John Forté Travels 'From Brooklyn to Russia with Love'
"Club B2 in Moscow showed LOVE LOVE LOVE last night!" . . . "Next up: a collaboration w/the lovely Alina Orlova."
Those are just a couple of the Twitter musings John Forté has posted during his latest adventure: a tour of Russia billed as "From Brooklyn to Russia With Love." It's one of several projects the Grammy Award-nominated singer/rapper/songwriter/producer -- best-known for his work with the Fugees ("The Score") -- has launched since President George W. Bush commuted his 14-year sentence for drug trafficking in 2008.
Video: John Forte performs at B2 in Moscow
"In this air of globalization, I want to share but I also want to learn," says Forté, who's concurrently writing a memoir for Simon & Schuster and is the subject of a feature-length documentary about his life. "That's been part of my spirit for the past couple of years: letting things happen versus attempting to force anything."
And that's how his cultural odyssey in Russia came to fruition. Christophe Charlier, Forté's friend and former Phillips Exeter classmate, suggested the tour. The deputy CEO of Onexim Group and chairman of the board for the New Jersey Nets is providing the funding in exchange for a 50/50 share of the profits.
"Here is someone who loves music, saw the opportunity and said, 'Let's be partners,' " Forté says of Charlier.
Besides Moscow, the trek's two-month itinerary includes stopovers in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod as well as cities along the Trans-Siberia Railway. Forté and his band -- bassist Brian Satz, percussionist Ryan Vaughn and keyboardist Patrick Firth -- will perform, collaborate and record with classical orchestras, local musicians and various singer/songwriters, including Lithuania's Alina Orlova.
A feature film plus a live and studio album are the planned offshoots of this musical and cultural exchange. As is a philanthropic tie-in: The trip will culminate with a concert on Easter Sunday, with proceeds donated to various charities in Russia.
It's all in the spirit of what Forté embraces as the industry's new business model. "It's not only about maintaining ownership of my art, it's about being unlimited -- able to promote or produce art however and whenever I want to," he says. Published by Primary Wave, Forté also gives fans a taste of his work through audio streaming service Soundcloud.
"It's about sharing and getting my music out there," he says. "What I do is beyond entertainment for me. It's about opening up and being more honest, which resonates with people in the audience more and will continue to keep them showing up. And when it's time for me not to say anything else, I won't. I won't force it."