As the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have rippled through society, musicians and artists are amongst those whose livelihoods have been significantly affected. With venues closing down and concerts and tours cancelled, many have focussed on channelling their energy into resilience. “I didn’t write any songs for a good three or four months”, says Jeangu Macrooy. “The world was so different.”
In an exclusive interview with wiwibloggs, the Eurovision star said he struggled to find artistic inspiration throughout the pandemic. “I usually get my inspiration from going to the theatre, movies, just meeting friends randomly and having new conversations”, Jeangu told our William. “It’s been interesting”. But now, he’s ready to bounce back. Representing The Netherlands at Eurovision 2021, Jeangu will perform “Birth of a New Age” in Rotterdam.
A departure from his Eurovision 2020 entry “Grow”, Jeangu’s new song is reflective of his journey with his own confidence and self-worth. “When I wrote ‘Grow’, I had a long period of time where I was not feeling like myself and I was crawling out of this pit”, he explained. “I think ‘Birth of a New Age’ reflects where I am right now. I’m more confident, more strong, I’m the optimist I always was.”
The Netherlands’ Jeangu Macrooy on “Birth of a New Age”
Much of that strength and optimism comes from his heritage. In many ways, Jeangu is an ambassador to Suriname — the country of his birth and the place he first discovered music. Rightly so, Jeangu is proud of his identity and incorporates elements of Surinamese culture into his music. “I was working on the lyrics a few days before the studio session,” he said from his home in Amsterdam. “I was thinking about my heritage and the country that is my foundation of who I am as a person. I remembered this old saying which literally means, ‘I’m half a cent, you can’t break me’ (because it’s the smallest denomination of coin). It’s a way of saying you may underestimate me, but I know my own worth, I know my own strength and that’s what will keep me going.”
One of the most undeniably striking features of “Birth of a New Age” are its lyrics. Many fans have drawn comparisons between Jeangu’s words and the political climate of Suriname. When quizzed by William, Jeangu explained that this wasn’t a direct inspiration. “The short answer is no”, he said. “But I got the association. Because for Suriname, it’s also the beginning of a new direction, a new age.”
However, the song does have a message for the broader atmosphere and current cultural zeitgeist. “It’s inspired by these movements where people say, we’ve shut our mouths for too long”, Jeangu said passionately. An out and proud gay man, Jeangu remains vocal about his drive for social change. “Even here living in Amsterdam, [Black Lives Matter] has had a huge impact because it was a global movement and I’m so happy that we’re living in the time where people have found the courage and the strength to use their voices against these systems of oppression and are fighting for what’s right. Whether that be fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement or our queer community. We deserve to be here and we deserve respect.”
That sentiment is something that shines through in Jeangu’s music video and live performance. During the premier performance of “Birth of a New Age”, Jeangu was joined on stage by his twin brother Xillan and ZO! Gospel Choir singing the “your rhythm is rebellion” motif.
But Jeangu is planning on a few changes for the Eurovision stage show. “It’s a different thing, it’s another chapter”. As for the backing vocals, Jeangu plans on using a mix of both pre-recorded live vocals. It’s yet to be confirmed whether Xillan will reappear as a backing vocalist, however. “I can’t reveal that yet”, he teased.
What else? Well, Jeangu also gave us his top tips for visiting Rotterdam. He recommends visiting the Kunsthal museum, and grabbing something Surinamese to eat. “Rotterdam is a very multicultural city”, he said. “I must say that I am still discovering Rotterdam myself.” And we’re excited to discover it, too.
His final message for his fans is that he’s ready to do them proud at Eurovision. “I’m ready to hit the stage. I’m ready to give it my all”, he exclaimed. We wish Jeangu the best of luck, and we know he’ll do The Netherlands and Suriname proud.
What did you take away from this interview with Jeangu Macrooy? Do you connect with the “Birth of a New Age” lyrics? Sound off in the comments below.