October 19, 2020News / Tunes / Update
Last time I saw Francesco five years ago, we were having a beer in Pigneto, a notorious alternative hood of Rome, with a couple local DJs. He was about to launch the first release of Gqom-Oh! and I had no idea what was about to hit me! Casually mentioning the project, his usual humble stance did not prepare me.
As he passed me his headphones to check the first tracks that were about to be released, I got slapped on the brain!
I remember telling him how staggering the music was, and how I thought something so fresh, at the time only known to a handful of kids in the townships of Durban, had the potential to run a tsunami over London and Berlin!
Fast forward to 2020, and the outsider South African beat is everywhere. You can hear its touch all over African electronics and the wider club scene, dj Lag is a superstar, Citizen Boy is no longer a kid and destroys dancefloors from London to Shanghai , and even Beyonce got seduced !
Teaser for Gqom Oh!'s Commando Mixtape
Francesco’s contribution to the movement was timely, pivotal, and put him under the spotlight, but it was always about the original creators of the sound (*watch the fascinating documentary about Gqom Oh!'s inception, filmed by the Crudo Volta crew in Durban*):
Having recently got wind that Francesco, while remaining invested in the label, was moving on from his Nan Kolè identity, I caught-up with him over phone and emails to make-up for the past 5 years, pick his brain on what was next and ask him for a playlist of what’s vibrating with him!
- So, first things first Francesco, when we briefly spoke on the phone you told me you were moving on from the Nan Kolè project as a whole, what's your new moniker? How do I address you now?
Nan Kolè, as all things in life, came to an end. It was a beautiful journey but a lot of things changed and I want to be more "honest" and authentic to my higher self in my new endeavors. I have reconnected to some of the musical experiences from my twenties when I was raving and travelling in a van with my sound system.
Francesco & one of his techno collective van, Late 90s/Early 2000s
I’ve also looked into new ways of creating music and created the Blu Ritual project:
The name represents my new approach on composing tracks: Having plenty of time during the recent lockdown, I learned new methods and created a sort of personal ritual, taking my time, meditating, cleansing energies in my room and sometimes micro-dosing mushrooms, which allow a sort of “elapsed” perception of time. I’m also working with intuition. Essentially trying to rush nothing but committed to a start and conclusion of the ritual.
Blue is the main color I envision in the process, and the melodies that come to me are often melancholic and deep.
Under Blu Ritual, I just released a first EP via Bandcamp (Scattered Demo, above) and 2 more EPs: Numbers & Colours and Epichysis (recorded in one sole psychedelic session) will come out in December. They will be released on digital and double-cassette tapes on Italian label MFZ records.
I am also working with a very talented new visual artist called Ayebaitari on the graphics and videos of he project.
- Can you describe where you're headed with this new project? Is there a specific genre or scene, or instruments attached to that new identity you're developing as Blu Ritual ?
I would like to see a new “Psychedelia” era in the electronic music scene, maybe less "ego" and more art?
Also, in that same spirit of reconnecting with the 90s rave era, I am recording with an analog Mackie mixer, to try and get that organic, raw sound.
Asides from the clear analog techno sound, and a bit of influence from classical inherited from my great-grandfather (a famous violinist), I am really enjoying experimenting more and I'm not looking forward to have a clearly defined sound.
I recently managed to invest in buying these instruments that i was dreaming about for a long time, which, along with certain processes (rather than lots of gear and samples) give some directions to my overwhelming creative flow. I don’t feel that an artist necessarily needs external synths, drums or hardware, that's just my personal feeling and journey right now, it doesn't makes my music "better” though.
In addition, I actually feel great having reset, and starting from scratch on the scene and social media, even though it can be challenging (who likes having 10 plays on Soundcloud and 5 followers on Instagram – LOL). I'm enjoying the new freedom, and feel more compelled to discover and follow new artists without the aim to network or do marketing of my stuff. Even my timelines on social networks are different these days, and I enjoy spending time on it much more!
- So while you will be stepping back from the Nan Kolè project, you remain active with the Gqom Oh! Label, which lives on as a collective. Can you introduce us to the team?
We are still a small and intimate team, Sboniso Brando Luthuli aka Citizen Boy is becoming the main A&R soon and Mikael Calandra Achode from Crudo Volta and Python Syndicate is directing the aesthetic and visuals and conceptual aspect, this is a process so anything can change and evolve, we’re moving towards a new season/stage for the record label in 2021.
In Lagos with the Crudo Volta crew, Mikael Calandra Achode and Tommaso Cassinis
- You've moved out of Rome for a few years now, but are there any up and coming artists or emerging styles that recently wooed you back home?
I haven’t really followed up lately. I’m very critical of Italy in general, and of the music scene in particular. I feel that there is also a “white-washing” of black music (Jazz in the past, now Hip-Hop, Trap and even more underground electronics etc.), without enough connection or support to their real roots, not even to Italian POC, from those communities where these musics come from. We definitely have an issue of mimicking and appropriating Black cultures in Italy.
At the same time, now being an immigrant in the UK, I have noticed how real the uprooted feeling is. I’m living with two other Italian artists here in London, and thanks to this vibe in the house I have been trying to reconnect with Italian “Cantauroriale” music or lost traditional and folk songs of the Italian South, such as Stornelli Romani or Pizzica and Salterello, which are actually really powerful and sometimes rooted in rituals and forms of shamanism like “Malocchio” or "Tarantismo"
I have great hopes for people like Agostino, with his Turbo Sud project and Dj Tess with her new alias Mala Femmina, I can see that they are fuelling a new authentic, genuine Italian music scene from the south, it's going to be interesting to experience it and see it grow.
- You've been playing quite literally around the World in the past few years - any travel stories or discoveries you care to share?
Traveling has given me so much on many different levels, especially thanks to the fact that I was traveling to do what I love. It was great to see the youth of each and every corner doing their own music and building scenes. In many cases this involved transcending cultural or traditional aspects into modern music, which helped me further understand how music is so much more than entertainment: it encompasses spirituality, lifestyle, politics,“being”, it’s everything !
Francesco with producer Sess in his Lagos studio
A cool example I could give you is Rophnan in Addis Abeba, who builds a form of EDM upon traditional Ethiopian music. He’s very popular there. You can find out more on my friend Mike Calandra’s latest Taxi Waves docu-series for Crudo Volta.
Together with the Crudo Volta crew, we also had a very interesting encounter in Mozambique with Maputo producer Dino and the Moz Afro Gang collective:
- I've always seen you as a sort of life explorer, reading a ton, traveling to mystical places to meet shamans etc... anything else non-music related you’ve been up to ?
The only thing i really explore is my soul, or better said, I'm an explorer of my inner child and i'm constructing my soul through this exploration.
I’m in the process of a spiritual "research" that i'm very very grateful for: from psychotherapy, to astrology, Vipassana meditation, Marseilles tarot, praying in churches, all tools that helped me in the process of healing from traumas and to be connected to Myself.
I’m also very much into "Shamanism" and the worship and devotion to Mother Earth and sacred medicines, through which I'm becoming my own healer. It's overwhelming and it's a potential that each and every human being has, it's changing my life deeply, giving me the strength to constantly challenge myself, embrace my mistakes and learning from them, stand up when I'm falling, basically being constantly present and pro-active.
- Thank you so much for all this! And finally, for the dessert: can you share with us a selection of tunes that are meaningful to you and tell us why?
(* I told Francesco on the phone to surprise us, go crazy, and share things he actually listens to when he’s chilling, not his dj sets. The result is this playlist which will remain "living", as he will update it whenever he feels like it - the tracklist might then become obsolete and I totally love the idea! Also: read on for bonus tracks not featured on the below link.)
- Aro Nainawa - Raminako Ramino: A beautiful traditional Shipibo song with great healing powers
- Elves do Jurua - Silencio: A traditional Ayahuasca healing tracks from the same region. I had the blessing to have ceremonies with the artists: Elves do Jurua and Ariadine from Caboclança Universal
The next three songs are from this relatively new "wave" of what is called "Musica Medicina", classic anthems of very powerful healing music:
- Nick Barbacheno - Madre Tierra: A Love Letter to Mother earth - Pachamama
- Danit - Guacamayo
- Isaque Solaris - The Tree: from Portugal, moving more towards the electronic field of "Musica Medicina"
- Francesco - Silencio CURA (Tribute to Elves do Jurua)
- Ancestral Voices - Samhain
- Twin System - Steel: I’m very grateful to have had a connection with the collective Twin System just before closing my project Nan Kolè. I Really like their Radio Shows and music taste, plus their productions are fire!
- Yak - Dire Hit: Back on a club vibe, with notorious UK artist Yak. I love his productions . This one is out on 3024 (*flagship artist Martyn’s label)
- Polyseme - Lava Drone: Polyseme is an artist from Finland, who produces great acid/psychedelic music. I bought a nice tape cassette from her record label called Acid Waxa. Good imprint to follow as well.
- Mala Femmina - Ruff: A sample of Dj Tess' new project, Italian folk & electronica.
- Officina Zoè - Sutt'Acqua E Sutta Jentu (Agostino EDIT): Agostino showcasing the Turbo Sud concept. As I Mentioned in the interview this is someone I follow who, auspiciously, is experimenting with traditional music from the South of Italy.
Julianna - Mi Voz
Extracted from a crowd funding compilation organized by Nightwave (with a track of mine inside). 100% of the proceeds from this first Love Amazonia compilation will go directly to the Huni Kuin Kaxinawá indigenous group in the state of Acre, Brazil.
Zu - Planet 8
Some good Frequencies, with an excellent track to start meditation. From Zu, an Italian artist I met a few times performing live during Ayahuasca sessions
Rainer Scheurenbrand - Yemanja
More "Musica Medicina"
Giorgio Gaber - I Mostri che Abbiamo Dentro
An song that was very helpful to me in some Ayahuasca sessions, I really suggest it if you understand Italian.
Max de Wardener - Star Song
Finally, I wanted to wrap-up for you guys with a piano solo from one of my favorite recently purchased albums.