While most of us can barely wrap our heads around being able to learn even one musical instrument properly, French musician Riton (real name Eric) is a self-taught composer, songwriter and a multiinstrumentalist whose instruments of choice include the guitar, bass guitar, foot drums and harmonica — to name a few. In the city on Monday along with his friend and producer/ sound engineer Paik (real name Oliver) for a performance at the Alliance Française, Sector 36, Chandigarh, he talks about being a solo artist.
Influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Riton, who was born in Marseilles, says the town’s cultural diversity and disparity between the wealthy and the poor had an impact on him during his formative years. “I saw that difference and wanted to try and bridge the gap,” says he. While this may seem like a claim too idealistic, he believes that there is still love and hope amongst people.
Paik adds that positivity is not something to be taken lightly, adding that “at the very least, we can talk about the problems affecting the world and get the people to listen through our songs”.
While he has experimented with various genres including reggae, dub, hip-hop, trance, electro and rock, Riton’s current style can be described as a mix of blues and hip-hop. “This particular fusion exists in places such as the US, but I don’t think anyone else in France is doing it,” he says. The man’s musical abilities don’t just stop at being a singer and multi-instrumentalist though, for he records and mixes the songs in his own studio, making him a one-man army as Paik laughingly explains, “Riton is like a mad scientist in a lab when he’s in his studio, always hunting for the right ingredient to make the perfect mix. He even forgoes sleep sometimes.”
Though the idea of a one-man band seems a little odd in the burgeoning band scene where even lone singers have bands backing them up, Riton prefers to think of it as travelling without the extra baggage. “I have no restrictions as to when and where I can travel for shows because I don’t have to take into account anyone else’s plans. It’s quite relieving actually,” smiles the man who has been dubbed by the French press as the “man with a real storytelling talent”. After 15 years of collaborating with various French artists and African musician Oumar Kouyate, Riton now returns to being a lone wolf preferring to hole himself up in his studio with just his instruments for company.