In so many ways, Cephaz — one of the 12 finalists of Eurovision France, C’est vous qui décidez — has already lived several lives. Born in Navrongo, Ghana, and adopted by a French family at the age of 10, he grew up between South Africa and Mayotte, then moved to France at the age of 20. His profoundly atypical journey — through relocation and dislocation — has given him a deep sense of purpose and a truly global outlook. If he’s lucky enough to represent his adopted country at Eurovision 2021 with his song “On a mangé le soleil”, he wants to spread both cheer and a stark warning against over-consumption.
He was initially destined for a career as a professional footballer, but his love of music changed his plans. At the age of 28, Cephaz is starting to make a name for himself in the French music scene, after having hit the charts last summer with his song “Depuis Toi”. Today, he is taking on a whole new challenge by striving for the biggest music stage in Europe — if not the world.
“It is a source of pride for me to represent the country that adopted me. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to be discovered not only by France but by the whole of Europe, and I think any artist would have liked to have had the chance to be heard through these creations and this program with a large audience and visibility.”
Raised in contact with different cultures, Cephaz had the opportunity to develop his own musical style between African, Afro-American and French sounds. However, it was later in life, at the age of 18, that he decided to learn French.
“I spent my entire childhood in Africa with international pop sub-influences such as Ben Harper, Tracy Chapman, and Ray Charles, and French-language influences like Jacque Brel, Serge Gainsbourg and Maxime Le Forestier that my adoptive parents listened to. I lived in Ghana until I was 10 years old, South Africa (Cape Town) until I was 18, and then Mayotte where I learned to speak French for two years before returning to St Etienne in metropolitan France. I have only been speaking French for eight years.”
On the strength of this multicultural and artistic richness, Cephaz developed his taste for singing and began performing in church choirs in South Africa. But it is his attraction to pop music that animates him and through which he expresses himself best. Although he has long prioritized English, he recently took the plunge and is expressing himself through songs written in French.
“Having lived in several countries, I was able to observe a fairly common culture in music through my various exiles, very pop.”
I found in South Africa through artists like Brenda Fassie a groove with which I also grew up in Ghana.
“Today I try to make it felt through my songs with French expression. I went back to Ghana when I was 15 years old, and as far as South Africa is concerned, I have every intention of going back there because it is a country that has made a big cultural mark on me, where I sang for the first time in church choirs.”
What’s the messsage behind Cephaz’s song “On a mangé le soleil”?
“On a mangé le soleil” literally translates as “We ate the sun.” It reads — both with its rhythm and its words — like a modern nursery rhyme: We ate the sun/the stars/the sky. These lyrics may appear simple for non-French speaking audiences, but they reveal more poetry and depth for those who master the language of Molière. Indeed, the title that Cephaz intends to defend on the Eurovision France stage is intended to warn of the dangers of over-consumption in society, and how our Western way of life could jeopardize future generations. He’s speaking from experience: Cephaz observed the ravages of overconsumption during his childhood in Ghana.
“On a mangé le soleil” speaks to buying more and more things when we don’t necessarily need them. It’s a hymn that draws attention to our daily actions that will have an impact on those who follow us. Despite its stark warning, the song expresses its points through joy and positivity despite the current circumstances.
Cephaz is aware that this double-meaning could be difficult to grasp for the vast majority of European viewers. Yet the young singer didn’t want to send an offering in English — which sparked his first love affair with music. He says that it’s in French that he can best express his emotions. Never satisfied, this lover of foreign languages dreams of becoming a polyglot.
“Vocally I rediscovered myself. I realized that singing in French gave off a lot more emotion, that I had a different voice to express. Today I am ready to sing in Spanish or Italian just out of curiosity.”
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A new version of the song is in the works: “I intend to do an English version so that the English audience can understand the deeper meaning of the text.”
Eurovision is, of course, an event that consumes a lot of energy and requires people to emit a rather large carbon footprint as they travel to studios, preview shows and the contest itself. How does that fit into his narrative of overconsumption?
“Admittedly the subject is contradictory but it is a truth for the common good without wanting to make a lesson. The title has a positive and joyful air in order to use this program to convey this message to all humanity. “
Cephaz on Eurovision France: C’est vous qui décidez
Should he win Eurovision France, Cephaz would become the first African artist to represent France in the Eurovision Song Contest, a prospect he is particularly mindful of. The idea of becoming the symbol of a multicultural France appeals to him and motivates him even more.
“It’s quite amazing when I think about it, I have a feeling of pride, pressure and excitement all at the same time because I could wear the face of a visionary Africa of tomorrow. It’s certainly an additional source of motivation because representing multicultural France in the eyes of the whole of Europe comes naturally to me. I assume that I could be a symbol if I was lucky enough to win. ”
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If he has the opportunity to represent France at Eurovision, Cephaz promises a dynamic performance that will invite the audience to commune and exalt together. He wishes to offer a performance inspired by American-style shows:
“I think that the audience can expect a performance as dynamic as the song itself — to jump, dance and sing with me the Lalalalalala … I am working on surprising staging with musicians, worthy of the most beautiful American pop soul stars.”
By singing “On a mangé le soleil”, Cephaz hopes to awaken consciousness, and be a source of aspiration for those who think they cannot realize their dreams due to lack of resources. In short, a real cry of hope.
“With ‘On a mangé le soleil’ we will change the world, change our future for our children! Anything is possible! Even when we start from nothing. Vote for Cephaz! Vote for permanent good vibes! ”
Do you recognize yourself in Cephaz’s song? What’s your stance on consumption? And what do you think about his lyrics? Let us know in the comments box below!