Mon­trealer to sing at the Pyra­mids

CHAMANDY WANTS RECOG­NI­TION Suc­cess of her de­but album hasn’t mea­sured up to mar­ket­ing ef­forts

Montreal Gazette - - Arts Life & -

You prob­a­bly don’t know Chan­tal Chamandy’s mu­sic but you might well rec­og­nize her face. The Egyp­tian-born Mon­trealer had splashy ads on the sides of buses here and in Toronto this year, part of a $500,000 mar­ket­ing cam­paign to launch her de­but album, Love Needs You. The mar­ket­ing push also in­cluded TV and ra­dio com­mer­cials.

The disc’s ra­dio-friendly songs are solidly grounded in the Cé­line Dion-style adult-con­tem­po­rary tra­di­tion, with a light world-mu­sic touch. The dom­i­nant lan­guage is English, but Chamandy, born in Alexan­dria, also sings in French – it’s her first lan­guage – Ara­bic, Ital­ian and Span­ish.

The CD was re­leased by Nine- muse En­ter­tain­ment, an in­de­pen­dent la­bel owned by Chamandy and her hus­band, Greg. Greg Chamandy is the co­founder and for­mer CEO of Gil­dan Ac­tivewear, the Mon­treal-based com­pany that dom­i­nates the North Amer­i­can T-shirt man­u­fac­tur­ing mar­ket. He and three un­named in­vestors – one in Mon­treal and two in New York – bankrolled the mar­ket­ing cam­paign for the album.

But the well-fi­nanced project has not trans­lated into sig­nif­i­cant sales. Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen SoundS­can Canada, the album has sold only 7,000 copies since its re­lease in Jan­uary, a small num­ber given the amount of money poured into the op­er­a­tion.

“It’s true it hasn’t sold a huge amount of copies, but it’s still sell­ing,” said Chan­tal Chamandy, in an in­ter­view last week at the down­town of­fices of Nine­muse. “If this album takes two years (to sell a large num­ber of copies), at least I’ll get known as a real artist.”

Next up for her is an­other un­usual – and pricey – pro­mo­tional ef­fort. She is leav­ing this week for Egypt to pre­pare for a con­cert Sept. 7 in front of the Pyra­mids on the Giza plateau.

She will be ac­com­pa­nied by the Cairo Sym­phony Orches­tra and an Egyp­tian dance troupe. The show will be di­rected by ac­claimed French live-mu­sic di­rec­tor Gérard Pul­li­cino, who has worked with Dion, Madonna, Johnny Hal­ly­day and Joe Cocker.

The be­hind-the-scenes team also will fea­ture sev­eral top Que­bec artists, in­clud­ing set de­signer Guy St-Amour, who worked on the Cirque du Soleil show Love, and chore­og­ra­pher Geneviève Do­rion-Coupal, who also worked on Love and on Dion’s Uni­son show.

Chamandy said her hus­band is in­volved in help­ing to put all of the mar­ket­ing to­gether, not­ing “he knows how to take a small thing and make a big thing out of it.” He was the one who came up with the dar­ing idea of tak­ing a vir­tu­ally un­known artist and plas­ter­ing her face on buses in Canada’s two largest cities.

Chan­tal Chamandy said they were in­spired in part by Angèle Dubeau, the Mon­treal cross­over vi­o­lin­ist who has used sim­i­lar indie mar­ket­ing moves to get the word out about her al­bums that don’t re­ally fit the tra­di­tional classical or pop la­bels.

Chamandy had been out of the mu­sic biz for years prior to this mar­ket­ing cam­paign. She had been in the Mon­treal pop band Voggue in the early 1980s but had not been heard from since.

It was Chan­tal Chamandy, not her hus­band, who came up with the even more novel con­cept of tak­ing her sin­gle, Feels Like Love, and sell­ing it for 99 cents in Dol­larama stores in Mon­treal and Toronto. Even her close as­so­ciates thought it was a lit­tle too wacky, but they went ahead and did it last Novem­ber and the CD sin­gle ended up sell­ing 10,000 copies to Dol­larama shop­pers.

Chamandy said she has lit­tle time for those who think she’s only gar­ner­ing all this at­ten­tion be­cause she hap­pens to have a rich hus­band. She knows only too well that one of the defin­ing myths of the mu­sic biz is that all great mu­si­cal artists have had to scrape their own way up out of tough, dirt-poor back­grounds.

“But that’s such a stupid thing,” she said. “Be­ing poor does not make you a good artist. It’s all about the artist inside of you. I’m not from a rich fam­ily. We had no money (when I was grow­ing up). But I’m very cul­tured. Even if I didn’t have any in­vestors, I’d find a way to be out there. The bot­tom line is: let (peo­ple) hear the mu­sic and let them de­cide.”

Her Toronto-based en­ter­tain­ment lawyer Jor­dan Ja­cobs said he signed-on to work with Chamandy a few months back pre­cisely be­cause he thought her in­no­va­tive approach was just the way to try to launch an adult-con­tem­po­rary in to­day’s mu­sic busi­ness.

The gala show at the foot of the pyra­mids is de­signed to try to nab an in­ter­na­tional record deal for Chamandy, he said. The show will be filmed for a DVD re­lease and Ja­cobs will try to sell the con­cert to broad­cast­ers around the world. He is in talks with PBS to have the U.S. pub­lic net­work air the con­cert some­time next year.

“The in­tent is to have the TV broad­cast do the mar­ket­ing,” he said. “There’s a very large adult-con­tem­po­rary cross-over au­di­ence. It’s the peo­ple who buy An­drea Bo­celli records. Also, she sings in English, French, Ital­ian, Span­ish and Ara­bic, so you have builtin mar­kets in Europe. There are el­e­ments that dis­tin­guish her from other artists and I think she’ll be a big star.”

ALLEN McIN­NIS THE GAZETTE

Chan­tal Chamandy: she was in the band Voggue in the 1980s.

ALLEN McIN­NIS THE GAZETTE

Chan­tal Chamandy brushes off claim her suc­cess hangs on hus­band’s wealth.

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