‘Because of ‘broccoli’ I felt ‘the other’ in the Netherlands for the first time’

On the folding chair: singer Jeangu Macrooy (1993). His new album was released last week Summer Moon. An interview based on keywords: about his return to soul, deviating from the monogamous norm and the pain of the Eurovision broccoli.

Stefan Raatgever

Paramaribo

“The first thing I think about is my family. My mother, father and aunts all still live there. When I think of Suriname, I immediately see us eating together. I was 20 when I left for the Netherlands. Every time I go back, the feeling of home overwhelms me as soon as I step off the plane.”

“What I miss most is the relaxation. Life here in the Netherlands goes so fast. In Suriname it was normal to sleep for two hours after school. I would also like to introduce that here.”

“Would I ever want to go back? Certainly not now, but maybe when I want to slow down a bit later in life. Then I could give something back in the field of art and education. I would like to help young people make their dreams come true. Because there is so much talent in Suriname, but not everyone gets the chance to develop it.”

Between Towers

“My first tire. Made up of my twin brother Xillan and me. A school friend came up with the name when she walked between us and – we are both quite tall – looked up. Xillan and I discovered our passion for music at the same time, we got our first guitar at the same time and had singing lessons together.”

“When we were 15 we wrote our first song together. ‘Well, then we’re officially a duo now,’ we decided. We made an album and did quite a few gigs, but when I left for the Netherlands the band fell apart.”

“Of course Xillan didn’t like that very much, but after two years he also came to the Netherlands and we were together again. He sang in my backing choir until this summer, but now focuses on his own music. And that is great.”

Hengelo

“My first place to live in the Netherlands! I had no idea what the country was like. I was accepted at the Conservatory of Enschede, but really had the plan to travel back and forth from Amsterdam every day. Fortunately, that was quickly talked out of my mind. In Hengelo I was able to get a room with distant relatives. Actually, I didn’t really live on my own yet. The laundry was done and cooking was done. I had a wonderful time. I think Hengelo was a good choice. From quiet Paramaribo to Amsterdam would probably have been too much of a shock. And now it was a bit easier to keep my focus on my studies.”

Back to the roots

“That’s how you can describe my new album, yes. Summer Moon has become a soulful record. It actually happened naturally. I grew up with soul music and with my voice you quickly get to the soul side. It felt nice to find that core again.”

“In the summer of 2021, for the first time in two years, my life no longer revolved around the Eurovision Song Contest. It had been an intense period. I don’t regret it, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to participate two years in a row.”

“There were still hardly any festival performances due to corona and I certainly had no intention of writing new music, so it seemed to be a quiet summer. But it happened naturally. Summer Moon was the first song that came into existence, made together with my former fellow student Bud Kolk. That sounded so fresh that he also became producer of the album.”

World star

“I expressed that as an ambition, that’s right. I said that one day I would like to fill stadiums like Beyoncé. My manager Pieter even predicted in 2019 that this would be possible within five years. Well, then we have until 2024.”

“But I wouldn’t formulate such an intention like that now. I notice a change in myself. Not that I wouldn’t want to be successful on a global level anymore, but setting those kinds of goals is mainly about the commercial side. I now want to work from the inside out more. How can I grow as an artist in such a way that it gives me a large audience? The idea that I have yet to make my best song is what drives me now.”

Monogamy

“One of the themes on the album. My first record High on You was full of love. I was 22 and I got to know love. Now I know: the real work starts later. I have recently discovered for myself that monogamy is not an essential condition for a loving relationship. It is often thought that there are two options: monogamy or complete chaos. But I think there is also a nice middle ground where you allow each other freedom, but remain respectful.”

“I know: monogamy is the norm. But cheating is something very different from an open relationship. It’s about being honest with each other. You can be very much in love with someone, but that doesn’t make you blind to the beauty of others, in my experience. Whether it works? For me so far, yes. But love remains a quest. But that’s not a bad thing.”

Jordan

“I have lived here for a year now. Sebas and I are very happy. From the window I can see the Westertoren where I once had my very first date. The city is increasingly becoming part of my story.”

“The Westerdok, where we first sat, was super quiet, the tourists apparently couldn’t find that corner. Now we really have a dream place, in the middle of the city. Every week we go to a theater, concert hall or cinema at least once. We can walk everything, we don’t have a car or even bicycles. If we have to go far away, we take the tram or train.”

Eurovision Song Contest

“Brought me a lot. I learned a lot and was able to increase my fame. Where else do you get the opportunity to be on such a big stage and see how a production works at that level? And I have received wonderful responses. Still, by the way. People who have Caribbean roots themselves really felt heard Birth of a New Age.

“But there were also downsides. I found it difficult that the message of my song was also ridiculed. I still occasionally get “broccoli, broccoli” yelled at me on the street. Apparently many people didn’t want to muster the energy to understand why I read that line of text in Sranantongo (Yu no man broko mi means ‘You can’t break me’) into my song.”

“That hurt me. It makes me feel ‘that other’ again for the first time in ages. The Netherlands has only recently started working on its colonial history, but apparently this was still too early in the process.”

23rd

“I was a bit surprised how much people value such a ranking. For me, the feeling after the final was: ‘I participated, gave everything and now I’m moving on’, but people apparently think very much in terms of winners and losers. I didn’t feel like a loser at all, I was proud of what we put up. Sure, you also have to ask yourself why the performance didn’t catch on with the general public, but I didn’t see that 23rd place as a value judgment about me as an artist.”

Cassette tape

“As a little boy I listened to nothing but cassette tapes. The entire oeuvre of Sesame Street came over and over again. And my mom had Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Cher standing up in the car.”

“We had a hundred cassette tapes made of the new album. In an earlier plan we also wanted to offer a real Walkman. Didn’t go through though. The sound of such a walkman of 20 euros is simply not good enough. But I am happy that my album can now also be listened to in this way.”

“And I’m not the only one releasing cassette tapes again, am I? The latest albums by Taylor Swift and Harry Styles are also back on cassette.”

Celebrity Master Chef

“I’m out! Making macarons, at the same time as a parfait, turned out to be my end. ‘Below par’, the jury found. With that patisserie you have to be very precise, the sugar at the right temperature, work very precisely. And everything in a very short time.”

“I really love eating together and I can cook quite well, but the level was really high. Freddy from the Youth of Today, for example, is really very good. Entering that cooking contest on Viaplay is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. The Eurovision Song Contest is one walk in the park compared to that program.”

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