Once in awhile I like to step away from the local scene to spotlight artists around the world who are creating important work that breaks through cultural barriers. French producer dÉbruit has done exactly that, attracting international attention with a series of EP releases that explore global sounds through the lens of electronic music. dÉbruit has cultivated a distinct style, fusing the traditional rhythms and instruments from places like Haiti and Turkey with a contemporary, synth-heavy production style. But the producer has become best known for his experiments with African music, evidenced on his recently released debut LP From the Horizon.
From the Horizon has quickly become one of my favorite releases of 2012. The album presents listeners with a surreal journey through the music of the motherland, melding wonky digital rhythms with raw samples of analog afrobeat. I recently spoke with dÉbruit from his current home in Brussels. I asked dÉbruit about the influences, inspiration and production techniques behind his unique sound.
NUVO: What first attracted you to African music?
dÉbruit: It might have been when I traveled to Senegal as a kid. I remember being amazed by the culture and the music, especially the percussion. Now what I like about it is the natural approach. There is no calculation in terms of marketing. That means something in an age where the marketing is often ready before the sound. African music is pure emotion. Whether joyful or sad, the music represents pure emotion in all its complexity.
NUVO: A lot of your work is sample-based. Can you tell me about the samples you use and where you find them?
dÉbruit: I find samples through research and they appear to me naturally. The samples I use come out of a mass collection of sound and music I listen to. I then tweak them and cut them meticulously. I find them while buying rare '70s psych-funk African records or on field recordings. Once the Museum of Civilizations in Paris called me for a special project. I was asked to compose music for a live performance based on field recordings and they allowed me to dig through their audio archives.
For me it's a simple question of taste. I take what I like or what surprises me. Then I imagine what I can play on top of a tribal drum roll or how I can cut up an incredible voice and incorporate some modern funk.
NUVO: Can you name some African artists who have had a profound influence on your work?
dÉbruit: That's difficult as I'll never know the artist names on some of the tribal field recordings I listen to. But in more modern '70s African music there are a lot of artists that I admire, like Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou, The Sweet Talks and Bembeya Jazz National.
NUVO: One aspect of your music that impresses me is your ability to incorporate African rhythmic concepts in your work. So many electronic and hip-hop producers just utilize African music samples for texture. Is this intentional, or just a natural product of your creative process?
dÉbruit: That's what I'm interested in - creating a groove that a machine isn't meant to have. I bend the technology to get that natural joy out. I don't pretend to make African rhythms like an African person would. I have to put a bit of thought into reaching the desired result. But lately that has been changing. Some polyrhythmic patterns are now very friendly to me and the groove comes more and more naturally.
NUVO: Can you tell me about the reference to surrealist painter René Magritte on your album cover?
dÉbruit: I felt really close to Magritte when I discovered his work. Lately I've been very influenced by his quotes. Magritte said, "To be a surrealist is to ban the influence of what you have seen, in order to make something that has never been seen." This spoke to me in terms of sound and music. My cover is inspired by his painting Le Faux Miroir (The Fake Mirror,) which explores the notion of inside and outside and the imagination between the visible and the invisible.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features a mix of experimental tracks from Africa.
1. Le Mystere Jazz De Tombouctou - Leli (Kindred Spirits, 2012 reissue)
2. Abdullah Ibrahim - Ishmael (Enja, 1976)
3. Konono Nº1 - Kule Kule (Crammed Discs, 2004)
4. Auntie Flo - Highlife (Huntleys & Palmers. 2011)
5. dÉbruit - Afro Booty Musique (Civil Music, 2012)
6. Carlos Lamartine - Ngongo J'ami [Batida Remix] (Soundway, 2012)
7. Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang - Feba (Luaka Bop, 2012)
8. KonKoma - Kpanlogo (Soundway, 2012)
9. Mpese Mpese Band - Mpese MpeseTheme (Sofrito, 2012)
10. DJ Marfox - Rádio Oxigénio Am (Mental Groove, 2011)