Interview | The Wonderful World of Carminelitta

Interview: Elom 20ce

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Cover artwork for Indigo


To say it’s been a while would be an understatement. *removes cobwebs* However, instead of revisiting once again the reasons why I haven’t updated this blog in so long, I’ll simply move right along and present an amazing interview. How’s that for a come back?

Here’s the kicker though: it’s in French. Now, while I would encourage anyone willing to learn my beautiful language to give it a try, I know it’s no easy feat and I don’t expect you all to understand it. So, what I will do is offer you a transcript, so that you all know how awesome my guest is. Elom 20ce is a Togolese MC I mentioned on the blog before, and whose music I played on my radio show a few times, but I finally had an opportunity to meet him face-to-face last week, after knowing him and communicating with him online for over a decade (!!). What was so wonderful about this encounter, besides the fact that I could enjoy his live show and the infamous “Marseille by night”, is that it felt super natural, as if we had indeed been friends in real life for all those years. I just love those moments and I’m really grateful to have experienced them several times over the years. Personal notes aside, Elom 20ce was in Marseille for a few days for his live show and some interviews as part of his international “INDIGO tour”, to promote the album of the same name. After kicking off with two festivals in Ghana, the tour stopped in my beautiful city, before continuing in Berlin, Germany (30th September), coming back to France for a show in Paris (1st October), and finally returning to Elom’s hometown of Lomé, Togo (7th and 22nd October), before ending in Dakar, Senegal (12th November). Phew! With all that said, let me now present the actual interview in French below, followed by the transcript. Enjoy!

WWOC: Hello and welcome to this special edition of The Wonderful World of Carminelitta, with an interview, something I haven’t done in quite a while. I have the great pleasure of welcoming Elom 20ce, who is hailing from Togo. Hello and thank you.

Elom 20ce: Hello Carminelitta and thanks to all your followers.

WWOC: Thanks to them indeed. So, I met you for the first time yesterday, after knowing you for about a decade, so I’m really happy to do this interview. To begin with, I have a question about Marseille. It was the first time you had a show here, so tell us how it went and what you think about the city.

Elom 20ce: I’ll start with the end. Marseille is a city I really like, it’s a vibrant city, with a great melting pot so that’s interesting. It was not my first concert in Marseille, I did a quick show 2 years ago, in a small library called Manifesten. And yesterday we did Dar Lamifa, which was even bigger, there were not many people, but we are building things and compared to what we did 2 years ago, the audience was reactive and I’m really happy about that. We hope that when we come back there will be even more people.

WWOC: It’s true that the audience was not really present, but it was a great pleasure to discover you on stage. Speaking of this “INDIGO tour”, you started it in Ghana and there are a few upcoming dates, so could you tell us more about it?

Elom 20ce: The INDIGO tour started in Africa and will end in Africa. We started in Ghana, mainly with two festivals, Nkabom Festival and Chale Wote Festival. Yesterday we were in Marseille, we are still in Marseille, on September 30th we’ll be in Berlin, on October 1st in Paris, and then we’re back in Lomé on October 22nd, finishing in Dakar on November 12th.

WWOC: I will normally be able to see you in Paris on the 1st so I really look forward to that. I will ask more in-depth questions later, but we’ll take a quick musical break for now. I’ll play some of the tracks of the album, my favourites, so we’ll start with “Comme un poison dans l’eau”. Could you tell us a bit about this track?

Elom 20ce: “Comme un poison dans l’eau” is a track dedicated to anyone within the system who is working to make the system collapse. Today there are lots of rappers who chose to talk about things that don’t represent the people, it’s their choice. And then there are others who continue to rap about realities, about things indigenous people can relate to, and for me, these are the “poison in the water”. So it’s a track dedicated to all the outcasts.

WWOC: My next question is about the fact that you’re doing hip-hop from Africa (I have another related question coming later). But I was talking about that with someone recently and he told me he couldn’t really appreciate it because for him it wasn’t the type of hip-hop he was used to listening to, because he’s from Paris. Do you think the way you rap and what you talk about are really different from Parisians for instance?

Elom 20ce: I rap about my reality, I talk mainly about Africa in my lyrics and I think Africa is a continent that is everywhere. There are Africans in Paris, there are Africans everywhere in the world. I talk about the facts of life too, my album deals a lot about death for instance. I don’t think you need to be in Lomé or Conakry to talk about these things. They affect everyone. I think my message can touch people everywhere. Oxmo [Puccino] is on my album, he’s from Paris, there’s Le Bavar, who’s also from Paris, and the track was mixed in Paris. So I think maybe the person didn’t take the time to listen.

WWOC: That was my next question actually. I think your message really is universal and it’s true that there’s the Afro-centric element, because you’re from Togo and you live on that continent, so of course that’s your experience, but as a French person, I can still find things in your music that I can relate to, and I think that’s interesting. So, since you already answered that question, and that you mentioned the featured artists… You talked about Oxmo, Le Bavar, who are really well-known in France and who’ve been doing music for a long time. But there are also other MCs who are much less prominent, from other countries, like Germany, and who are also younger. So, was it important for you to bring together several generations and nationalities on the album?

Elom 20ce: Of course. Look at the name of the album, “INDIGO”, that’s the blending of colours, the seventh colour of the rainbow that is not visible to the naked eye. For me it was important to showcase all those talents that are not well-known. There’s Avénon, Prince Mo, Zalem, Sitou Koudadjé, who are not famous but nonetheless very talented. At the same time, it was important for me, when I talked about “indigo”, i.e. the blending of colours, that there were MCs from all over the world. There’s Sir Okoss from Gabon, Amewu from Germany, BLITZ the AMBASSADOR from Ghana/US. So that was done on purpose, because the album is “INDIGO”, so I needed different colours.

WWOC: You just talked about BLITZ the AMBASSADOR, and for this next track I’ll play “Aveugles, bavards et sourds”, which is also one of my favourites. Could you tell us a bit about it?

Elom 20ce: “Aveugles, bavards et sourds” [Blind, talkative and deaf] because I think Africans do not read history. When I say Africans, I mean mostly African leaders who don’t want to read history. They are blind, talkative and deaf, they talk a lot but they should read history and listen. At the same time, it’s also showing 3 Africans rapping in the language of their former colons: German, French and English. At the same time, it’s as if we couldn’t understand each other, because the languages that were imported, or imposed, became barriers between us when we are supposed to understand each other. So it’s the themes I developed: showing people that our leaders are people who are blind, talkative and deaf, and how important it is for us, even if we adopted or were made to adopt those languages, not to allow them to be hindrances to integration and to use them as tools to build bridges.

WWOC: My next question is about your music videos, which are very interesting, and that’s something I really appreciate because I often see rappers making a music video just so that they can say they have a video on YouTube, and they’re just there in front of the camera doing things that are not original at all. So I already appreciate that, and there’s also a very particular theme. Could you tell us a bit about those videos?

Elom 20ce: Thanks for the compliment. For me, the videos are follow-ups to the tracks. I don’t want to do videos that are like a background to the tracks. The videos are a complement to the tracks, because in a hip-hop track, there’s about 4, 5 or 6 minutes at most, and you have a lot to say. So when a video is released, it must support the track. When I write, I like projecting images in the mind of people and when I create the videos I want to imprint those images in their mind so that they are clear. Also, when I create tracks like “Dead Man Walking”, it’s interesting for me to add exclusives. An exclusive could be an intro that I thought was too long in audio form, to include in the album. So I keep the intro and use it in the video. When you discover the video, you realise there’s an intro that wasn’t on the album. So that makes it even more appealing. For me, images are really powerful and it plays a lot in people’s psyche. So for me creating videos means complementing the tracks I already recorded.

WWOC: I encourage you all to go and watch all the music videos available on YouTube. My last question for today is about the fact that you use a lot of references in your music, to African leaders and others. Among those other famous people, you mention a lot of American Civil Rights activists. I think there really is a connection, which makes me think of Malcom X who said that it was not only a civil rights issue, but also a human rights issue. Do you think it’s important to make people realise that the history of American people is linked to the history of African people and other people around the world?

Elom 20ce: I didn’t really tally the number of Black Americans I mentioned, but I think that it’s because they are more well-known. Because I think if you listen to the album closely, I talk more about African leaders, a lot of people who are not necessarily well-known. There’s a question of reference, which is very important in the rap music I create. It’s important to remind people that in Africa, and more specifically in West Africa, historians are kind of MCs. They are the keepers of memory, they pass on the memory, everything is done orally. So they are the ones who will tell you who your grandfather was, who his father was, etc. They are the keepers of this information. When I rap, it’s important for me to follow in the footsteps of this caste of people, the griots, to refer to men who had a positive influence on our history. There’s an esoteric element to it for me. If we forget the work those people have done, it’s as if we were building a house and starting from the foundation all over again. We have a saying: “it’s at the end of the old rope that you weave the new one”. So when we talk about the States, about the African-American leaders, there’s something to connect with Africa. There’s already an existing link to begin with, but also because these are brothers and sisters who went through extremely complicated things but, for 50 or 100 years, fought to achieve rights, even if these are not really effective. If you think about it, 100 years ago Black people were lynched in Mississippi, even if today they are still shot on the streets. But they organised, and used violence and non violence. You had the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King. From moderates to radicals. They never ceased to renew the organisation to face injustice, and I think Africa could get some inspiration from them and vice versa. When I talk about Cabral for instance, he thought culture was important in the struggle. I think influences go both way. Hip-hop is a culture of protest, of militant action. You can’t talk about militant actions in hip-hop without referencing those who are actually out there and who fought in peril of their lives against injustice. In other words, references are very important.

WWOC: As I was saying that was my last question, I’ll play another track now, which is “Fourmis”. Could you tell us a bit about it?

Elom 20ce: “Fourmis” because ants do not make any noise. I think we are in a world where people like to be seen, taking selfies. At the same time, those who are actually doing the work are not seen, because they don’t have time to take selfies. I would like to be like ants, in the way they are organised, the way they work together, the way the help each other. When ants move, they are in a single line, each one has a specific role, they always touch. I think that’s what humans lack. Being humble and hard-working, unifying others. I think humans do not have those qualities nowadays. On this track, I wanted to invite a European who is like a brother to me, Zalem, as well as Sitou Koudadjé, a guy I’ve been rapping with for over 15 years. For me we are a good “ants” team because a lot of things happen behind the scenes that bring us together and allow us to move forward. “Fourmis” because ants do not make any noise.

WWOC: We are back for a quick conclusion. First of all, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. As I was saying earlier, it was a great pleasure to finally meet you and to see you on stage. So, if you have any last words, do not hesitate. And the last track is gonna be “J’ne pleure pas, ce sont les Oignons…”, which may be my favourite on the album.

Elom 20ce: Thanks for the invitation, it’s a pleasure to meet you in the flesh as well. It’s a pleasure to be in Marseille, because I think it’s a thriving city, where people are welcoming. I really like this city. Go get the album, I think it’s my best project. Go listen and discover it. “J’ne pleure pas ce sont les Oignons…” is a track where we talk about what makes us suffer. What actually makes us suffer: is it the things we create ourselves, or things we have to endure? It’s also about masks people wear: “I’m not crying, it’s the onions…”, as a way to say “I’m not suffering”. I see a lot of people suffering but pretending they’re not crying. This theme was important. And I really wanted to talk about women. I think women in Africa… Before, in ancient societies, women had very important roles and today they are more and more deprecated. I tell the story of a widow. It’s almost a true story, or even a true story. It was important for me to invite Pépé Oleka, who is a Beninese-Nigerian-Togolese singer. It was also important to invite Oxmo Puccino, because we had a lot of conversations about Africa in the summer, during his Blue Note tour when his album “Hipopette Bar” was released. He came to Lomé, we met there, and we talked a lot about the atmosphere in Togo because he was touring several countries. We talked about suffering because he felt the situation was tense in the country. So we thought we would make a track on this topic. It’s also a track where I tell a story. Storytelling is something I’m really interested in for future projects, how to tell stories. I think sometimes the message is easier to understand, since people can relate to it. That’s what’s interesting about this track. It’s a track I really like because musically the African element I wanted to emphasise is perceptible.

WWOC: Thanks a lot. Yeah, was lucky enough to see it live yesterday, and it was also my favourite track from the concert. It was quite impressive. Listen to the track, enjoy, and go get the album!

Now that you know more about Elom 20ce and his music, go get “INDIGO” on his Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below.

Find out more about Elom 20ce on his website, Facebook and Twitter

Interview: Avenging Wind


Cover artwork for Dump Truck Blues

Avenging Wind (formerly known as Fathom 9) is one of the numerous artists I discovered thanks to artist and musical encyclopaedia Gq Tha Teacha, who put me on his Untitled (Pulse Beta) album when it was released back in 2011. I told you about several of his releases since then and played his music regularly on my podcasts. Now, two years after his debut album, Revenge of the Nice Guy, came out, Avenging Wind is back with an amazing sophomore release, entitled Dump Truck Blues: Battle Cry of the Wanderlust. Besides sharing the multi-talented and multi-faceted artist’s taste for long titles, I also admire his music and how he finally decided to explore and share more sides of his artistry with this new album. I am therefore quite proud and happy to present this interview to you. To say it was overdue would be an understatement, but let’s say good things come to those who wait. So, to celebrate the release of DTB and allow you to learn more about Avenging Wind, I asked him a few questions about his creative process, various aliases, performing, the album and much more. I hope you will enjoy reading this interview as much as I did and that you will be curious enough to enter the artist’s universe. Now, without further delay, let me introduce you to Avenging Wind, in his own words…

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Video interview: ArinMaya

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Picture of ArinMaya

Photo by Zoraida Lopez

ArinMaya is an artist whose music I fell in love with as soon as I first heard it several years ago, when I discovered The Sound of ArinMaya. I found this EP quite refreshing and unique, in its eclecticism and spiritual content. I then told you about the beautiful Let The Love Come, her collaborative album with Nick Cassarino, which was yet another confirmation of my appreciation of ArinMaya, as well as Her Imaginings, with producer Theimagination. After listening to her music and discovering her universe through those projects, I was fortunate enough to meet the singer in New York City back in May, during my first trip there. Now, fast forward to last Sunday, when I reconnected with her while she is in London for a week. Between great Thai food, beautiful music at Juno bar for the Got Soul event, a live jazz music set in a pub somewhere in Hackney, interesting encounters and conversations, it was a very good night. It was also great to catch up with Sid Mercutio after so long and playing the musical matchmaker.
I thought I might as well make the most of ArinMaya’s presence in my second home and record an interview with her. We arranged to meet earlier this week and, after enjoying a nice meal in a café in Borough, and being not so politely kicked out asked to leave because they were closing, we had to find a backup plan to record the interview. Brave as we are, we fought the freezing cold and headed to a park nearby. The result is a very interesting interview where ArinMaya tells us about her sound, her European journey so far and upcoming projects. If you notice a little shaking, it’s just because it was really, really cold. Also, you can witness the amazing phenomenon that is the decreasing of light as it’s getting late… The joys of outdoors recordings!

P.S. You can discover more about her fundraiser and contribute via her GoFundMe page. Also, if you want to support her and get amazing jewellery and other hand-crafted objects, head to her shop on Etsy.

Find out more about ArinMaya on Facebook, Twitter & Bandcamp

Interview: Phraim (audio)


Picture of Phraim

Last time I told you about Phraim, when I introduced you to his amazing album entitled Kasbah Moments, I promised you an interview with the talented Chicago-based producer would be coming soon. Well, it looks like soon was a bit longer than expected, but I am really happy and excited to present this interview now. While listening to a project created by an artist is usually a good way to get familiar with them, I always find it quite interesting to actually meet them or at least communicate with them, to understand their universe better. I was fortunate enough to meet Phraim on my first trip to Chicago, among many other talented artists, and I already told you how much I loved Silver Lined and Kasbah Moments, so it is of course a pleasure for me to finally feature the man himself on this blog. In this very interesting interview, the producer-MC-photographer-writer-etc. tells us more about how he got started with music, what other artistic activities he would like to explore, the creation and concept of Kasbah Moments, and much more. As was the case with my audio interview with Phoenix James, I included several tracks in between questions, so that you can discover what beautiful music Phraim can create. I need to thank him for taking some time to answer my questions and I really hope you will enjoy this interview and the music as much as I do. Without further delay, here is Phraim, in his own words…

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Interview: Phoenix James (audio)

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Picture of Phoenix James

The first time I told you about London-based multi-talented artist Phoenix James was back in September 2011 (wow, time really flies! Catch up with my interview with the then budding actor in case you missed it) and I can say a lot of things have happened in his career since then so it was high time I did another interview. Phoenix, who has worn many hats in the past, including that of a spoken word artist, is now focusing on his acting career and more importantly on his new project as a director. Love Freely but PAY for SEX, which was released last month, is a “mockumentary” based around the idea of a new tax on sex imposed by the UK government. I won’t tell you too much more about it, as this is primarily the aim of the interview, but what I can reveal is that it has triggered a lot of commentary and feedback since it was released. During our conversation, Phoenix James talked about what the film is about, creating a lot of controversy, the creation of the whole project and much more. Without further delay, let me introduce you to Love Freely but PAY for SEX

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Interview: Elle Winston

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Picture of Elle Winston

Photo by Jai Hall

After presenting her incredible EP Uncertainty last week, I thought it would be a good idea to do an interview with Elle Winston, so that she can express her thoughts on her music, the album, the topics she chooses to touch upon and more. She kindly agreed to answer my questions and I am really happy to share them with you now. As I told you last time, she is one of the artists I really appreciate and her music never fails to move me. It’s therefore a great pleasure to have a chance to exchange with her and get to know her a little better. In case you haven’t listened to the album and purchased it, I highly recommend you do so now. It is definitely worth your time and money! Now, without further delay, let me introduce you to Elle Winston…

First of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

I am Elle Winston. I’m a singer-songwriter living in Brooklyn, NY. I was born in Indiana, but spent most of my life growing up in Arizona (I miss the sunshine! Haha!). Above all things, I am a sister, a daughter, a friend and a partner. More

Interview: Alexis Davis (audio)


Copy artwork for 3

Alexis Davis is the combination of the wonderful talents of DJs Spinnerty and Simon S, producer Mecca:83 and MC Replife. Having known each other for several years and collaborated on various projects, the four of them decided to create a group and give birth to a common project. Living on both sites of the Atlantic ocean, they prove that music is truly universal and can cross boundaries, physical or metaphorical. While I have not followed those guys since the beginning of their career, I greatly appreciate every single project I have heard from them and it was therefore a great pleasure for me to discover their group and brand-new EP, 3, released via the newly created Expansions Collective. The project is clearly among my favourites for 2012 and I am really happy to have had the opportunity to connect with them and do this audio interview. Thanks to technology, we were able to have a conference call where they told me more about the origins of the group, the creative process behind the 3 EP, the importance of having fun while tackling serious social issues, and much more. This lengthy, in-depth interview is among the best I have ever done and I am really grateful for all of them to have taken some time to sit down and have a chat with me. In case you haven’t picked up the EP yet, I highly recommend you do so. This interview should be enough to convince you anyway.

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Video interview – TastyKeish

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Picture of TastyKeish

I already told you about my recent trip to Berlin with the Nomad•ness Travel Tribe and I am very happy to say I met amazing people there, most of which share interests with me, whether it is writing, music or blogging. Keisha aka TastyKeish is among those like-minded people and it was great to see her again in London. Radio host, event organiser, music and fun lover based in NYC, she is also an avid traveller eager to discover the world. While she was in the English capital for a few days, I took the opportunity to chill with her and have a quick chat on camera. She is a very interesting and inspiring individual and it is therefore a pleasure for me to introduce you to her and her positive energy. In this short interview, she talks about her European tour, art and culture in Berlin, some of her future projects and more. Without further delay, let me present to you TastyKeish, in her own words…

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Video interview: Jesse Boykins III

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Picture of Jesse Boykins III

If you have been following the blog for quite a while, you should know that Jesse Boykins III is an artist that I particularly appreciate. After discovering him around 2008 (catch up with my introduction in case you missed it), I have been following his releases and collaborations with great pleasure. I first saw his live back in 2010, for Writer’s Block 2nd anniversary at Cargo and I was blown away by his performance. As he is in London once again and about to perform here for the fourth time, headlining the Jazz Café tomorrow for Aesthetic Sounds (with Ntjam Rosie opening for him), I got a chance to catch up with him and finally do a video interview. I was very happy about that, as he is a very interesting artist and human being, and I was looking forward to having a chat with him. I have to say my expectations have been reached and even surpassed, as this interview is one of the best I’ve ever done. Jesse Boykins III shares beautiful thoughts here and encourages everyone to live more spiritually and seek love and happiness. In this video, you will learn more about what he thinks and feels about London, headlining the Jazz Café, growth and maturity, The Romantic Movement, as well as many other interesting things. I need to give a big shout out to Sarah Fonteyne, for setting up the interview and inviting Jesse to perform at Aesthetic Sounds for the second time, as well as Jesse himself, for taking the time to sit and talk with me despite jetlag. All I have to say now is enjoy the video and I’ll be sure to enjoy the show tomorrow!

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Video interview: Pumpkin

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Pumpkin is a French female MC I discovered quite recently thanks to producers Supafuh and Teru, who put me on her music and more specifically her previous album, the excellent Ainsi de suite (that I am very happy to own in its vinyl version). As the talented lady was in London for a few days, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet her and do an interview with her. We ended up in a very nice old-school pub in Baker Street, which was the perfect setting for our conversation. In this interview, Pumpkin tells us about how she discovered hip-hop, London, meeting/working with DJ Vadim and Pugs Atomz, as well as previous and upcoming projects, among other interesting things.
Without further delay, let me present to you Pumpkin, in her own words…

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