Hailing from Sierra Leone, and having lived in both Guinea and the United States, electronic producer and artist Lamin Fofana now chooses to operate in his home of Berlin. His ambient and techno experiments contrasts the reality of our world with what’s beyond, taking cues from the possibilities and questions that arise when exploring movement, migration, alienation and belonging.
With releases stretching back to 2010 on Dutty Artz, Lamin also runs the record label Sci-fi & Fantasy, which notably introduced us to artists like Lotic and Max McFerren. His new project on the imprint, Black Metamorphosis, marks the first in an upcoming album trilogy and is heavily inspired by Sylvia Wynter’s 900-page unpublished manuscript of the same title written in the ’70s. Spending three years working on the full length, Lamin states the album is about “the complicated process of understanding each other, but also desiring to accelerate the breaking of the world so we can move beyond the constraints of our time and dream up new sets of relationships.”
Catching up with him, he shares with us some of the ongoing ideas and themes that drive his music and give him reason to create.
1. Sylvia Wynter’s Theory of the Human
What happens when black people find themselves in the West? How is their African aesthetic forced to permutate in the new world? Scholar-Philosopher Sylvia Wynter produced works in the the latter half of the 20th century and in 21st reflecting on the paradoxical conundrum of black people in the West. The title track “Black Metamorphosis” is an attempt to transmute my interpretation of a key concept I find deeply inspiring and illuminating of my own experience as a black African person in contemporary Europe.
Clearly there is a difference between staring and looking. There’s a certain harshness to staring, you see it in their eyes. Staring leaves an imprint. It makes an imprint so harsh sometimes it cuts through the person and passes beyond. Looking is an extension of seeing. It requires feeling and listening because it’s also about recognition and love. It’s rare in Berlin. It’s mostly gross inhuman indifference, eyes are usually empty or occasionally hostile. Evidence of warmth, momentary glances, genuine smiles are scarce here.
3. Fred Moten
Here is Fred Moten reading from The Feel Trio.
4. Endangered Species (aquatic waterfall plan discovered on the edge of extinction in Sierra Leone)
Late last year I was in Freetown, Sierra Leone when I read about this. Sierra Leonean biologist Dr. Aiah Lebbie discovered a new waterfall plant, an unusual herb he described clinging to rocks in the Upper Guinean Forests of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The herb is expected to become extinct in the next two years due to mining and hydroelectric projects in the area. The consequences of human interactions with natural ecosystems and the current and looming ecological catastrophes are themes running through my current project.
5. Samuel R. Delany & Octavia E. Butler, on reflection & mutation
Butler – mutation, processes with unpredictable outcomes. Transformation, loss of control, irreversibility, diversity, metamorphosis, hybridity. Delany – jewels, reflection and refraction – not just the imagery but reflection and refraction of text and concepts.
6. Saidiya Hartman
Three books: Scenes of Subjection, Lose Your Mother, and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments.
Professor Saidiya Hartman teaches literature and history at Columbia University.
Billie Holiday – ‘Solitude’
8. Toumani Diabaté, Ali Farka Touré, Fanta Damba
W.E.B. Du Bois’ Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil published in 1920.
10. Black Classical series on NTS.
The entire Black Classical series on NTS. I remember when they reveal this program in late 2016. It was something like a 12 or 16 hour jazz mixtape. I listened to it repeatedly for about three months.
Black Metamophosis is out now on Sci Fi and Fantasy.
Buy it here.