Mark Ernestus has laid the foundation for the development of the electronic music scene in Berlin.
He is the founder of mainstay Berlin record store Hard Wax and one half of influential dub and techno hybridists Basic Channel as Maurizio with Moritz von Oswald, purveyors of Berlin’s famed Chain Reaction imprint, which counts Porter Ricks’ seminal Biokinetiks (1996) among its notable releases. With von Oswald he also created music as Rhythm & Sound alongside Tikiman aka Paul St. Hilaire and reggae legends such as Cornel Campbell, Jennifer Lara, Willi Williams, and Sugar Minott. Basic Channel also established Berlin’s preeminent mastering and vinyl cutting studio, Dubplates & Mastering, which has counted CTM 2014 artists Andy Mellwig of Porter Ricks and PAN artist Rashad Becker among its esteemed engineers.
In recent years, Ernestus has increasingly shifted his interest to various African music styles, notably West African mbalax, catalyzing his ongoing collaboration with Senegalese collective Jeri-Jeri. Mbalax emerged out of West Africa, specifically Senegal and the Gambia, as modern, electrified dance and popular music in the 1970s, amalgamating various regional influences: polyrhythmic drumming, fast rhythm and blues, and Latin musical idioms such as Soca. Typically based on centuries-old rhythms, with the traditional sabar drums and tamas (talking drums) at its core, mbalax is deeply rooted in Senegambia's ancient griot culture while being open to modern influences like electrified guitars and ba' and marimba synths.
Ernestus eventually traveled to Senegal, where he met Bakane Seck, one of the most prolific mbalax percussionists. In 2011, Ernestus produced a debut studio album in Dakar with Jeri-Jeri, a 10-member family of drummers led by Bekane’s father, Yamagor Seck, one of the most distinguished sabar drumming teachers in Senegal. Sabar drummers from the Jeri-Jeri family such as Aziz Seck, Thio Mbaye, and Bada Seck decisively helped shape mbalax.
Jeri-Jeri in its local context is the name of master percussionist Bakane Seck's own clan of drummers; for CTM 2014, it designates a group of distinguished Mbalax musicians assembled by Ernestus with Seck's guidance. In his role as producer, arranger, and mixer in this project, Ernestus aims to sharpen the focus on the raw essentials of the musical form, rather than adapting the music for non-local audiences.
Since 2012, Jeri-Jeri has released seven albums on the Ndagga label, including 2013’s 800% Ndagga, and has performed live internationally. Mark Ernestus and seven members of the Jeri-Jeri ensemble will bring their mercilessly propulsive polyrhythms to CTM 2014.