Author: David Bola
Photo Credit: Gaetan Clément
To begin, I would like to go back to the roots. When does music start for you?
My dad was a musician, at home he used to rehearse the songs he played with his cover band. They played everything, from Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Santana, Toto, to classics like Al Jarreau and a lot of local jazz.
That’s what I played in my mix for Stamp the Wax – my dad has a collection of local jazz CDs that not many people own. I took the opportunity to make a selection, to look for stuff that you don’t necessarily find. In Mauritius and Réunion, the heritage is rather séga and maloya. I wanted to go against that, to show a more reggae, jazz, blues side, even a little shatta (editor’s note – very popular musical genre in Mauritius ) towards the end.
At the time when I was heavily involved in deejaying, going out a lot with my mates, shatta was on the rise in Mauritius. It was all you could hear. I started playing it and producing it, without really asking myself the question.
How did you start producing? Was it self-taught?
I’ve been playing drums since I was a kid, I even went to the conservatory… until a moment when I found myself a little limited with the drums. I started to learn about other instruments. Then, I came across a video of FL Studio on YouTube, I installed it, and I haven’t let it go. Actually, I switched to Ableton afterwards, but I started producing on FL.
For me, production and deejaying were self-taught. I got a little help from deejaying in Mauritius, with Cream Cracker (Fabrice Victoire, a pioneer of house music in Mauritius) who had vinyl records at his place. I used to train there. It was also thanks to him that I was able to play at Electropicales in Réunion.
All the guys who make shatta, who get millions of listens on streaming platforms, are people who learn from YouTube or are self-taught. I don’t know anyone in Mauritius who has ever taken a production course. We all learned on our own, sometimes we share tips, we watch tutorials.
In Mauritius, there are some people who are starting to give deejaying courses, but it must be rather complicated to set up. First of all, there is the rupee-euro exchange rate. One euro is 49 rupees and the standard salary in Mauritius is less than 200 euros. So, if you want to invest in sound you still need a minimum, it gets complicated quickly. But for the long term, it’s a very good idea.
So, there is a strong interest in professionalizing the scene? To push training and skills development?
Everyone has their own job in that industry. I’m a producer, but there are also sound engineers dealing with mixing and others with mastering. It’s important to respect the order. Let the person who knows how to mix do the mixing, let the one who does mastering do the mastering… That’s what makes things square, makes your sound right in the end.
Have you felt an evolution between the time you started this activity and today?
The biggest evolution is to go from the Mauritian scene to the Parisian, or even the French scene. There’s the professional aspect that we don’t have in Mauritius. An artist has no status. They don’t have any protection like in France, the intermittent status, subsidies… We don’t have that in Mauritius.
I’m living this evolution well, because in France I can play what I want. In Mauritius I couldn’t find my place in the scene because you could either play “mainstream” or play electronic music that was a bit sharp. You can’t find both in the parties. There is no in-between.
That is exactly what I like about La Créole parties, there are no limits. I can play a classic dancehall sound – Mr Vegas for example – and play gabber in the same set. There’s no problem.
By the way, how did the connection with the Parisian crews come about?
My cousin told me about Bamao Yendé, he told me that Boukan was starting to work it’s way up in Paris. I sent an edit to Bamao Yendé, who told me “It’s hot! Come on, we’re doing a compilation right now, we’re putting it on”.
My cousin also paid for the mixing by a guy named Krampf, who I didn’t even know existed at that time. When Krampf sent me the mix back, it was a revelation. I got a big slap in the face. So, I started to check out who Krampf was, Casual Gabberz, Von Bikräv, the whole team… Then, we went to the meeting with Bamao Yendé for the Electropicales, we hung out the whole weekend. It happened naturally.
How do we get from there to your EP on Lavibe?
Last summer (2020) I was playing at La Prairie du Canal for a Rinse Radio party with Boukan and La Créole. I arrived there with my girlfriend and my cousin (the same one who told me about Boukan at the time). I saw Brice Coudert (editor’s note – Lavibe’s founder) in the audience, I knew it was the time to prove myself, now or never – knowing that I never prepare my sets, it’s always in freestyle mode. So, I gave it my all, I played the best tracks I had at the moment.
Brice contacted me very quickly, and the following week we were already sending each other demos. Without talking about an EP, we were already selecting tracks.
All of this leads us to “Eau Coulée Smart City”, a title referring to your neighbourhood, Eau Coulée. I tried to take a look at it via Streetview, but it’s inaccessible…
All the GPS stuff doesn’t work very well in Eau Coulée. It’s an uphill place, a bit in the style of Fourvière. My Mauritian mate, who lives in Lyon, used to say to me, “Here, it’s like Eau Coulée, all uphill.”
In Mauritius, for some years now, there has been a new phenomenon called “Smart Cities”. It’s a little bit like the new cities where things are moving, it’s the business districts with bars and hotels, it’s also where everybody goes out. I was mixing there most of the time. The well-off population lives there, the expats. Since there are hotels, it’s also people who are passing through, for holidays or work.
The name of the EP, “Eau Coulée Smart City” comes from a joke made by one of my mates (who is also my neighbour). He told it to me once when we were leaving my place one night to buy alcohol. Normally, in Mauritius, everything closes at 6pm, there’s no one left on the streets. But when we went out, we saw a lot of people drinking on the street, it was just crazy. So, he said to me, “Eau Coulée, Smart City” because here it’s as lively as it is in other cities, even if there’s no club.
But then Smart City clubs are more for the affluent?
I think that’s unfortunately the idea for the clubs which are there. But in reality, if I talk about my personal experience, I used to play there every weekend because it’s one of the only cool places that was full all the time and not necessarily only with expats, the clubs were open to everyone. These are the only clubs in the center of the island, not on the coast. Instead of driving 30 minutes, or even an hour to get to the club, you drive 15 minutes and you’re there.
Let’s go back to the EP, especially to its sound. From your first sounds, you were picking up on kuduro, shatta, lots of different rhythms in fact. Is that what you wanted to work on in this EP?
If you look closely at kuduro, it’s often the same drum patterns that come back, sometimes the same noises, the same samples. I try to go a bit against that, but still doing the same thing, but not the same thing (laughs).
Then, for the EP, what helped me was the fact that I’ve listened to a lot of things. I was inspired by the guys from Paradoxe Club, in their way of making sound. There’s never been a style barrier, even in the selection with Brice, he said to me, “I like that, I like that, I like that” without a true sense among the sounds. Without wanting to, we did something for everyone. Everyone gets a little something out of the EP, even if it wasn’t the goal, it’s just to put stuff that we like.
I had a few ideas, a few loops, little demos lying around, but always in a vibe where I tried to go a little bit towards King Doudou, reggaeton, dancehall… Together, we started working on productions, including “Dembow Tronico”.
King Doudou, first of all, is a machine. Never seen a guy so fast on Ableton to cut samples, arrange the sound, add effects, it’s impressive. Working with him, you learn how to arrange, how to cut, you see a real machine in front of you. A guy who’s been doing this for over 10 years and knows everything about Ableton.
Between the creation of “Dembow Tronico” and the release, it’s already been a year. I had a bit of a complex. I was making sounds, but I wasn’t releasing anything. During the mixing with Krampf, and the mastering with Lorenzo Targhetta, I found small details that bothered me every time. And Brice said to me, “You know, you have to go for it, or you’ll never get anything out”. Otherwise, I’d still be making adjustments.
I think that with “Eau Coulée Smart City” people have understood that GЯEG is everything and nothing, everything and anything. As long as I like it, I play it.
GЯEG is on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Deezer & Spotify.
About the author
David Bola is We are Europe’s content editor.