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Emmanuel de Ryckel

Bridger among French-Brazilian music



Photo credit: ©Philippe Quevauviller

Emmanuel de Ryckel was born in Congo in the mid-1950s into a large, traditional Belgian family. From a very young age, he was not very passionate about his studies, but one thing led to another, encouraged by his family background, and he ended up obtaining a degree in Economics and Finance at HEC Liège, and then gradually settled in what his family members call "a beautiful situation" within the Industrial Planning and Organisation in the Pharmaceutical industry. Over the past 20 years, he has taken on the more perilous status of "Free Lance", but one that fully corresponds to his desperate need for freedom and creativity, which he could just as well have expressed through a status of artist that he did not choose in the end. 

Indeed, since he was a child, Emmanuel had only one dream: music. 

Music, not to play it but to listen to it, to taste it, to share it with others. Without really having a choice, his younger brothers and sisters were regularly hired by him to listen to the radio programs and hit parades they concocted for them. As a child, he would dream for hours about the only Philips transistor owned by the family in Brussels at the time.

So he dreamed, he strolled to tunes by Gilbert Bécaud, Henri Salvador, Nino Ferrer, Christophe, Adamo and so many others. Their faces remained unknown to him for a long time, but their names were forever fixed in his memory, and for a long time they were displayed on the pediment of an Olympia which then existed only in his imagination. The 60's brought him French chanson, the 70's Soul Music and then naturally blues, the 80's jazz.

At the end of the 90s, a professional chance led him to Rio de Janeiro, a city in a country that until then hadn't represented the slightest interest for him. The love at first sight for this city, its nature, its people, its architecture was immediate, inevitably reminding him of the African roots of his birth. Long weekends in Rio gave him the opportunity to explore the city in detail, but above all to browse the many record shops still numerous at the time in Copacabana and Ipanema. His taste for jazz naturally made him discover and deepen his taste for Bossa Nova.

He also discovered on this occasion that the idols of his childhood in the 60s had left many traces in Brazil. Emmanuel then began to research on both sides of the Atlantic, on everything that linked Brazil and France through popular song. It was while working on a project of Tribute to Jean Sablon in Rio that he became friends one day in Paris with Pierre Barouh.
In 2000, Henri Salvador brought out his masterpiece "Chambre avec vue" with the standard "Jardin d'hiver". Discovering this song on a Sunday on television, his childhood with Henri Salvador and his "Minnie little mouse", and Brazil joined together in an instant. From this discovery, Emmanuel will never stop going back to the sources of the story linking Henri and Brazil. In 20 years, combining his research on music and his professional activities, he will make more than a hundred trips to Rio. In 2005, he finally met Henri Salvador, discovering that with a little boldness and perseverance, everything becomes possible, including reaching stars that seemed unattainable. A little later, he reached Henri on the phone in Paris, to suggest that he returns to the traces of his glory days in Brazil. 

Taking advantage of his visit to Rio in 2006 to record his latest album "Révérence", Emmanuel organized under the Spotlights of the TF1 cameras the return of his favorite artist to the Casino de Urca, where he overcame the first obstacles leading him to glory, within the Orchestra of Ray Ventura and his fellow students, in 1942. This last trip to Rio for Henri, was also the occasion for Emmanuel and his friend Carlos Albert Afonso de la Toca do Vinicius, to invite him to Ipanema, cradle of the Bossa Nova, in order to engrave his hands for the "sidewalk of celebrities" project of this mythical district. On this occasion, the carioca public massaged in the street will pay a final vibrant tribute to Henri, who will never return to Brazil.

In the course of his Franco-Brazilian research and projects, Emmanuel will also make friends with Dominique Cravic, Maurice Pon, Georges Henry and Micheline Day, former students of Ray Ventura, Paulo Costa, Emmanuel Donzella, Catherine Salvador, but also with Brazilian singers Leny Andrade, Paula Morelenbaum, Joyce Moreno, and Wanda Sà. He also frequented Toots Thielemans for a while, which he also led to engraving his hands at the "Celebrity Walkway" in Ipanema, just like his friend Pierre Barouh.

Thanks to his magazine "" created in 1998, he met a whole range of artists who have marked the history of Bossa Nova: Johnny Alf, Billy Blanco, João Donato, Carlos Lyra, Roberto Menescal, Jaques Morelenbaum, Pery Ribeiro, Oscar Castro Neves, Marcos Valle, Stacey Kent. All these encounters made him discover the depth of the imprint left by Henri Salvador in the soul of all these Brazilian musicians.

This was confirmed in 2016, when on the eve of the centenary of Henri's birth, at the request of his wife Catherine Salvador, he launched a huge concert project in homage to the artist at the Municipal Theatre in Rio. All Bossa Nova artists without exception were part of the project, as well as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. Alas, this project was clearly shattered in its momentum by the economic crisis that shook Brazil, and then by the arrival of a new president, who was not very much interested in culture.

While waiting to reactivate this dream, Emmanuel has been working since then, in France and Brazil, on other projects still aiming to enhance the musical heritage left by Henri. Among these, the project "Caminhos cruzados, jazz on the road to Brazil and Henri Salvador", with Didier Sustrac and Paula Morelenbaum, with special guests Dominique Cravic and Emmanuel Donzella, and the project "Entre sombra e Luz" with Marcos Valle, Joyce Moreno and Jaques Morelenbaum.

In 2008, Emmanuel befriended Philippe Quevauviller, another passionate of Brazilian music and more particularly of bossa nova, a great organizer of musical events generously linking the lusophony and France. Together they have been at the base of some nice meetings between artists passionate about Brazil and the Brussels public. Emmanuel facilitated among others the contacts of Philippe and Pierre Barouh, and has been actively involved in the Bossa Flor program since its very beginning.

In 2018, having become for Catherine Salvador for all these years, the point of contact for everything concerning Henri and Brazil, Emmanuel was contacted by Cosmopolitis Productions, a company busy preparing a documentary entitled "Face B comme bossa, l'autre histoire d'Henri Salvador". Thanks to his local contacts, he organized the filming of the Brazilian part of the documentary, and directed for the Production the interviews of Gilberto Gil, Roberto Menescal, Marcos Valle, Joyce Moreno, Paula Morelenbaum.

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