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Meet the Belgian chart-topping popstar… selling eggs and fish on Inishbofin

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Philippe Robrecht is not well known as a pop star in his adopted home in the west of Ireland but he’s No 1 in Belgium - decades after his 1990s commercial heyday

Philippe Robrecht is not well known as a pop star in his adopted home in the west of Ireland but he’s No 1 in Belgium - decades after his 1990s commercial heyday

Philippe Robrecht is not well known as a pop star in his adopted home in the west of Ireland but he’s No 1 in Belgium - decades after his 1990s commercial heyday

Philippe Robrecht leads a quiet life selling eggs and fish to locals in his adopted home of Inishbofin, 8km off the Connemara coast.

However, few of the islanders know that Philippe (55) was a famous Belgian pop star – and now after a whirlwind few days he is once again topping the charts.

Philippe laughs as he explains how he was sitting at home on Monday night when he was flooded with messages about a song he wrote 28 years ago.

The song Maji, or Magic, is now No 1 in Belgium after being played on a national TV show, watched by millions, called Love for Music.

“It’s funny because I did nothing, I was sitting on the couch and suddenly got 100 messages to say they were playing my song,” he says.

“The one time you do nothing is the biggest success.

“It is brilliant, but there are no real expectations. It is different when you are young, and you set up a band. There is a lot of pressure.

“I have been through all that, I’m 55 now. I had a life before this, I did a lot of things. I toured, and wrote nine albums that were big in the 1990s.

"That was all happening at a moment when there was a lot of attention on Flemish music. I had my own band, a pop band. We were in the charts constantly in the first few years.”

However, Philippe found fame stifling and only cared about the music, not the attention it brought.

“I always went my own way, I just wanted to play music,” he says.

“Also, for the press, I didn’t let any private things come to the surface.

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“They called me different from people who were maybe always seeking the attention.”

Phillippe and his wife, who have three adult daughters, moved to Inishbofin in 2017 after visiting the island regularly for 10 years.

“When we came here I thought my career as a songwriter, doing Flemish songs, could be over,” he says.

“But I started playing gigs, I did my thing. Nobody knew me and I really enjoyed that.”

During the first lockdown he used his time well and recorded an album of 22 songs at his home studio.

“It was called 2020. It has 12 new songs I wrote and 11 that I rearranged from other albums, including Magic, which was on a 1993 album that went gold in Belgium.

“Not many people know about it [the album] on the island, I am not shouting about it.

“But a few people asked me about it and I gave them copies. I thought it was very kind of them to be interested, but it is all in Dutch.

“So I started translating and making adaptations of a few songs, and that was the start of my new album. Now I have 18 songs ready, and I can’t wait to present them.”


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