Azu Tiwaline‘s sound is a by-product of her surroundings. Born to a Tunisian Berber mother and a Cambodian father, she grew up in the Ivory Coast before moving to France as a teenager. Now spending her time between there and the Saharan desert, she takes cues from her heritage and her nomadic upbringing to craft beautifully spacious atmospheres and enchanting psychedelic grooves.
After releasing her first outings on French label I.O.T., she caught the attention of Bristol’s Livity Sound where she went on to release her Magnetic Service EP, collaborating with regular music partner, sound artist and musician Cinna Peyghamy. More recently, on top of working hard on composing her next album, which will see the light of day soon, she’s been linking up with other artists to create music: with Al Wooton for Livity Sound and with Labdi as part of Extra Soul Perception’s globe-trotting compilation.
To mark the occasion, we invited her to put together a mix that showcases the sounds that she loves; a sparse and dubbed-out collection of psychedelic rhythms and experimental grooves, that ebb and flow effortlessly – a perfect correlation with the music she herself creates. This sits alongside an interview about easing back into performance, collaborating remotely and what lies on the horizon.
First, our usual ice-breaker – what’s your first ever musical memory?
Drums, Djembes, many, and dancers, unbelievable dancers in a trance state during traditional ceremonies in Ivory Coast where I grew up. Looking at this with eyes’s child, it deeply marked and fascinated me and this, until today.
How has lockdown been for you? How has it been being an artist in isolation?
I’m living between the Tunisian Sahara desert and the South West of France in a pine forest closed to the Atlantic Ocean. I really need to be far from the “world”, for my mental health, balance, happiness and inspiration. So, honestly, lockdowns were not difficult in my daily life. I don’t see a lot of people. I’m living so far from my closed friends and family. I’m just already lockdowning myself every time I can in fact.
Now things are open again, how are you feeling about getting back on stage and performing?
It’s so amazing to feel all this lovely vibe and energy from everywhere coming from artists, promoters, labels, and first, people who come to enjoy this magic. The music. I really hope that it could last this time.
For my part, I was really lucky to still perform during these last two years, especially with Cinna Peyghamy. As we play and explore together an experimental chill universe, we were able to perform during this weird “sit-down format concert” period. Now, everything is possible again. Really excited for sure for the next ones.
You recently collaborated with Labdi on ‘Hewa’, a new single for Extra Soul Perception, how was the process of working together?
I met Andy from ESP when my first album was released. We connected so easily, with some strong common passions: music, meeting, sharing. He asked me if I would be keen to participate in a future artistic residency as the first one made in Kenya. It’s typically the kind of projects I love and was used to do it so many times in my life. Travelling and connecting with people through music is so easy, an evidence and one of the most greatest experiences for an artist, but first as a human. So I said YES for sure. And during this lockdown, as everything was stopped or in very slow motion mode, it was the perfect timing to dive into collabs at distance. And so the idea came. Andy made the link and connection between Labdi and me.
Did you collaborate remotely? How does this change your approach?
Yes, totally. Labdi recorded some ideas in a studio in Kenya. Voices and Orutu instrument. With no music sent from me. Then I received everything in Tunisia and imagined something between and through all these elements. Making a collaboration with a singer is like – for me – you are inviting / integrating one “instrument” in your production. It’s really not the same working process than making a collaboration with another one producer for example.
I also just recently made another collab with Al Wootton on Livity Sound, and in this case, we had to find the good trick, the perfect balance between in fact the same abilities/instruments. It’s like a fusion but also a subtraction of your own consciousness or universe. Working with a singer is different. Every one expresses totally himself/herself first. But at the end, you always need to make this subtraction. Then finding the good balance and making this magic fusion. And I love both so much. It’s really rewarding every time.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?
I just wanted to share the music vibe I enjoy in my daily life. I love to listen all day long some experimental music, with a lot of drums, super spaceless and dubbed. And very psychedelic. So this is is sort of glued and assembled pieces of sounds and atmospheres along the flow of the moment, around this new track ‘Hewa’ made with Labdi. It was the line for me.
Are there any standout tracks that hold a special significance?
Not really. There are so many tracks / producers I love so much in this mix. Every track is special for me. And I definitely need that to be inspired for recording a mix.
What’s on the horizon for the rest of the year? Any plans for new releases?
Travelling and expending the vibe thanks to excited forthcoming gigs. A new EP soon, very soon on I.O.T records. And I have just finished composing my next album… Honestly, I put hard pressure on myself for this one and now, I’m feeling like a super hero badly over relieved. I’ve made it. YES!!! Can’t wait to share all these with all of you.
Thank you Stamp the Wax for having me !
Michel Banabila – In Other Words (Tapu)
Cinna Peyghamy – Arc en bouche (Unreleased)
Halos – Amanece En La Jungla (Rites)
Tibia – Nostalgia (Forthcoming Man Band)
Nimba – Seeds of Consciousness Pt. 1 (Avatar)
Marco Shuttle – Tombak Healer (Incienso)
Regno Maggiore – La Via (Gang of Ducks)
MinaeMinae – Nackenwirbel (Marionette)
Michel Banabila – Coral Reef A1 (Tapu)
Sabla- Safe Journey (Pensaments Sonics)
Kincaid – Stretching Distance (?)
Per Tjernberg – Secret Procession A Lagoon B The Hunters (Rub a Dub) Azu Tiwaline feat Labdi – Hewa (Extra Soul Perception)
Uwalmassa – Kabut Zaman (Divisi 62)