I was very fortunate to be in Paris in July, linking up with old friends: like Guillermo Brown, a great drummer and composer visiting from Los Angeles; the Paris-based effervescent and brilliant curator, Raina Lampkins-Fielder; the notorious Paris-based Mike Ladd — poet, writer, composer and rapper vocalist; the celebrated Saul Williams, composer, slam poet, vocalist extraordinaire and ex-Paris citizen, now based in LA; and Samantha and Mario Caldato — Samantha a Brazilian ceramics artist and Mario the brilliant producer of Seu Jorge and Beastie Boys, amongst many many others. The Caldatos are based in Los Angeles and have recently launched Amor — a non-profit record label.
Amor is, in fact, an embassy of cultural resistance and production. Mario recently produced Jupiter & Okwess in the Amor Los Angeles recording studio. Jupiter & Okwess is based in both Kinshasa and Paris. Jupiter Bokondji (born 1965 in Kinshasa) has a long history in radical, subversive, woke music. Jupiter’s adolescence was partly spent in Berlin, where he experienced both GDR East Berlin and the West — as his father was a diplomat stationed there. This Cold War period experience is an integral element in the ethos of his eclectic fire brand music, which boasts multiple guitar lines that lace and dance over and in complex crisscross rhythms, all rooted in a strong multi-Congolese identity.
Der Neger is the name of one of his earlier bands, which was formed in Berlin. Jupiter & Okwess’s current headquarters is a house in a suburb on the outskirts of Paris. Their next door neighbours, who are very close friends of the Caldatos, hosted a BBQ in their and the band’s honour. We, the guests, were so lucky to be able to get our dance moves on to the band’s vibrant grooves. Yes, Jupiter & Okwess played a short set in the garden, which catapulted us all to another stratosphere. Watch out for their upcoming album on the Zamora label. And watch out for the upcoming Amor label release of Orquestra Afro-Brasileira.