Up Close … with local artist Jude Ally-‘I’ve always liked anything old and worn’


Jude in a pensive moodHis demeanour conveyed a sense of seriousness and my impression was that of a level-headed and down-to-earth person.  Not really what most of us have in mind when thinking of artists.

He was though; and a very good one at that.

Different from the crowd

Jude Ally was born on May 14, 1979 and lives at Sans Soucis.
“I actually don’t remember my childhood in too many details but it definitely revolved around a myriad of cousins.
“Growing up, I noticed things which held my interest. And it would usually also be the same things that would sort of distance me from my friends and family,” he said.

“My mother took the reins and brought me up after dad had left. I was still very young.”

They discovered quite early in fact that Jude’s artistic talents were far beyond ordinary at his age.
“My paintings were always quite detailed and realistic, even in primary, and I often found myself competing with kids nine years my senior. It was quite intimidating,” he remembered.

“It was the one thing I was really good at and I put everything I had into it, usually forgetting everybody around me.
“I also enjoyed playing football a great deal, though I never really took it to the next level. Music on the other hand soon became one of my passions. I’ve always had a love for words. How they sound in different contexts and especially terms used by the older generation.

“I spent most of my days with grandma anyway, so I guess I kind of just picked up on ‘old talk’,” he said laughing.
“As a result of my love for words, you could say writing just came naturally after that.”
Jude also got drawn to karate not long after and joined the local Kyokushin karate club.

Education and the struggling artist

As for his studies, Jude went through primary education at Bel Eau and secondary at Belonie school.
After that, he spent a year in the now defunct National Youth Service (NYS) and went on to pursue studies in graphics and fine arts at the College of the Arts.

From there, he obtained a Diploma in Education at the National Institute for Education for teaching art.
“You could say my first choice was not to become a teacher, but at the time it was well known in artistic circles that being an artist alone was just not the way to go.

“It wasn’t as recognised as it is today and the revenue was quite low. So I guess teaching was my only way to earn a living doing what I loved.”

Jude taught for a year at the Mont Fleuri secondary school before receiving a scholarship to study for a Degree in Art Education at the Edith Cowan University in Australia.

Love of music

“Music has always had a great influence on me. I’m a big guitar fan and I remember when I was younger, I used to rifle through pages of old guitar tab books and sort of tried to figure out the melody. However, I didn’t properly learn how to play until I got to the NYS.

“From then on, it just sort of grew.”

“My house was strongly beginning to resemble a guitar junk yard at this point. I was constantly breaking off bits from old guitars and adding it to others so that I would get a new species of guitar all together.

“I spent a lot of time with old records; some I turned into Frisbees and the more fortunate ones I saved for my listening pleasure,” he said smiling wryly. “Those were usually the Beatles, Bee Gees or Bob Marley records.”

On lyrics and inspiration

“I write my own lyrics. Some are born as poems ¬– and stay that way – and some are transformed into music, or simply just come as music.

“What I mean is, often people ask me what comes first, the melody or the lyrics. It’s kind of a chicken-before-the-egg situation really. Sometimes the sound comes first to be honest and I just sort of hum until the words come out. It usually comes in fragments; rarely as big chunks of text.”

Jude said inspiration comes to him through everything around him.
“I’d take bits from a picture, a thought, a movie and even the surrounding atmosphere at times.

“I actually have a little diary which I sleep with to record my thoughts when I wake up,” he said.

“I learned that technique in a poetry workshop by Peter Pierre-Louis which I attended a while back. There, we learned different writing skills for poetry and tried to find similarities between our work and some of the famous poets out there; sort of like a guide to our different styles of writing.”

Jude AllyOn themes and writer’s block

“I’ve always found that I enjoy writing on heavy themes such as famine, slavery, corruption, politics and Religion.
“I feel I have a lot to share in those departments and I know most people know me for the two love songs I released but honestly, most of my work revolves more around rebellion than love,” he said laughing.

“I am strongly attracted to themes of slavery, global politics and violence against women for reasons even I could not tell you. I guess it’s an innate sense of justice I feel I need to voice out, I don’t know.

“There are days I wake up and I feel completely blank. Not a peep of inspiration. In fact, I actually have two songs I’m still trying to complete since January.”

Albums and manuscripts

“I released three songs out of five to gauge the public’s reaction. Honestly, I was a little shocked that they were successful.

“I also have two poems which I shared with the public for this year’s Creole Festival and a few in Sipay magazine. In fact, I’m planning to launch my own manuscript titled Pwason Mor which contains a number of poems with different themes. These include abuse, slavery, politics and religious mysteries, to name a few.

Sepia and what it means to the artist

It always fascinated me whenever I saw Jude’s two famous video clips on SBC – Dibyen pour ou and Trafik.

What caught my attention was the classic feel it sent out as a result of his using black and white effect and the more subtle sepia (A reddish-brown colour associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries).
“I’ve always liked anything old and worn,” he said.

“Even when I was doing graphics, I always applied effects that would make my work appear old and time-worn. I even try to make my paintings look old.”

Role models and hobbies

“During the time I was growing up here, I often heard music by Hudson Dorothe and Francois Havelock to name a few. Patrick Victor was also an influence on my style and choice of music. Most though, were international artists like Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, Francis Cabrel and Leonard Cohen. I also like a little jazz that isn’t too mainstream.

“To pass the time and relax, I enjoy watching movies a lot; especially action and mysteries. I also enjoy hiking and indulging in the occasional game of dominoes.” 

Meaning of Trafik

“Actually, there’s no big mystery to it,” he said. “I see it as a moment in life where relationships or anything really just come to a standstill and everything seems stagnant. You’re not sure which road to take, whether to push forward or just wait.

At the same time, even if you are trying to rush things, you’re still not going to be able to get anywhere because now you’re stuck. You just have to wait for things to flow smoothly again. Like traffic.”
Now that is something to think about!

Compiled by Rebecca Chang-Tave

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