How his career started
All right, so we are here with French percussionist, composer and musician Dominique Patrick Noel. How are you doing, Mr. Noel? A pleasure to have you here.
Well, thank you. First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to interview me and to greet all those who is going to read it. Thank goodness, I am in good health and it is all good.
You are a self-taught musician who started playing by age seven. Did you learn everything by yourself or did you receive some kind of training?
Since I come from a family of musicians such as my father and my two grandfathers, I can say that music has always been a part of my life. I started playing the drums by listening to a lot of jazz and fell in love with this genre. That’s how I started to develop the movements and patterns of jazz and the drums.
In school, I started playing and learned solfège, percussion, drumming, among other things. When I turned 15 years old, I started playing music at a pro level because I have always had the pleasure of learning by watching musicians, who had much more experience. Thank goodness, I had my mind fresh to grasp and remember what I had seen, which helped me a lot to continue developing in percussion, different instruments, rhythms, among other things.
When I started playing Latin music, my first instrument was the bongo. I had a mentor named Alfredo Mujica Jr.,m who knew my dad and learned by playing with him. When it was my turn, he was giving the task of helping me understand the patterns and other things. He told me that the best instrument I could choose to start with was the bongo because it would help me understand a little more about how salsa works and that helped me a lot. He showed me the basic pattern and how to imitate the sounds I heard until they were similar.
After that, I also learned to play the conga, the Dominican tambora, the güira, the batá, the cajon and the timbales.
When you played the bongo for the first time, did you know you wanted to dedicate yourself to the Latin genres permanently?
When I was nine years old, I moved to Martinique and lived there for about four years. There I was fortunate to learn its folklore, its rhythms, its typical instruments and its dances. I also learned to perform all those genres with the drums and tried to absorb all I saw. Concurrently, the zouk era was beginning and I fell in love with the genre since I heard it for the first time.
Sometime later, my dad and I went to the United States to be with my dad, who was living in Washington at the time. It was there where I started to accompany him in several of his activities and shows with his orchestras. Then, I began listening more to salsa, cumbia and merengue, something I liked very much. Then, I told him that I would like to learn what he knew and play with him, to which he replied that it looked good, but that it was a profession that I had to take very seriously. Therefore, he advised me to listen to everything, even if it wasn’t Latin music because all genres nurture the musician in one way or another.
With whom he has worked?
You have worked with Tito Puente Jr, Tito Rojas, Izis La Enfermera de La Salsa, Frankie Vasquez, Lalo Rodriguez, among others. What have you learned from them?
I have had the opportunity to play with maestro Tito Rojas and his musical director, Celso Clemente, gave me some advice. When rehearsing, I approached him to thank him for allowing me to play the bongo with them and ask him for advice for my career, to which he replied that he liked my work very much and that I was very good for someone who was not born in this Latin music environment.
He also advised me that I had to move forward, never play down my goals, accept constructive criticism and always stay humble. I will never forget his words.
We know that you are a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which is well known for giving the Grammy Awards. What do you base to vote for a nominated candidate for an award?
There are several processes for artists to be nominated. For us the voters, it is a long process because we have the task of listening to much music and analyzing many details such as recording quality, lyrics, musicality and much more. There are many important elements to consider when choosing the person. I want to get to the point of saying that someone really deserves my vote for this or that category.
Voting takes time. It’s not something that you do in an hour or two, it takes a long time. The day of the awards ceremony, we already know who will the winners. At that point, we can say that all of them have managed to win via an arduous selection process.
Tell us about your song Mi Secreto with D’ William.
The skeleton of the song was my idea and I got together D’ William, to whom I offered to join the song. He wanted to collaborate with me in a merengue song for some time and I sent him the skeleton, which he liked and told me that something could be done with it. When he asked me if I already had the lyrics, I said no, but I wanted to base the song on an experience of mine, so I told him what it was about and the lyrics were written about that fact. Later, we made some additional arrangements and that’s how Mi Secreto was born.