Auntie Flo has crafted an album of exotic magnitude that realigns the parameters between world music and the dancefloor
World music has permeated some of the very best strands of modern electronic music. From Gilles Peterson’s wonderful amalgamation of traditional Cuban music with modern UK bass producers, to the jazz-techno of Laurent Garnier, to the Chilean chanting of Ricardo Villalobos, the exotic mutation of world music with electronica, when done well, has become an extremely welcome staple. Perhaps this can be attributed for the sense of familiarity which permeates the otherwise deeply unknowable realms of Auntie Flo’s debut.
In the fusing together of sitar-sounding twang and cumbia and afrobeat rhythms on the likes of the wonderfully shifting Haven’t Got Any Body, the debut eight track 12-inch Future Rhythm Machine is a ride along Brian d’Souza’s expansive percussive horizons. Yet he’s succeeded in tying the whole thing seamlessly together with the constant reference point of a modern house sound, keeping tunes fully relevant to dancefloor audiences and well away from the obscure crusty tent at WOMAD.
The album is an insight into the mind of someone who has clearly soaked up music far beyond the boundaries of his Glasgow hometown. The overarching musical strand comes in the rich rhythmic elements which form the basis of the Auntie Flo’s live show, a show which his cohort in live performance Esa Williams drives with live percussion, keys and drum machine work. It’s a live show that has been brought into wider renown thanks to stellar performances in both the Boiler Room and Fabric’s second room. It’s also a sound laid down on a superb selection compiled for the latest in our Crackcast mix series.
Named after d’Souza’s 90 year-old Goan auntie, there is a dual cultural edge that runs through D’Souza’s work, with his Indian family background exposing him to a foreign culture that might otherwise have passed him by. It’s this exposure that has led to a far greater degree of musical inclusivity than one might expect from a native Glaswegian. With a multi- faceted nature which makes it infinitely more interesting than the majority of dance music permeates the mass market, and some of the underground too, and a broad affection for all things polyrhythmic and percussive, it’s a satisfying thought that these ambitious and cerebral productions are working wonders among dance crowds. Auntie Flo would be proud.
Crack got down to business with d’Souza, starting off with a few influences.
There is such a strong world music influence stretching through your music, from Cumbia to afro-beat. Where were you first exposed to these exotic sounds?
Whilst I have always been open to these genres from around the world, I only really started getting into them properly around three years ago. A number of things lead me in this direction. Firstly I was getting slightly bored of buying underground house and techno and finding a lot of new releases derivative of the good stuff made back in the 80s. Secondly, a lot of western producers I was into – Four Tet, Caribou, Villalobos, Cottam, Twitch and loads of others – seemed to be experimenting with samples or edits of tracks from around the world. Finally I discovered labels such as Honest Jon’s, Soundway, Sofrito and the World Music Network through my work with my music design business Open Ear and was basically forced into listening to some amazing releases.
What is your ethnic background and where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in Glasgow. My mum was born in Nairobi and I spent the first 18 years of my life thinking I was half Kenyan, however her family is actually from Goa so I guess I’m half Goan, half Scottish.
Producers whose sounds stretch beyond traditional electronic templates have referenced your music; people like Villalobos and Four Tet have played your tunes. Do you feel like your music transcends boundaries?
(laughs) I don’t think I would ever say that. However, not being constrained by genres when I listen to and buy music is something I am very conscious of. Too many times scenes or genres are counter productive, allowing other producers to jump on the genre bandwagon and diluting the good stuff. With my own music, my main aim is to be as original as possible, but I guess I’m influenced by so many different genres and styles that it must filter into the production a little.
How long did it take you to produce Future Rhythm Machine? What production techniques did you use and how much of the percussion is recorded live?
Funnily enough, the bulk of Future Rhythm Machine was written back in summer 2010 over a three week period. I had spent the previous six months experimenting with the style of music and then suddenly everything seemed to click. I would literally make a tune in a few hours and then go straight onto the next one. After the three weeks I had eight tracks I knew all worked together. I didn’t discard any. However, I didn’t have a label, and having sent them to Huntleys + Palmers for feedback, they wanted to start a label to put them out! The problem was they hadn’t released anything yet so the next two years became a mission to build up more of a profile before releasing Future Rhythm Machine. During that time I started working with Esa and we added some vocals and live percussion. We then decided to re-work La Samaria with Alejandro Paz and add vocals by Mamacita. That was the last thing to be done.
How does Auntie Flo translate in the live arena? Surely the tactile nature of your music lends itself to a full band show at some point?
Yeah, a live band would be cool. But I don’t want it to lose the electronic edge so I’m happy to stick to just two of us right now. It’s definitely a tactile experience, and is as ‘live’ as possible, as in no laptops, live percussion and hardware. We make mistakes, and you don’t see that any more in these big stadium electronic act shows, which to me all seem too preprogrammed. We’re adding live visuals too by working with Florence.
How important has Glasgow been in your development as an artist?
Yeah, it’s definitely been a major influence. Even though I was born in Glasgow I moved to Edinburgh for five years to be a student. Coming back to Glasgow made me realise how far ahead it is in terms of music. So many people are doing good things, so it made me step up my game. For a small place, Glasgow has a really close underground music scene, so you end up knowing everyone and it’s easy to bounce musical ideas off them.
What is it about rhythmical structures that draw you in more than other variables in music? Have you always had an interest in world music?
Rhythms send communication to the body telling it to move in a certain way. I find this is much more powerful than lyrics as it touches something much more internal inside us. Similarly bass can affect your body in ways we are yet to understand.
What are your plans for the summer? Does the style of music you employ mean you are particularly selective about what festivals you do?
At the moment, we are happy to do a lot of festivals and just get the sound and our name out there. We really enjoy playing out, so doing festivals every week is exciting for us. In the past two weeks I’ve played to a bass music crowd for Dimensions Festival launch party, then a trendy minimal crowd before Lee Foss from Hot Creations, then onto a crusty festival to play before DJ Hype. I enjoy the challenge of styling the set for completely different types of people, but still staying true to the Auntie Flo sound.
What are you plans for the coming year?
More gigs and festivals, we’ve got a lot of remixes coming out and hopefully a new single release. We’re also just starting a monthly radio show on Cómeme Radio.
What is your favourite type of food? Is it as exotic as your music?
Depends what day of the week it is! I love cooking and just booked to get some lessons with Nick Nairn so it’ll hopefully get more exciting this year.
Can you tell us what you were going for with your Crackcast mix you’ve done for us?
I really dislike doing home recorded mixes and find them impossible to do. Mixing to an audience is fun because the crowd leads you as much as you lead the crowd. Without a crowd, there are too many choices of tunes to play and tangents to go off on. This mix tries to pack in a lot of tracks I’ve been feeling at the moment, some old stuff, new stuff, some yet to be released stuff and one of my edits which is coming out later this month. It covers modern music from all around the world – afroboogie, disco, highlife, deep and dirty house, kwaito and other bassy sounds. It was recorded on two 1210’s and vinyl and Traktor for the unreleased tracks. There are a few wee mistakes, but I like to keep them in for the human touch.
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Future Rhythm Sound is out now on Huntleys + Palmers
Download Auntie Flo’s exclusive Crackcast HERE
Words: Thomas Frost