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Belgian phenomenon Stromae takes music to North America

NEW YORK -- If Europe can dance to English-language music, North America can learn to do the same with French, says Belgian singer-songwriter Stromae, as he takes a new continent by storm.

A phenomenon across Europe, the lanky 29-year-old electronica star — whose upbeat, danceable tunes often belie heavy lyrical themes ranging from abandonment to marital violence — has played sold-out concerts in Montreal this week, with another in New York on Friday, ahead of his first major North American tour later this year.

“The challenge though is to come and sing French in someone else's backyard,” the artist told AFP.

In English-speaking North America, he said, carrying off French songs is “a little more complicated than for some other countries that speak a different language.”

The son of a Flemish mother and a Rwandan father who died in the country's 1990s genocide, Paul van Haver, alias Stromae, was raised by his mother alongside three siblings in the Brussels suburbs.

Even as he sets out to conquer the Americas, the singer-songwriter, who sees his music as “a mix between song, Congolese rumba, salsa, hip-hop music and dance music” says he has no desire to perform in English, even if he speaks it well.

“I don't foresee doing it in the near or medium future,” he said, without ruling out “collaborations with people who sing in English.”

“When you hear people express themselves in a language that's not theirs,” the music suffers, Stromae said — especially if the reason for it “is only strategic.”

Of singing in English, he said: “I wouldn't be convinced in the least, and I have to be convinced before others can be.”

In mid-September, he will return for a dozen concerts across the continent from Boston to Toronto to Los Angeles, having already performed a series of 90 often sold-out, back-to-back performances in Europe and Morocco this year.

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