Desert winds blow on Azu Tiwaline’s artwork: New Frame
From the initial darkness, the camera begins to move over a dry, desolate landscape, the sound of a heartbeat in the center of a howling wind. Dancer Mellina Boubetra appears as the bass of a throbbing gong joins her. Synths unfurl and delicate bells scrape the surface of the song, which has a calm but eerie tension.
Boubetra makes small movements, rolls his hands, arms and shoulders, moves his feet, bends his knees. As the song builds, its movements become more expressive. Boubetra’s choreography and camera work reflects the change in tempo as the song reaches its powerful end.
It is clear that when it comes to Draw me a silence, Azu Tiwaline – Tunisian artist Donia’s new nickname, which translates to “the eyes of the wind” – has saved the best of the past two years to last. And The eyes of the wind, with Boubetra, is the closing song of the long version of the album.
Tiwaline released Draw me a part of silence. I on IOT Records in March 2020, with Draw me a part of silence. II following in May of the same year. She released three remixes in March this year by Don’t DJ from Berlin, Laksa from London and Flore from Lyon, and an extended version of Draw me a silence a month later, with a new bonus track The eyes of the wind.
Boubetra’s solitary act of communion with the sparse landscape and the use of the wind as a sound element successfully transmits the heart of Draw me a silence. Born in Paris to a Tunisian Berber mother and a Cambodian father, Donia grew up in Côte d’Ivoire before returning to France at the age of 14 to escape the country’s civil war. She has since lived in China, India, Senegal, Mongolia and Reunion. She says she loves “the unknown”.
Silence and space
Donia became the owner of a small estate in the el-Djerid region of southern Tunisia five years ago when her mother passed away and left her in charge.
“Sometimes you plan things in your life,” says Donia. “Sometimes it’s life that forces deep and hard changes on you. When my mother passed away, she left me a beautiful paradise in the Sahara. A place that I have loved so much for so many years. I had to decide to leave everything and go there to take care of it. At the same time, there were also personal inner changes in my life. “
This resulted in a new nickname and a new album deeply influenced by the open space and silence of the desert which she calls her new home.
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“The greatest gift the desert can give you is to teach you how pure space and silence is,” she says. “In nothingness, there is the beauty of the infinite. In silence you can hear the most beautiful notes. As soon as I produced music there, everything just got smoother, organic, minimal, natural. The surrounding nature is so peaceful, full of light and deep waves, silence and space.
“It was time to enter a new cycle. A few months later, this new Azu Tiwaline identity was born.
Donia’s musical beginnings date back to the late 1990s in Paris, where she began releasing techno music under the name Loan.
“These were the years of a crazy youth,” she says. “Cradled by the first raves in Europe. At that time, I was not even 20 years old. The music I was making was quite hard, rhythmic and very energetic. Like me, I guess. She says that this period educated her and gave her the conviction to pursue the life of an artist.
Donia has created a wide variety of electronic dance music, from two-step techno and breakbeat to dubstep. “The only common point for me for all these years is this repetitive use of drums, percussions, through powerful dub effects. She says her love of dub music knows no bounds and that is her “greatest influence”, especially the “mystical and spiritual” nature of music.
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“We just lost Lee Scratch Perry,” she said. “To me he was such an inspiration, a true genius with an incredible vision. What he has brought to electronic and dance music is simply amazing.
Listening Draw me a silence and it’s clear Donia is a passionate student of not only Perry but also experimental dub luminaries like Adrian Sherwood and Bill Laswell, and the impact these inventive minds have had on electronic music, especially techno.
“To unite the links that unite Berber music, dub culture and techno hypnosis,” explains Tiwaline’s Bandcamp page. As a sound bite, it gives the reader a feel for the music, but Donia’s new album defies easy categorization.
Organ warriors begins as a field recording, which is overrun with throbbing synths and ends as a monstrous dub production carried by fierce percussion, while Luz Azul begins with a simple percussion, transforms into a dub production driven by throbbing bass and ends with an incredibly smooth and subtle techno tune, with what looks like the ghost of a traditional horn humming mournfully in the background.
“I try to tell stories, drawing sound paintings,” she says. “I don’t feel comfortable with the opening melodies because your attention is too focused on them. I like to work on the atmospheres, the background, the beautiful changes of sound settings. It feeds your imagination so you can start traveling without moving.
Draw me a silence has qualities reminiscent of other styles of music. BerbekaThe melody sounds like it’s straight from Detroit’s first wave of techno while the deep dub Yenna sounds like something that could have been released on the Cosmic Bridge label run by breakbeat legend Om Unit. However, the set that these traffic signs fit into is unique.
Chase the trance
Donia says that the stambeli music, a “music-therapeutic rite of possession” of el-Djerid, had a major influence on the album. “It mixes music, dances and songs during which some participants go into a trance and embody supernatural entities. In Morocco, it is called ‘gnawa’, in Algeria ‘diwan’. I have always been fascinated by uplifting music and rituals. I attended several in Ivory Coast when I was young and since that time I have been trying to understand how music could be medicine.
“During my childhood in Ivory Coast, I listened to a lot of traditional percussion ensembles. I was first in African dances, then I started to learn djembe.
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Her drum lessons didn’t last long after her family fled to France, but Donia quickly discovered her first drum machine, a Roland R-8 MKII. “It was the start of a new neighborhood, but with the same roots. I have never studied traditional African rhythms properly, but I listen a lot, I try to understand their structures.
“When I started to compose my album Draw me a silence, it was obvious to me that I have to use typical instruments and rhythms. Music reflects my own state but also the environment in which I find myself, which influences me a lot, ”she says.
Donia says she “felt like a superhero” the day she shot the video for The eyes of the wind. “So before going to sleep, I was thinking about this new EP that I had just finished. I was like, ‘What label could be the perfect dream for me to release this?’ Livity Sound was my first idea because it’s one of my favorite labels.
The parallels between Tiwaline’s music and Livity are clear. Red viper of Draw me a silence is a double of something that could have been released on the Bristol-based label. “I dared to send a demo to Peverelist,” she says, referring to the artist who runs the label. “The next day I got an answer.
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Livity released Tiwaline’s EP magnetic service in July 2020 she connects with amazing people from all over the world. At Magnetic service PEtitle song of, she collaborates with Parisian sound artist Cinna Peyghamy, who plays the manipulated tombak, an Iranian percussion instrument.
The results are spectacular and suggest that Draw me a silence is just the beginning for Tiwaline, whose rebirth in the deserts of el-Djerid is something the world should celebrate.