Award-winning musician and producer has a special Quebec connection
Narada Michael Walden is a drummer and producer who has worked with some of the music industry’s biggest names over the course of his three-decade career.
Producing songs for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Diana Ross among countless others has brought him all over the world, including a few stops in Quebec.
In the 1980’s, he worked with Montreal’s Luba on songs for the soundtrack to the film 91⁄2 Weeks and he’s also performed in the province as the drummer for of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Walden said each trip back to Quebec has been special for him.
“I’m just really happy when I go there because I know people are very kind and they’re open hearted,” he said. “More of a country vibe which I always appreciate and a slower pace of life.
Walden’s long path to a musical career started when it does for many professional musicians: as a child.
“As a kid I took to music like a fish in water,” he said. “Nothing seemed difficult; it was always easy in a way.”
His first experience with performing came when he was 10-years-old and part of his first band, the Ambassadors.
“It was two cats, myself on drums and my friend Joel Brooks on the organ and we played in his uncle’s bar called the Ambassador Lounge,” he said.
“We opened for [jazz musician] Jimmy Smith and people like that coming through town, so that just gave me the thrill of all lifetime,” he said. “I knew from then on that this was my calling to be a drummer musician all of my life.”
As he developed his musical abilities he eventually had a chance to play with the rock-jazz fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra, handling multiple instruments for three of their studio albums in the late 1970’s.
One of his favourite memories from his career is from when he playing with the Orchestra at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park in New York City.
“It began to rain during a song called “Sanctuary”, a very slow moving piece,” he said. “You could see the mist of the rain coming on all the people, cleansing us all, of all our impurities, with that beautiful music, this will always stay with me.”
After playing solo, in groups and some one-off work with other artists, Walden started to move into production after he got the chance to work alongside George Martin, well-known for his production work on many of the Beatles’ albums.
“Watching him I realized he was so peaceful, very unlike I am, and it made it look like he knew what he was doing so beautifully and made it look so easy,” he said. “I loved that.”
Up next for Walden is a new solo album coming soon and continuing to produce for musicians like Carlos Santana and many others.
Having the ability to play and produce is something Walden said something he’s grateful for every single day.
“I was born with music, born to play music and made a pact with God to come to the planet to play music and remind people to be grateful,” he said.
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