African Silences Amid Free Jazz

(MENAFN- IANS) New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) "Endless possibilities," she says is what keeps her fascinated with music.The fact that it can transcend and overcome self-made barriers... The promise that external rhythm can change the pace inside always amazes Awori, a Swiss-Ugandan singer-songwriter, and rapper currently touring India to perform at Kolkata, Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Chandigarh on the invitation of Alliance Francaise in association with the Embassy of Switzerland in India and Bhutan.

"I started performing and writing songs at the age of eight years -- thanks to the fact that my grandfather and parents were deeply into music. They would listen to different genres and it seemed a story inside me was unfolding, waiting to be completed," she tells IANS.

Moving to Switzerland a few years later, it was that songwriting helped her adapt to her new, unfamiliar surroundings where she also co-founded bands, including 'Black Diamond & Caramel Brown' (later baptized KAMI AWORI). The latter released 4 EPs and travelled to Bamako, Havana and Johannesburg collaborating with local artists and fusing R&B and Soul with local sounds. They gained a strong local following performing at Swiss festivals like Royal Arena, Musiques En Ete & Antigel.

Known for incorporating societal issues, including economic inequality, exile, state violence and police brutality, the singer, who released her EP Ranavalona, named after the last queen of Madagascar, Ranavalona III, in 2021, says she likes to talk about issues that affect her deeply.

"Thus, they find a place almost naturally in my work, I do not write with an 'agenda'. I have always felt that as an artist, there is a lot of space to talk about important issues, and we must."

In an industry, essentially dominated by men, Awori feels as a woman and African person one needs to work harder to make her own space -- something which many times may be perceived as "strange".

"If a man has the same characteristics, he will be called a go-getter, and that does surprise me. Not to mention the fact that nowadays one needs to have multiple skill sets -- visuals, digital marketing, and a deep understanding of social media. It is not just about putting out music, but understanding how to engage with the audience etc. Frankly, it is much harder than what most people would expect."

The artist, who is always looking forward to collaborations, feels it forces one out of his/her comfort zone and pushes boundaries.

"And then, ascertaining that you 'meet' at a similar space so that everyone involved is represented equally. It is always an enriching experience considering there is so much give and take, and education about diverse styles," says Awori, who has performed across the world, including the UK, Croatia, Spain, France and East Africa.

Currently studying Jazz in Paris, where she is also with the marching band '30 Nuances de Noires' (30 Shades of Black) as a lead singer, vocal coordinator, and dancer, on various occasions, the artist has taken part in artistic ventures outside of her field -- she narrated Kapwani Kiwanga's installation at Glasgow International 'Soft Measures' (2018) as well as Ariella Azoulay's documentary film 'Un-documented: Undoing Imperial Plunder' (2019).

"I have always loved jazz, even when I did not know it was that art form. It offers me so much scope to improvise, Not to mention, it has such a rich history -- every time I listen to Nina Simone and Miles Davis, they never cease to amaze me."

Adding that India reminds her of Kampala, she says, "The markets and commercial spaces are so similar. There is a certain sense of familiarity, just like home."

(Sukant Deepak can be reached at )




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