We introduce you to another member of the choir conductors team of the Gospel Weekend: a fantastic musician with a long trajectory in the Gospel music world, with an espectacular voice and a great charm.
Do you want to know better Didier Likeng? In this exclusive interview with Sing & Travel you can learn more about this great conductor, self-taught musician with great experience in the scene and in the choir conduction, born in Cameroon and resident in Belgium.
1) When and where did you start in the Gospel music world?
Didier: I started when I was 11 years old in my church’s choir, listening to K7 audios of Louis Armstrong and some of Andrea Crouch’s songs, and I fell in love with this extraordinarily rich and varied music genre.
2)What moved you to start giving workshops and masterclasses?
Didier: When I arrived to Europe, I frequented many gospel groups in the different scenes and festivals. Being a composer, I started proposing compositions and arrengements for the singing workshops that some choirs asked us. I documented myself quite fast about the history of afro-american music, and the african component of this music, as it comes from my culture, helped me to find the meaning and the content to expose to my students. Mi experience in choral singing with different choir conductors allowed me to develop an effective vocal technique for this music genre.
3)Tell us a gospel song that means something special for you, and why.
Didier: The song “Precious Lord Take My Hand” really touched me for its melody and for the depth of its meaning, and it made it even more once I discovered the context in which this song was composed by Thomas Dorsey.
4)What fills you more, work with the spirituals and classic Gospel or experiment with the new Gospel music of the 21st century?
Didier: I think both types complement each other. But in order to understand the rhythm and harmony of contemporary gospel first you have to know the basic rules of its rich harmonies and the groove, that we find in the Negro-spirituals and traditional gospel. Unfortunately, in Europe many musicians (instrumentists), singers and conductors rush too much to give a contemporary gospel repertory, but they ignore the base general knowledge of this style and ignore the codes. This lapses are easy to identify and make that the arrangements don’t always sound good, as the scores don’t always explain all what is necessary and are not enough to understand this music to the point to make it sound good, to find the groove. Many don’t know, for example, the difference between a work song, a spiritual, negro-spiritual and gospel, that are styles with very different focus.
5) Who are your Gospel composers of reference?
Didier: It’s impossible to choose only one in each category. At the negro-spirituals I like the rhythms of Orlandus Wilson from the Golden Gate Quartet. At the roots side With Blind Willie Johnson and at the traditional gospel James Cleveland, Sister Roseta, Tharpe Gospel Moderne, Thomas Dorsey, Havey Hatkins from The Canton Spirituals and The Blind Richard Smallwoos. At the contemporary gospel John P. Kee, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond y Tonex.
6) A gospel conductor that you admire.
Didier: There is not one in particular, but I admire the energy of my brother Emmanuel Djob.
7) What brings the Gospel music to your life?
Didier: Gospel music is a lesson of life for me. She helps me to move on in my moments od doubt. She helps me to understand how beautiful life is. She helps me in not attaching myself in what I don’t have, and appreciate what I do have. She helps me to live better my faith in God..