Lafawndah dances on unfamiliar terrain
To record her debut self-titled EP, Lafawndah locked herself away in a studio on the Franco-Carribean Guadeloupe islands with Jean Claude Bachara – a legendary producer and pioneer of the local zouk genre. It was a prison in paradise where she worked intensively towards cross-pollinating her sound.
Calling from LA, the singer and producer likens the experience to No Exit, the 1944 existentialist theatre piece by Jean Paul Sartre in which three characters are locked in a room together for eternity. “In the play, it starts as something pretty normal – dinner between friends – then it just turns into a nightmare. It didn’t go that badly but there was definitely a side of the trip that was a little nightmarish, anxious, and I think that translates in the EP.”
With pounding carnival rhythms, muggy synths and reggaeton melodies that battle against heavyweight machinery, Lafawndah describes her music as “paranoid zouk” and “ritualistic club music.” It’s a soundtrack to the kind of pleasure-seeking that will either carry you up or throw you sideways.
Half-Iranian, half-Egyptian, Lafawndah (real name Yasmine Dubois) has also called New York and Mexico home in the past. While some artists desperately scrabble through the recesses of the internet to find a suitable subculture to piggyback on, Lafawndah allowed real-life experience to inform her vision. “The point of the project is the experience of it more than the removed curiosity. Living in Mexico was a big one. That wasn’t about research of any kind, it was just experiencing it first-hand and going to dance at parties. After experiencing it first-hand you get that curiosity to push your knowledge and learn more.”
Even now as her sound continues to build and grow, Lafawndah is unconvinced by the age of information. “I have a strange relationship with the internet,” she tells us. “I have a hard time acknowledging the idea that I can look for anything. I’m not the kind of person that can just zone on YouTube infinitely. It creates anxiety instantly because there are just too many options. It makes me a very analogue person, a lot of things have to be experienced in real life first, and then that is the point of departure for research. Never the other way around.”
In a post-Pon De Floor world where cultural appropriation is a persistent, think-piece spawning issue, Lafawndah’s learn-then- build ethos is incredibly refreshing. “If
there is an obliviousness to it then it’s problematic. But if you’re able to back yourself up and you are conscious of what you are doing and you are trying to do it with respect and acknowledgement, then I think it’s actually pretty beautiful,” she argues. “I feel like I’m borrowing and I’m still trying to do something that’s genuine to me. I’m not trying to make dancehall, I’m not trying to make zouk music. I’m not legitimate, I don’t have the knowledge.”
Any sense of cherry-picked exotic fascination is hard to find in Lafawnda’s music. Tracks like Butter and Chili showcase a kind of global-futurism where tribal, localised sounds are put through a digital, hyperreal filter to make something brand new. “Once I build the beat, it’s my base. I acknowledge where it comes from but I always make sure to have a very personal take on it,” she explains. “I feel like I contribute. Chili doesn’t sound like anything a zouk producer would make because of the palette. The way we have this little frog that’s so acid house then a synth that’s so rave. I definitely don’t mean to sound pretentious, but I always want to bring something to the table.”
Having recently clocked in recording sessions with a team made up of Teengirl Fantasy’s Nick Weiss, Hippos In Tanks signee ADR and Night Slugs co-founder L-Vis 1990 in New York, Lafawndah’s forthcoming Tan EP is due for a September release, and will be preceded by a self- directed video which should drop in May. The beat for the lead single, she tells us, was inspired a song she heard at a Turkish rave in Germany. Far from showing any grand ambition to dominate the world, it seems as if Lafawndah’s mind is more preoccupied with discovering it.
The Tan EP will be released this September