Music Is A Great Way To Connect With Our Past: David Monnin
“I think it all depends on what you want to express through your art,” says Berlin-based French DJ and producer David Monnin as he explains why the identity of a being has both creative and an anti-creative influence in the process of making art. “You can’t ever completely dissolve your identity. Most of us have grown up within a social and cultural universe that we can’t really escape. Even if you manage to dissolve it for a short moment, it will always come back and leave a mark on your work.”
Tussling between aggravated percussive structures to subliminal elements of London garage and the jagged ascents of experimental electronica, there’s a melange of sounds in his compositions that decimate and distil into the crevices of a sonic decollage. “It’s never an easy thing to describe one’s own sound. I don’t like to put any labels on my music. I prefer to let people decide how they want to call it,” says the artiste who travelled to India recently as a part of BMR – a music residency programme curated by Border Movement in partnership with Goethe-Institut, Musicboard, Ableton and Wild City.
Under the moniker She’s Drunk, David has written music that tailors its identity to shatter the confines of a contemporary aural multiverse. The effortless transition between instinctive framework, guttural melodic canvases and syncopated figures is reflective of his musicality. “I would define She’s Drunk‘s identity as close to my own. It is the manifestation of my feelings, thoughts and emotions. I guess that’s how music is created,” he says.
His songs are borne out of curiosity. There are elements that perpetuate a sense of deconstruction within their structure. They aren’t tethered to reality. There are no layers that mould into forms. Here, everything is an experiment — in sounds, textures and perceptibility. Like an endless collapse of aural boundaries, his compositions coax genres to cross into sonic planes that remain confounded and undefined. At times, they don’t fit. Not in any conventional realm where structures meander through melody and rhythm.
Within obscure layers the artiste achieves a sense of stability by experimenting with strokes and controlling textures that add colour to every beat in ‘Amadoda’ Spitting bars in her native tongue Xitsonga and English is rapper, actress and poet Maya Wegerif commonly known by her stage name Sho Madjozi . Her work primarily revolves around racial discrimination, identity politics and socio-political struggles of minorities. In the melodic fissures where rap and junglism collide with each another, Madjozi stirs up a lyrical storm as David alters the web of rhythms convulsing in every groove. On the other hand, his latest release ‘Subclubsciously’ offers an insight into the schizophrenic realm of broken rhythms and unfinished tales. Here, individual movements share multiple viewpoints while structures collapse into one other as the song unfolds.
“Experimenting is a huge part of my work. Since I never learnt any music theory or music production, I always had to innovate on my own. It’s also been interesting to collaborate with other producers and musicians too because it gives me a different perspective and work flow,” explains the artiste whose music education mainly came from his father who’d listen to records ranging from Nina Simone to Pink Floyd and classical music. Having finished a collaborative EP with Italian producer Nobel which will be released in a few months, David is now currently producing music for different artistes.
He doesn’t have a specific creative process. “The way I work can vary from one day to another depending on how I feel,” he says. Sometimes, he draws inspiration from a surge of positive energy which he then translates into beats and melodies. “I try to let that creativity flow without thinking too much of the outcome. Then, I arrange those ideas and put them together to build something. That’s when I get the best results. Sometimes, I just get inspired by a song I hear and then develop on this idea until it takes shape. The best way for me to reinvent myself is not to have a recipe, and often start from scratch. I would rather let my emotions generate creativity instead of interpreting my emotions through music. For, they are the fuel of my creativity.”
According to him, music opens your mind and helps one see things with a different perspective. “It can also help release suppressed emotions,” he says, “I went through a really hard time, a few years ago. And, as many people do, I repressed all my sadness without really knowing how to deal with it. At some point, I realised that some music had the ability to make me cry. Therefore, I could use it in order to release this sadness inside me. Music is a great way to connect with our past. Everybody has already experienced a song linked to their old memories. It is such an intense feeling when you are able to trigger different senses with a song.”
Not only did the music residency allow David to explore places and musicality that were previously unknown to him but it also led him to research traditional genres of performing arts thriving in the Indian subcontinent. Thereby, discovering a style inspired by numerous faiths and rituals. Breaking existing sociocultural and political barriers imposed by those occupying higher ranks in society, Gaana is the voice of individuals who belong to the lowest order in the social structure: Dalits.
“Gaana shares some similarities with rap music. There are a couple of different uses of Gaana. Some of the songs are sung during death ceremonies and others during festivals. One of the aspects I like about it is that it is very rhythmic. I also heard that in certain types of Gaana, the meaning of the lyrics is not really that important. It is more about the rhythm that the singer uses. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to meet Gaana singers during my trip this time but I will definitely come back some day and make it happen.”
Aside from playing at Magnetic Fields Festival in Alsisar, Rajasthan, he also spent two weeks in Nepal attending Sine Valley Festival where concerts, live jam sessions, workshops and lectures were held in different venues across the city. He even shared a home with artistes playing at the festival. “It has been extremely fulfilling to meet, learn and play music with musicians coming from different backgrounds. In the two weeks that we spent together, we built a strong connection with each other,” said the artiste.
In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, David crossed paths with musicians who composed songs for religious purposes which were usually performed in temples or funeral ceremonies. There, they honour their dead and divine through music. At first, he felt lost. For, they used complex rhythmic patterns in comparison with what David was accustomed to. His music was mainly based on a 4/4 time signature, he says, whereas they used ancient musical meters known as talas that work on 3/4 time signature. “In the beginning, it seemed a little confusing. However, over time, we found a way to adapt to each other’s needs,” he explained and further added that he also spent some time in Colombo where he held a workshop on music production at the Goethe-Institut.
David’s collaboration with Tritha Sinha in New Delhi led to numerous discussions that brought together both the artistes to talk about subjects that she could explore and delve deeper into for their compositions. “It was a very interesting process to see that we had common ideas for lyrics even though we come from two very different music universes,” explains David, “Meeting and sharing music with all these artistes have been highly inspiring for me. It has taught me a lot about music theory and about the fascinating relationship between music and religion in India. I’m currently trying to figure out how I can put all these collaborations and recordings together. It will not be an easy task, and it will take time. But I am excited…”
Written by Akshatha Shetty
Images courtesy of She’s Drunk