HART magazine and Q-O2, a Brussels-based space for experimental music and sound art, join forces with 21 Tracks for the 21st Century, a series of playlists in which we ask our guests: what music does this century need? Each time, we invite one artist, thinker or musician to prepare a playlist of those sounds, songs and pieces of music that will best arm their listeners with the tools to approach what is left of this young century. This month: Jessica Ekomane.
Jessica Ekomane is a French-born sound artist and electronic musician living in Berlin. Her music might be understood as a kind of study of the musical potential of latency. There is the feeling that all of the elements of the music are already present from the beginning of the work and stay present until the piece concludes. Nothing is added or subtracted, elements only shift in and out of recognition. As a listener, this movement from latency into consciousness produces the tectonic shifts from which the music is made. Despite the mathematical rigour of many of her compositions, Ekomane’s music is saturated and emotive. It’s a reminder that the rationality of mathematical curves can illicit unpredictable and irrational responses when they comes into contact with a listener. Ekomane’s music behaves like a scaffolding around this listening, an external, temporary architecture in which the experience of the piece can be negotiated.
Ekomane’s playlist for the 21st Century reads in part like a renegotiation of the legacy of the 20th. It highlights tracks of Middle-Eastern musique concrete and computer music, contemporary Balinese Gamelan, Sub-saharan modular synthesis, alongside new tracks of footwork and Baile Funk. It’s valuable to have reminders that what we call the avant-garde was never happening only in Europe and the US but was always a global phenomenon.
- Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Gebrou – The Homeless Wanderer
She just died last March, so she deserves an homage here.
- Halim El-Dabh – Wire Recorder piece
Halim El-Dabh's vision has been really inspiring to me. The original title of this track from 1944 is "The Expression of Zaar". It is one of the earliest known works of tape music or musique concrète, which defies the usual genealogies as it was composed four years before Pierre Schaeffer's experiments. For the piece he borrowed a wire recorder from the offices of Middle East Radio, and captured and manipulated street sounds and sounds from a Zaar ceremony. He had the insight to open up the raw audio content to further explore the "inner sound" contained within.
- Mary Lou Williams – Black Christ Of The Andes
An underrated composer, I especially love her beautiful choral works. She has been a mentor to some of the most well-known jazz figures like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker or Miles Davis.
- Alireza Mashayekhi – Chahargah I, Op.75
Alireza Mashayekhi's computer music ventures are a hidden gem, I wish there were more of them. I think what he was trying to do at the time, mixing the Iranian musical language with computer music technologies, is still super relevant to a lot of things that are being talked about today, I believe.
- Maryanne Amacher – Synaptic Island
She was also really underrated during her lifetime and for some time after. I recently saw the presentation of her work GLIA, her work is really one of a kind. It made me feel like I was hearing time itself while standing outside of it.
- Dakn – .a body in post trauma
I'm jumping into something contemporary and totally different from a young voice of the Palestinian music scene. The album consists of 9 tracks that evoke different parts of a body/land in post trauma. I was listening to it the other day and it gave me this really painful yet cathartic sensation. Really impactful.
- Moor Mother – The Myth Hold Weight
Another contemporary impactful voice. Already a classic.
- Raven Chacon – Live from Alacatraz
Last year, in 2022, Raven Chacon became the first Native American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, which he received for his composition Voiceless Mass. I really like his work and his perspective, and I chose this recent project that he played at Alcatraz Prison, "a sonic meditation on the histories of the island and its occupation for nineteen months beginning in November 1969 by the group Indians of All Tribes, as a protest regarding civil rights abuses at that time".
- Dewa Alit & Gamelan Salukat – Genetic
I had the chance to get to know him in 2019, when I visited Gabber Modus Operandi in Bali. We went to Dewa Alit's beautiful house to meet him and talk. All his music is also an instant classic, a real master of the gamelan. Salukat is the ensemble he founded around a gamelan tuned to his own tuning.
- Eliane Radigue – Biogenesis
Eliane Radigue's music has really made me fully aware of another way of listening, at low volume and hearing "inside oneself" so to say. This piece is so simple and gorgeous, like listening to the quiet groovy trance of one's own heartbeat.
- Asep Nayak – Ap Apikon Ane
Wisisi is a traditional ritualistic music and dance from West Papua, performed at harvest ceremonies, funerals, and weddings. Asep Nayak is a musician from a village in the region, a place "pushed to the margins even by West Papuan standards, (...) popularly associated with natural disasters, civil strife, and intermittent clashes between government forces and pro-independence fighters". He created a contemporary electronic version of wisisi that has even been accepted by the elders as part of the official ceremonies. It was just released on the Indonesian label Yes No Wave, which consistently releases some of the most socially relevant and boundary-pushing music projects.
- Jana Rush – Divine
Footwork is one of the most interesting genres for me to come out of the club scene lately. Rhythmically it's really inspiring and surprising, and I especially love the work of Jana Rush.
- Dj Sandrinho – Berimbau
Baile Funk is another genre of dance music that I have found to be the most inspiring in recent memory. The rhythms, the culture around the use of samples, etc. This is one of the tracks that stood out to me when it was released.
- Duke – Duke 4
Singeli is yet another of the underground dance scenes worldwide that really impressed me. Especially this album by Duke, the choice of harmonies is really surprising at times.
- Speaker Music – Amerikkka's Bay (ft. Maia Sanaa)
Unsettling beats that accurately transmit the trauma of black America. I also highly recommend Deforrest Brown Jr.'s book "Assembling a Black Counter Culture", a great critical analysis of both the true black origins of techno and the European club industry.
- Afrorack – African Drum Machine
I've been collaborating with Afrorack since last year. I think his approach to self-made technology in a sub-Saharan African context is an important one, and that's also one of the interests we have in common. We've been developing some things in this direction, and will continue to do so this year.
- Nadah el Shazly – Palmyra
Nadah el Shazly is a great musician and also a good friend of mine. Her vision for mixing varying influences, from avant-jazz to early 20th century Egyptian singers, and her engagement in reframing some of the issues around the Western perception of SWANA culture have been inspiring to witness.
- Senyawa – Hujan
Senyawa has been really at the forefront of musical and extra-musical experimentation (the way they released Alkisah on many different labels for instance), both in the context of Indonesia and beyond. I've had extended talks with Rully Shabara and he's really an artist with a vision that goes way beyond music, it's been really inspiring. This is a track from Senyawa's first album, where it all started. Hard to believe it was the first time they were playing together. You can definitely feel the sparks.
- Francis Bebey – Super Jingle
His musical exploration of Cameroonian music and play with the Duala language, as well as his interest in Pygmy culture, have been inspiring to some of my own reflections.
- Chavela Vargas – Llorona
A great singer, interpreter and strong personality whose fight against the clichés of femininity is definitely very pioneering and highly relevant today.
- Gal Costa – Objeto Sim, Objeto Não
I listen to quite a lot of Brazilian music, especially from that era. The Tropicalia wave was both a means of pushing musical boundaries and addressing the political issues of the time, which I guess tends to be somewhat cyclical.
Jessica Ekomane will perform a quadrophonic set in Brussels on Friday 28.04, as part of Oscillation Festival taking place at MILL, Brussels. On Saturday 29.04, she will give a talk about the polyrhythmic practice of Pygmy music, African timeline rhythms and the presence of non-Anglo European ideas and artists within the history of computation and computer music. Tickets and full-line up at www.oscillation-festival.be.
For more info, have a look at her website: www.jessicaekomane.com