Names: Fanfara Station
Members: Charles Ferris, Ghiaccioli e Branzini, Marzuk Mejiri
Occupations: Trumpet/flugelhorn player, trombonist (Ferris), percussionist, songwriter (Mejiri), DJ, producer (Branzini)
Nationalities: Tunisian (Mejiri), Italian (Branzini), American (Ferris)
Recent release: Fanfara Station's Boussadia is out via Garrincha GOGO.
Recommendations: The Tunisian singer Cheikh El Afrit; Hassan Hajjaj, the contemporary Moroccan photographer; Mario Merola, Neapolitan sceneggiata singer
If you enjoyed this interview with Fanfara Station and would like to find out more about the band, visit them on Instagram, and Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Our collective writing processes have developed over time, mostly during different artistic residencies organized in the countryside in Italy and in Tunisia.
Improvisation is key to our creative interaction. The rich variety of Tunisian rhythms, scales and forms and performance styles (Malouf, Stambeli and the music of sufi fraternities) constitute our favorite sources of inspiration, but the blues, afro-beat, brass band music and electronic dance music are important too.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Music fills our minds, takes over our senses, unites body, mind and spirit. Sometimes the mind leads, sometimes it’s the body.
As a group, we always leave space for the magic that faith in our spontaneous intuition can open up.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
We have three distinct backgrounds that we constantly valorize and challenge ourselves. Sometimes those challenges are technical, sometimes they are aesthetic, and sometimes you could call them cultural.
An important technical breakthrough came when we discovered we could all three syncronize electronic machines at our fingertips and our feet.
Musically speaking, after after years of collaboration focused on the more complex classical Tunisian musical forms, the electronics brought to the forefront the similarities of our musical sensibilities and vocabularies that revolve around the complex trajectories of the African diaspora, specifically blues-based African American styles and ritualistic Tunisian Stambeli music.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
We have deep connections to our upbringings, to the countries we left behind, the memories of music played in our families, but dialogues between us and with audiences are what stimulate us and encourage us to renew our sense of self.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Music is knowledge. Culture, and live music in particular, creates possibilities for uniquely intense shared experiences.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
We are interested in both.
Tradition and modernization answer to each other. The past and future both appear infinite to us. The infinite riches of musical pasts are fluid. Music travels through and is transformed together with us, in our bodies and minds. It is active and alive and deserve more than any one of us can give.
When traditions appear stagnant it’s probably someone’s defensive tactic against perceived and real threats. Our love and respect for musical pasts nourishes our relentless commitment to the future.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The voice, rhythm, the computer, recording technologies, the sampler, midi clock.
Electronic musical technologies work best for us when they create a field, a shared musical space, in which spontaneity and freedom reign.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
We record, we program, we listen, we practice our instruments, we connect with our families. We share ideas about how we can grow as a group. We organize our travel plans for our tours.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
For Boussadia, our new album (Garrincha Gogo), we did a residency in Tunis at a center for contemporary art called B7L9 for a few weeks where we performed and recorded with local musicians and got a feel for the musical cultural connections young Tunisians are after. It was a thrill to witness our music embraced in this dynamic, open creative urban space.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
We work individually on our craft and challenge ourselves as a group. We send each other ideas that we work on individually. On tour, we explore music by listening together, often challenging each other’s sensibilities. We embrace opportunities to play after concerts among friends and with other musicians.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music has the symbolic power to help us hear connections in the world we often fail to see.
Sometimes music brings together social or cultural scenes that are perceived as distant. It’s an incredible resource for making community.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
As immigrants and travellers, music has strengthened our ties to far-away places where we have left friends and family and to the new places we find ourselves in.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music unveils the wonders of the mind, of how our memories work in relationship to the visible and listened-to contexts in which we find ourselves.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Music can be a craft, a technical skill, but the processes of composition can always surprise you, especially when the process is collective.
It feels like an intimate process whose validation comes at a moment of collectivity.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
We agree! Air and vibrations touch us all. Our ears, and with lower frequency sounds, even our guts. Rhythm gives us a precise time in which to concentrate our intentions, which can lead us to focus on an infinitely small moment of time, and in turn, open us up to the infinitely vast.