He entered the Belleville cafe with a warm, “Bonjour”, and sat down across from me with a swish of his blue and orange multicolored kimono over a minimal black sweater and denim ensemble.
Belleville, a Parisian neighborhood that is home to many hip international artists, was the perfect location to have a chat with Mo Laudi a South African artist and one of the pioneering sounds Afro House from London to Paris and beyond.
Cafe Belleville 50 is our backdrop – a very traditionally French styled yet refreshingly modern coffee shop, complete with high bar stools and opening glass walls. It’s full of the neighborhood lot — a mix of artists, expats, coffee lovers, and curious faces — so naturally, Mo and I felt right at home.
As we sat down to catch up on his projects and life in Paris, I caught sight of this vintage looking machine like a cassette player (or was this one of these cool Stranger Things pieces having a vintage revival ?!). “What’s that?,” I asked, pointing to it. “It’s a Volca Bass — I’m going to the studio after this. It’s great for acid bass, traditional house, vintage drums, African music, you know?”
I gushed over the little machine while I eased myself into our conversation.
“So what have you been up to?” I asked, reaching for my café allongé, “It’s been ages since I saw you in “real” life.”
“Everything’s been really good,” he answered with a smile, “I have two cool projects happening right now. The first project is these kimonos which I started with a designer I love, Elizabeth Relin. I feel these kimonos really come together under the bigger ‘Globalisto’ record label.
Here, it’s always about reimagining a bottomless world where we can move around. It’s about hybridity, fluidity, being thoughtful of other people no matter where they’re from. Our kimonos represent that.”
“Elizabeth Relin is kids wear designer,” Mo explained, “She’s open-minded and really into mixing the global experience. Together we wanted to play against the fear of “otherness” and show the spirit of togetherness.”
“This Kimono I’m wearing here,” he said, touching the rich material, “Is made with tartan and African wax, but has a Japanese cut.”
“Have you been into fashion before?” I asked curiously.
“This is my first time in fashion really. I was in a punk rock band in London, and I did the t-shirts with bleach and safety pins,” he laughs, “So not exactly on the same scale as what we’re doing today.”
See more of The Globalisto Collection by WOWO here
“The second project is ‘Sound as an Art Form’ at Palais Tokyo this May with Artist Julien Creuzet
My goal was really to be in different institutions — like Palais Tokyo. I used different environments like doors opening and rain to create a ‘sonic landscape’. Instead of making people dance I was making the heart dance.”
The ‘Sound as an Art Form’ project may seem like a bit of a departure from his roots in electronic music, but it completely makes sense. “I see myself as a sound artist of African origin that would love to use my work in future all in public places,” Mo explains, “To show people are really engaging in Africa.”
“How did you get your start in music?”
“As a kid we use to sing songs and throw rocks at police. This idea to galvanize people to change is still in me. Coming from South Africa it’s important for me to show how we are as people, that we can deconstruct colonization by using art and music. I enjoy transmitting the energy of South African electronic music.”
“How do you go about choosing who you work with?”
“A lot of the time its friends and it’s an organic, casual encounter. I always feel that everything eventually comes together. I love to work with people I jam with, like recently we had a spontaneous am with Flavia Coelho in Koln and it was so organic”
“You seem to do a lot, how do you take care of yourself?”
“Man, I sleep when I can! Also, I enjoy painting because it’s so relaxing and of course writing music. Creation is what I enjoy the most.”
“What’s one of the most enjoyable things you like to do in Paris?”
“On a Sunday, for example, going back home to sleep at 6 am. Paris is completely different in the early morning sunlight. No one around and it’s beautiful.”
Edited by Janelle Sade
23 June – 23 September 2019
You can hear more of Mo Laudi on his social media here: