For the prelude to this interview click here.
Firstly, for the people: Who is Barrio, what do you do and why do you do it?
I am Barrio. I am 30. I don’t consider myself as a musician, experimentalist is the right word. Most of the time I produce rap beats; groovy madness. I make music with passion as my first motivation, I make beats for those rare torch holders who believe rap isn’t just a cold BPM affair. For those who seek musical rawness, inspiring and relevant spiritual food for the soul.
Where are you originally from and where are you based?
I was born in Cuba and spent 10 years on the island. I moved to France in 1994. I actually live in Angers, West-France. An amazing place that offers great French wines!
Ah, since you mention wine. What would your choice for dinner be?
Angers offers smooth wines, everything that comes from “Les Pays de Loire” is smooth, typical wines for summer or sunny days.
I am a Bordeaux wine lover; stronger taste, spicy wines. But I guess it’s all about grape varieties. Grapes will define and reveal each meal, for dinner… blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes from southern France are my late delicious weakness. But, as a Bordeaux fan I’d say “Haut de Poujeaux” with blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, is a wise choice for dinners and evening buffets.
If you could describe the French music scene in one sentence, what would that be?
Monkey see, monkey do.
Are there specific areas/hotspots that people go to hear specific genres? Would you say the French are quite eclectic or is there a specific sound that the majority listen to?
Paris is the main spot, yes. Froggies (The French) aren’t really eclectic in my opinion, for the most part I think. They need defined genres maybe. In France, once you go experimental, you can loose yourself in a musical mist.
Trap music is the main genre right now in France, at least concerning Hip Hop culture.
What are the differences that you have experienced between living in Cuba and living in France?
The Cuban are much much louder than the French. Everything is different. Those are two different cultures. Mentally, musically, socially. It may sound strange, but Cuba has a lot in common with the United States. France mocked the US culture for years, but always loved the Cuban struggle and charm. Strange. I love France and it’s contradictions. This country is a nice place, the people aren’t that rude here.
Can we talk about ‘Osain (Koriko)/Takua’, this was the first track of yours that I heard and I was extremely intrigued by the fusion of the chants of Santería. I noticed you have a few tracks which pertain to this religion/culture. What inspired your creative process when producing these and where does the Afro-Cuban influence stem from?
Osain (Koriko) / Takua is based on Nigerian Highlife samples first of all. It’s the first experiment off a 4 track EP I made last year, called “OSHA – Lucumi Obariate”. (Obariate is the highest rank for a priest in the Lucumi practice: half Catholic, half Yoruba) It’s a religious tribute. Before “Osha – Lucumi Obariate” I made another 4 track EP named “IFA – Akere Finusogbon” (IFA – The small one with a great heart).
Nigeria is the motherland of the Yoruba religion which is the most practiced in Cuba. I grew up in it. My native country is sometimes called the “echo of Africa”. Many West-African slaves were transported there in the past. We actually have a lot in common (even food!) with Nigeria, Congo, Angola, Benin, Cameroon. West-Africa!
My family has always been involved in the Yoruba tradition and religion. I’ve grown up with Ifas and Babalawos all around, I’ve been to hundreds of religious ceremonies surrounded by African chants and drums. Sampling Nigerian music then mixing it with religious chants was to me a way of paying homage to the Yoruba Gods that I’ve learned from in my 30 years of life.
We’re going to take a short break from the interview to gift you with two exclusive EP’s inspired by, influenced by and laced with the beauty of the Lucumi practice – courtesy of Barrio. OSHA – LUCUMI OBAORIATE and IFA – AKERE FINUSOGBON. Enjoy and feel free to continue reading as and when you please!
In the December of 2014 you served us some Nigerian ‘Shuku Shuku’ with some Hip-Hop flavour, via La Fine Equipe’s third bakery – ‘La Boulangerie Vol. 3’. How did this collaboration come about and what was it like working with them?
A friend of mine and talented beatmaker, Geteye, introduced me to the ‘La Fine Equipe’ team. They asked for a track for their third bakery double LP: La Boulangerie Vol.3.
I sent them different styles of music. Futuristic, Rap beats, Afro-flavoured beats… They got back at me asking for Shuku Shuku (a Nigerian bakery). Shuku Shuku was first called “Oshun” and it’s a tribute to the so called smiley Goddess of love and joy. This experience was crazy, in Cuba we say Oshun brings sugar to the sour souls. When the bakery guys asked for it, I felt blessed. Since the Myspace era, I’ve always been a fan of them. I was surprised when they got in touch with me! Just amazing! I mixed that Shuku Shuku track. Blanka from La Fine Equipe mastered it. This track is a sour, heavy groove with gangsta-rap gimmicks from Roc Marciano, Planet Asia and Prodigy.
I would assume you listen to Ibeyi, who else might be on your radar?
To be honest I’ve never really listened to Ibeyi… I feel ashamed. I know they’re Cuban too. I know they pay homage to Yoruba in their songs from reading about them on the web, I have to and I will! I’m actually listening to a lot of Gabriel Hays, Miraa, Maodea, Meyso and Froggies!
Who is most played on your ITunes right now?
Most played on my Itunes right now? Quiet Dawn – The First Day LP.
Genre is becoming more and more difficult to identify as artists are breaking down the barriers between genres, what do you think of this comment and would you say you produce a specific genre of music?
I agree with this. Mixing genres is very relevant to me, music changes everyday. I also like to listen to defined, even classic genres. Production abilities are incredibly expansive nowadays, as creativity is, at least I think so. It’s a natural process in my opinion. My music is a mix of various influences too. At the moment I’m stuck to Hip-Hop drumming for sure and Jazz, Rock, Soul and Afro/Ethnic samples. Mixing different genres increases my creation capacity, at least personally and for now.
As an artist, even as a human, we all experience certain struggles or have to overcome hurdles. What are the main difficulties that you have experienced in your environment?
I think it was all about finding a comfortable way of creating, basically. Like, to find myself in creation. Now, I’ve learned that it’s not so easy to define. Being in an eternal and undefined experimentation, or search, has become a real strength. Hip Hop’s 4/4 time signature remains my oxygen though. Contradictions!
Who are your biggest musical inspirations and your favourite artists in Hip-Hop right now?
I’ve always been inspired by Madlib, always. His craziness on songs structures, his drums… He brought that heat on beats that I needed to become more open minded. His music is like a (Francis) Bacon painting to me, catchy, raw, provocative, calm, loud, smooth and dirty all at the same time. I am also a big Samiyam fan. Mike Slott. Ras-G. Torky Tork. They all influenced me.
Who would you love to collaborate with in this lifetime and why?
Musically, I’d like to work with a beatmaker named SIGH, lo-fi king. I’d like to work more with some friends like Maodea and Torky Tork, and a spanish beatmaker named Juan Rios, I’m loving his touch.
Have you produced any beats for other rappers?
Yes, but not that much. I’ve produced for G-Rocka (who has also produced for Krondon, 50 Cent, Jadakiss and more) and Infamous MC (whose first album was produced by OHNO). Most of the rappers I’ve been producing for are French guys. I’m actually working on an upcoming project with Distantstarr and with Z too, an MC from Minneapolis. I’d like to produce more music for PL and Sadique Dabale from the Bight of Benin collective, our fusion on my album is really great, to me at least.
We hear great news of a new album on the horizon! As well as the “exploration of the psychedelic side of Hip-Hop”, what else can we expect from the album that you’ll be releasing via Plexus Records, ‘Play This Only At Night’? (The album was released in May 2015, and is available in stores via Plexus Records).
The upcoming album on Plexus Records is a melt of progressive rock, psychedelic rock, krautrock, highlife and jazz samples. 95% of the album is based on sampling. Structures are new to me. Every track is separated into 2, sometimes 3 parts. It’s a conceptual album, reproducing the nonsense of Krautrock, the illness of Psych, the groove of Afro music etc.
There are some MC features on the album; Distantstarr, PL and Sadique Badale who is Nigerian born and they all bring different moods to the album. On one side it’s passionate, deep-rooted, conscious and grounded. On the other it’s spicy. Gangsta-rap. Fly lyrics.
Maodea, a friend and also a French beatmaker from Plexus Records, took part in the creation of the album introduction. He added some glitches and atmosphere to it. I wanted someone to take part in it, not necessarily doing 30 or 50 % of it. Like I wanted to change that quantifiable participation in Hip-Hop collaborations nowadays… and it’s even more respectful of the creation process in my opinion. Mind-free.
By the way! The album was mastered by Blanka from La Fine Equipe! Listeners can expect a psychedelic/senseless experience based on raw, uncensored, lo-fi Hip-Hop. It’s out worldwide on May 16th and will be available on Plexus Records’ bandcamp and on Fatbeats.com
Painting by Fred Calmets. Album mastered at Kasablanka Mastering.