Exchange student uses year abroad to grow musically

Exchange student grows musically abroad

Basile Touratier, a 20-year-old French exchange student from Strasbourg, is studying music at Syracuse University for the year.
Published: December 16, 2019

Basile Touratier’s upper body swung from left to right. His hands wrapped around his drumsticks. He started to count in silence. He tried to get into the rhythm of the next song his band was going to perform.

“This is an original composition by the drummer Basile,” says Victor Provost, a renowned steel drum artist. “And when you hear it, you can tell that a drummer composed it.”

The audience of the La Casita Cultural Center laughed. Touratier smiled a little, but still focused on finding the beat. Finally, he looked at his bassist and hit the first drum.

“When I was three years old, I would smash everything I can to make noise,” said Touratier, a 20-year-old French exchange student from Strasbourg who is studying music at Syracuse University for the year.

When Touratier was four years old, his parents bought him a small drum set. From that point on, he never stopped playing. Now, being in another country pushes him in his personal development, and as a musician, he said.

“When you are alone in a new country and with people who you don’t really know well, you start to think: Who am I?” he said.

This experience has helped him with his music and to know why he plays and how he wants to sound, he said.

Touratier is busy – he plays in eight different bands and music ensembles across genres. From a big band to rock music, from a funk ensemble to jazz. Touratier plays wherever he can.

The key to good collaboration: communication. This is difficult in a foreign language, but Touratier said he makes it work.

“Sometimes people need to work with charts, sometimes I have to sing it,” he said, regarding group practices.

In his opinion, the more he plays with people, the better he will be at rehearsing and being efficient with upcoming musicians he will work with.

One challenge he faces in Syracuse is performing live, although he has performed since he was about 15 years old. At a gig in a basement in the university neighborhood in September, he played his first show with a rock band he joined. It was a special day for the singer and the guitarist of that band because it was their first time playing live.

“I need to give confidence. For the two guys up front, it was stressful. You need to say: I am here. Don’t worry about it,” Touratier said. “I feel like you are a good drummer when you play with people, and they feel confident about timing and tempo, if they are not worried about anything.”

The concert was a success, which Touratier says lies in confidence. People chanted the lyrics of cover songs they played and applauded at the end of their act.

“Sometimes people say: ‘You look so good and you were so great.’ It is because you didn’t look stressed,” he said. “Even if you are playing very well, if you have the wrong face, people will say you were doing something wrong.”

A place Touratier frequently visits in Syracuse is Funk ‘N Waffles, where he plays in jazz jam sessions. One day, he said, the organizer came up to him and asked if he wanted to be the house drummer. For Touratier, this was a big deal because he would get paid and be able to organize the show.

“It was funny. The people there already knew me because I would come frequently. I was the new French guy, and now it was me that could decide who goes on stage,” said Touratier. “Last time, a singer came on stage and said: ‘I want to play with this drummer,’ and I said: ‘No! He already played three times, so it is going to be the other guy.’”

In the future, Touratier wants to keep working with music. Now, he is working on his single “At Fourth and Sevens,” which will be released in January.

“When I was eight-years-old, I said to my teacher, ‘make me become the best drummer of all time,’ but now I feel like if I can be paid and have a good life focused on music, that would be nice,” he said.

Avatar for Noah Vaca Weber

is a contributor to The Newshouse.