SHAPE Platform is a pan-European initiative designed to give the underground music scene exposure on its own terms. The SHAPE Class of 2018 is as exciting as you’d imagine, which is why we’re showcasing picks from this year’s selection every Friday…
This week’s highlighted artist is… sonic activist Nkisi, one of the founders of the NON Worldwide collective, a multimedia project aiming to empower artists from Africa and the African diaspora…
How has NON Worldwide changed since its inception?
Nkisi: NON Worldwide has grown organically, to have more experience, for me, it has been a journey of learning and collective improvisations. NON Worldwide has made me more committed to music as a medium, music has such amazing ways; how you can affect, use references, reach and work outside of homogeneous symbolic institutions. Music as sonic tools to use, and exchange, through decoding and coding. We are releasing our second compilation; I am very excited about this.
NON is self-described as being an exercise in non-verbal dialogue – what were the first records or sounds that spoke to you in a way that language couldn’t?
For me personally, with NON, we refuse, we experiment outside of the norm in any way possible. Exorcising the language of domination is our motto. I find so much refuge in this unknown realm of music, rhythms and sounds. I love how music allows for movements of energy. I have a special bond with dance music as I am also interested in what happens when we use music to dance. What happens when you sync to a new rhythm… I always had a strong connection with sound, it has always triggered my memory and time/space perceptions in very emotional ways. My earliest memories of music that affected me would probably be the Congolese guitar riff.
You release a lot of (great) material, relatively regularly – is making music something that comes easy to you or do you struggle with getting the ‘finished’ product?
I like the idea of being active and acting on things.
I am very blessed and thankful that people enjoy my music, I have a lot to process. And I really enjoy making music as a practice; it helps me understand the universe, it makes it possible in a way to reflect and ask questions (to the universe). Those answers materialise in the tracks…
Last year you unveiled The Dark Orchestra performance project. For those that couldn’t make the show, what did the audience experience, and have you any plans to tour that particular project further?
The Dark Orchestra has been an ongoing project of mine. It started as a mix, then it was part of THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT (our first NON-production at CTM 2017), most recently it grew into a live set I did for AND festival in a cave somewhere in the north of the UK. I have been playing versions of these sets since then. I use some systems of thought present in Ancient Kongo Cosmology and experiment with improvisation, rhythmic prediction and rhythmic archetypes… I think the audience enjoyed it, and it’s great for dancing. I will be touring this set this year.
You were raised in Belgium and are currently based in London, in interviews you’ve discussed aspects of Congolese culture, would you describe yourself as a transnational artist, and how do you think this plurality of inspirations affects your work?
In a way it feels natural to me, as all these fragments of cultures are part of me. It is in the midst of all these ‘contradictions’ and pulling-pushing that I find inspiration and answers. Creation for me is a way to shuffle the data, so any step away from predetermined and status quo assumptions are a step in the direction I wander towards.
Where are you looking forward to performing this year, or where would you love to perform?
I am looking forward to every single show, and I would love to perform wherever the music brings me. Also excited to release more music this year.
Designed and managed by a handful of the best music festival on the European continent, Nkisi and other SHAPE artists will be making an appearance on line-ups throughout the year. You can read our interview with co-founders Viestarts Gailītis and Rihards Endriksons by clicking HERE.
Photo: Adama Jalloh