I had the opportunity of interviewing Pauline Oliveros and Halim El-Dabh while attending Unyazi, Africa’s ‘first electronic music festival’, back in 2005.
Pauline and Halim generously granted me an interview, the recording of which was unfortunately plagued by wind noise and barely listenable as a result. The file has been sitting on various hard discs through the years and I’ve long meant to transcribe it. Now, fifteen years later, with the possibilities provided by modern software, I’ve finally had a go at cleaning it up – to the extent that I can.
Pauline and Halim clearly enjoyed each other’s company and, against the background of the festival, discuss African knowledge and culture, the importance of the body in their work, the power of sound as a means of transformation and healing, dream states, (personal) histories, instruments, the environment, and sensing peoples’ vibrations.
- 00:06: Africa – Objects, Philosophy and Way of Life
- 01:34: Knowledge by Way of the Body
- 02:31: Sound and Healing
- 05:18: Pauline’s History
- 07:09: Sonic Meditations
- 08:25: Sound as a Tool of Transformation
- 11:25: African Art
- 12:23: Rituals, Opening Up
- 13:39: History
- 15:58: History and Healing
- 17:32: George Lewis
- 18:33: Institutions
- 19:23: The Western Canon
- 21:58: Halim’s Background
- 23:44: Pauline’s Beginnings
- 24:39: Accordions, Sho
- 26:17: Wire Recorders
- 26:34: Music and Architecture / Open Spaces
- 30:12: Tunings
- 32:09: Environmental Sound
- 34:34: Photographs, Aural Snapshots
- 35:47: Vibrations
If you’d like to listen to the interview in your podcast player of choice, a set of links can be found on huffduffer.
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Regarding Unyazi, I recently came across George Lewis’ wonderful Recharging Unyazi 2005 article on HERRI, a South African online “soundmine of narratives, mythologies, ideologies, statements, ambiguities and ideas just waiting to be excavated”. The article includes videos of both Pauline and Halim’s lectures and performances as well as Arjan Kaganoff’s Unyazi of the Bushveld documentary.
Volume 4 of HERRI also includes Michael Khoury’s A Look at Lightning – The Life and Compositions of Halim el-Dabh, an extensive overview of his life and music, again with many musical examples.
From another angle, here’s Charles Cohen’s take on the importance of Pauline’s ‘deep listening’ practice as an approach to creating music, and the healing effect of knowing that you have been heard: youtu.be/viwAEsSvac4?t=372.
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Don’t Look Back Records invited me to make a mixtape .
A little over thirteen years ago, in a sunny final week …