- Category : Entertain-Music-Vocalist-Pop,-Rock,-etc.
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (12)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Rulership 4
Gaston Ghrenassia (born 11 December 1938 in Constantine, then in French Algeria), known by his stage name Enrico Macias, is a French Pied-noir singer, songwriter and musician.
He is popular throughout the world and has travelled extensively for fifty years, from the early 1960s to the present.
He was born to an Algerian Jewish family in Constantine, Algeria, and played the guitar from childhood. His father, Sylvain Ghrenassia (1914–2004), was a violinist in an orchestra that played primarily maalouf, Andalo-Arabic music. Gaston started playing with the Cheikh Raymond Leyris Orchestra at age 15.
He pursued a career as a school teacher, but continued practicing the guitar. In 1961, the Algerian War of Independence was raging, and the situation became untenable for the Jewish and European residents of Constantine. Of immense effect on Gaston Ghrenassia was the assassination in 1961 of his father-in-law and musician Cheikh Raymond Leyris by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which appears to have been due to his opposition to the independence of Algeria from France. Gaston left Algeria with his wife, Suzy, on 29 July 1961, eleven months before the end of the Algerian War of Independence, and went into exile in mainland France. He has not been permitted to return to Algeria ever since.
First living in Argenteuil, he eventually moved to Paris, where he decided to pursue a career in music. At first he tried translating into French the maalouf numbers which he already knew. Later on, he developed a new French repertoire that he performed in cafés and cabarets. He remained, though, a popular interpreter of Arab-Andalusian music and Judeo-Arab songs in France.
He adopted the stage name Enrico Macias and made his first recording in 1962 after a meeting with Raymond Bernard of Pathé. The result was the recording of "Adieu mon pays" which he had composed for his beloved Algeria on the boat on his way to France. He appeared on French television and became an overnight sensation. This led to a first tour in 1963 as a second act with Paola and Billy Bridge. His daughter, Jocya, was also born that year.
In spring 1964, he opened for Les Compagnons de la chanson at the Paris Olympia and then undertook a successful tour of the Middle East, performing with great success in Israel, Greece and Turkey, especially in the latter where he still has a huge following. In Turkey, many of his songs were translated and interpreted by Turkish artists. In 1965, he was awarded the Prix Vincent Scotto, and the following year he sang before 120,000 people at the Dinamo Stadium in Moscow, performing concerts in more than 40 other Soviet cities. He also toured Japan and recorded titles in Spanish and Italian and was popular in both countries.
His American debut, at a sold-out Carnegie Hall concert, took place on 17 February 1968. He continued to tour the United States, singing in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. In Quebec, Canada he was warmly welcomed as a francophone artist.
In 1971, he returned to the Paris Olympia, then went to the Royal Albert Hall in London, and back to Japan, Canada, Italy and Spain. A second US tour culminated in a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1972. In 1974, he gave ten shows at the Uris Theater on Broadway, and also at the Olympia for the sixth time since his debut.
He toured France and went twice to Israel in 1976 and 1978. He was invited to Egypt by the Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat to sing for peace. This came after Macias had been banned from Arab countries for many years, despite keeping his popularity with Arab and ethnic audiences in the Middle East and North Africa. In Egypt, he sang in front of 20,000 people at the foot of the Pyramids. After Sadat's assassination, he wrote a song dedicated to the late president entitled "Un berger vient de tomber".
In 1988, he had a big hit with "Zingarella", particularly in Israel and Turkey upon his tour in both countries in addition to South Korea.
In April 1992, he tried acting in a play adapted from English, called Quelle Nuit. He also had a role as a local judge in the French TV film Monsieur Molina.
Of great popularity were his 1960s Oriental-influenced songs like "J’ai quitté mon pays", "Les filles de mon pays", "L'Oriental", "Entre l'orient et l'occident" and tribute songs like "Le violon de mon père" (to his father), and "Mon chanteur préferé" (a tribute to his father-in-law Cheikh Raymond).
He was also popular with the French interpretation of "'Oh guitare, guitare" and the Spanish versions of "El Porompompero" and "Solenzara".
Big French hits include "Paris, tu m'as pris dans tes bras", "La femme de mon ami", "Non je n'ai pas oublié", "La France de mon enfance", "Les gens du nord" and "Les filles de mon pays".
He has sung in many languages including French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish, Greek, English, Armenian, Arabic and many of its dialects, and recently in Yiddish.
In 1965 he was awarded the Prix Vincent Scotto.
He received a gold disc in 1976 for "Mélisa".
He was named Singer of Peace by UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in 1980 after he donated the proceeds of his single "Malheur à celui qui blesse un enfant" to the Unicef
In 1997, Kofi Annan named him Roving Ambassador for Peace and the Defence of Children.
He has collaborated with tens of artists, and his songs have been interpreted in many languages.
He sang "Melisa", "Je t'apprendrai l'amour", "Un grand amour" and "On s'embrasse et on oublie" as a duet with internationally famous Turkish singer Ajda Pekkan and they released a live album called "A L'Olympia" together in 1976.
In 1991, he had a duet with Ginni Gallan entitled "Un amour, une amie".
In 2003, he sang "Koum Tara" with Cheb Mami featured in the latter's album Du Sud au Nord and again a live version, this time on Cheb Mami's 2004 album Live au Grand Rex"'
In Turkey, many artists have interpreted his songs with Turkish lyrics including Ajda Pekkan, Başar Tamer, Berkant, Engin Evin, Ferdi Özbeğen, Gökben, Gönül Yazar, Hümeyra, İhsan Kayral, Juanito, Kamuran Akkor, Mavi Çocuklar, Nilüfer, Ömür Göksel, Selçuk Ural, Semiramis Pekkan, Seyyal Taner, Sezer Güvenirgil, Sibel Egemen, Tanju Okan, Yeliz
His decision to try to play concerts in Algeria resulted in huge controversy. After the cancellation of a proposed tour in Algeria in 2000, he wrote a book Mon Algérie (Editions Plon in October 2001) marketed as a "veritable love story between one man and his homeland".
On 14 February 2007, he announced his support of Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidential elections. He confirmed his political convictions of the political left, but said he could not support the Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal, although he would have supported Laurent Fabius or Dominique Strauss-Kahn if they had been the candidates.
He attempted again unsuccessfully to visit Algeria in November 2007 accompanying French president Nicolas Sarkozy, but was faced with fierce resistance from several Algerian organizations and individuals, including Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, due to his support of Israel. He has never been permitted to return to Algeria since he left in 1961.
Enrico is a widower, his wife Suzy Leyris died on the 23 December 2008. His 1993 album Suzy is dedicated to her. He has a daughter Jocya Macias and his son, Jean-Claude Ghrenassia, is a well-known music producer as well.