Didier Marouani — Monegasque Musician who conquered Russia and much more
Imagine getting a number one album in seventeen different countries, including Russia and the United States, at the beginning of your career as a composer and singer… and sustaining that success for two additional albums. This is precisely what happened to Didier Marouani, who began as a skilled piano student at the Conservatory of Monaco and Paris before he founded the band «Space» in 1977. Their first release, «Magic Fly», was a true musical sensation, as was «Deliverance» and «Just Blue». Didier Marouani’s popularity even allowed him to perform in the emblematic Moscow Red Square.
Also known as «Ecama», Didier Marouani, born in Monaco in the 1950s, quickly made an impression on the French music scene. He started composing lyrics for major musical performers at an early age, encouraged by Étienne Roda-Gil, the song and screenwriter based in Paris. Thanks to the initial success of his single «Je Suis Ton Chevalier», he toured with the greatest singers of the time: Johnny Hallyday, Claude François and Joe Dassin. The creation of his own musical band, forty-three years ago, gave his career a turning point. Ecama’s track «Magic Fly» became the theme song for Jackie Chan’s «Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow» (1978).
After leaving Space for a while, Marouani launched himself into a new project, «Paris-France-Transit» (1982) that reopened the doors of the Soviet Union, where he performed twenty-one concerts the following year. Four years later, he released «Space Opera», the first album entirely devoted to synthesizers and choirs, including the exclusive participation of both the Russian Red Army and the American Harvard University Choirs. The space-themed album was even broadcast on board the «Mir» Soviet Space Station.
HelloMonaco talked to Didier Marouani about his extraordinary gift during a special interview.
HelloMonaco: Mr. Marouani, your talent as a musician was clear from the beginning of your career, what memories come back to you of that wonderful period? Who or what inspired you most to become a composer and singer?
Didier Marouani: I started my musical vocation when I was a teenager. In 1973, I sent a piece of music to the popular Tokyo International Music Festival. Shortly after, I was invited to perform in that prestigious international contest as a singer. That surprised me at first since I considered myself to be more of a composer. I finally decided to participate, so I spent a whole week in the Japanese capital with my mentor. It was amazing for me, being a nineteen-year-old guy who was awarded the best male interpretation prize, in the presence of Olivia Newton John and other major performers who were attending the event. Thanks to the success achieved, I was then asked by Japanese music producers to record a full-length album as a singer. The outcome reached great success, it included three songs in Japanese and the rest were in French. After a while, Eddie Barclay contacted me on the advice of Charles Aznavour’s daughter, who pointed out my talent after seeing me on stage in Tokyo. It was a great honour to get a partnership proposal from him. Barclay, the renowned French producer, wanted me to make a new single in French. So I pushed him to contact Étienne Roda-Gil, my spiritual father. Luckily, he was available, just after finishing a great album, «Terre de France», for Julien Clerc, for whom he was working exclusively. We agreed on making a new album that increased my fame further, allowing me to open for the most popular singers.
HM: What pushed you and your band to test such an innovative musical performance?
DM: When I created my music group in 1977, we launched «Magic Fly» that quickly became a real success story on radios, hit-parades and discos, globally… I decided to dress up as a cosmonaut in our first video clip, filmed by Paul McCartney’s & «Wings» director. We all wore futuristic helmets in order not to be recognized, which was a revolutionary marketing act for those times. I then called my band «Space» since all the people who first heard the album told me that the sound seemed to come from outer space due to the synthesized rhythm.
HM: Since 1983, you have been performing concerts in Russia, gaining celebrity in all former Soviet countries, as well as Europe and the rest of the world. How does that make you feel?
DM: In 1982, I had the chance to meet the Ambassador of Russia in Paris who introduced me to the Deputy Minister of Culture, Mr. Barabash. He invited me to visit the Soviet Union, welcoming me as a real star at the top of the pops in many countries around the world. I then accepted with gratitude but on one condition: to perform for a great Soviet audience and not for a restricted circle of institutional authorities. Therefore, I played eight concerts at the renowned Olympiisky Arena in Moscow, sold-out every night with about forty thousand spectators. At this point, I asked to organize a free concert on Red Square, to the astonishment of the Minister of Culture, who tried to dissuade me. After long negotiations with Mr. Luzhkov, Mayor of Moscow in those days, I got the first authorization in recent history, in 1992. It was remarkable taking the stage, which was suspended thirty metres high, with the Kremlin in the background and more than 350 thousand people gathered in that symbolic place in the Russian capital.
HM: Have you ever played in your homeland, Monaco?
DM: Yes, I did not long ago. In July 2019, I was delighted to perform at the Yacht Club de Monaco for the wedding of my dear friend’s daughter.
HM: In late November 2016, international Media spread a piece of news about your one-day misadventure in Moscow as a result of a complaint by Philip Kirkorov. Can you tell us about it?
DM: Actually, I fell into a trap. His song «Cruel Love» was clearly stolen from my composition «Symphonic Space Dream», as certified by French music experts named by the appeal court. I couldn’t just stay away since all the musical compositions I conceive are like my babies. He invited me to join him in a bank in Moscow to settle accounts and contracts in the presence of our lawyers. Once finished, I was surrounded by about forty policemen ordering me to stand still and not use my mobile phone. Finally, I was taken to the police station where I answered all questions through my personal translator until the following early morning.
HM: What does music mean to you, nowadays?
DM: My life is passion and my passion is music. I started learning music when I was five and immediately began my first goal. Hence, my father pushed me to take classical music lessons. My first music professor could not be better and I soon decided I would like to be a composer, more than an AS Monaco footballer which was my first dream.
HM: What are your plans for the future?
DM: I have many upcoming projects including one new album, a tour of concerts to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Marouani & Space and several artistic collaborations, primarily with Russian artists. My job continues to give me satisfaction. On 23rd May 2019, for example, I did a concert in Kiev accompanied by a symphonic orchestra in front of one hundred thousand spectators. It is simply wonderful and I feel lucky to live from my passion!