Sometimes, a name says it all.
Paul Van Haver chose to make music under the moniker Stromae, which is actually French slang for "Maestro". Now, he conducts an international symphony of hip-hop, indie, world music, pop, and electronic dance music speaking to social strife and personal struggles, while urging a universal outcry for hope.
His own background mirrors the diversity of his musical output. Stromae's mother is of Flemish-Belgian descent, while his dad hailed from Rwanda. Further heating up that cultural cauldron, Stromae spent his childhood growing up in a destitute lower class suburb of Brussels speaking French—and he still resides in Brussels to this day. In order to face the tumult of the world around him—including tragically losing his father in the Rwandan genocide in 1994—he turned to music, finding his own beat in the drums first.
Soon, he realized his talents behind the microphone as well, and songs became a catalyst for catharsis, nodding to the likes of Morrissey in terms of enigmatic emotionality and clever catchiness. Financing his first single from a fast food gig during the day, "Alors On Danse", translation "So We Dance", went on to be an international smash serving as a call-to-arms for people to let go of their problems and move. European albums Cheese and Racine Carrée would go on to receive unanimous acclaim as his voice resonated in the hearts of a generation overseas.
That escapism defines the worldwide 2013 hit "Papaoutai". The album went 16-times platinum in France and garnered praise from the likes of the NPR, New York Times, The Guardian, and BBC. A bouncy anthem juxtaposed with a heartbreaking narrative about absentee fathers, "Papaoutai" also racked up over 120 million YouTube views and counting.
Casablanca Records went on to sign Stromae for the U.S., releasing the song stateside in 2014. Now, this "Maestro" stands poised to inspire his biggest audience yet. This conductor has arrived.