30 years after his death, a free concert in tribute was held to the memory of Marius Cultier by his two daughters Ayul and Laini, the association Biguine Jazz and other cultural operators. Last December 18, in Fort-de-France (Martinique), several hundred people who never forgot or who wished to discover the musical work of the famous Martinican pianist went to the Parc Cultural Aimé Césaire. Singers and musicians who worked with the jazzman and youger artists (Jocelyne Béroard, Mario Canonge, Ralph Tamar, Alex Bernard, Jacky Bernard, Claude Césaire, Alain Dracius, E.Sy Kennenga et Sarah Fahy) performed his compositions. However, do we know very well this great Caribbean artist of international standing?
On December 23, 1985, the terrible news comes through : Marius Cultier died. Incomprehension and sadness invade everybody. Thousands of people attend the pianist’s funeral, the procession moves forward to the rhythm of “L’Ode à Gisèle”, a work he composed for his wife.
Thirty years after the artist’s death, do the new generations know the one who was nicknamed “the musician with the gold fingers”?
Since his early childhood, Marius is crazy about music. Born in 1942 in Fort-de-France (Martinique) and orphaned from both father and mother when he is 14, so this music always will be with him as a faithful friend in good times and in bad. The piano becomes his favourite instrument, it is true that in his family there are many musicians ; his half-brother Nel Lancry born in 1925 is also a pianist.
A Caribbean jazz
When he is 14 years, the gifted boy suddenly becomes the ORTF orchrestra conductor for Guadeloupe and Martinique in order to host the famous radio programme “Punch en Musique”. If with some Martinican musicians of the time like the harmonica player Jo Amable and the drummer Jacques Césaire whose real name is Jack Gil he plays and promotes especially the Caribbean rhythms (in particular “Latino”), from the 1950’s, he hears a sound that comes from the United States : Jazz. He enjoys the records released by the American jazzman who is the forerunner of the bebop style,Thelonious Monk (1918-1982), and they inspire him so much that he adopts this music but mixes it with West Indian sounds. The talented pianist gives a lot of concerts to share his musical universe with a very enthusiastic audience. In Puerto Rico, the amateur musician wins the International Piano Contest Prize in spite of the participation of professional musicians for his excellent performance of “Round Midnight”.When he is 20, the young man already recorded about ten records. Then, he settles down for eight years in the Canadian province – Quebec – where he becomes very popular by hosting music programmes on the radio. He meets jazzmen who are well-known on the international stage, among them the famous American trumpeter, Miles Davis who died in 1991.
A disappointing homecoming
In the 1970s, Marius Cultier decides to conquer France where people make him feel very welcome : he starts by giving a concert in the Palais des Congrès and by performing during a week at the Olympia in Paris. He also decides to go back to his native island in order to share his musical knowledge and experiences. In the 1980s, after a piano maker and piano restorer training in the United States, he realizes his dream. Indeed, he creates a musical instruments shop that quickly becomes the place to be for jazzmen and lovers of good music and he tunes almost all the pianos in Martinique. Then, he begins to make a collection of works from our Caribbean zone and his own compositions. Among them, “Concerto Pour la Fleur et l’Oiseau” sung by Jocelyne Béroard who wins in 1982 the “Prix de la Chanson d’Outre-Mer” in the Salle Gaveau in Paris. His wife Gisèle who stoped working as a teacher helps him in his new activities. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “No-one is a prophet in his own country”, the pianist feels misunderstood by people around him, he is in debt, he doesn’t find any local producer who wants to bet on the success of his music, although he is famous abroad.
Marius Cultier his sunny optimistic soul. He dies at the age of 43.
SOURCE : LE GRAND LIVRE DES MUSICIENS CRÉOLES (Volume 1) by Sully CALLY – Collection Patrimoine – pages 70-72 – 1996