Soul, R & B, jazz, rock and pop… Rouhangeze is very much at ease singing songs in all of these genres with an extra special feel for the blues! Born and raised in Mauritius, Rouhangeze started singing at the age of five for the Baha’i community at MACOSS community events and at UNICEF children’s charity events. As a pre-teen, Rouhangeze regularly performed at the State House International Children’s Day in Mauritius and won the National Conservatoire Singing Competition when she was just 11 years old. Aged 14, she set up a recording studio with her friends including Nabil Capillaire (who subsequently mixed her first demo album, “Alfa”). Aged 16 years, she started writing songs and putting musical arrangements together, working with Pipo Nairac for his trilogy of French/Creole folk ballads, Nostalgie des Iles, Nostalgie Creoles, and Nostalgie des Iles 2. Released throughout the Indian Ocean territories via Discorama, one of the songs from this trilogy, “P’tite Fleur Fanée”, is widely regarded as the finest interpretation of this song ever recorded. Rouhangeze performed in all the top hotels around Mauritius, mostly performing jazz standards between the ages of 15 and 19.
Her first demo album, “Alfa”, was recorded when she was 19 years old in 2007 and completed and released in 2009. After completing this first album, Rouhangeze re-located to the UK in 2008, aged 21, initially to Retford in Nottinghamshire, and started to meet local musicians. A series of experimental remixes of various tracks from her demo album were produced in collaboration with Alan Clein from Germany, Fash from Iran, Patrick Freeston from Sheffield, and Bicycle Corporation (Marco Mei and Stefano Ugliano) from Italy and released on her own label, Mazarine Blue, in August 2010. In March 2011, Rouhangeze moved to Wimbledon and collaborated with a Norwegian band called Czechoslovakia duetting with lead vocalist Tore Meberg on a song called “Plus Fort Que Nous” written by Pierre Barouh and Francis Lai. Rouhangeze also wrote a song to a backing track recorded by a band called “Leaking Shell” from Germany. This ‘downtempo’ track, “These Days/Ego Tunnel”, was released in May 2011 on the Drop Down label in Germany.
I discovered Rouhangeze through LinkedIn after she contacted me in December 2011 and we arranged to meet up in January 2012 and look for common musical interests. I had several arrangements of pop and jazz standards already recorded as instrumentals, so to get started, I invited Rouhangeze to add vocals to these. An original instrumental track featuring Damon Butcher on keyboards, Blair Cunningham on drums and Oroh Angiama on double bass served as a perfect vehicle for us to co-write a song melody and lyrics – “(If I Had) One Wish”.
We also decided to write new songs and record these together with ‘covers’ of French, British and American songs, initially as a duo. My long-term musical collaborator, Lyn Dobson, returned to the UK earlier this year and played flute and saxophone on several of these recordings.
Recordings in progress
Mike Collins | Rouhangeze Baichoo
The following recordings are all studio productions by Mike Collins with various ‘friends’ – other studio musicians with whom Mike has worked with extensively – featuring Rouhangeze with her bluesy, jazzy, soulful vocals.
1. After Noon – A blues-influenced instrumental piece written by Mike Collins together with Damon Butcher and Blair Cunningham provides a perfect setting for Rouhangeze to add her improvised high notes.
2. (If I Had) One Wish – With melody and lyrics written by Rouhangeze together with Mike, this was originally an instrumental piece co-written by Mike with Damon Butcher and Blair Cunningham.
3. Every Little Bit Hurts – A tribute to legendary Motown singer Brenda Holloway, this song has been covered many times by discerning, soulful vocalists since it was first released in the early 60’s. I had always loved the distinctive piano on the original recording so my personal mission was to learn to play this and record the piano part along with the rhythm guitar, string synth and some sampled upright bass. Winston Blissett added bass guitar and Blair Cunningham played the drums.
4. A Time For Love – A beautiful slow ballad originally by Shirley Horn, this version features Jim Mullen on guitar, Damon Butcher on piano, Roger Beaujolais on vibes, Winston Blissett on bass and Marc Parnell on drums. I played the hand percussion.
5. Secret Love – Mike’s favourite song from the 50’s, originally sung by Doris Day, is given a completely new arrangement here.
6. Visions – My tribute to Stevie Wonder, I played the acoustic guitars and electric lead guitar on this recording, which also features Jim Mullen playing the melody in octaves on guitar, John McKenzie on bass and Blair Cunningham on drums.
7. My Way – Inspired by Aretha Franklin’s gospel-influenced version, this song allows Rouhangeze to explore her more soulful vocal stylings.
8. Hymne a l’Amour – This is one of Edith Piaf’s most famous songs, arranged here by Jim Mullen in a jazzy style.
9. When I Fall In Love – Another classic pop standard given the jazz-soul treatment.
Originally recorded as an instrumental featuring jazz guitarist Jim Mullen, this song proved to be a perfect showcase for Rouhangeze’ soulful vocals!
Just listen to her amazing empathy with, and interplay between, Jim’s guitar improvisations! This could be my favourite recording so far with the tremendously talented Miss Baichoo!
This arrangement features Jim Mullen playing three guitar parts while I play percussion, Winston Blissett plays bass and Blair Cunningham plays drums.
10. Over The Rainbow – The classic Judy Garland song given a jazz-soul treatment by Jim Mullen and the studio guys.
Rouhangeze sings Judy Garland’s signature tune in her soulful jazz style backed up by Mike Collins playing rhythm guitars, Winston Blissett playing bass guitar and Blair Cunningham playing drums. Jim Mullen joins the party to play a blindingly-good jazz guitar solo while the band rocks things up, with Blair doubling the time to really drive the music along as Rouhangeze improvises to introduce Jim’s solo, then takes it out with some great ad libs toward the end…
1. Love Letter – This song was written by Mike Collins and Steve Thompson when they were both signed to Gus Dudgeon’s Gussongs songwriting ‘workshop’ via Dick James Music back in 1984. Rouhangeze fell in love with this song the moment she heard it!
2. Somebody Else’s Guy – A tribute to Jocelyn Brown, this song allows both Mike and Rouhangeze to pay homage to one of their most favourite soulful vocalists!
I play guitar and various hand percussion instruments, and I programmed the drumbeats. Damon Butcher plays piano, Graham Dean plays drums, and Winston Blissett plays the bass.
Here is the full, unedited mix of the track. After she has sung the song, this version features Rouhangeze having lots of fun trading ‘licks’ with sax player Lyn Dobson – building the tension all the way until the music finally stops after more than 7 minutes!
3. Love is a Losing Game – A tribute to Amy Winehouse, this was originally an instrumental version on which I played lead and rhythm guitars and various hand percussion instruments, Winston Blissett played bass and Marc Parnell played drums. It turned out that Rouhangeze is a big fan of Amy’s, so we recorded her vocals on this in place of my guitar melody.
4. The Moment – This song was written by Mike Collins together with Noel McCalla and Keith O’Connell back in 1984. At first, it did not seem to be the right kind of song for Rouhangeze, but then inspiration struck – and now she has made it her own with this great performance!
5. Joe Le Taxi – Rouhangeze heard my version of this Vanessa Paradis hit when we first met and liked it so much that it was the first song we recorded together. John McKenzie plays bass while I play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, hand percussion and fingersnaps on this version.
Rouhangeze & Michael
The next set of recordings all started out as guitar and vocal performances by Michael and Rouhangeze. Some of these have additional instruments or percussion overdubbed.
1. Tick Tock – I first heard “Tick Tock” when Beverley Craven, who wrote the song, asked me to record her playing piano and singing this for an ‘unplugged’ album of her songs. Hearing Beverley perform the song brought a tear to my eye, and I realized how meaningful the lyrics would be to so many women. When I played this to Rouhangeze, the lyrics immediately resonated with her own situation… and when she finished recording this, she just couldn’t hold back the tears herself!!!
2. Fever – Originally a smash hit for American singer Peggy Lee in 1958, this song has always been a big favourite for both of us.
3. Less Mwa – An original song written by Rouhangeze and Michael with Mauritian creole lyrics. I came up with the guitar idea which reminded Rou of Mauritian music. I suggested that she write the lyric in her Creole language, then I played a Mauritian Ravanne hand drum and a triangle, and the bass guitar. Lyn Dobson played the flute improvisations.
4. Somebody Else’s Guy Acoustic Version – Rouhangeze asked me if I could play this song much more slowly than the Jocelyn Brown version to allow her more time to develop her vocal phrasings… It turned out very ‘bluesy’!
5. There is no greater love – Rouhangeze loved the way Amy Winehouse sang this jazz standard, with lyrics that held lots of personal meaning for her. We recorded this the night before she was due to fly to Canada to be with her greatest love… not surprisingly, it turned out to be one of her best vocal performances!
6. Gee baby, ain’t I good to you – I first heard this song performed by Jimmy Witherspoon and just loved the whole thing – lyrics, melody, swing feel… Rouhangeze asked me to record this when we found ourselves unexpectedly with some extra studio time together.
7. Natural Woman – The Carole King classic popularized by Aretha Franklin given a re-working. After trying this out with electric guitar, bass guitar, percussion and even drums, it eventually felt best with this simple acoustic guitar accompaniment!
8. Walk On By – The Burt Bacharach/Dionne Warwick classic with a new arrangement by Michael. This is the ‘unplugged’ acoustic version. I am also developing an arrangement with electric bass and drums which adds new dimensions…
9. Closer (excerpt from Le Boom Vent Suite) – This is a ‘cover’ of part of a recording titled Le Boom Vent Suite by US soul singer Jill Scott. I play acoustic and electric guitars and various hand percussion instruments, Lyn Dobson plays alto sax and John McKenzie plays bass guitar on this acoustic version.
10. Les Vacances au Bord de la Mer – “Holidays by the sea…” with an arrangement based on Stacey Kent’s fantastic recording of this popular French song.
11. Night & Day – One of Cole Porter’s most beautiful songs. I play my 1940’s Epiphone Broadway acoustic guitar with its ‘floating’ DeArmond pickup through a custom-built Swart SpaceTone combo amplifier using the electronic tremolo setting. I overdubbed a shaker and John McKenzie overdubbed bass guitar. Rouhangeze was inspired by Bebel Gilberto’s version of this song, so we stuck closely to Bebel’s version here.
12. The Christmas Song – This is our jazzy version of “The Christmas Song”, which was originally made popular by Nat ‘King’ Cole. On December 18, 2012, I had recorded the guitar chords to bass and drums backing for this song that I had found on the Internet and Lyn Dobson had played the soprano sax solo. Rouhangeze came to visit just before Christmas, and I helped her to quickly learn the song so I could record and mix this version.