Tunisia: desert winds blow on Azu Tiwaline’s work
The musician has found a new sound in the silence and space of the Tunisian region of el-Djerid, resulting in an “organic, minimal and natural” album.
From the initial darkness, the camera begins to move over a dry, desolate landscape, the sound of a heartbeat in the center of a howling wind. Dancer Mellina Boubetra appears as the bass of a throbbing gong joins her. Synths unfurl and delicate bells scrape the surface of the song, which has a calm but eerie tension.
Boubetra makes small movements, rolls his hands, arms and shoulders, moves his feet, bends his knees. As the song builds, its movements become more expressive. Boubetra’s choreography and camera work reflects the change in tempo as the song reaches its powerful end.
It’s clear that when it comes to Draw Me a Silence, Azu Tiwaline – Tunisian artist Donia’s new nickname, which translates to “the eyes of the wind” – has saved the best of the past two years for the end. And Eyes of the Wind, with Boubetra, is the closing song of the long version of the album.
Tiwaline has released Draw Me a Silence Part. I on IOT Records in March 2020, with Draw Me a Silence Part. II following in May of that year. She released three remixes in March this year by Don’t DJ from Berlin, Laksa from London and Flore from Lyon, and an expanded version of Draw Me a Silence a month later, with the previously unreleased bonus track Eyes of the Wind.
Boubetra’s solitary act of communion with the sparse landscape and the use of the wind as a sound element successfully transmits the heart of Draw Me to Silence. Born in Paris to a Tunisian Berber mother and a Cambodian father, Donia grew up in Côte d’Ivoire before returning to France at the age of 14 to escape the country’s civil war. She has since lived in China, India, Senegal, Mongolia and Reunion. She says she loves “the unknown”.
Silence and space
Donia became the owner of a small estate in the el-Djerid region of southern Tunisia five years ago, when her mother passed away and left her in charge.
“Sometimes you plan things in your life,” says Donia. “Sometimes it’s life that imposes deep and hard changes on you. When my mother passed away, she left me a beautiful paradise in the Sahara. A place that I have loved so much for so many years. J I had to decide to leave everything and go there to take care of it. At the same time, there were also personal interior changes in my life.
This resulted in a new nickname and a new album deeply influenced by the open space and silence of the desert which she calls her new home.
“The greatest gift the desert can give you is to teach you how pure space and stillness is,” she says. “In the nothingness there is the beauty of the infinite. In the silence you can hear the most beautiful notes. As soon as I produced music there, everything became softer, organic, minimal, The nature around is so peaceful, full of light and deep waves, silence and space.
“It was time to enter a new cycle. A few months later, this new Azu Tiwaline identity was born.”
Donia’s musical beginnings date back to the late 1990s in Paris, where she began releasing techno music under the name Loan.
“These were the years of a crazy youth,” she says. “Baby by the first raves in Europe. At that time I was not even 20 years old. The music I was making was quite hard, rhythmic and very energetic. Like me, I guess.” She says that this period educated her and gave her the conviction to pursue the life of an artist.
Donia has created a wide range of electronic dance music, from techno to two-step and breakbeat to dubstep. “The only common point for me for all these years is this repetitive use of drums, percussions, through powerful dub effects.” She says her love of dub music knows no bounds and that is her “greatest influence”, especially the “mystical and spiritual” nature of music.
“We just lost Lee Scratch Perry,” she said. “For me he was such an inspiration, a true genius with an incredible vision. What he brought to electronic and dance music is just amazing.”
Listening to Draw Me a Silence and it’s clear Donia is a passionate student of not only Perry but also experimental dub luminaries like Adrian Sherwood and Bill Laswell, and the impact these inventive minds have had on electronic music. , especially techno.
“To unite the links that unite Berber music, dub culture and techno hypnosis,” explains Tiwaline’s Bandcamp page. As a sound bite, it gives the reader a feel for the music, but Donia’s new album defies easy categorization.
Organ Dub Warriors begins as a field recording, which is overrun with throbbing synths and ends with a monstrous dub production brought to life by fierce percussion, while Luz Azul begins with a simple percussion, transforms into a lively dub production. with a throbbing bass and ends as an incredibly smooth and subtle techno melody, with what sounds like the ghost of a traditional horn humming mournfully in the background.
“I try to tell stories, to draw sound paintings,” she says. “I don’t feel comfortable with the opening melodies because your attention is too focused on them. I like working on the atmospheres, the background, the fine sound changes of scenery. It feeds your imagination, then you can. start traveling without moving. “
Draw Me a Silence has qualities reminiscent of other styles of music. Berbeka’s melody sounds like it’s straight from Detroit’s first techno wave while deep dub Yenna sounds like something that could’ve been released on the Cosmic Bridge label run by breakbeat legend Om Unit. However, the set that these traffic signs fit into is unique.
Chase the trance
Donia says that the stambeli music, a “music-therapeutic rite of possession” of el-Djerid, had a major influence on the album. “It mixes music, dance and song during which some participants go into a trance and embody supernatural entities. In Morocco, it is called ‘gnawa’, in Algeria ‘diwan’. I have always been fascinated by uplifting music and rituals. I attended several in Ivory Coast when I was young and since that time, I’ve been trying to understand how music could be medicine.
“During my childhood in Ivory Coast, I listened to a lot of traditional percussion ensembles. I was first in African dances and then I started to learn djembe.”
Her drum lessons didn’t last after her family fled to France, but Donia quickly discovered her first drum machine, a Roland R-8 MKII. “It was the start of a new neighborhood, but with the same roots. I never studied traditional African rhythms properly, but I listen a lot, I try to understand the structures.”
“When I started to compose my album Draw Me a Silence, it was obvious to me that I had to use typical instruments and rhythms. The music reflects my own state but also the environment in which I am, this which influences me a lot. ” she says.
Donia says she “felt like a superheroine” the day she shot the clip for Eyes of the Wind. “So before I went to sleep, I was thinking about this new EP that I had just finished. I was like, ‘What label could be the perfect dream for me to release this?’ Livity Sound was my first idea because it’s one of my favorite labels. “
The parallels between Tiwaline’s music and Livity are clear. Draw Me a Silence’s Red Viper is a double of something that could have been released on the Bristol-based label. “I dared to send a demo to Peverelist,” she says, referring to the artist who runs the label. “The next day I got an answer.
Livity released Tiwaline’s EP Magnetic Service in July 2020. The label and its artists, including Pinch, Hodge, Kotown, Batu and Peverelist, have been at the forefront of the meeting between techno culture and the sound system since the beginning of the label in 2011 and Donia says the connection has helped her connect with fantastic people around the world. On the title track of Magnetic Service EP, she collaborates with Parisian sound artist Cinna Peyghamy, who plays the manipulated tombak, an Iranian percussion instrument.
The results are spectacular and suggest that Draw Me a Silence is just the beginning for Tiwaline, whose rebirth in the deserts of el-Djerid is something the world should celebrate.