Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

Utrecht’s always been really supportive

Jermain Bridgewater – foto: Robert Oosterbroek

“It’s so relaxed here”, says Jermain. “I’ve been to loads of countries, but the Netherlands is one of the best places in the world to live. The amenities are great; for the poor and for performing and visual artists. Street signs everywhere telling you where you are – it would be difficult to get lost in the Netherlands!”

He was two years old when his mother brought him to the Netherlands from Oranjestad. She was aiming for America, but stopped off in the Netherlands in December ’86 to visit Jermain’s granny who had been living here for years. Jermain’s mother fell in love with this tiny country, so they stayed. “It was the first time I’d been here and I never left”, he laughs. “We lived in Rotterdam for a bit, then spent a long time in Overvecht before I moved to Zuilen.”

Jermain started his music career in Utrecht as the rapper Je Afrikaanse Excellentie. His breakthrough came in 2006 with the award-winning HipHop formation the StropStrikkers. “Utrecht’s always been really supportive”, he says. “The municipality gave me funding; there’s nowhere else in the world where artistes get so much support. And the general public supported me too. Even if I didn’t get many shows, people on the street still came up to me to shake my hand.”

In the summer, his favourite haunt is the pavement café scene on the Neude. “That’s where everyone I know hangs out. If I arrange to meet people from outside Utrecht, we always grab a bite to eat at Mario’s or Millies Corner in Overvecht. I’ve been going there for fourteen years. Surinamese food made with love. You’re never hungry after you’ve eaten there!”

More peace

Jermain is currently working on his new single, due to be released on Friday 21 April. The release party is in dB’s on 3 May. Jermain: “The number’s called ‘Hotep’. It’s an ancient Egyptian word that means ‘go in peace’. These are unsettling times; you can almost feel people vibrating with fear. I want more love in the world, I want people to be at peace with themselves and with others. I deliberately made this number more upbeat, so that people can dance when they come to my shows. I want us all to enjoy a good vibe.”

The Utrecht-based production house De Coöperatie is helping him to build up an international career. He recently returned from a project in Bosnia, where he taught local youngsters about rapping. “I’d love to visit more countries, give workshops to young people and learn from local artistes. That’s the shit. There’s so much to discover. So many cultures on this tiny planet, so many different art forms, so much stuff I don’t know about. Music is the perfect way to connect with all these different countries.” And that means travelling, lots of travelling. But Jermain still sees the Netherlands as his base. This is where he comes to charge his batteries, back to the ‘village’ of Nieuwegein, where he recently moved.

Name: Jermain Bridgewater
Date of birth: 29 January 1984
Place of birth: Aruba
Motto: ‘No slackin’ and we make it happen’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.

Article by Merel Blom.