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‘I’m more popular now ’

French pianist Jean Francois Maljean strikes a chord with Rachana Dubey.

music Updated: Oct 03, 2008 15:53 IST

So tell us about this concert you're doing with Sonu Nigam and Niladri Kumar in Mumbai on the 11th?
I'm not clued in completely but I will be playing pieces from my 13 albums including some covers songs. I'll also sing a few pop songs too, mostly in French. I like a mix of cultures.. I've played with local artistes in several countries.

Why did it take you three decades to reach India?
There weren't too many opportunities earlier. Initially, I was into pop and played the keyboard for my band. Then, I turned into a pianist-singer. In the early years I only travelled to French-speaking countries. I visited Asia for the first time just six years ago.

What's your take on Indian music?
(Smiles) I love it and want to discover more of it. The Bollywood songs are so fresh.. and sometimes funny.

And classical fusion music?
It's the future. My new CD is a mix of Dong (a minority in Asia) music and my own.

In a career spanning over three decades, you've cut only a handful of albums? Why?
In the initial stages I accompanied other singers on the piano. I played in a lot of albums but didn't get credit. In 1984, we launched the pop band Maljean-Willems and released four albums, some of then on vinyl. There were plenty of singles too. Ten years later, the band disbanded.

In '96, I turned into a solo pianist and have released 13 piano albums to date. Fifty varied copies have been released across world. I also have single tracks in several collections. If you count those, it's 17 albums. Unfortunately, only a handful has reached India. I need a good music company to back me here.

You changed you name to Shang Ma Long when you were in Taiwan and China. (Smiles) My record label in Taiwan changed my name because the Chinese couldn't pronounce it. So Maljean became Ma Long and Jean turned into Shang. I'm still Ma Long to my Chinese fans.

You've visited China more than most European countries. I once wanted to be an explorer. I'm interested in reaching out to every culture on the planet. I'm attracted to China because the people there love music.

Piano has a niche following.. what keeps you going?
The audience is niche but the instrument is universal. Today, I have a bigger following than when I was a pop singer and playing in big halls in French territories. But the piano is still considered a rich man's hobby. Not so much in Europe, it's always been a part of the culture there. Yes, it's expensive buying a piano and taking lessons at home. I'm willing to help anyone who wants to learn.

Have you played with Richard Clayderman?
No, but I respect the man's talent. He's made the piano popular across the world.

Does your daughter play the piano?
She started taking lessons when she was four years old, then she switched to the electric guitar. Today, she's a gorgeous 15 year old and has returned to the piano. But she also loves rock and electro music.

She wishes to pursue a career in singing. I'd like her to take up music professionally but right now she's not incline. (Shrugs) Let's see what happens when she grows up.