LaBelle: I wonder if you could say something about what led you to Africa,
what was this motivation or impulse, to go there?
Alessandro Bosetti: Eventually I realized how I could have carried out
this project everywhere. At the time I was thinking of Marcel Griault’s
“Dieu D’Eau” and that I would have liked to make a parody
of it. I landed in Dogon land, Mali. Dogon are controversial,
they already re-negotiated their identity with modernity and the western
voyeurism. The interaction was interesting but "dirty". A
lot of crossed feedbacks, expectations. They tried to figure out what
I wanted to hear. I also moved a little aside and went to Mossi
land in Burkina Faso. There things went very differently. I could have
done the same around Berlin since I was living there at the time
and call it “Brandenburg Feedback or “Lombardy Feedback”
in my Italian hometown Milan. Sometimes it’s enough to walk to the
next block to be “outside”, out of the “western paradigm”.
It took a little while to understand that.
What is so wonderful about the project are these differences that surface
in your dialogues with the people you meet during your travels, and how
all of these differences exist or are brought forward through the question
of music. I was curious if you feel these dialogues have changed or effected
your sense about music, and its place in society?
A: Absolutely. Many anthropologists believe that you can understand a
feature of your culture just if you have been experiencing how that same
feature or a comparable one is dealt with in another culture. This applies
perfectly to this project. I tested myself as a musician in another context
and realized how many things we just believe to be universal about music
simply do not work once you step out of your context. This may sound banal.
I could have felt book smart about it after reading a multitude of essays
on globalization and multicultural world.
But experiencing it directly is different. Having somebody in front of
you that don’t even recognize as music the output of your work as
a musician could be shocking. It influenced the way African Feedback was
composed and all my work after that since my aesthetical beliefs had been
deeply challenged. Mostly in subterranean ways which are difficult to
describe verbally or consciously understand. Music in Africa is
a collective experience, individual judgment is very rare. Also the body
is extremely present. In many African languages there's just one word
for both "music" and "dance". It wasn't much about
that though. It was more the way music is for me or for "us"
- as broad that "us" could be -. The project it's some kind
of a big mirror eventually becoming a mask. Does it makes sense to you
? Masks are fun to wear.
B: You've spoken about the notion of mishearing, and the slips of the
tongue. Can you say more about what this opens up for you, or what you
feel it reveals?
A: I like to listen to languages I don't understand. I don’t know
why. It’s like that. Im curious. Maybe It's because I’ve never
been seriously threatened by the unknown. I’ve been lucky enough
to grow up in a safe environment and to develop curiosity. One of the
most precious and luxurious gifts that have been given too me.
My father is a traveller, he travelled almost to every country of the
world and since I was a child I was used to get stories, images and objects
coming form very far away universes. Thinking about it right now I realized
that the sound and the voice were something missing in that experience.
Years later I had the chance to hear how a real foreign language sounded
by the voices of people using it and this has never lost it’s magic
to me. The fact that you don't understand it now but you could potentially
understand it later gives a powerful feeling.
It applies to many things. The first time I listened to John Coltrane's
ascension for example. Sounded like a mess to me. Eventually it
started to make sense to my ears. It still does. I remember
the shift in perception. How it felt before and after. It's a powerful
I’m quite a traveler myself. I've been living in Germany for some
years. I live now in the United States and just in the past year I've
been traveling and residing for long periods in many places such as Italy,
Mali, The Netherlands, China, Japan, Taiwan, France, Sweden... I'm often
overexposed to cultural difference. This is not just by chance. There’s
something in my character that makes me be that way. It’s not escaping
– or at least, there’s much beyond that factor -. I’m
glad to be that way because it’s one of the few thing of my life
where I feel I going along with the “trend”. The world is
melting, in a very discontinuous way and nobody seems to know how to cope
As far as I am concerned in guessing I think there are two approaches
in trying to survive:
A - an all embracing, positive persuasion that general agreement and comprehension
B - the acceptance that cultural horizons are fragmented and, even if
the main predicates of humanity are the same for all, we may not be able
to understand each other. At least for now. Even if I feel motivated to
share my life with people from different or very different cultural backgrounds
(I think it's becoming unavoidable in our world), I feel more comfortable
with the second option.
That's kind of an answer I guess.