Paris – a multiplicity

A long postcard from Paris. Time just whizzes by.

The summer has finally turned into an autumn – the first time I felt my fingers freezing while cycling home late at night. Where did all that heat and endless blue sky go? Into working haphazardly on everything, meeting new people, cycling around Paris, going out, experiencing the city, settling down, pondering, searching for the meaning and motivation to continue making music: releasing albums digitally to muted response just won’t do anymore, I’m honestly done if that’s all there is for the function of music-making!

The end of the summer has fortunately coincided with the start of new conversations and collaborations. Paris, like any location, is an assemblage of different multiplicities, each multiplicity presenting a universe of ideas, encounters, possibilities. As the autumn leaves are preparing to fall, I’ve found myself on a plane connecting one such multiplicity to few others, entering exciting new becomings – meaningful and refreshing expressions of life, creativity and culture, if you will.

One such becoming is with this Swiss choreographer, dancer and director. Finally a long-term project that allows me to collaborate with other talents across the arts and other areas of the society for the next few years (why doesn’t this happen more often, especially since I’ve been more than ready for the past 20 years?). The details of our project may be discreet for now; the reason I bring this up is because it is our long conversations and shared experiences of Parisian culture that finally brought to an end my months-long impasse of trying to find the purpose for music-making. We don’t exist in isolation nor is the digital any answer: we need each other, real feedback and different talents to make the projects and worlds we care about happen. Behind every success story there are dozens of people with different skills working toward the same goal. My work has existed more or less in isolation (and digital ambiguity) up until now – not because I’ve wanted but because I haven’t encountered any like-minded scenes (and sceniuses) so far. I don’t really care about the popularity of my music per se: as long as I feel thrilled and passionate about what I’ve created, that’s all that matters; it’s the greater cultural and societal function of my creativity and dedication that bothers/matters to me.

And with this Swiss artist my long-term musical and societal interests have aligned with hers. Creating and imagining music for her project feels like serving a greater societal and cultural purpose than releasing albums into some digital amnesia that the internet represents.

Alongside this, Paris has presented some of the most fascinating live concerts I’ve experienced so far: between cultures, in a fourth world, between experimentation and tradition, like possible musics of the future (for one, check out the Palestinian composer Kamilya Jubran and her Terra Incognita project – and if you can’t find it, book her trio for your next festival/event 🙂 ). And I’m excited to say that I’ll be collaborating with some of these artists for my forthcoming albums Sharawadji and Earth Variations. I’ve been working joyously with a kind of “idiot glee” (as the painter Peter Schmidt put it) in my studio for the past week and have to concede once again: there’s so much potential and beauty in everything – so much incredible material – yet only less than 0.1% of that ever gets released. I guess the life wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Below some random snapshots from this transitional period. Paris is love, a home in this galaxy of ours.

Reimagine

Backstage at the closing ceremony of FESPACO film festival, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (2013). The rhythms and sonic textures these musicians were producing were out of this world, from some kind of deep ancient future. Naturally I was in heaven (and my recorder heavily in overdrive).

Currently I’m working on a truly exciting collaboration that enables me to revisit my experiences in West Africa and imagine possible futures – probably my most favourite creative activity ever. I’ll post more info on this later when it’ll become more actualised. This project has made me realise that we are probably drawn to and occupied by the same ideas and possibilities throughout our lives: my first memory of making music was when I was six years old and I was trying to imagine a possible African landscape after seeing a documentary about “a village somewhere in Africa”; I’d become tantalised by its atmosphere, scenery and soundtrack so much that I’d wanted to recreate that distant, another world with the electronic organ at our home. And here I am, doing exactly the same thing 37 years later.

But what is it about this particular idea that keeps occupying me?

It’s about redesigning our society, our politics, our economy. No more poverty, no more inequality, no more conflicts, no more ideologies (e.g. the outdated and unnecessary left-right politics). Just conscious, intelligent, healthy, long-term outcomes. We could easily live in a world where no one has to struggle for living, where everyone is taken care of, where people can enjoy living instead of having to earn living, where the nature and the humanity continue to flourish in balance, where the world lives in deep freedom (a concept by the economist and philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger – find out more here) – and where the prosperity and growth come from us thriving as conscious and active citizens of the world and not from us struggling as passive consumers tied to the unsustainable, elite-serving capitalist system. We only need to change our outdated political and economic systems – and music and the arts are already way ahead in this act of rethinking, reimagining and redesigning, waiting for the politics and economics to catch up.

This idea is equally about borders, nations, nationalism, tribalism, cultures, ethnicities and origins: inhabiting a possible world beyond and in between all the these arbitrarily maintained divisions; belonging to and being a citizen of Earth instead of any arbitrary nation. Cultures and differences are reasons for celebration and cooperation – harmonious disagreements – not for inharmonious disagreements, conflicts and walls. We humans are all different but equal, cohabiting this tiny planet equally with millions of other species: Earth is the shared home of everyone and everything. When you are making possible musics – multicultural, transcontinental, imaginary and hybrid – you are not actually trying to imagine a possible future, you are simply trying to show the actual reality amid all the ideologically constructed, artificially maintained divisions that we keep wasting our precious resources on.

My new album, meanwhile, will be out in mid June (it keeps evading all the titles and verbal descriptions, that’s why). Please, do stay safe and healthy X