The festival’s second night at Werkstatt der Kulturen posits an in-depth study and reinterpretation of Congolese music from the 1930s against a Tunisian artist’s musical shout-out to the liberating powers of the internet, and an act signed by Sublime Frequencies, Dwarves of East Agouza.
Released on Yves de Mey and Peter Van Hoesen’s Archives Intérieurs label, Peder Mannerfelt's The Swedish Congo Record is a concept album that recreates one of the first recordings of the sounds of central Congo. Using synthesizers only, Mannerfelt recreates these historic recordings made in 1935-36 by Belgian filmmaker Armand Denis and published in 1950 on a now-obscure 78 rpm record as The Belgian Congo Records. Testing the versatility of the instrument in a manner similar to early synth reproductions of classical artists (such as Wendy Carlos’s Switched-on Bach), this concept album rides through a myriad of sounds and textures, some unbelievably identical to the original wooden instruments or drums, others sounding purely electronic.
The Swedish Congo Record also acts as a remembrance of a dark passage in Congolese and Belgian history and raises questions about how to artistically relate to such charged material. The Belgian Congo was one of the most violent and exploitative colonial regimes in modern history. On a humanitarian, political and social level, a deep scar was left behind, and Western economic interests continue to influence central Africa ever since.
The project raises important questions about exoticisation, reference, and presumption. For Mannerfelt, simply sampling the original recordings would have been another act of colonisation or disrespectful appropriation. By re-sculpting the album’s original musicality into a wild electronic universe of his own, he wishes to pay tribute to the traditional and folkloric meaning of theses dances. As Steve Reich did with the African music that informed his phasing technique, Mannerfelt engages with the material from the ground up; by taking the time necessary to reproduce every expressive subtlety in the music, he acknowledges the time and context that were essential in creating the original.
CTM has commissioned a live version of the work for its 2016 edition in collaboration with Malmö's Intonal Festival. This version sees Mannerfelt joined on stage by a percussion ensemble that will help him resynthesize and expand the traditional rhythms found on the album.
Preceding Mannerfelt is Deena Abdelwahed a figure in the Tunisian alternative music scene who has strong foundations as a funk and jazz singer. Abdelwahed has been exploring the realm of electronic music since 2011. With her project “All Hail Mother Internet”, one of the two winners of the CTM 2016 Radio Lab, Abdelwahed asks, “how would I have ended up without having access to internet when I was a teenager?” as a starting point to explore frustrations about feeling fixed by the constraints of a pre-defined culture, place, identity, and the strategies employed to tackle them.
The Dwarfs of East Agouza wrap up the evening with their rhythmic, psychedelic avant-rock brew. The trio is made up of Sublime Frequencies label founder and Sun City Girls bassist Alan Bishop, Egyptian percussionist Maurice Louca, who also plays a solo set the previous night at the same venue, and prolific composer and oud player Sam Shalabi.
Peder Mannerfelt is supported by the SHAPE platform, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. Deena Abdelwahed is supported by the CTM Radio Lab in collaboration with Deutschlandradio Kultur / Hörspiel – Klangkunst and Goethe Institut.
Until recently, shapeshifting Swedish artist Peder Mannerfelt was best known for his techno productions as The Subliminal Kid, but a sequence of sinister, amorphous hardware experiments issued under his own name have signalled a new sonic direction.
Maurice Louca, an Egyptian musician and composer born in Cairo, is one of the most exciting artists in the Arab world's alternative music scene.
Dwarfs Of East Agouza is the Cairo-based trio of Alan Bishop, Maurice Louca, and Sam Shalabi.
The prolific Sam Shalabi is a composer and guitar and oud player whose musical output spans jazz and free improvisation to psychedelic avant-rock.
Seattle-based imprint Sublime Frequencies excavates musical obscurities from urban and rural sites across the globe – music which is typically overlooked by the global music industry, mainstream media, and academia.