Saturday, March 2, 2024

Bluegrass Beyond Borders: Belgian Steve Levatte Without Brothers

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It’s no exaggeration to say that Steve Louvat is not only a prolific musician, but one of Belgium’s best. “I was born in Liege, Belgium, and currently live in the south, in a village called Libin,” he explains. “I like to call this the ‘Woodstock District of Belgium’ because there are woods everywhere and it reminds me of the lovely town Bill Keith visited several times.”

Although he is primarily devoted to the Louvat Brothers, a band he manages and has played banjo for the past 25 years, he maintains a prolific solo career. “Being a professional musician, he plays with different bands,” he says. “It helps that I meet the qualifications the organizers are looking for and that I love playing different types of music with different other musicians. I play fingerpicking guitar and 5-string banjo. He also performs in solo concerts in duets, trios, and as part of a quartet called the Folk Dandies.In addition, he participates in many other collaborations, sometimes with classical orchestras. It’s really fun.”

That versatility can be traced back to the artists who influenced and inspired him early on. “The list can be very long,” he points out. “When we started doing bluegrass, Earl Scruggs, Béla Fleck, Sam Bush, New Grass Revival, Doc Watson, Tony Trischka, Skyline, Tony Rice, Bill Keith, Sammy Scherer. I was listening to and transcribing tons of songs by my heroes, Lonesome River Band, David Grier, Scott Vestal, and Live Wire…to name a few.”

Luva’s own influences are even more diverse. “I’ve listened to many other styles of music as well,” he suggests. “Personally, I have always loved Irish and Scottish music such as Solas, Matt Molloy and Comas, as well as jazz by Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Chet Baker and Chick Corea. I also love old standards, the blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Moore, 50’s rock and roll, classical music and world music. I also play fingerpicking guitar, so I like music by Marcel Duddy, Jack Stotzem, Peter Finger. I was also influenced by other people.”

It’s no wonder, then, that Louva takes great pleasure in writing and arranging his own music. “For me, that’s really one of the most exciting parts of being a musician,” he insists. “The creative process is like a spark in your head. You get a new idea while you’re practicing or cooking, then you compose a song and submit it to your friends or other musicians, and new ideas emerge. It becomes like a painting or a story that you can share with people at a concert or an album. The best moment is when people say that one of your songs deeply moved them and left them with good feelings for some reason . Then it feels like some kind of loop has been accomplished, and as a result, you feel very blessed.”

In addition to his own efforts, there have been some recent personnel changes as far as the Louva brothers are concerned. After his older brother, Jefferson, left the group in 2015, he was replaced on mandolin and guitar by Belgian-based Canadian musician Jeff Cardy. Cardi left the band last year and was replaced by Philip Masur, who brought an Irish guitar style to the band’s musical mix. “We have also added a fourth brother, Balakumar Paramalingam from Sri Lanka, who is currently based in Paris and Brussels,” says Ruva. “He plays an Indian percussion instrument called the mridangam and the jaw harp, and sings in a unique style called ‘Konnakol.’ These musicians are all so nice and so talented. I’m very happy to be able to share an important part of my life with all of them. ”

Luva believes that Byron Berlin was not only a huge influence, but also a huge factor in propelling his career forward. “When Byron Verline invited us back to the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival in 2010, a lot of things changed regarding the music we were playing,” Lubert muses. “We realized that it was important to present the banjo and mandolin here in Belgium and in Europe in a more personal way. We took advantage of this new opportunity to return to Oklahoma as a trio and express our true selves as musicians. Together with Michelle Vrider, we wrote several new compositions and arrangements based on the world folk music we loved to perform, allowing us to present something unique to American audiences. .”

Luva has toured the world with the Luva brothers, but has also performed entirely alone. “I performed solo once at the Tahiti Guitar Festival in French Polynesia, and also participated in the Warwick Festival in England and the European World of Bluegrass Festival in the Netherlands,” he recalls. “I love traveling this road with my banjo and guitar and meeting and sharing new people and learning about other cultures. Music is a great way to encounter the world around us. It’s also very exciting to introduce it to the younger generation by teaching it in .

In a very practical sense, Louva has made music his life’s mission. “In Belgium, bluegrass is not part of our culture, so it’s heartwarming to be able to share this passion and include the banjo and mandolin in the musical world around us,” he reflects. .

After three previous albums with the Louvat Brothers, a fourth album is on the horizon, planned for the new year.

“Music is the vibrations that we pick up through our ears, brain, body, and heart,” Leuva suggests. “Bluegrass sends out really good vibrations as soon as it starts kicking in. In the process, it makes you happier.”



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