Music Khalab and Jazz:Re:Found, a live session with African rhythms
Artinterviewmusicsave the date

Khalab and Jazz:Re:Found, a live session with African rhythms

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Collater.al Contributors

This summer we told you about Place To Be, the project signed by IMF (Italian Music Festivals) and promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to support Italian creative and cultural enterprises following the health emergency. 

One of the stages of this project was hosted by Jazz:Re:Founda boutique festival born in Vercelli and member of the IMF network – which decided to continue along this path also thanks to the collaboration with Ford.

The format includes 3 Italian artists performing in as many live shows that can be seen both on Jazz:Re:Found Facebook page and YouTube channel. The music, the undisputed protagonist, has been framed by three locations that represent all the beauty of the Italian landscape.

The first two events saw as guests Venerus who performed on the Pontile Bestoso in Alassio, between the blue of the sea and the blue of the sky, and Ze in the Clouds who played surrounded by the magic of Orta San Giulio, where the mountains plunge into the lake.

Tomorrow, Monday 23 November, will be the moment of the third and final performance with Raffaele Costantino aka Khalab. His stage name tells a lot about him and condenses the two elements that best represent him, his Calabrian origins and his sounds inspired by African rhythms.

This time, the background to Khalab’s music will be the Forte di Fenestrelle, the largest fortress in Europe and a true masterpiece of military architecture dating back to the 18th century. The peculiarity of this structure developed in three fortified complexes is represented by the path that connects them. The wall of Forte di Fenestrelle, with its 3 kilometers, is second only to the Great Wall of China, is distributed over 650 meters of difference in height and inside it runs the longest covered staircase in Europe.

This is an appointment not to be missed and to prepare ourselves in the best possible way we at Collater.al had a chat with Khalab. Don’t miss our interview below and his live show tomorrow on Facebook and YouTube!

Let me start by asking what the Jazz:Re:Found Festival is for you and what does it represent?

Jazz:Re:Found means a lot to me. It represents a community experience that starts from a central idea that is that of the artistic director Denis Longhi, who has managed to create a beautiful community, a beautiful atmosphere and for some years now has involved me personally in the whole project, in which I felt perfectly comfortable. A festival that has now become the first real point of reference in Italy if you are a fan of this kind of sound, that is a cross between black, African, Afro-American music. I’m very happy about the approach, for the team, but in general for the festival, because I see myself there a lot and it gave me the opportunity to experience a lot of things.

Are there any particular connections between Dj Khalab’s music and the festival? Can we say that your music, your mystical sounds are reflected in the festival?

Yes, without a doubt. The festival is set on research and development in the Afrocentric field of course because it is a festival that deals with rhythm, jazz, soul, black music.
As far as I am concerned, my research has been focused on the past, I have gone a bit back in time towards primordial Africa collaborating with many African musicians, but also with many second or third generation English black musicians such as Moses Boyd, Tamar Osborn, who are the musicians of the new jazz, people who represent the field, the aesthetic to which Jazz:Re:Found is addressed.

In your performance tomorrow there won’t be an audience watching you live clearly, how do you live this? I think that today those who are on the side of the console have the arduous task of entertaining those behind a computer, do you feel even more pressure?

But yes, let’s say that it might sound snobbish what I say but I’ve never really been interested in entertaining people. On the contrary, I’m very interested in getting their attention, in provoking strong, complex and contrasting reactions in them, even distressing reactions, that’s what I think art should do. I try to pose myself as an artist, pass the word, rather than as an entertainer. I also like to entertain people, but what I like to do in front of a screen, as in the case of this festival, is more the idea of making people see and listen to what the traditional media don’t make you see and listen. It is precisely our mission, of us who deal with counterculture and subculture: to give people valid alternatives so that they don’t get caught up in the traditional media offer which, especially in Italy, is very dangerous, because it risks flattening our brain, our sensations, our thirst for deeper insight.

Tell us a little more about your background? How did Raffaele Costantino turn into Dj Khalab?

Actually in my “first life from 20 to 30 years” I was always working in music between clubs, festivals and radio. Then together with some friends, I started a cultural association called “Afrodisia”, where we used to bring our music to clubs once a month, the one we were passionate about, mixing and remixing African music in real-time with electronic drums, samplers, vinyl and mixers. As time went by, the project started to catch on more and more, also having big budgets to host big international artists. So I realized that I could no longer trivially present myself as “Raffaele Costantino” in that dimension because my name was overexposed.

So I began to announce myself as Khalab, to climb into the console covered with cloths, big hats, masks so that I would never be recognized. From there I decided to lock myself in the studio and put into practice the ideas I was developing during the live evenings.

Does Khalab have a precise meaning for you? Is it a kind of alter ego or is it just a nuance of your person that translates what he hears and feels into music?

Yes, it is my alter ego, or rather it is the alter ego that allows me to breathe. Because for what I do and for the thousands of commitments I have, at the beginning I forgot to breathe, I was always in a state of breathlessness. Then when I lock myself in the studio I no longer feel that anxiety that closes my stomach, but I can breathe.
The name Khalab, on the other hand, is a cross between my sounds, which, as we have already said, focuses on African rhythms and the region where I was born, Calabria. This aspiration in the way my stage name is pronounced reminds me that I have to breathe and make music helps me a lot in this sense. I have had some difficult periods due to frantic working hours in which I started to have serious problems with the anxiety that I have solved thanks to this, that is to say, the closure inside a studio, making music and not thinking about anything else.

From your words, one can understand how Khalab is your alter ego, but does he seem to represent the brazenness part of you?

Yes, yes, absolutely! It’s absolutely true! I’ll give you an example: during a festival I had some problems with the soundcheck on stage, there were problems with the monitors, voices on headphones and so on. So I went to talk to the technicians, but we couldn’t solve the problem and in a snobbish way, they blamed me. In the middle of this little argument while I was playing, with people under the stage, I grabbed the sampler and threw it up in the air, then I picked it up again and kept banging it on the mixer (laughs). I only do these crazy things here when I “dress up” as Khalab. Even one morning I had to go to Germany to play for a big festival. But as soon as I woke up my desire to participate was zero, so I allowed myself the luxury of standing up. But the strange thing is that the next day they wrote to me to ask me for a bill. It was such a big festival that they didn’t realize I was missing. But here it is, I would never give such a hole if it had been a work engagement of “Raffaele Costantino”.

Returning to the festival, you will play on 23 November in the suggestive setting of Forte di Fenestrelle, a unique place. How are you preparing for this date and what kind of DJ set will you bring?

It will be a truly cathartic moment. First of all, Forte di Fenestrelle is a crazy place, a real wall on a mountain. A place with a very dark atmosphere, which in my opinion lends itself perfectly to my music. And then it is very high up in the mountains but you can see the sea, a bit like the place where I was born, I am originally from Sila in Calabria and we are suspended between the mountains and the sea. What I will do will be what I always do, as in all the live shows I usually improvise and try to create a remix or synthesized version of what “happens” in my records. I really like that during live sessions people listen to something different because at the end of the day you can listen to the record at home.

Then yes, there will be some samples, some things that in general will be recognized, but I hope that those places and those mountains inspire me the best.

What will happen in the near future, do you have any projects in the pipeline? Does your cheeky alter ego have other surprises in store?

Now I’m focused on two projects, one is the continuation of my latest album “Black noise”, an album in which there are a lot of collaborations, with various artists from the UK and American jazz scene, but the period we’re going through now doesn’t allow us to meet. So at the moment, I am proceeding very calmly. Then it’s coming out, hopefully between March and April, my last effort which I recorded three years ago on the border between Mali and Mauritania with local musicians. This will be my next project.

Article by Giulia Guido and Emanuele D’Angelo

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