Interview by Adam Zacharias / 9 April 2013 Read entire interview
As well as selling an estimated 80 million albums in his lengthy career and gaining a reputation for his absurdly ostentatious stage shows, Jean Michel has also worked for UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as a Goodwill Ambassador since 1993.
And it’s in this capacity that he came to the UAE last week, to mark the 25th anniversary of the nation’s Higher Colleges of Technology institution, as well as to contribute to local think tanks and meet leading educational figures.
“I like the link made in Dubai between education, technology and environment. It’s an interesting triangle,” says Jean Michel.
“At the end of the 20th century, I think we lost our vision and our hopes for the future. It’s time to recreate that vision, and cities like Dubai are providing that sort of heroic fantasy.”
At present, the father-of-two divides his time primarily between Paris and London, where he’s in talks to launch an academy of electronic music in the city’s East End. Jean Michel is also eschewing his typically heavy touring schedule to record a new album “about reemerging DNA” with musicians from around the world.
But the musician also remains eager to ensure he’s helping to provide a more robust and optimistic future for the planet and its inhabitants.
“When I started with Oxygène, not many people were involved in ecology,” says Jean Michel. “No political parties were interested in this neo-hippy dream. Now more or less everyone on the planet today is aware of the importance of the environment.
“It should work that way for education. More than one billion people are illiterate – it’s only through education that we’ll be able to understand anything from extremism to financial crises to global warming. That message shouldn’t be addressed to governments only, but also to people in the street.
“It’s through education that you can balance pragmatism with a vision for the future.”