in the Category: music
Christelle Oyiri is truly a jack of all trades. She performs as a musician and DJ under the moniker Crystallmess, but she is also a critical thinker and writes articles on music and politics. When we talked with Oyiri, she was staying in London after playing Corsica Studios, where she ‘turned the ambient room into a rave room and shut shit down’. Always concerned with her community and why she does things, we had an interesting talk about her new project Collective Amnesia: In Memory of Logobi, in which she tackles less talked about, but oh-so-important subjects.
Interview by Wannes Dewit
Photos by Irwin Barbé, shot in Paris
Can you tell us something more about Collective Amnesia: In Memory of Logobi?
Collective Amnesia is a multidisciplinary performance, which combines video, sound, singing, narrating and DJ-ing. It’s about the history of Logobi, a dance and music genre. It takes its roots from Coupé Décalé, which was born on the Ivory Coast. Logobi is like the version of Coupé Décalé that was made by the Africans who had just arrived in Paris.
I don’t have to apologise and I don’t have to thank anybody for anything. I’m here. It’s my birthright
Why is the project called Collective Amnesia?
It’s called Collective Amnesia for the very reason of forgetting about things, but in a very intentional matter, about hiding your past. At first I wanted to do a theatrical piece about Logobi, but it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. A lot of former dancers I interviewed really didn’t want to talk about it, even though they used to be well known in the scene. That’s when I thought that maybe I should tackle the fact that people don’t want to talk about Logobi, instead of the genre itself. Collective Amnesia was me documenting and trying to make sense of why people would try to do that. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a documentary. It is a highly spiritual ceremony.
The project is really about the sonic power of Logobi and how it was a very healing movement. It was reclaiming the public space which aims to be neutral at all cost in France. It’s very sacred. Logobi happened a lot in public spaces, people dancing in the subway.
What I also noticed is that we have a weird relationship with memory in France, I think Belgium is kind of the same. When you are a black person you have to be your own archivist. You have to dig in. If you don’t dig in, you don’t know.
Do you focus especially on a black audience with Collective Amnesia?
Not really… Even ‘a black audience’ is not precise enough, to be fair. I focus on a black, French audience, because it is a very specific experience that I’m talking about. But I’m also very open to sharing this experience with other people.
Three years ago you wrote an article in the Guardian about colonial nostalgia in France and about how black people have to alter themselves to fit into a white ideal. How has this changed over the past couple of years?
I feel that there has been a dialogue, definitely. Not only with white people, but also within the black community in France. I think that the new generation is more unapologetic. They were born in France, so they have their birthright to do whatever they want. Our parents needed to fit in because they were immigrants. It’s different now. I don’t have to apologise and I don’t have to thank anybody for anything. I’m here. It’s my birthright.
A couple of years ago you did a project about the impact of the internet on dancing. How do you see this impact on music?
I think that the internet broke a lot of boundaries, it made everything way more accessible. The downside is that now you have to do everything on your own, which isn’t easy. This is something we don’t talk about very often. You have to be your own creative director, you have to produce everything yourself from start to finish. With social media you have to be your own manager, advertise your projects… This can be good because you have total control, but it’s also very tiring and very capitalistic. Unconsciously you are doing all these things that used to be someone’s job. I wouldn’t be anywhere without the internet, but at the same time we have to be critical about it. It’s not easy to get your mind out and build something from scratch when you have all this information all the time.
Last week you’ve tweeted: ‘I got mad music coming up in different shapes and forms, i'm excited af’.
Yes! I’m working on the soundtrack for an exhibition by a French Caribbean artist called Julien Creuzet. The exhibition opens in about a week in Switzerland. I’m also working on a fashion soundtrack and I have a vinyl coming, a split vinyl with Toxe. She’s going to do two tracks. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be clubby. Toxe has been my friend for, like, five years so I’m really happy that we get to work with each other.
Do you have any big inspirations, additional listening for our readers?
I listen mostly to old stuff. I listen a lot to DJ Arafat who passed away a couple of weeks ago. Lately I’ve been really into Ivorian music and Gwo Ka, which is traditional music from Guadeloupe.
Subbacultcha at S.M.A.K.: Croatian Amor + BEA1991 + Crystallmess + Louise Delanghe
24 Oct - S.M.A.K., Ghent
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