the black communities are really open about sex between ... men and women."

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The 28-year-old considers himself a "documentarist" of life and his music is the way he delivers his message.

His performances have been compared to Jacques Brel and Morrissey.  But he says his career is way too short for those comparisons.

Listen to the interview:



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