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Freedom Dreams, Riotous Sounds and AI: NBHAP Newsletter #03

Hey there. Welcome to NBHAP’s newsletter. We are glad you’re here. Sit down, put on your headphones, drink a glass of water, and take a moment to browse through the music and stories we encountered this month.

It's been a little quiet over here the last month. Because our team has been busy working on their jobs to sustain their living, the newsletter has been paused for the month of June. Luckily, we were still able to publish interesting interviews with amazing artists during that time. Here is a recap of the past two months walking you through the essential articles and features on NBHAP (Opens in a new window).

Currently playing: Roufaida "Don't Bend"

It is raining in Berlin again. After almost six years of living in the city, I am still not used to what Berliners call summer. Either rainy or unbearably hot, there seems to be no appropriate dress for the temperature. The mild downpour this afternoon fits the mood as Roufaida (Opens in a new window) sings "I take what I need, I leave what I don't". The song is part of the Rotterdam-based Moroccan singer's self-titled debut EP and beautifully blends lyrics in Arabic and English. Give it a spin below and stay dry and cool! (Opens in a new window)

Musical Manifestos and Riotous Sounds

June and July were months marked by conversations about change-making, empowerment, and confronting injustices. In our conversation, Sanni Est talked about her 2022 transmedia record "Photophobia (Opens in a new window)". It is a manifesto, a rejection of euro-centric aesthetics, etymological research and an artistic movement. Drawing on the roots of the Mangue Beat Movement in Brazil, Sanni Est (Opens in a new window) explores the transness of her voice and steps out of colonial constructs of gender. The charming singer talks about her wish to work and make music in a decolonial manner and the way the Western-centric industry makes it extremely hard to do that. In the end, "Photophobia" is a re-appropriation of classical European music education and a transformative multi-genre work of an artist who speaks with her authentic voice.

“What is expected of the trans body? What is expected of the trans femme body? How can I decolonize my music when I still feel like I have to be a cis woman? I took my time to find new aesthetics. It was very confrontational but now I feel invincible. It does not threaten my identity anymore.” - Sanni Est (Opens in a new window)

Authenticity and the unapologetic expression of identity are the focus of the conversation NBHAP author Giulia Leonarduzzi had with the UK-based singer Grace Carter (Opens in a new window). After commercial success at a young age, the singer had to take time away from the industry to rid herself from the pressures and expectations that were projected onto her. She may still be a little lost, but she is also a little found as her new release "A Little Lost, A Little Found (Opens in a new window)" hints. A pop record at its core, the thematic focus of the record is the artist's journey to authenticity as well as the confrontation of injustices and discrimination on songs like "Riot". Exploring the riotous potential of music and multi-lingual feminist rap, author Sophie Romy spoke to the Catalonian rapper Santa Salut (Opens in a new window) about her political and personal lyricism.

I was in a weird limbo, I did not know who I was anymore. I kept asking myself, ‘How do I connect with people when the way I connect to people is music?’”

- Grace Carter (Opens in a new window)

When a peaceful protest turns violent, it is often called a riot. But how can you not riot when any other form of protest against injustice goes without inciting change? Music can be a vehicle for political thought and an instrument for organizing and activism. The poet aja monet (Opens in a new window) knows that. On her debut "When the Poems Do What They Do (Opens in a new window)", she underpins her powerful spoken-word recitals with jazz arrangements. A self-described surrealist blues poet, the artist gives detailed answers in our Q&A about topics like the intersection of jazz, ancestry and social movements, joy as resistance, and freedom dreaming.

"When I’m at my best, I’m a vessel and in service to something far greater than me. I have a lineage in flesh and in spirit and everything is in homage to that. I will always pay my respects because I could not do anything I’m doing without their blessing." - aja monet (Opens in a new window)

Have you met...?

The up-and-coming, the hot new shit. In June and July, we highlighted five amazing new acts on our introducing radar. In early June, we met Sera Kalo (Opens in a new window) for an extended interview in Berlin to talk about their latest genre-fluid record "eXante" (Opens in a new window) and its impressive visuals. The Other End (Opens in a new window) took us to indie rock terrain with their debut that has been five years in the making. Worth the wait, as NBHAP author Norman Fleischer notes. Together with Miss Grit (Opens in a new window), we explored the futuristic electro sound of their debut "Follow the Cyborg" (Opens in a new window). The New Yorker musician behind the project, Margaret Sohn, produced and recorded the album in their home studio and showcases a broad musical range from synthy alt-rock to new wave and electronica.

NBHAP's Giulia Leonarduzzi got to know alternative rock singer Lore Vain (Opens in a new window) on a stroll through Berlin and learned that "rockstars are born (in the outskirts of Marburg)". Lore just released her new record "Agony the Muse (Opens in a new window)" and shared some of her favorite indie acts with us. Currently on "Introducing" rotation is the Cameroonian singer Cindy Pooch (Opens in a new window). Exploring polyphony and electronic sound, the artist released her impressive debut "Issemou" (Opens in a new window). Liv Toerkell asked Cindy some questions about connecting to the body through music and the power of polyphonic songs.

“[T]his music bears witness to my need to reconnect with myself through my body. The album is called ‘In Nomine Corpus’ after a song that I wrote and it is a scream for freedom to feel, to desire, to vibrate.” - Cindy Pooch

Tune into the current version of our Introducing (Opens in a new window) playlist below and follow it to not miss out on our weekly updates. Gain exclusive access to our archive of over thirty "Introducing" playlists by signing up for our monthly or yearly Support Plan (Opens in a new window). (Opens in a new window) (Opens in a new window)

Creative Uses of AI in Music

Another one of the burning questions at the moment: Will Artificial Intelligence replace humans in the creative process? Anna Grubauer spoke to the boundary-breaking artist Portrait XO (Opens in a new window) about her approach to using AI in the writing and recording process of music:

"AI can be a source of inspiration by providing feedback when you feed it your audio files. Or it can be useful in speeding up the production process, helping with aspects that artists feel they have less skill or desire to do entirely on their own. Portrait XO, for example, finds it helpful to use AI in the songwriting process but rather does the music production part herself. Or imagine a world where newcomers don’t have to pay for mixing and mastering, but can run their tracks through an AI tool to generate a profound result.

However, there is no point in denying the disruptive power of AI in every aspect of life. More and more activists are pointing out the problematic prejudices and distortions of algorithms. This has to do not only with the general lack of diversity among programmers but also with biased data sets. So it is important to emphasize that AI is always a reflection of society and its power dynamics. That is why Portrait XO encourages ongoing discussions and engagement with the topic, emphasizing the need to address the potential benefits and concerns associated with AI, within and outside of the creative realm."

“Technology is not replacing creativity. It’s creating new ones. You know, it’s a curatorial role that we’re taking on. And maybe everyone’s also gonna become a bit more multi-disciplinary and [AI will] help them do a full-blown A to B project all on their own.“ - Portrait XO

Click here (Opens in a new window) to continue reading the interview.

Listen Closely: Oliva Dean's "Messy"

There were so many exciting records released this month. Too many to keep up with every single one. Some favorites by the NBHAP staff (Opens in a new window) include Callum Pitt (Opens in a new window), Hak Baker (Opens in a new window), Sivu (Opens in a new window), Ava Rocha (Opens in a new window), Enji (Opens in a new window), Annie Taylor (Opens in a new window) and Olivia Dean's debut "Messy (Opens in a new window)", which Felicia Aghaye describes as:

… a warm embrace between loved ones.  

"Rarely are expectations set as high for a debut album as was the case for Olivia Dean (Opens in a new window)’s "Messy". And even rarer are those expectations just as easily met, if not surpassed. On "Messy", Dean shares wholesome memories of her family, but also the worries and sorrows of growing up and apart, all packed up in a suave mix of Brit soul, danceable groove tracks and beautifully vulnerable ballades.

2022 has been a busy year for the London singer. After a year of playing festivals and being on tour, Dean used these opportunities to peak some new material here and there, with "Dive" being a showstopping number that made me all the more curious about what Olivia Dean had in store for us. Now, the time has finally come to enjoy her debut in its full glory. We step from one groovy track to another, from laid-back serenades to more intimate songs. Dean reminisces about the changing relationship we have with family and friends, but also ourselves. The album title "Messy" encapsulates the emotionality of this journey beautifully.

An absolute stand-out, to me, is the concluding track "Carmen". Olivia Dean dedicated the album to her grandmother Carmen and in this song, describes the brave decision of the matriarch to leave her home country Guyana at just 18 years old and start a new life and family in the UK. The song feels like a heartfelt, warm embrace between generations, without being cheesy, or overstating the immense gratitude and love Dean evidently harbours for her grandmother. It’s danceable, soulful, and just so, so good." (Review by Felicia Aghaye) (Opens in a new window)

Favorite Lyric

“Joy is together
It’s together unified on the frontlines
Our joy, our joy will astonish the world
Because joy, true joy has always been
And will always be
aja monet "black joy" (Opens in a new window)

Berlin Focus / Events

In early September, the Berliner festival Pop Kultur (Opens in a new window) will take place once again at the local spot Kultur Brauerei. Showcasing a diverse line-up of artists and performers, the festival makes a mark by curating exciting and critical panel talks, commissioning work by multi-media artists like Anika (Opens in a new window), and collectives like A Song For You (Opens in a new window), their program of residencies across the globe allowing artistic exchange. Join us (Opens in a new window) at the festival to see the final projects by NBHAP favorites like Aka Kelzz (Opens in a new window), Rasha Nahas (Opens in a new window), and Sophia Blenda (Opens in a new window).

On the 20th of August, the Berliner label Alvozay (Opens in a new window) (founded in 2020 by the rapper Ebow and DJ Tmnit Ghide) celebrates its first festival. At Festsaal Kreuzberg, the line-up highlights queer-feminist and BIPoC artists from Berlin and beyond. Get your tickets here (Opens in a new window) to see artists like Douniah, Ilgen Nur, Nalan (Opens in a new window), The Rafiki Collective, and others. (Opens in a new window)

What's Next?

August has traditionally been our month of summer break, so we will be posting less content on our website and Instagram account. However, before signing off, we published Anna Grubauer's investigative piece on the future of festivals. What can we expect from festivals in a socio-political sense? What challenges are there for festivals in regard to financing and curating inclusive and diverse line-ups? You can read what Anna found out in her conversations with the booking and organizational team of MS Dockville, Maifeld Derby and MELT right here (Opens in a new window).

“We definitely see ourselves as a place to bring together people who have an interest and passion for music and art, and to provide a stage for artists to get in touch with those same people and spread their social or political messages,” Beke Trojan from MS Dockville says.

Stay tuned for our personal guide for the Pop Kultur festival going live in mid-August. In September, we will return reenergized and introduce you to exciting new acts.

On That Note

Before you go on with your day, here is one more song to give a spin right now. "On/Off" has been released as part of the new record "Nektar (Opens in a new window)" by renowned Brazilian singer and performer Ava Rocha and is an interesting sonic experiment blending rhythmic percussion with electronic beats. (Opens in a new window)

Follow our Daily Tune playlist (Opens in a new window) to receive new music daily. (Opens in a new window)

Our NBHAP playlists are currently still curated on Spotify only. While we are working on changing this, we encourage you to consider alternatives like Tidal (Opens in a new window) for a fairer compensation of artists you love, or go old school and support them by buying merch and vinyl. Remember that the best day to make your purchases is Bandcamp Friday (Opens in a new window), where 100% of the proceeds go to the artists. Head over to Bandcamp to make your purchases today (August 4th).

If you enjoy reading this newsletter and our content on NBHAP, you can make a financial contribution (Opens in a new window) to keep the project going or become a member (Opens in a new window) to support us on a regular basis.

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Thank you for reading and listening.

Love, NBHAP Team

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