A common passion for the diasporic reverberation of African music and culture is what pushed Huilly Huile and Philippe Néméh-Nombré to start Échantillons on n10.as webradio. Their show highlights current musical waves coming in from the Continent, as well as recontextualising the impacts of the genre’s historical progressions.
For this mix, Huilly Huile pulled some of his favorite African electronic music and aimed at the dancefloor, striking a balance between hype and discovery. It’s a beautiful blend of tracks by musicians and producers he’s befriended in Nairobi, mixed in with afro-edits and lesser known regional classics.
How did Échantillons start?
J: I think it started with conversations about african aesthetics in music. And anti-colonialism. We wanted to turn those conversations into something productive. Because before that, we were hearing more and more Afro, Caribbean & Afrolatin music in the clubs… but no one was dedicated to contextualizing the stuff.
P: Or at least very few people were doing it in the scene we’re in, whether in promoting afro-focused parties or even just using specific and very distinct traditional sounds, sampled instruments and vocals in edits or mixes, you know.
What’s the mandate/mission of your project?
P: I would say Échantillons is open-ended and hard to define. A tool, maybe? An experiment? I don’t know. There’s a show we did almost a year ago that’s pretty representative of what we want to do I think. We went from playing hyped-up Kologo jams, to discussing a tragic death that happened that week as yet another example of state-sanctioned violence towards black lives. In the same show, we called out an all-white line-up opening for Awesome Tapes From Africa performing in Montreal.
J: Yeah. In one hour, we probably introduced traditional Ghanaian music to a few people, we drew attention (again) to anti-black racism, and to the important work of antiracist activists in Montreal. And that call-out actually led the organizers to change the absurd bill of openers for a more representative line-up.
P: So yeah, we try to curate panafrican and diasporic black music, and disrupt the way we listen to it and experience it in white settler societies.
How is your work trying to draw a different kind of attention to pan-african and diasporic black aesthetics and cultures?
J: Phil and I are both diaspora peoples. His parents are Burkinabe & Egyptian, my father’s side of the family hails from Rwanda. I think it’s important to us to contextualize african aesthetics, because so many of the cultures and histories have been silenced or denied. Naming the artists & labels, diving into the traditions & politics of the music is a way for us to engage with these cultures in a way that’s meaningful to us.
P: I’m happy to see Djs spin rare Afro-groove, or hiphop finally being recognized in Quebec. Really, I am… But I think it’s still the same fucked up pattern that we see over and over again: African and Black cultures considered as commodity and product.
It’s nothing new, but I feel like it’s becoming more and more subtle, thanks to “colour blindness” and other such bullshit. Even with good intentions, we risk erasing precisely what makes these cultural expressions a necessity – especially when we suppress everything but their entertainment and market value for consumption by non-black/non-POC folks or consumption without black / POC folks. So don’t get me wrong, of course I am not trying to reduce music to politics. But I think it’s seriously damaging to strip panafrican and black diasporic sounds from their political, social, healing and liberating potentials. So yeah, I think part of what we’re trying to do with Échantillons is to help bridge this gap. But we also joke around and poke fun at each other!
Do you see yourselves as radio hosts, podcasters or DJ’s?
P: I’m more of a “selector”, and I need to think and imagine through music. You can catch me behind the decks sometimes, to drop a few tracks, but Justin’s the DJ around here. Like, I keep a USB on me at all times, but that’s it! Oh, and what’s the difference between a radio host and a podcaster again?
J: A podcaster just shoots the shit with whoever she/he invites. The audience tunes in ‘cause they like their curation or their take on things. A radio host will present tracks or news in a more formal way, I think. We try to do both. Phil’s an academic, so he always brings a strong critical lens to the stuff we talk about. But I think we’re starting to rub off on eachother. His DJ game definitely leveled up, and I like to think that I’m more articulate than when we started the show…?
Why do you guys feel this kind of work is necessary/useful in Montreal?
P: One of the specific things about Montreal, Quebec and Canada that makes this kind of work useful but also difficult, is that it contradicts the ways this society sees itself. People really see Canada as a safe haven and Montreal as a culturally diverse, open-minded and welcoming city…So it’s hard to directly address the ugly past and ongoing, growing racism and colonialism here. Échantillons is a space where we feel comfortable addressing these things.
J: Yeah, whether it’s the two of us, or with other Montrealers. We’ve had K-Iri, Julien Stout, Melissa Gaju Fundira & DJ Empress join us on the show and it’s become a positive platform I think.
Justin, you’ll be in East Africa during the next few months. What are your plans? Phil, what are you up to these days?Any clues on the futures of Échantillons?
P: I’m working on a few projects that bring together my academic research (on Indigenous-Black relations, and cultural expression as politics) with what we do on Échantillons.
J: I’ll be in Nairobi and Kampala for the next three months with the Femme Electronic DJ’s, an all female DJ collective. I became friends with a few of them last year, and I had to go back…‘Cause they dope. And they aim to put the East African sound on the map. So look out for that. And…What else can I plug here?
P: Palma Disco.
J: Oh yeah, in Montreal, we’ve got a night called Palma Disco, it’s a Pan-African ting we do at Club Pelicano. We DJ there every second saturday with our homie DJ Empress, and sometimes we have guests join us. Dancehall, Afrobeat, Afropop, Afrohouse.
- Labdi Ommes – Not Searching (Prod. @abstrakt_ginino) @labdiommes
- Brenda Fassie – Qula
- C.K. Jazz Band – Rapar Wuon Osimbo (Jaakko Eino Kalevi edit)
- Oumou Sangare – Ah Ndiya (K&F Edit)
- Sam & Yacouba – Kiradodora
- Mugwisa International Xylophone Group – Jinja Pearls (SJ Construct) @santuri-safari
- Kakai Kilonzo – Mama Sofi (Umoja edit)
- Untshebe – Amanga Abelungu
- Kabaka – LAdieu (BNJ Vinyl Edit)
- Cervo – Banku
- Esa – Rift Valley (Ft. Abakisimba) @abakisimbatroupe10
- Unknown – Habaia
- Chateau Flight – Kolingo (Love) ft. Diblo Dibala
- Gigi – Tew Maneh
- Dj Rachael & Kastimo – Conga Jinka ft. Mama C (Scraych Mix) @djRachael4Raynsom
Interviewed by DJ Asma