French harmonica player Frederic Yonnet has performed with musicians including Stevie Wonder and Prince — but when it comes to teaching neo-soul singer Erykah Badu a thing or two, the D.C.-based music man says it can’t be done. “Oh, you can’t school Erykah Badu! She’s definitely an artist on her own.”
Yonnet, who is set to play at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration “A Mighty Stream,” presented by the NSO and NEWorks Productions on Jan. 7 at THEARC in Anacostia, talked with ArtsPost about performing with Badu at the 9th annual African American Cross-Cultural Works Blues and Jazz Festival in 2006.
“There’s this video where we basically play the harmonica together. It was totally spontaneous — I was totally surprised,” Yonnet said.
“On the video I was actually using two harmonicas because one of them was starting to act a little shaky. There was a stool standing behind Erykah and I. I switched [my] harmonica for a fresh one and put the broken one on the stool behind me. She turned around — she had a tambourine in her hand — she turned around, and put the tambourine down and grabbed the broken harmonica. So talking about schooling, she totally surprised me on this one. I had no idea that she actually could play! So she grabbed the harmonica and we had that spontaneous jam in the moment.”