David Brown, a leader of Brazzaville musical band, shared with us his recipe of simple human happiness – to look aside at times from our iPhones and think about other people.
Well, David, why music? Can you imagine yourself doing something completely different?
I do enjoy other things too – for example right now I’ve started a microphone company here, in Russia, and that’s just been incredibly fun experience. But music is my great love; I think it is what I’m on some level meant to be doing, because I feel so happy when I’m doing it. I think for anyone being able to find what makes him feel happy is a huge abundance because most people spend their lives doing stuff that they don’t really like!
So you consider music to be the reason why you are here, on the Earth?
There are a lot of reasons: I’m here, on the Earth, to raise my kids, to play music, to answer the phone in a very specific moment when someone really needs to talk to. I’m here to do all the things I’m doing here.
Do you believe there is a special mission for each of us? Or we can choose anything we want to do in our lives?
Well, everyone is born with a certain nature. To realize what’s your nature is a great thing. If your nature is to be a boxer but you think that you really need to sell flowers, and you’re trying to sell flowers, make some ugly bouquets which nobody buys. One day a friend of yours invites you to the gym for boxing – and you turn out to be the greatest boxer: you are fast, you are strong, you are aggressive. Then you go – wow! I feel like I’m doing what I meant to do! Conversely if you’re meant to sell flowers, but somehow you convinced yourself you have to be a boxer – every time you get into the ring you get beaten up and embarrassed. Your girlfriend even wants to leave you but one day you pack the flowers up to her and it’s amazing! And you go in, try making a bouquet – It’s like fantastic!
So how to find your right way in life then?
I think it’s a journey. In my case it came quite late. I started writing poetry in my teens and playing music when I was about 18. I played sax and I was convinced that it’s my mission – to become a great saxophone player. I practicing and practicing and practicing – I was ok, but I was never gonna be great. And I remember the day when I realized that: I thought – maybe it’s not my path? And what a great day that was! Soon after that when I’d picked up a pen again and started writing lyrics I began to change. So it’s a journey, it takes years. Well, not for everyone – some people when they are children they now – I’m a ballerina! But in my case it took a lot of time. And I think the journey is very important. It could be scary if you fear a lot – I don’t know what I’m here for, I don’t know what I meant to be doing etc. In the end if you listen to they call it a still small voice inside of you, you’ll get to your own.
As we know you had a pretty tough childhood, how did you manage to keep such a positive attitude to life?
I had a very complex childhood but I don’t know if it was very tough. I lived in many places – with my mother, then with my aunt, in my foster home, with my grandmother, with a friend’s family. But in almost every case the people were wonderful. My foster family was a wonderful family! My grandmother probably shaped me more than any other factor in my life. She was a poetess and an immensely positive person – in a genuine way. She could see the best in people; she could look at the bright side of things. I remember one day we were driving up to the mountains and we locked the keys in the car – probably I locked them. So we needed to get in the car and she had a big smile on her face and said: “You know what I think? You should find a big rock and smash a window!”. She knew that every 16 years old boy loves this smash! And that was a great acceptance: this is what’s going on, there is no point being upset about it – it won’t change it!
You said once that you feel like a wondering minstrel, a citizen of the Universe. But on the other hand you often repeat the word “home” in your songs. What does it mean for you, this word?
I grew up in many different homes. Now I have a family in Barcelona – we are Americans but we live there for about 10 years. And it’s very important for me to give my kids that stable home, where they will live for many years, have their mom and dad, go to the same school and feel secure. I didn’t have it and I think I always wanted it and was envious of people who seemed to have that stability. But on the other hand I feel like it was a positive thing for me too because I can feel home anywhere. If you give me a nice warm place to sleep, a glass of water – I’m ok. But there were a lot of pain, spiritual pain – for every child it’s important to feel that you have a safe place, where you’re loved and welcome.
Being a father do you feel that our young generation is lost because of gadgets, internet and stuff like this?
I think every generation looks at the youth and thinks: “Oh God, these kids today – they are worse than ever!” I don’t think so. Gadgets are challenging not just to the young generation – everybody has a real addiction to them. Sure there are negative aspects of using gadgets but also there are positive ones. Imagine you live somewhere in Kemerovo and you’re a fan of rare northern songs of England, which no one loves in your town. You go to internet and find a community of people who are crazy about this stuff. So every day you can meet you friends whether in England or Kuala Lumpur or wherever and talk about you favorite stuff and feel like unit.
You travel a lot of time, how do you think – is there any common between different cities, cultures, nations?
People arent’ that different as we like to think! Most people when they are young wanna explore, discover new things, fall in love, have fun. When they get older they wanna have someone to love, have a safe place to raise their kids, they wanna be able not to afraid of the government, delinquency or whatever. Obviously different cultures are very different but we’re all much more similar than we’d like to think.
You have a lot of songs about girls, can you say that you understand women?
No, I don’t think so. But I do like sometimes in songs to view the world from the prospective of somebody else. I wrote a song long time ago called “Single apartment” about a woman whom I met in a store. Probably 10-15 years ago she was a real beauty and had the kind of life that goes with that which is that things are often easier because men wanna do things for you. But since she’s no longer that young lady, there is another one. A said – wow, I wonder what that was feel like – and I wrote the song from her prospective. But I wouldn’t say that I understand a female soul – it’s mysterious for men.
There is an opinion that people nowadays are unhappy because they spend their lives just consuming and don’t create anything. You seem to be a happy person so how do you think does it relate to your creativity?
My grandmother was very creative and she spoke about something that she called «divine dissatisfaction». That means when you create something you never satisfied with it. And it keeps you wanting to try new things, be better next time it pushes you to not be satisfied, trying some creative experiments. It makes people very happy to be creative whether it’s gardening or making clothes. Creating something we activate some part of our spirit which is a key to happiness.
So in your opinion what is the way to happiness?
I think what makes real happiness is gratitude. You can focus on good things or bad. I can go like this: wow, I have two legs and they work really well, I can walk anywhere I wanna go! My eyes work too – I can read, I can drive. No part in me is in pain right now, I still left a coffee in this cup – there is an endless list of the stuff you can be grateful. You have friends – great, there are people who don’t! If there’s no war going on in your country – thank God! One of the greatest sources of unhappiness is focusing on ourselves – me, my, how do I improve MYSELF, what do I mean to do to make MYSELF happy? Thinking of others from time to time will make you happier that anything you can do for yourself. In our self-standard consumers society we have some sort of message like: you are not happy? Of course you are not happy – you don’t have an iPhone! Happiness is when you see a lonely old lady (babushka) sitting somewhere on the street and think – what if I talked to her for a while? You start talking to her – she is really happy, you are really happy, you go away feeling great!
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