Stromae, the little prince of Brussels
Stromae is his stage name. His real name is Paul Van Haver. A Brussels lad, born on 12 March 1985 to a Rwandan father and a Belgian mother.
Growing up in Laeken
With his mother and hs three brothers and sisters, Paul Van Haven grew up in Laeken in Brussels, on rue Stéphanie. It's a neighbourhood that's full of attractions, which is next to the Royal Park of Laeken, in which you'll find the royal castle and royal greenhouses.
He used to take the 53 bus to go to school in Jette and dreamed of growing up to be a bus driver.
He played basketball until he was 18 at Excelsior club in Bockstael. It has to be said that with his tall and slim physique, he had the build to be a basketball player.
After primary school in Laeken, he continued his studies at the Institut du Sacré Cœur in Jette. He then moved to Godinne, close to Namur where he went to boarding school.
Paul becomes Stromae
As for music, it all started when he was 11 at the Académie de musique de Jette. It was his mother who drove him, and his brothers and sisters, to try their hands at everything, including music.
Lesson at the Académie, therefore, were a family affair. Paul sang and played drums. He performed his first "show" with the choir aged 13.
Little by little Stromae was taking shape. Paul first called himself Opmaestro and began to rap. But Opmaestro was too close to another artist's stage name.
So Opmaestro became Stromae or Maestro in verlan (a type of French slang). A now 18 year old Paul-Stromae formed rap pairing Suspicion with rapper, J.E.D.I. who left the group after only one song: "Faut que t’arrête le rap" (you have to stop rapping).
It was the beginning of Stromae's solo career. He studied at INRACI in Brussels and created a first collection of four songs. He signed to Because Music and Kilomaître, as he published videos on his own website that he called "lessons".
Each one of the videos sees Stromae à la prod’ (Stromae producing) on a theme of one of his songs: he's on stage, in a gondola in Venice, on Place Louise, in the studio, ... In his videos Stromae shares his world with internet-goers.
His first chance on the airwaves came during a traineeship at NRJ radio in Brussels. It was the first time that Alors on danse was played on the radio.
What followed was an ever-growing success, a Victoire de la Musique award in 2011, three Victoires de la Musique awards in 2014, and appearances in all the major music festivals as well as his own concerts.
Place Louise, the site of his launch to international stardom
His first album, Cheese in 2010 was a huge success and was rewarded with a first Victoire de la Musique award in 2011. Stromae was everywhere, with his smile, his colourful polo shirts with geometric shapes and his bow-ties.
He surfed on a Belgian wave and his universal music spoke of all themes, nothing was taboo. Even if it is true he is often compared to Jacques Brel, the man has his own personality and doesn't take himself too seriously.
His marketing genius became apparent in the video for his single Formidable, shot on Place Louise, for the launch of his second album Racine carrée (Square root).
In the video, an apparently completely drunk Stromae was filmed by hidden cameras at the Louise tram stop, in the middle of all the morning commuters.
But what created the biggest buz in the video? The intervention on two very tolerant policemen, who engage with the young artist who is already well-known in the capital. The same scenario was repeated in Canada, in the Montréal metro.
All of his public appearances are carefully organised and the public never really know what to expect.