In 2021, Kings Of Leon shared their eighth album When You See Yourself and raised significant media attention. It was not the music itself which stole the headlines, but rather the fact that it was the first major rock album to be released as an NFT. And over the past year, more and more artists are seeing the economic potential of the crypto-verse for the musical industry.
The French “piano king” Sofiane Pamart has also released a successful collection of NFTs. It is not a move without contention– North American group Glass Animals, for example, actually rescinded their NFT release following backlash from fans, rooted in the fact that it was allegedly making their music and the surrounding culture inaccessible for the average fan. For Pamart, however, it is about realising the future as much as anything else.
“I like to create you know, I like to create deepness in everything I do…and for the NFT, I love to be a part of the future, to be a part of technology and to have a different way of handling my business”.
Big In Business?
Alongside the NFT release, there are also economically astute collaborations with brands such as Maison Cartier, Yves Saint-Laurent and Lacoste, which earned him the title of “the new face of luxury” in France. He speaks honestly about the business side of his career, warning artists who criticise the commercialisation of the music industry to be careful lest they find themselves in a situation where they become hypocrites.
“The power of commercial marketing gives me more power to do better things, to do greater things. I love this aspect of it because I think ‘wow, this will give me the power to do something else’, so really my whole life is still focussed on the music. I feel that the more I succeed on the business side, the more I am able to do big things.”
Furthermore, all of these successes and rewards have been fought for by Pamart and, as he is keen to point out, the generations before him. He certainly doesn’t have the background that one might expect from one of Europe’s greatest classical artists, coming from a non-musical family, the son of a Moroccan mother, raised on the outskirts of Lille, and it seems to make perfect sense that he wants to do things a bit differently, working with rappers one day and selling out the Paris Philharmonie the next. Of all his achievements one thing that he is most proud of is the audiences of his concert, who do not conform to just one demographic.
“I like that I bring classical music to a new kind of audience. And that is something that makes me very proud. Even if it’s surprising for them to go in because they’re not used to that, I feel very happy that they finally feel that this music is for them. It’s not about the music, it’s about the attitude that you put around the music. And because my attitude is so open-minded about so many things and I hold no judgement, I think it helps to make people welcome and it is important to feel welcome in any situation. You can have a luxury experience for everyone, it’s possible.”
His grandfather was a miner, undertaking strenuous physical labour every day of his life, and this heritage has played a significant role in directing the pianist’s vision.
“I am so lucky. My work is to play piano. He had to use his hands in a very hard way which broke his health. I use may hands to support and to solve things. I feel very very lucky. It gives me an unlimited power just thinking about it. I try to do an extension. It’s a form of revenge against the unfair things which life has. I think we can fight against this unfairness, but you cannot fight alone and sometimes the fight takes several generations, from my grandfather, my mother and me. And finally, I feel that with my life, I have the return of my work, that they didn’t have.”
This fiery resolution to is not unique to Sofiane but also something which has been instilled in his siblings, with his sister a diplomat (also in his words, “a beautiful violinist” who featured on track Sincerely), and a brother working at the top of his field in artificial intelligence.
“We all decided to do something different but whatever we decided, we took it to the top level. We tried to put in everything that we can. We are free to do what we want but in exchange for what our parents did, we need to do it to a very high level. You know, we are all very close in this journey and we are very supportive of each other so that is why playing with my sister means a lot it me. It’s also why I called the song ‘Sincerely’ because for me, I cannot be more sincere than involving my own family.”
Sincerity is apparent in everything that Sofiane Pamart. He plays with an earnest intensity that garners attention wherever his music is played, with personality and character shining through. There is a sense of power and rebellion embedded in his story and in his music that only makes it all the more moving.
Sofiane Pamart’s Letter is out now via PIAS Recordings.