Interview by Parisa Eshrati
Producer, dancer and choreographer Faizal Mostrixx is creating a genre-defying Afrofuturistic manifesto from Uganda. By building upon the rich musical heritage of kadodi music with elements of footwork, electronica and amapiano, combined with experimental choreography, Mostrixx presents a multi-faceted view of the past, present and future of the East African music scene. We caught up with the artist to discuss his latest album, Mutations, and the wide array of cultural and sonic influences that fused the record together.
Let’s start by discussing your early introduction to music and performance. I read that you grew up listening to a lot of pop music from Kenya and Congo. When did electronic music come into your life? And talk to us a little bit about your background in dance, both formal training as a child and your personal evolution into performance art.
During my early years, I was exposed to a lot of pop music from Kenya, Congo, and Uganda, which heavily influenced my musical tastes. However, my interest in electronic music was sparked when I discovered music production software such as Fruity Loops and Ableton Live. These tools enabled me to create mixes for dance shows, where I took on the responsibility of selecting and curating the music. I explored various genres within electronic music, including dubstep, house, hip-hop, techno, ambient, and noise, finding inspiration in the diverse sounds and textures they offered.
In terms of dance, I have been involved in the art form since childhood and actively performed. I received formal training in fine arts and even had the opportunity to choreograph for talent shows during my primary and secondary school years. To further develop my skills, I participated in workshops focusing on contemporary and traditional dance, learning from experienced dancers and choreographers.
Throughout my artistic journey, I've been fortunate to collaborate and exchange ideas with individuals from different backgrounds. These experiences have played a crucial role in shaping my artistic vision, allowing me to blend influences from traditional, urban, and contemporary elements. I have a particular affinity for storytelling through music and dance performance art, and I strive to incorporate these diverse influences into my work
Tell us more about the convergence between your music and choreography. Oftentimes, your dance movements come before the music in your creative process. What’s the process like of feeling a movement before you hear it, and how do you actualize it into sound?
It’s both sometimes. I just have constant melodies in my head that I record in different ways using my voice, piano or chopping samples/synthesizers to achieve that. I imagine scenarios or visualise a certain mood and environment then translate that into music by experimenting with different sounds, and since I am rooted in traditional and urban dance I always want to find the meeting point of the two. As a choreographer, I want to feel like the sound is dynamic with the intention to make you move or take you to a journey.
You have such a wide range of influences, from footwork to amapiano to techno -- not to mention coming from a country with over 50 tribes, each with their own styles of deeply rooted musical traditions! Talk to us about the process of absorbing all these influences and reimagining them through an ultramodern, Afrofuturistic lens. And what’s a common thread between all your influences that resonates with you the most?
I have always been open and I do appreciate different kinds of music in whichever format it’s presented because even if I don’t understand the spoken language, it’s all storytelling to me. I can always find a part I like in a song. It's either the beat or how well it’s produced and I think this has helped me approach the music spectrum as an anthropologist. So I draw my inspiration from a lot of influences and sometimes it’s nothing to do with music. It’s architecture, fashion and nature, plus coming from a country so diverse the basis of my rhythm and grooves comes from home traditional music of the Baganda, Bagisu, Acholi among other indigenous tribes. I have a chance to travel and see the world which has helped forge this blend of cultures.
I love how this album incorporates your own field recordings as well as historic recordings from the International Library of African Music. How does approaching your music from this anthropological viewpoint further your connection to sound, movement and history?
Working with field recording gives me a chance to travel back in time and tap into the beginning of how it all started. Organically weaving all that into today's electronic and sonic fabric breaks barriers and creatively expands endless possibilities of what sound and movement can become today and future with no borders.
There are also quite a lot of instruments heard on this album. I’m curious to know if they are samples, field recordings, or recordings of you playing. Additionally, was everything on this album self-recorded and produced?
I have played some of the instruments like the piano and played deconstructed samples like drum racks, synthesisers and plugins using my Ableton Push 2 and midi keyboards. I have also recorded amazing live instrumentalists and sampled them alongside 1950s field recordings, likr on track three - “Back to Tanzania”.
My favorite track on the album, “Onions and Love”, features an impromptu acapella performance by Kebenesh, a woman who chops onions at the restaurant of the Alliance Ethio-Française in Addis Ababa. I love that from a seemingly ordinary context, we hear the most beautiful and heartbreaking sounds. Can you please elaborate on this idea of celebrating the sounds of our everyday life?
Music and sound is a part of daily life, and approaching it in a DIY way is how new and original ideas are born. Every day is a new experience and I can learn a new sound through such encounters. That’s how I discover and teach myself about music. With “Onions and Love”, I forged a version of Ethiopian traditional music to keep close to Kebenesh’s home but at the same time blending my Bagandan music influences.
This album incorporates rhythms and sonic traditions of Kadodi. I’m curious to hear in your words how this music translates beyond that specific ceremony and into the ethos of your music. What do those rhythms say outside of that context to you?
This kind of beat and rhythm of repeated drum patterns is something that I like about Kadodi music in particular. It gives me the feeling to keep on moving. It’s energetic, groovy and sometimes soft so I find it fits well in my musical exploration. Plus, I also like the trance part of the music and that it is grounded.
The music video for “Loosely” shows a beautiful contrast of strong, deliberate movements with soft flowing motions from pastel fabrics. It seems there’s always a balance in all your artistry of soft and strong, feminine and masculine, etc. Can you talk to us more about your art in terms of exploring the line between masculinity and femininity.
I think that we all have soft and strong within us. And when it comes to feminism and masculinity, I like to celebrate both creations, and in this way I’m celebrating my mother (RIP), plus the love my sister and brother have for me. I have the privilege to work with the Director and Creative Director: Fabienne Guilbert Burgoa. It's incredible to see the video through her imagination.
You’ve mentioned how the album title, Mutations, describes a forward-facing movement in life. How do you apply this term to Ugandan music in general, where it has been and where it’s evolving?
Since the inception of festivals like Nyege Nyege, Bayimba, Pearl Rhythm Festival among many more, it has showcased a variety of different acts from within the country from the past 10 years. There is so much new, exciting, submerging and alternative culture that has evolved out of East Africa.
Any tour plans for this album? What else can fans look forward to from you in the near future?
I am looking forward to celebrating this album live with audiences in music and dance festivals around the world. The tour is shaping up, follow me instagram @faizalmostrixx for show updates and releases. Also looking forward to my new DJ dance and live sets, will continue making music and new enjoyable performance art experiences.