Bosaina / Cairo, Egypt
I've been producing for about a year and a half. I took the Ableton Live production course at Dubspot, and continued using the software to create my first EP, which was a collection of sample-based pieces inspired by New York when I lived there. Musically I'm mostly influenced by the guys in my KIK (Kairo Is Koming) collective. ZULI is definitely the artist who inspired me to go solo and who really got me into sampling because of what he does with it.
It's a big thing for us not to glorify fetishistic notions of our culture, as our generation has pretty much grown up on the internet, and so we do listen to a lot of what's going on in different corners of the world and respond with our own mutilated identities. We listen to everything from hip-hop and techno and whatever's going on on SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and a lot of the time inspiration comes from listening to other people's internal worlds as opposed to music that's geo-tagged to a city.
It's so unpleasant to live in Cairo, and I really shouldn't say that because people are very nationalistic and take offence, but it's true. It's a dirty, chaotic, poor country with very little regard for personal space and basic human rights, but at the same time, in my version of it, there's something really interesting happening in terms of DIY establishments and dynamic communities of artists responding critically and consciously to these limitations and the times. I'm compelled to stay here because there's a lot of room for development, and that's something I'm personally interested in. It's not just about the music, it's also about change.
At the moment I work at VENT, which is the only alternative progressive music venue and listening space in the city. It was founded by $$$TAG$$$ and ZULI from my collective so I'm completely invested in the project. It's a family affair, and before we were up and running, producers and artists were isolated on these virtual islands behind their computers. Our main issue is always the Egyptian audience. You have the 20 people (in a 250-capacity venue) who really get it, or are at least open to it, and everyone else is there because it's a hot night out. I totally prefer the intimate shows that sometimes don't cover our operational costs, but it's our friends and the regulars, and then our resident DJ gets on the decks and it's mayhem from there, in downtown Cairo, which is still kind of surreal.
There's a huge generational gap that's made it tough for Egyptian musicians to pursue music with the support of their families and so on. It's a traditional thing, and there are preset roles to fulfil in Egyptian society, and if you don't follow those rules you're kind of screwed. Women are especially hurt by this mould, and I've only been able to do my thing because my parents are quite liberal, but still I have to deal with everyone past them. It's always strange and exciting for me to see an artist coming out of here who isn't doing something institutional, traditional or oriental because it's sort of a thing among local artists to be more accessible to western audiences or to repeat the past. I have no issues with that, everyone's got their own style and I totally respect it, but it's hard to develop a scene and operate in it for the future when there are too many cultural clichés involved.
There's this new law in Cairo to stop incoming funds from international organisations, and some of the biggest supporters of our community are institutes abroad that believe in appropriating these funds to local influencers, so it's a major set back for our artists, and mainly because some people can't afford so much as a soundcard, and others have never even left the country until invited to perform elsewhere. The government took these opportunities away from us. I'm quite angry about it actually.
Tollcrane / Karachi, Pakistan
I've been producing music for about four years now. Most of my early years I was making music simply on my laptop or PC hooked up to regular 2.1 speakers. Last year I invested in proper monitors and a soundcard, so that really helped step my game up. I've been very confused about describing my musical style because I like to dabble in all types of music, being an instrumentalist first and then a producer it's gotten to a point where I've had to develop different personalities in my mind to deal with this dilemma. I would say my current focus is experimental techno and freeform jazz/noise or something.
The crew back home, we're called Forever South, and most of us are bedroom producers who decided to team up under this name. We're quite familiar with the London sound, some French electro and US West Coast hip-hop and psychedelic stuff.
Karachi is the biggest city in Pakistan. It's the harbour that brings all the business into the city. A lot of political power play comes to action due to this fact, and living conditions can be a bit hostile. You've got to watch your back when you're out on the streets.
It isn't possible to make a living from music here unless you're doing big-scale corporate sponsored events or if you manage to make it as a well-known producer. But there's definitely no money coming in from album sales. Local folk and pop musicians have a lot of support from the public. Electronic music is popular amongst out-going younger people, so music is not forbidden or looked down upon in society.
The biggest challenge here is getting the crowd or audience to get motivated enough to come to gigs. It takes a lot of effort, but definitely pays off in the end. If the crowd was not like this we might get a bit more time to work on the musical aspects of our gigs. And speaking of musical aspects, there is yet to be a reliable sound guy back home for gigs. And of course there is the slight matter of security. Like I mentioned earlier, Karachi can be a hostile place to reside in, and something like a public event comes up on everyone's radar.
Ah! Kosmos / Istanbul, Turkey
I have been doing music for ten years. For the past three years I have been producing by myself, and I use Ableton Live as the main unit. I got my M.A degree in Sound Engineering and Design, and I'm now carrying on my second masters in Cultural Studies, focusing on socio-cultural openings of sound in the context of gentrified places in Istanbul.
While producing, I use analogue synths, electric guitar and bass guitar and sometimes voice. I find myself inspired by encounters and conversations that happen unpredictably. For me "composition" is a life-long process. To broaden my perspective, I try to research composition from different perspectives. For instance, I try to attend composition lectures at the Contemporary Dance department in a fine-arts university. I am interested in approaching the composition through the language of another artistic discipline and changing the dramaturgical landscapes of sound through using different frameworks.
The chaos of Istanbul could transform into an inspirational ground for creation. I believe Istanbul is a city of encounters. However, Istanbul is facing a severe experience of neoliberal capitalist power relations—like some other metropolitan cities in the world. Some of the beautiful places have been forced to change into places that might bring capital. Urban gentrification and sterilisation policies have been influencing me a lot.
I'm able to live off my music in Istanbul. Beside my solo works, I also collaborate with choreographers, visual artists and theatres. What I observe is that it's not easy to survive as an artist, not only in Turkey but also in the world. However, choosing such a way is more like an interior impulse you cannot undermine. I think it is important to look at how [musicians from other countries] relate to music or art instead of what inspires them, because there are no borders left. I believe music has no gender, no nationality, no religion, so it is getting harder to define what inspires people.
I am facing some difficulties here in relation to marketing. The neoliberal power relations are so bold and deeply embedded in this system I live in, and music marketing as a cultural industry is a part of this system. However, I would like to note that everyday life is covered with power relations. There is a hierarchy in different forms, and it's embedded in everyday life. Culture management and its dynamics can be challenging for emerging artists. It is obvious that you become visible or not depending on with whom you get into relation with from the market, rather than what you create.
Blinky Bill / Nairobi, Kenya
I make electronic music with African and hip-hop elements. I started out as a guitar player, then moved to computer music around seven years ago. I worked on FL Studio for the longest time. I have worked on three albums with my friends who I'm in a band with. I'm such a gear head; I love hardware.
A lot of the gear that I work with is super expensive and not easy to access here, so sometimes when I travel I pick up stuff after months of saving [laughs]. Also there is limited access to training facilities or people with experience in skills such as mixing and mastering and live sound. So a lot of my peers have just learnt their skill by trial and error until it works.
Nairobi is a great place to be. It has one of the most interesting music scenes in Africa, in the sense that there are many underground scenes that get love. There's a thriving rock music scene, and a huge scene that loves electronic music. There's lots of appreciation for African pop music as well as global pop music. There's a huge divide between the rich and the poor, and a growing middle class, but the vibe is mostly chill, with lots of fantastic people wherever you go.
It's not the easiest venture to make a living from music here, but it's getting better by the day. For some reason, musicians aren't taken super seriously, I think mostly because people worry about how you'll make money, which is understandable. I had an uphill battle convincing my folks that this was what I wanted to do. And it was tough in the beginning, no doubt, but it's become easier.
People often look to sounds from outside of the country for inspiration. Kenya doesn't have a definitive sound like Nigeria or South Africa, but I look at it as a positive because it's a blank slate in a way, and if the music is dope, people will like it. Urban music in Kenya has always drawn influence from all over the world. If you listen to music from the '70s, you'll notice a huge funk influence. And if you listen to the radio right now, you'll notice a lot of pop, reggae, hip-hop and African dance music elements.
Deltatron / Lima, Peru
I learnt Fruity Loops at 14 years old. My stepfather, who is a classical musician and engineer, taught me about electronic music. When I make beats I use Fruity for producing and sometimes Pro Tools for mixing. I would describe my style as dark, ghetto, tropical beatz. What inspires me? There are so many things: girls I meet, taking care of my plants, playing at parties, going to the beach, the sunset, smoking late at night or early in the morning, movies I see, books I read, things my friends say, stories I hear—I don't know, pretty much everything that happens in my city.
I don't know much about success and what that means. We (in my label) are just happy because we can do music and throw parties and people are responding. We can bring artists for other South American countries, and we are building a network, so maybe that's success to me—things are growing. Plus, I think this year's travel to Tokyo for the RBMA 2014 has been a blessing. It's something I'll never forget, and a helpful tool in so many ways.
Lima is crazy but is a paradise, in a way. I mean, there's a lot of insecurity and robberies, but the food is incredible, we got the beach next to us and you can live well. In a way it's pretty violent and racist here, but on the other hand there are a lot of mixtures and different styles, as in the food, as in the music, as in the art—and that mixture is what makes it so good. There is no other place I want to live but here. It inspires almost the totality of my music.
It's not easy to live off music here because you got to create the scene, so you have to throw parties and make money off it. With my label, we don't sell records, we give them away so people can listen and then ask for us. We get paid for the gigs and for the parties we throw, and yes, you can make a living—not to buy a house, but at least to live your dreams. At first we only threw squat parties but, five years later, now we throw big parties in the major clubs and our DJs play every weekend, so it's kinda good right now for the movement.
Producers here try to copy foreign scenes all the time. American and European governments have tried so hard to make ourselves ashamed of our culture, so new artists here are always looking to somewhere outside. It was hard at first for us because we wanted to play only Latin rhythms, but with time people started looking to us as a new important option. Now we want to reach to the big mass, the ghettos. The best Peruvian musicians always had that mass appeal, so we want the same.
As an artist and as a label owner, the biggest challenge right now is reaching our music to new listeners. That's what's important right now. We want to reach more markets and let them know that we have our own dance and bass music. And they should check it out.