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Interview: Community Garden Presents Ehua - Auckland Show

Interview: Community Garden Presents Ehua - Auckland Show

Interview by: Hasji / C.C. / Photo credit: Gaïa de Crecy / Tuesday 23rd May, 2023 9:37AM

Reactivated and reenergised for their first party of 2023, Tāmaki Makaurau club facilitators Community Garden are hosting Italian-Ivorian, London-based producer and DJ Ehua at Whammy Bar this coming Friday, joined by local guests ajhoneysuckle and Hasji DJ. Community Garden co-founder and Noa Records artist Hasji cooked up an incisive selection of questions for Ehua, whose multi-format practice spans music production, DJing, video, costuming, work as an editor and member of GRIOT (African arts magazine / collective), and beyond. Read their conversation below — exploring the inherent influence of nature on Ehua's own works (including releases via Femme Culture, Tratratrax, Nervous Horizon, 3024, Ninja Tune and Fabric Records), her roots in Italian club culture and more...

Community Garden: Ehua
with ajhoneysuckle and Hasji DJ
Friday 26th May — Whammy Bar, Auckland

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Hasji: Firstly, can't wait to welcome you to Aotearoa ~! I get the sense you'll get the vibe here.

Ehua: Thank you! I’m so excited!

You reference a lot to the natural world, as we can see in the Aquamarine and Clouds EPs — where does this interest stem from?

There’s just so much beauty in the natural world, and I guess I have a natural eye (and ear) for it. I grew up in Tuscany in a small village just outside Pisa surrounded by beautiful countryside and a stunning coastline. My family has a camper van and we’ve been going on months-long trips all over Europe since I was 6 moths old. The first I flew somewhere I was 19 years old, so I guess I have always been so exposed to it. As a kid, summertime meant being by the seaside with our camper van, and at home (especially at my grandparent’s house) I’d always be outdoor with my brothers. I remember spending hours observing anthills, trying to figure out which ant was doing what. I’ve also always had a huge passion for visual arts, as my mum is an art historian, and nature provides the most incredible, most striking artistic spectacles. Anyone who takes a fine arts course will spend years just trying to draw and recreate natural shapes and forms. So there’s a strong connection there.

How do you think music can bring us closer to our wider environment, and why is this important to you?

Music comes from nature. Birds, whales, frogs, crickets sing; bees buzz… I could go on forever. Language and speaking is music. Our heart beat, our breath, the way we walk are rhythm. We are music and we are deeply interconnected with all the other elements of nature.

Most musical instruments are made from wood and other animal fibres, and you need geometry and maths to build them and tune them. So when you create sound you enter a dimension that belongs to the natural world, even if you’re making electronic music (actually even more so, considering the strong rhythmic elements of it). As a matter of fact, modern raves are just a contemporary projection of ritualistic dancing that people from all cultures have been carrying out for millennia. Dancing together with other bodies is a physical need that has been demonised as we developed into modern civilisations in favour of nonsensical (and I’d say patriarchal) moral fixations.

Music brings people together like no other art form and to me it is one of the most marvellous products of nature. It makes me sad to think that a lot of people don’t understand this and see music, specifically club music and club culture, just as an opportunity to get smashed and / or hook up.

You are a multi-format type of artist; making music / DJing, working on costuming and videos, editing for the incredible Griot Mag — are they all forms to tell similar stories for you? Or do they perform different functions?

They do perform different functions, but they all fall under the umbrella of my need of artistic expression. My sound as a music producer, for example, doesn’t always necessarily match what I do as I DJ: I’m a very extrovert DJ, but a very introvert producer. Similarly, the way I feel about making music I want to release is very different from the way I feel about making music that people are never going to hear. In both cases I’m expressing myself, but in the latter, I’m journaling my emotions, I’m purposely exposing nerves. It can be very joyful or very painful, but it’s a process I need.

Writing also has this two-fold aspect, I write to process emotions, but I also write to fight and stand up for my rights, to spread knowledge, to share ideas that will impact culture and hopefully bring positive change, which is the work that I’ve been doing at Griot.

Can you think of a moment or time that you decided you wanted to pursue DJing?

I started my journey in music as a producer and initially I was very reluctant to DJ. For some reason it felt like being on the wrong side of the booth. I’ve been going to clubs and raves since I was 15/16 years old (in Italy venues have only started IDing people fairly recently) so I was used to that perspective: going to see my favourite artists and dancing my heart out, head down, front left or right it didn’t really matter. Eventually a really good friend of mine who used to DJ invited (me) to play a gig together in South London, I think it was July 2017. It felt like the perfect environment to give it a go, so I saved up, got myself a pioneer DJ-RX and taught myself how to DJ. Best decision I’ve ever taken in my life, it took me some time to embrace it, but my friends and family knew it all along. I was always the one curating the music selection at all the house parties when I was in high school, the one obsessed with going clubbing from such an early age and my family says I was always playing music and dancing around when I was little.

Do you have any favourite Italian techno from when you were growing up clubbing?

Yes. I was massively into the minimal techno and deep house back then. The clubs my friends and I used to go to were literally institutions back in the day (they still are for those who experienced them back in the day) places like Kama Kama in Versilia for example, or Frau. But the artists I was into were mostly international, Tania Vulcano, Dubfire, Loco Dice, Richie Hawtin etc.

Whose music has been inspiring for you recently?"

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Okay Kaya, Oscar Jerome, Sam Akpro, I really liked the new Kelela album too. I’ve also been going back to a lot stuff I used to listen to as a teenager, like some Italian hip hop, specifically '90s rap, artists like DJ Gruff (that stuff had such a depth, but the current Italian (t)rap scene is a bit of a joke in my opinion), and singer-songwriters I loved growing up, from Franco Battiato, to Tiromancino, Carmen Consoli, Max Gazzè, Giorgia and more.


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Community Garden: Ehua
Fri 26th May 9:30pm
Whammy Bar, Auckland