Acoustic sounds emerge from the resort high amongst peaks. The majestic Matterhorn pokes the night sky. Crowds cheer, then the air falls silent. This is a music festival with a difference. Now in its fifth year, Zermatt Unplugged attracts thousands of visitors, music lovers and winter sports enthusiasts craving a classy end to their winter season. The festival's nine venues--including a 2,000-seat marquee--will this year welcome Ms Lauryn Hill (of Fugees fame), art rocker Chris de Burgh, Scottish singer Amy Macdonald and voice of American soul, Aloe Blacc. Since the release of his anthem 'I Need a Dollar' and hit album Good Things in 2010, Blacc and his plaintive lyrics have been catapulted into the limelight. Before he unplugs in Zermatt, the 32-year-old Panamanian-American reveals why he thinks music should be a force for change, and how getting fired led to the career of his dreams.
Your music contains references to financial injustice and comment on modern politics. Why do you think you are able to be the voice of underprivileged people?
My parents shared with me stories of the poverty that they endured growing up. They were able to succeed in life and make life easier for my sisters and I, but I still feel connected to their history. As in any family, tribe, or society, the stronger members must care for those who are less able to care for themselves. I use my voice and lyrics to carry a message for those who are often not heard or don't have the means to discuss issues and find solutions.
What do you hope to inspire through your music?
I hope to create conversations about the problems of political corruption, corporate greed, and social injustice. Awareness is the first step to finding solutions. You have to know what needs to be fixed in order to plan repairs. I think compassion is the answer, so I plan to write songs that suggest this in ways that can be taken seriously and still be entertaining.
Where did you get the inspiration for 'I Need a Dollar'?
The vocal style of '1 Need a Dollar' is inspired by the songs of African slaves. They carried the tradition of repetition and 'call-and-response' from their native land, and singing was a way to communicate cultural heritage as well as important social information. This tradition continued in jails and chain gangs, which are disproportionately populated by blacks. They were victims of a vicious cycle of poverty, lack of education and few job opportunities...