Name: Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul
Nationalities: Belgian-Caribbean (Charlotte Adigéry), Belgian-Chinese (Bolis Pupul)
Occupations: Producers, performers, songwriters
Current release: Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul's Topical Dancer is out via Deewee / Because Music.
If these thoughts by Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul piqued your interest, visit their official website for everything you ever wanted to know about them and more music. They are also on Facebook and have individual Instagram accounts: Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul.
You've described your debut album as “a snapshot of how we think about pop culture in the 2020s.” I was intrigued by this - how do we think about pop music in the 2020s?
Charlotte: It’s all very produced and curated nowadays. Everybody can self-broadcast. Which is a nice thing, but it’s all very hard to keep up with all this constant stream of content. Trends come and go even faster, our attention span has shortened immensely.
Bolis: I should also mention that the “we” we talk about here is purely Charlotte and myself. It's not all of us. I hope by listening to the album you get some kind of insight in how Charlotte and I perceive the time we live in.
What, do you feel, shapes your perceptions?
Charlotte: Social media had a big influence on it.
Some say, to the detriment of the music.
Charlotte: I disagree, it changed in a good and bad way. Pop isn’t always about good or bad. Yeah sure, I think some pop music is good and some is bad, but that’s my personal taste. What I do feel is that the expression “POP” reflects society in a very interesting way. You have to get your point across instantly or people will move on … As a result, I think pop now is a little darker, a little bit more snappy. With us, you can, in the blink of an eye, see what we are about and musically and it can appeal to a lot of people from different backgrounds and ages. But it’s also layered, it’s not superficial.
A clearly defined image as an invitation to something profound.
Charlotte: In a way, yes. For example when you look at these legends in pop, like David Bowie, Madonna, Grace Jones: you see immediately what they are about. But when you look a little closer you see it is very authentic and can go really deep.
A lot of current music is charged with "big topics". Why haven't we as yet seen a single new musical youth movement based around them - similar to how folk, rock, and techno once transported societal ideas?
Charlotte: Maybe it is about maturing? I am not sure if I could have approached these subjects and written about them this way many years ago. It takes a while to not take yourself too seriously as a person I guess. I really hope the younger generation gets there, too. Social media probably have a play in this as well, they feed the ego and vanity. Vanity and humour don’t get along very well.
Why use this particular sound and the song format for these topics?
Bolis: I think because we love electronic music and we talk a lot before we start working. In fact the talking is part of the work as it becomes part of the writing process. We need to talk in order to work together, it clears space in our heads.
And that seeps through into the lyrics?
Charlotte: There is a lot of discussion around lyrics for sure. The album actually is the result of many conversations and discussions between two friends in the studio, before we even start working on music.
Like with "Ceci n’est pas un cliché". We were in the car driving to a show and heard this very cliché song on the radio. Jokingly, we said “let’s make a song with all these lyrical clichés in it.”
What makes the lyrics of the album so strong from my point of view is that they're personal-private but relatable. It's not just navel gazing.
Charlotte: It’s a super honest record, we’re not pretending to be anyone else than who we are. If you recognize yourself in there that is the greatest compliment because then it means we are not alone. (laughs)
How do you feel does your own cultural background influence your creativity?
Bolis: I am sure it is key to who I am, as an artist but also as a human. I never really belonged anywhere, even as a teenager I wasn’t comfortable being part of a group. I was ashamed of my Chinese background and got bullied more than once for that. It was only in my late teens that I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed and that it was okay to embrace those double roots. Musically I also don’t want to be boxed into a genre, because it makes me feel misunderstood. It’s a feeling I’m comfortable with, I think.
Charlotte: I also had a lot of confrontations with racism. I felt very alone as a Caribbean woman in Belgium. People would assume I was from Congo or wouldn’t even know where Martinique and Guadeloupe were located on the globe ... It is a huge part of my identity that people were completely oblivious to. Music really helped me to embrace who I am and find empowerment in the fact that I am “hybrid”. I am neither completely Caribbean or Flemish or Belgian or French - I am something in between which apparently for some people makes it hard to box me in.
What's your take on topics like diversity, eclecticism, and originality when it comes to music?
Charlotte: Music is a way of creating my own country, a place where all of me is very welcome. I see myself as a sponge, I love all kinds of music and I just absorb all of it. We make a mixture of our own.
To me, the greatest artists are those who don't pretend to be anything else than themselves and are aware that any story is a story worthy of being told. The originality comes from that I guess. It’s a power every individual has.
You've mentioned the importance of humour for music. Doesn't the humour clash, in a way, with some of the topics which are pretty intense?
Bolis: That’s a very personal opinion for which everyone has a different threshold. For Charlotte and me it’s very natural to involve humor in what we do. If there were no humour on this record, talking about these topics would feel too heavy, as if we were claiming to have answers or solutions. We rather see it as adding oxygen to a conversation that easily tends to become a vacuum.
Charlotte: We wanted to find a balance between not being too moralizing and also having fun. To reference Mary Poppins: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” The topics are heavy indeed - woke culture, political correctness, cancel culture and all that. I get it, I respect it, I finally feel represented and understood. So it’s not mocking, it’s not minimizing these subjects: it’s just our way of proposing to see it from another point of view.
But the racism you experienced must have hurt, right?
Charlotte: I have been a victim of racism and discrimination but I don’t feel like a victim anymore. Anger is a good starting point to get your point accross and to really heal from all of that pain … but if you want change you need to grow past that. And humour is an excellent way to do that.
You've referenced Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge in the press release. Eddo-Lodge basically suggests that white people instantly get defensive when people of colour open up about their experience with racism, thereby eliminating any opportunity for exchange and change. Would you say that music creates a space where you can get a message across again?
Charlotte: Music addresses another place in your brain than journalism and literaure, and, most importantly, in your body. When you’re dancing, when you’re listening to music … pores of your soul open up. It makes you a little more receptive to these subjects.
On the one hand, we have a very modest intention with this record - it is not our intention to change your point of view. We can only kindly invite you … But here's a small anecdote: a journalist told me she was singing the “go back to the country where you belong” part of our song "Blenda" in her living room and she felt awkward, asking herself if she could dance to this song, sing along to this song. I didn’t think about it myself until she told me the story … and I told her that maybe she should feel a little uncomfortable about it. Because the realization she had made her stand in my shoes for a moment.
If people, after listening to Topical Dancer, just said: “Great record”, without any reference to the lyrics - would that be okay, too?
Bolis: Sure, it’s all good! Maybe next time this person will discover there’s more to it. But nonetheless it’s also a great compliment as it means they enjoyed the music without needing the lyrics to do so.