The photograph entitled The Young Music Lovers (Les Jeunes Mélomanes) was taken by Sanlé Sory in 1974 in Burkina Faso. In the image, seven young children pose, addressing the camera, and a young boy in a cap clutches a vinyl in the front and center. I first saw this photograph at the Grand Palais in Paris three years ago; to this day, the photograph still moves me and impresses upon me the reach of diasporic sound and image.
In my project, I imagined the contents of that young boy’s record. My fourteen images are the album covers of fourteen songs from throughout the diaspora. Together, the songs create an un-real album that spans space and time. While a number of these songs were made in the United States, I aimed to curate into the fictitious album music that would pull from a range of pan-African influences and musicians of the diaspora. The fact that these songs are also of personal significance and influence to me only took the project further; it was a pleasure to explore and reimagine the sounds and songs that I hold dear.
Les Jeunes Mélomanes SIDE A + SIDE B
01 Je Pense a toi (05:14)
02 Didn't I (03:29)
03 Pfumuvzhu Parieveza (04:27)
04 Liberty (02:43)
05 Last Kind Words (03:03)
06 Black Blood & The Chocolate Pickes (03:48)
07 Turiya And Ramakrishna (08:22)
08 Nobody Knows (07.49)
09 Fishin’ 4 Religion (04:11)
10 Bloodshed (03:55)
11 Black Man’s Pride (04:10)
12 My Love and Music (07:51)
13 Mother’s Day (05.40)
14 The Shit Baby (CP-1 Played By D.Taylor) (06:55)
Through this playlist, I invite you to inhabit Les Jeunes Mélomanes. From Pan-Africanism, I’ve learned that sound, in its unbound form, can cross borders; I hope that sound can deliver Sanlé Sory’s photograph to you, and transport you through the world and into the field of the image.
The Les Jeunes Mélomanes mixtape presents music from the last 100 years. The range of international artists reaches from Marondera, Zimbabwe to Berkley, California and beyond. The tape begins with Je Pense a toi by Amadou et Mariam, the musical duo from Mali, neighboring Sory’s home country of Burkina Faso. The compilation moves from there to all over the world, traversing genres-lines, border-lines, eras, and aesthetics.
The mix is completed by the song The Shit Baby by Omar S, which encompasses the interdisciplinary field of both Techno and Jazz. In our final seminar, we discussed what the implications of what it means for technology to be westernized. Omar S helped to create the techno scene and build the 140 BPM 808 tech beat we are familiar with today with his group, Underground Resistance. Omar S helped design the Roland 808’s sound through an innovative drum machine later disregarded by mainstream white musicians and producers. His invention was adopted on the underground techno scene of in Detroit and was integral to the development of their signature pulsing sound. Omar’s innovation proved the namesake of his group; his contribution to the techno landscape unlocked a sonic and movement liberation within the basements of Detroit. In The Shit Baby, Omar also pulls from early soulful jazz melodies often associated with improvisational jazz, and through the development of his own, radical sonic technology, enacts a sonic practice that can be drawn all the way back to the beginning of the tape. While his sound was later taken on by popular culture and Western taste, his own techno resistance is still audible in his song, which recalls sonic revolutions around the world: the magnificence, resilience, and innovation of Black diasporic imagination.
This article originally appeared at lesjeunesmlomanessideasideb.cargo.site.
Quinn Benson is a senior at RISD, and developed this project for a 2021 course taught by Dr. Jane'a Johnson, Pan-African Aesthetics: Past, Present, Future.