Today we catch up with Desire Marea‘s extraordinary EP release The Book of Rises out now on the French experimental label Tsuku Boshi. Desire Marea is a performance artist from Durban, South Africa, and one-half of the collective FAKA. There, with partner Fela Gucci, the pair uses “sound, live performance, literature, video and photography” to explore their “experience as black queer bodies navigating the cis-hetero-topia of post-colonial Africa.” The duo debuted at BubblegumClubbb Nights held at Johannesburg’s Hazard Gallery in 2015 and have since gone on to perform at international festivals like the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2016), Unsound Festival Poland (2016), and Vienna Festival (2017). FAKA’s hybridized strategy of art production also recently included the potent dance-pop single “Uyang’khumbula“–an infectious Gqom-infused cut that uses rhythm as a unifying force.
On The Book of Rises, Desire Marea follows a different but no less moving strategy across the EP’s 6 tracks. With the voice as primary instrument, and rhythmic elements often moved into the background, the artist creates haunting songs of layered voice and found sound that still move with the heartbeat of Durban. “Nina Molo” builds a chorus of harmonized voices that seem to float from various indeterminate places within the mix suggestive of a live gathering recorded in a wide-open space, but in all reality, probably an expert use of spatial panning in the studio coupled with the artist’s multi-faceted vocal capabilities. Here, “drum” elements are pushed back into a delicate heat fuzz, and they sound like they were created vocally and then looped. The Book of Rises playlist below also contains the EP’s second track, “Phephisa“, where a pained collection of voices seem to struggle against some inarticulable constraint while what sounds like a whip cracking provides an agonizing rhythm. The playlist also contains the album’s closer, “Mfene“, where Desire Marea’s wide-ranging vocal treatment seems to magically blend gothic madrigal with the blues via an invisible bridge thru South Africa.
The Book of Rises is ultimately a breathtaking work that defies expectations. With instrumentation mostly limited to voice, that unique signifier of identity, Desire Marea weaves a rich and moving musical experience to express the often inexpressible pain of asserting a marginalized identity in the face of unyielding mono-culture. Joining artists like Moor Mother, serpentwithfeet, and Arca, to name a few, Desire Marea, as well as FAKA partner Fela Gucci, join a growing cadre of artists giving voice to new expressions of identity–while defying those that would seek to oppress or silence them.
Listen: Desire Marea ‘The Book of Rises’ EP