JEAN PAUL MAUNICK (INCOGNITO) FOR MNE MAGAZIN: We are bringing classic songs to Porto Montenegro

Photo: Marc Albert Multimedia

Pioneers of the British acid jazz scene, band ,,Incognito”, are bringing their timeless hits to the stage of ,,Synchro” in Porto Montenegro on August 17th.
That was the reason for the exclusive talk with the leader of the band Jean Paul Maunick, known as Bluey, who said that he is pleased to be back to Montenegro and that this time audience will get the chance to see many new faces who arrived into the band and that he expects the audience to hear some incredible voices, powerful instrumentalists and a thrilling drum and percussion battle.
Our guest had been creating music with ,,Incognito” for forty years, he is living his childhood dream and, further, he has established collaboration with many role models he had been imagining he would be working with since his schooldays, drawing how his band would look like and writing the names of the people who would be playing in it. It was just for one such drawing that the teacher slapped him, because he was supposed to be writing an essay not to draw, but in this interview, Maunick says that the most important thing in all this is that teachers understand they must never underestimate somebody. Specially, he adds, when it comes to children. His message regarding that is seeing the light within them and amplifying that light is the best way to serve the human race.

On August 17th you are coming back to Montenegro to perform at Porto Montenegro’s ,,Synchro”. How much do you know about the place you will be performing at, what are your expectations from the show and are you preparing a special setlist for it?
– I know nothing of this venue, but I am really pleased to be returning to this region once again. It’s been too long! We will have a lot of the classic Incognito songs in the set as well as material from more recent albums. I’ll be introducing many new faces to the audience and expect to hear some incredible voices, some of powerful instrumentalists and a thrilling drum and percussion battle. Big ballads. Most of all, expect joyful uplifting funky music for your funky soul.

You are on the celebratory tour. It has been 40 years since you founded ,,Incognito”. How do you remember the beginnings, the very moment when you came up with the name ,,Incognito” and the idea behind the band and the music you will be making?
– It’s been a journey of turning dreams into reality. Though I have poor memory, I remember forming this band in 1979 like it was yesterday. My memory is very clear on the birth of my children and my band. I guess that this is because of their importance in my life and the love I have for them.
I chose the name Incognito because I knew that this was going to be an ever changing band. We have had thousands of musicians, singers, arrangers, technicians and guests in this band. I wanted a music collective as opposed to a band in the traditional sense. Bands seem to behave like gangs, I prefer a musical family, an unpredictable collective.
Soul, Jazz and funk was always going to be the order of the day. Bands like Kool & the Gang, Earth Wind & Fire, Tower Of Power, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Banda Black Rio, Chicago had made too much of an impression on my musical taste to be forgotten or ignored. Fortunately for us, I managed to understand respect of influence and the importance of creating your own unique sound, as not to fall victim of being just another band that sounds like a copy of other bands!

Photo: Marc Albert Multimedia

You said in an interview: ,,We play for their smiles. I want them to leave feeling as I did as a teenager who had just seen, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang or Tower Of Power. Uplifted, inspired and joyous!” Is that what has been keeping you after 40 years in Incognito – inspire and be inspired, uplift and be uplifted?
– People come from the comfort of their living rooms, brave the weather, pay for a ticket. They absolutely want to be uplifted and inspired, they want to feel a connection, they want to be thrilled and have their minds blown! Some come to reminisce, others come to see and hear what the fuss was all about! Some have embraced you as part of the soundtrack of their lives, they come to sing along. The songs belong to them as much as it belongs to you!
These are the reasons I go to concerts and festivals. I understand my public. I am them and they are me!
You sing ,,Talkin’ loud and sayin’ somethin’, ’bout the way we live our lives, talkin’ loud and sayin’ somethin’, revelations from a risin’ generation.” How do you see today’s generation and how loud is it talkin’ about the lives we live today?
– The message has to be equally as powerful as the music, one feeds off the other. Music without a message has no purpose in my life. Life without awareness, love and understanding is no life at all. Living only in the past makes for a dull future!
I have great love and kinship with my peers and new and future generations. Bands and artists like Yakul, Anderson .Paak, Ryan Porter, Kamasi Washington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Shafiq Husayn, Hiatus Kaiyote and Snarky Puppy bring the light and the inspiration information that guarantees a brighter future to our planet!

Photo: Marc Albert Multimedia

You worked with so many artists you were dreaming of ever since you were a schoolboy. As you said – you were able to separate Bluey the musician from Bluey the fan when you were working with such great names. Nevertheless, who made the lasting impression on you?
– The greats carry a great legacy with dignity and love! I have been a very lucky recipient of that love in befriending and working with Stevie Wonder, Leon Ware, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, George Duke, George Benson, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller, Al Mckay, Philip Bailey and Brenda Russell. They all left indelible impressions on my soul!
As you say, you do not mind repeating the scene when you were in an English class, drawing and the teacher slapped you because you were supposed to be writing an essay, tore the paper and throw it out. On that drawing was your ideal band. What we do not hear so often is how did the teacher react upon seeing you got famous?
– The most important thing is not basking in the glory that I proved her wrong, but in understanding that you must never underestimate somebody and their aspirations, no matter how far fetched it may seem to you. Specially when it comes to children. Seeing the light within them and amplifying that light is the best way to serve the human race!
How did you feel when you realised that the music you are creating with ,,Incognito” is, as you said, bigger than yourself?
– I’ve understood the power of music long before I conceived Incognito. I knew it had the power to make sad people happy. I knew that it had healing powers. I knew that it made dreams come true since I was five years old.
What can you tell us about the album you are preparing as ,,Incognito”. As I understand, it will be a 40th anniversary album, will it not?
– Yes, 2019 is our 40th anniversary year. I am enjoying making this album without pressure as it is a self funded album to this point. There is a lot of musical experimentations and fresh sonic adventures on this record that is bringing much joy to me. If you are not happy with your creations, you cannot expect others to be! The most important lesson I learnt in music is to find great personal joy in making it! The rest will come, and if it does not come, you are left with a joyful experience!
As well as the killer regulars in the Incognito line up, there are some new young singers and contributors like Cherri V, Roberta Gentile, James Berkeley (from Yakul) and Simon Beddoe (from Submotion Orchestra) and then there are contributions from the giants of the music world… Maysa, Phil Perry, Mario Biondi, Take Six!
I’m living the dream!
Bojana Radonjić