Mao Otayeck
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Mao Otayeck


Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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"Mao in Wonderland"

Meet Stevie Wonder’s new ‘protégé’, Mao Otayeck, whose life has been a fairy tale since January 2005.

Although he looks very tough, Mao Otayeck is not tonight. He feels overwhelmed. Tomorrow night, he will join Stevie Wonder on stage at Bercy to play ‘Carry on’ with his ‘big brother’ playing harmonica. Right after, he will perform some tracks from his first album during the after-hour party at the Comedy Club. Mao knows well the stage at Bercy. He’s played there many times with Alpha Blondy when he was his guitar player in the 90’s.
“At that time, I wasn’t at the forefront. This time I will face up to 15 000 people. It feels funny.”

Just like January 1st 2005, when he received a call from Stevie Wonder on his cell phone. “It was 2’clock in the morning. My manager told me that he was sitting in a car with a person who wanted to talk to me. I could not believe it! Stevie told me that he loved my song ‘Renewal’ an ode to peace written in English and Wolof. He invited me to his house in L.A because he wanted to produce me and to have me on his label’. A month and a half later, Mao Otayeck arrived to Wonderland, the genius’ headquarter. “It’s an anonymous 4 floor building on Western Bd. The main studio can host an orchestra. There are tons of instruments plugged in and ready to record at anytime. The day I arrived, Stevie Wonder invited me to the NAACP Awards where I met Prince and other musicians who have inspired me. After the Awards, we went to his studio, where we stayed all night until 11 o’clock the next morning. Stevie listened to my 17 songs one by one, from the beginning to the end, music influenced by manding melodies and rock.

Since that first meeting Mao’s new American friend has invited him many times to L.A to perfect his English, learn alongside him and record his first album. “I was really blessed. Stevie is very generous. I had a home studio, a coach to improve my English, his band and his 2 sound engineers Gary Olazabal and Rob Arbittier who is a master of Pro tools. One time, I was invited to join him and record a track he had promised me. In 4 takes, he wrote the music for ‘Wait’. While at it, he added some lines of harmonica on ‘Carry on’. It was so cool!”

Since then, Mao Otayeck has moved to L.A. The times where he used bicycle cords on his guitar because he couldn’t afford them seem so far away… He hasn’t forgotten anything about that life he had between Ivory Coast and France. Modest and realistic, he knows that he’s going to have to work hard if he wants to continue to walk in the footsteps of his American peers.

- Muziq - French Magazine

"Mao Otayeck, the former star of the Podium TV Show"

“A former star of the Podium TV show, he was a guitarist for the Japrapolo group in the 1980s before moving to Burkina to complete his studies. After having caught the virus of music, he left for Paris where he met Tangara, César des Woya. He worked on an album but the project was never releases. Why ? “You might have to ask KOK, the former manager of Woya”. Nevertheless, the adventure continues with new encounters and the search for rythm, his passion for sound allos him to travel the world through music.
In 1993, destiny brings him to Alpha Blondy. For ten years he perfomrms with this reggae star as leader of his band, the Solar System.
More than ten years later, Mao starts worked on his own album with the help of Stevie Wonder. A unique chance for him after spending years with Alpha Blondy.
• How did you prepare this album ?
- I was in the United States preparing for the album. I sent my songs to Stevie Wonder in Los Angeles who listened to them and decided to meet me. He invited me. It was wonderful working together.
• How did you work together ?
- I worked on my songs and he takes care of the production and distribution.
• Are you trying to penetrate the American market?
- Yes, I will be working with several american artists including Stevie Wonder who said he wanted us to work together on a song” (…)

- Top Visage Magazine - Ivory Coast, 2005

"Mao Otayeck, music at his fingertips"

Chance encounters, the search for rhythm and the passion for sound have for the past twenty years allowed the guitarist and composer Mao Otayeck to travel the world through his music. This citizen of Lognes has pursued his dreams full of humanity and musical adventures.

From his birth in the Ivory Coast and his teenaged years in Burkina Faso, the young Mao took up the guitar and music amongst his friends. He mastered his passion so well that at 18 years old a producer brought him to France to record an album with two of his artists. This adventure was meant to last two months.
Though the album never left the studio, Mao never left France. He decided to stay even if it meant starting off with small performances in the many bars and cafés of Paris.

All terrain musician
With his guitar in hand, Mao is recognized through his dexterity and raw talent. A first decisive encounter, a concert with Cheik Tidiane Seck, opened the doors to Malian Jazz.
Then Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s drummer, introduced him to another type of music. The Caribbean community accepted him as one of their own. Mao passes from one rhythm to another, feeding on a rich variety of encounters and influences.
“ I’m a 4x4 musician ” he jokes when asked how to define his style. “Don’t forget that I am the fruit of a mixture of Lebanese, Argentinean, Ivorian and Malian cultures and that the guitar can adapt to many styles”. Rock, reggae, funk, zouk, manding and even celtic are all part of his musical palette.
In 1993 destiny called upon him to follow the path of Alpha Blondy. Alpha’s guitarist became ill 3 days before the beginning of a tour in Brazil. Mao is called up as a replacement and so began a 10-year adventure around the world as the band leader of the Solar System.
“Thanks to the touring, I’ve been able to gain the esteem and confidence of fellow musicians even if the general public does not know me. Not yet! ”
As a guitarist and composer, he has been involved in a number of musical projects including a number of concerts as part of Jam’Sahel, an 8-hour musical marathon in Paris that gathered big names, in “world musi”c to raise money for SOS Sahel.
Five years ago he founded the group Maltax, a melting pot of music with lots groove and funk. With only the best talent available, each master in their domain, the end result is something extremely unique.

Coming soon: the album
This year, Mao has decided to focus entirely on his own album. “It will be beyond categories, whole, surprising and free, loyal to my own mixture of cultures… And then, I’ll be doing something new, singing my own songs !” An american record label is already planning it’s release.

It’s in Lognes that he composes on his computer before recruiting musicians to record his songs. “I’ve been living incognito in Lognes for the past ten year. I used to live in Paris with my wife when she worked there. I now appreciate the green spaces and serenity of Lognes. After being on the road I enjoy coming back home to peace and quiet. Nothing beats being able to go out and play the guitare in the forest to liven up one’s spirits.

Mao’s fingers never stop…

- Lognes Magazine - France

"The “Renewal”of Mao Otayeck, the first French speaking African artist produced by Stevie Wonder"

From the Ivory Coast, where he was born, to Burkina Faso, then Paris, where he spent many years, Mao Otayeck, with his rich and diverse background that includes Lebanese, Malian and Argentinean roots, now lives on the West coast of the United States, in Los Angeles.

The beginning of his professional career was marked by a special encounter in Paris with the famous Afro-Jazz musician, Cheikh Tidiane Seck, and Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s drummer. In 1993, he joined the Solar System group as band leader and began a 10 year collaboration with African reggae artist, Alpha Blondy.After years of hard labor, Mao came out with his first solo album “Renewal“, which is a mix of soul, pop, rock and African sounds produced in collaboration with Stevie Wonder. Their artistic collaboration at the mythical Wonderland Studios in Los Angeles was fulfilled when the legendary Stevie Wonder produced the opening song, “Wait“, for the album, and played some wonderful harmonica notes on another hit, “Carry On“. Jacob Desvarieux from Kassav and Jean-Phillipe Rykiel have also been “special guests” who participated in the album.

It is always a pleasure to discover artists, who are talented and making a difference with their music. It is an honor to introduce to you through this exclusive interview, Mao Otayeck, the multicultural and brilliant artist, the special son of Africa, who is going to tell us about his music, his album “Renewal“, his themes and future projects.

Jamati: Let me first say thank you Mao for this interview with Jamati. Tell us about yourself and the beginning of this journey.

Mao Otayeck: I was born at Korhogo, in Ivory Coast from a Malian and Lebanese mother, and an Argentinean and Lebanese father. I spent most of my childhood in Ivory Coast up until I was 16 years old, then I went to Burkina Faso for 2 years before leaving for France. I started to play guitar when I was 9 years old and I was encouraged by my 5 brothers, who were all musicians.

Jamati: What inspired you to do music?

Mao Otayeck: Music is my passion and I have been encouraged by my family environment, especially by my brothers.

Jamati: Talk to us about the artists who had influenced your music?

Mao Otayeck: The artists who had influenced my music career are: Sting, Prince, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Cheick Tidiane Seck, and Tony Allen.

Jamati: What can you tell us about your first album “Renewal” ?

Mao Otayeck: “Renewal” is the result of an amazing encounteer with different people. First, my manager, Abdoulaye Soumare, introduced me to Stevie Wonder. On January 1st 2005, they were both in a car and Abdoulaye had him listen to “Renewal“. Stevie Wonder, on the spot, suggested he produce the album and he invited me to join him for the NAACP ceremony. Then, he introduced me to his team, particularly his sound engineers, Gary Olazabel and Rob Arbittier, who finalized the album in Los Angeles. To add icing on the cake, Stevie composed the song “Wait” with me and played some wonderful harmonica notes on “Carry On“.

Jamati: Talk to us about the title of your album. Why “Renewal“

Mao Otayeck: The title “Renewal” came to mind after I created an association called “Yuqamtalu”. We needed an anthem for peace for Africa. I composed it in English and Wolof (Senegalese native language) to promote the association, whose main objective is to inform the public about African tragedies and organize musical events in order to collect funds to finance education projects in Africa. We’ve done two events in Paris and we were able to collect some funds, which allowed us to finance a small awareness campaign. We had celebrities like Jacob Desvarieux, from Kassav, Jean-Phillipe Rykiel, and Nayanka Bell, who participated in these events. To find out more about the association, you can visit the official site.

Jamati: What do you talk about in your songs? What are the different themes that you mention in your songs?

Mao Otayeck: My songs mention universal themes such as love, hope, tolerance and dignity, which is a very important aspect of humanity.

Jamati: Which are your favorite songs of the album? Tell us why.

Mao Otayeck: My favorite songs are “Carry On” and “Let’s Give It Go” because they are my oldest compositions. “Wait” is also another one I like because it is a fantastic song that Stevie Wonder offered me.

Jamati: What’s the message you want to pass on through your music?

Mao Otayeck: I sing in English, French, Wolof and Bambara (Malian native language) to send a message of hope through my music. I am a citizen of the world, who always believes in a better world. I think music helps you soothe different morals and can sometimes give a bit of hope. Music entertains people, especially in times of crisis.

Jamati: You have won the respect of many celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Alpha Blondy, Cheikh Tidiane Seck, Tony Allen. How do you explain their enthusiasm towards your music?

Mao Otayeck: Music is also a matter of meeting different people and opportunities. In my case, it’s true that I have been spoiled and that I have been lucky, but I also worked hard.

Jamati: Talk to us about your experience when you went with the legendary Stevie Wonder on a World tour, specially at Bercy, in Paris.

Mao Otayeck: My performance at Paris-Bercy with Stevie Wonder was really unexpected and was organized at the last minute. It went really well because my manager is also the personal assistant of Stevie Wonder and his band has been incredible to back me up on stage. In addition, my show-case after the concert, with one of my other godfathers, Jamel Debbouze, allowed me to introduce the other songs of the album, and I was still backed up by Stevie Wonder’s band. That Saturday night, September 28th is unforgettable. Stevie Wonder supported me tremendously and he came to join me on stage along with Jamel Debbouze to introduce me.

Jamati: Who are 3 African people famous or not that you would like to meet? Why?

Mao Otayeck: Nelson Mandela, Djibril Tamsir Niane (writer), Cheikh Modibo Diarra (president of Microsoft, Africa) because they represent dignity, knowledge and wisdom.

Jamati: Africa is the future…

Mao Otayeck: Africa is a rich continent in people and natural resources. I hope in the future these treasures will be better distributed and that a true policy about protecting nature will be put in place for future generations.

Jamati: Outside of music, what does Mao to relax? What’s your favorite food?

Mao Otayeck: I read when I have a little bit of time. I love to cook. I like Senegalese dishes like “tieb bou diene”, and “maffe”. I also like our national dish from Ivory Coast “atieke”, not to forget “tabouli” from Lebanon and some Mediterranean specialties like “Paella” and “Bouillabaisse”.

Jamati: When will you be on tour in America?

Mao Otayeck: We are preparing an international tour. We are working on it and the dates will be revealed on my official site in the near future.

Jamati: What are your future projects?

Mao Otayeck: My immediate project is to be on tour around the world and then start my second album.

Jamati: Where can we get your album “Renewal“

Mao Otayeck: My album is sold on major online distributors such as Itunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Last FM, Rhapsody, etc.. We are also working on distributing the album in stores, however, with the internet business growth, it is taking more time.

Jamati: One last word to your fans…

Mao Otayeck: Always keep hope when listening to “Renewal” and come join me on my Myspace page, my EPK and also on stage in the next months.

Jamati: Thank you Mao again. Good luck on your future projects.

Mao Otayeck: It has been a pleasure. Thank you to Jamati. -


Alpha Blondy (Elohim/Merci/Alpha Blondy Paris Bercy/Grand Bassam Zion Rock)
Cheick Tidiane Seck (Mandingroove/Sabali)
Dis l'Heure de Zouk, Thierry Cham (Simplement), Zouk Machine, Tanya St Val (Amethyste), Barbara Kanam (Teti, Kora Awards, Johannesburg 2004)
R'N'Zouk Vibration



Mao Otayeck defines himself as an “all terrain musician” whose roots originated from France, Lebanon, Mali, the Ivory Coast, and Argentina. Since the age of 9, Mao has been playing eclectic styles such as Afro-jazz, reggae, Latino, Caribbean, rock, funk and Celtic.

His initial artistic collaborations in Paris with the legendary Afro-jazz musician Cheick Tidiane Seck and Tony Allen, Fela Kuti's drummer, marked the beginning of his professional career. In 1993, he began a 10-year collaboration with African reggae artist Alpha Blondy as band leader and guitarist for the Solar System. Mao has left his stamp on a number of albums from a variety of artists as guitarist, song-writer, composer, and arranger.

Mao Otayeck is the first French speaking African artist to be discovered and sponsored by Stevie Wonder. The extraordinary collaboration at Wonderland Studios in Los Angeles between a Motown legend and his new ‘protégé’, resulted in his first solo album “RENEWAL”.

Recorded and mixed with Rob Arbittier and Gary Olazabal at Noisy Neighbors Studios in L.A, “RENEWAL” album is an eclectic blend of soul, rock, and African rhythms, and reveals his sensitive and deep talent.

Stevie Wonder composed the opening track “Wait”, then featured on the rock track “Carry On” playing the harmonica. The album, made in collaboration with Jacob Desvarieux and Jean-Philippe Rykiel (well known in the world music scene), sets the tone for the artist’s captivating emotional genre.

Mao Otayeck has toured around the world with respected and well known artists such as Alpha Blondy, Cheick Tidiane Seck, Tony Allen, Will Calhoun, Doug Wimbish and “Mudbone” Cooper as a guitar player, background vocal and band leader (Elohim Tour, Yitzhak Rabin Tour, Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival, Monterey Bay Reggaefest, Red Rock Festival, Reggae on the river festival, Olympia, Bercy, Zenith in Paris, Tribeka Center Jazz festival in NY, Montreux Jazz Festival…to name a few).
Since his remarkable performance in Paris-Bercy, during Stevie Wonder’s concert on September 28, 2008, Mao has been in Los Angeles where he is preparing a live tour that will thrill and delight his growing list of fans.