Frédéric Yonnet: Don't Underestimate The Harmonica | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : Tell Me More

Filed Under:

Frédéric Yonnet: Don't Underestimate The Harmonica

Play associated audio

When it comes to the harmonica, some people may think of honky-tonks, country music and the blues. But Frédéric Yonnet is giving it an urban jazz feel. The French-born musician is known for his dynamic and energetic performances, and has collaborated with the likes of Prince, Stevie Wonder and John Legend. He's currently working on his album Reed My Lips: The Rough Cut.

In a performance chat with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, Yonnet says he embraced the harmonica after playing the drums and realized it wasn't a practical instrument to travel with. "I couldn't carry my drums anywhere I wanted to — I didn't have a car," Yonnet says. "My neighbors hated me because I was the loud neighbor upstairs. So I had to take out my frustration on something that can fit in my pocket."

Now, Yonnet travels with roughly 40 harmonicas — each, he says, with their own personality.

Collaborating with Fans and Music Giants

Yonnet is inviting the public into his creative process. Latest material from his working album, Reed My Lips: The Rough Cut, are downloadable from his website, where fans can comment on the music, song titles and album artwork. He plans to incorporate constructive feedback and suggestions on his final CD, and credit the people who submitted them. Yonnet expects Reed My Lips: The Final Mix to be released in 2013.

Yonnet also tells Martin about his special relationship with Stevie Wonder. The two met backstage during the 2006 Grammy Awards, when they were introduced by comedian Dave Chappelle. Yonnet says it was an extremely intimidating moment until they began talking about harmonicas, and Yonnet played one of Wonder's songs. Now, they try to play together if they happen to be in the same city, Yonnet says.

Getting Health Benefits from the Harmonica

The harmonica has also helped Yonnet manage his asthma, which he grew up with.

"When you have asthma, if you forget your inhaler, that's when the monkey jumps on your back," he says, "and I realized that when that actually took place, it was easier for me to pull the harmonica out of my pocket and practice a lot harder."

Yonnet is sharing that realization with kids who have asthma, teaching them to control their breathing by using the harmonica. He's also teaching them to incorporate the instrument into music they regularly listen to, and use it in their own, creative ways.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Deggans Picks 'Gotham,' 'Black-ish,' 'The Flash' Among Fall TV's Best

As the fall TV season begins this week, NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans gives his picks on new shows to watch and a few to avoid (or hate watch, if you like).
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Hillary Exhilaration Helps Energize Generation Z

Many young people are excited about the 2016 presidential election — and the chance to make history.
WAMU 88.5

Cellphones In Class Are No Problem In One Maryland School District

An Eastern Shore school district is allowing teachers to treat students' cellphones, tables and laptops as a resource rather than a nuisance.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.