The Musical Legacy of Christian Polloni

SOMETIMES in life you come across people who just symbolise music. You cannot look at them or speak to them without being in awe of their passion, their creativity and their talent.

Christian Polloni is one of those people. Somewhere in Klein Windhoek, a dusty pathway leads to a bachelor flat surrounded by trees.

“This is where I live,” Christian says before he gets a peppermint cooler. The first thing that catches your eye in his home are two poles adorned with music passes, backstage passes and band passes. These lanyards represent various countries, states and festivals across the world the producer and musician has attended.

One immediately gets a sense of how important music has been throughout his life.

Three names stand out of well over 200 passes. Papa Wemba, Alpha Blondy and Youssou N’Dour.

Christian’s musical relationship with Alpha Blondy started in 1985 when he worked with him on the album ‘Cocody Rock’. This is around the time he got married. Although the marriage only lasted three years, Christian became a father in 1986 to his only daughter.

“She has been here before, but she is totally different from me,” he said.

In 1988, Christian toured with Alpha Blondy on one of his biggest tours through America and the Caribbean. At the the time, Alpha Blondy had an album called ‘Apartheid’ and singing “America, America, America, break the neck of this apartheid,” from the track ‘Apartheid is Nazism’, Christian goes down memory lane as he disappears deep into thought for a few seconds.

“The shows were sold out with thousands of people at every concert,” Christian remembers.

Getting Started

The guitarist was born on 27 October 1958 in Marseille, France. At the age of 15, he was already drawn to music and yearned to play an instrument.

In 1984, he decided to move to Paris to pursue music further with his band. As a band, they managed to sign a three-year recording deal with Warner Bros Entertainment.

“This was very big for us as a band. At the time, they had musicians like Rod Steward and Foreigner.”

The band managed to record one album before their lead singer left and another album with the new lead singer before calling it quits. It is after this that he met Alpha Blondy.

After a number of successful tours and work with Alpha Blondy, Christian took a break and in 1989 met another great African musician, Papa Wemba, when he worked on his album ‘The Voyager’, writing the song ‘Maria Valencia’. Papa Wemba would later introduce Christian to his current home, Namibia.

By the mid-90s, Christian had performed on some of the biggest festival stages as well as worked with some of the biggest musicians in the world. In 1998, he co-wrote a song ‘Yaleo’ for the world renowned musician Carlos Santana.

“That song was done in three hours,” Christian said laughing. “The song was originally for someone else, he heard it and decided to do a cover.” ‘Yaleo’ was featured on one of Calos Santana’s albums which sold millions of copies.

In 2000, he continued growing in his chosen career, touring with another legendary globally celebrated musician, Youssou N’Dour.

Journey to Namibia

Christian first set foot on Namibian soil in 1996 for a performance with Papa Wemba.

“Papa Wemba was on tour and Windhoek was one of the stops. I remember we performed at the Independence Stadium.”

He met Retha-Louise Hofmeyer who was at the time the director of arts at the youth ministry.

“We had a conversation and I told her that it would be a nice idea to create a photo album of what was currently happening in the country musically,” Christian said.

This conversation was the seed that birthed the iconic album ‘A Handful of Namibians’ which was produced five years later.

Although he did not have his mind set on living in Namibia, Christian says because he worked with a lot of African musicians, he always knew he would settle on the continent.

Ivory Coast and Senegal were his countries of choice, but because of the political situations in the two countries at the time, Christian chose to settle in Namibia.

He has further made his mark on Namibian music by producing for some big names like Ngatu, Elemotho and Qondja.

It is no secret that when it comes to putting the final product together, Christian is a favourite among Namibian artists. He worked with Hishishi Papa on his album ‘Aantu Aantu’, with Axue on ‘Pride of Khomas’ and Erna Chimu on ‘Hei Serute’, which won him the Best Producer of the Year award at the 2014 Namibia Annual Music Awards.

Over the years, Christian has been instrumental in bringing about change at the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation, with the introduction of ‘Sessions Studio 6’, a live music television show which celebrates session music. The show will be back for a fourth season in April.

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