In an essay on noise music, the artist and archivist Cedrik Fermont aka C-dirk, takes note of the colonial and racist bias implicit in how music is defined. While experimental music from America and Western Europe is considered the sonic avant-garde, radical sounds from the global South are often bracketed and confined into the banner of “world music”, a term which itself expresses a set of exoticising, stereotyping and parochial assumptions about the modern globe. This informs why with their research and work as founder of the Syrphe record label, they have set out to demonstrate noise, ambience and far-out aural experimentation in general, are universal modes of expression.
It’s taken for granted that ‘Western’ experimental music is an aesthetic response, and often a challenge to the disorientating perils and promises of hyper-technological industrial modernity and cultural globalisation. For example, the aural vandalism being performed by say, UK extremists Throbbing Gristle in the 70’s, is now considered artistically valuable enough to be celebrated in ‘high-culture’ exhibitions. Yet, as Syrphe’s label and impressive internet archive conclusively demonstrate; there is often a kind of colonial parochialism that works to obscure the vivid expressions of musical extremity that come from rich local scenes in Asia, Africa and beyond. From Burmese industrial to Tunisian ambient— Syrphe’s releases are a key counter of, and rejection to hegemonic myths.
The latest Syrphe compilation; Alternate African Realities- Electronic, Electroacoustic and Experimental music from Africa and the Diaspora, offers a continental survey of bleeding edge sonics. Drawing on years of travelling and research, the release puts the spotlight on artists from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Angola, Mauritius, la Réunion and South Africa. The uninhibited free expression and experimentation featured on the 32 tracks offer a stinging rebuke to any residual notions of the global South not having thriving undergrounds of its own. The work on this 32 track compilation truly challenges, confounds and ultimately inspires.