Even though I wish to believe that I had something to do with this beautiful story – because my introduction of the specialist niche carmaker Xavier de le Chapelle to an Indian business group that had plans to make a sports car in India was the genesis of this story – it is perhaps just a fond wish.
De la Chapelle’s project died when the main Indian investor died, but Xavier’s many visits to India might have had some influence in convincing his son, Cédric de la Chapelle, a guitarist from the Lyon scene, to retrace his father’s innumerable visits to India. At the same time, there is no denying that it is very much possible that Cédric would have got to India, even without the De La Chapelle sports car project history.
Either way, it came to pass that Cédric and Marion, his fiancée then and his wife now, whilst looking for a place to stay at Calangute, in Goa, bumped into Joseph Manuel Da Rocha, a frail 64-year-old man, who made ends meet by brokering hotel rooms to tourists. Amused and charmed by this unassuming old man, Cédric and Marion caught up with Da Rocha again, and with one beer leading to another, music and songs followed.
Captivated by the old man’s voice, Cédric recorded him singing a cappella. “When I got back to France,” reminisces Cédric, “I talked to several musician friends about the idea, and little by little, we formed this group, which we decided to call Slow Joe & The Ginger Accident.” Cédric de la Chapelle is, incidentally, a redhead.
“It was only in 2009 that we were able to bring Joe to France for our first concert at the Trans Musicales in Rennes,” says Cédric, “as it took us a while before we could get his paperwork sorted out in India. He used to have a passport, but that had expired in 2000. So a new passport had to be generated, and it was the monsoons in Goa… and that took some three or four months.”
Born on 22 March, 1943, in Mumbai, Joseph Manuel Da Rocha lived the life of a waster, a wandering poet, living on the margins of society, smoking, drinking and doing drugs. Thus, when Cédric met Slow Joe, he had quite a history of drug and alcohol addiction, but had somewhat straightened out his life, working as a guide in Goa. More importantly, he had an innate musical talent and a rare crooner’s voice, one which bewitched Cédric as soon as he heard the old man sing.
Thus, that chance encounter on the beaches of Goa changed the lives of these two men, and marked the start of an amazing adventure. Cédric and his original band mates – Lucas Spirli on keyboards, Alexis Morel-Journel on bass, and Josselin Varengo on drums – helped Slow Joe build up a repertoire of new songs and formed a group around him, which was The Ginger Accident.
With their very successful first concert at the 2009 edition of the Trans Musicales in Rennes, Slow Joe & The Ginger Accident hit the headlines in France. In no time, they were the darling of the media, as concert spectators as well as critics took to the music and the story of this cute but frail, old man, with that deep, gravelly voice, booming over a mix of slow rock, spiced with blues and jazz riffs.
In 2011, Slow Joe & The Ginger Accident released their first album Sunny Side Up, and the success of the album was reflected by a sell-out tour of France, followed by a European tour across Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. In December 2011, Slow Joe & The Ginger Accident came “home” to India, for a tour of the country, performing in Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Pondicherry, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh. Organised by the Alliance Française, the band did not get the coverage they deserved.
In 2014, when Slow Joe was 71, a second album, Lost for Love, was released to even greater critical acclaim, with a newer rendering of Slow Joe’s song Cover Me Over, a track from his first album, but this time, sung in duet with the Franco-Israeli star, Yael Naim.
By early 2016, Slow Joe & The Ginger Accident had performed at over 250 concerts. In May 2016, when Slow Joe was just 73 years old, he had a fatal heart attack. This was when a third album was nearing completion. Titled Let Me Be Gone, the album was released posthumously, in February 2017, and has since risen to the top of the French charts.
With Slow Joe’s passing, the band too has disbanded, out of sadness and respect for the memory of that lovable old Indian. There have been several eulogies in the French press and talks of a film on this sweet story have been doing the rounds. “That would be the best tribute to Slow Joe,” acknowledges Cédric, as he concentrates on other projects, in the meantime.
This article first appeared on Moneylife.
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