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Trouble Vision present Autonomous Africa with Optimo, Midland & Auntie Flo – Corsica Studios, London

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Corsica Studios continues to attract forward thinking, relevant offerings from both inside and out of London’s parameters. So far in April I’ve been lucky enough to get along to the 3rd birthday of east London based NTS radio, as well as Easter Thursday’s hearty Trouble Vision contribution, delivered in cahoots with charity-supporting label Autonomous Africa. NTS parties tend to provide a fluid framework for people to get down, in a gently self-aware, warming sort of way. And Trouble Vision parties draw a loyal contingent of south London’s more dedicated dancers, spanning the genres and spotting the opportunities to do something slightly different.

The Autonomous Africa debut at Corsica Studios was just that  – with the Trouble Vision team hosting the label’s founders and contributors in Room One and looking to make a contribution to a charity of Keith McIvor’s choice. In spite of this worthy approach, it’s worth noting that the focus for Autonomous Africa is as much about pushing for structural change in Africa and how the West interacts with the continent as it is about raising funds. But on the night, and in terms of getting along to a dance generally, this more outward-facing approach can often add a layer of meaning to a party, provided it avoids the ungainly paternalism that can often characterize a charity focus. Thankfully there was an air of dignity about the Corsican corridors this Easter, with the focus meeting somewhere in the middle of a 4 day weekend launch-party and the opportunity to support a well-meaning and measured music man doing a good thing, in JD Twitch / Keith McIvor.

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The first tune I heard from the Optimo gentlemen on arrival was Cottam’s edit of Bola Johnson’s Lagos Sisi. Be warned, if you start playing this tune, you’ll struggle to stop – it’s fucking brilliant – so hearing Mr. Wilkes play out all ten minutes of it set a welcoming tone. The edit introduces itself as an individual piece of dance music, throbbing and pulsing for the floor, only to work in the Afro-Jazz depth that Bola Johnson brought to the original in 1972. I guess Cottam’s edit alone serves as a nice example of how one might approach an involvement with African culture that our leaders and developers might do well to absorb, and his is certainly an approach that McIvor is sensitive to with Autonomous Africa: in an illuminating interview back in July last year, he said that “releasing these Autonomous Africa records was a way for [him] to vent [his] frustration [at the continued pillage of African resources to feed the global capitalist machine] and feel [he] was doing something positive, no matter how insignificant that might be.” He is aware that these are baby steps, but his position as an extremely well respected DJ, producer and promoter allow him a platform to try to move things forward.

When he took a break from the booth at Corsica, he moved out front and made his way through the crowd, apologetic for interrupting the dance with his hearty Glaswegian gait. He and his pal Wilkes’ selections grew eerie yet comforting, familiar and bewildering, as Room One thickened out to way above capacity. There was a chunky up-front approach from everybody’s favourite little and large booth-combo, and the crowd responded in kind.

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Midland was next up, and he didn’t let up on the foundations that had been laid by our hosts. He was a constant presence for the last hour of the Optimo lot, multi-tasking by showing his support whilst gauging how to pitch his own approach for his 2-4 slot. He retained the crowd’s energy with some real Afro-thrust, and seemed to really enjoy being a part of proceedings. Midland was brought up in Tanzania, where his parents ran a charity, which was the beneficiary from Autonomous Africa’s 2nd EP. It is said that Midland’s energy and enthusiasm got that 2nd EP moving, and this seemed to be very much on show at Corsica as his rhythm rang out, straight and true.

The Trouble Vision residents dealt well and truly with Room Two throughout, with disco loving Larj Hans & The OK Jones Band, joined by Tief’s Hesseltime and Mr Solid Gold, all of whom contributed ample mood and tone to proceedings, and it was actually there in Room Two where a lot of south London stalwarts ended up sweating the business end of the night away. But for me it was all about Auntie Flo, who contributed to the first EP in the Autonomous series and has been involved with a huge range of African-tinged projects over the course of the last 12 months or so. These projects range from playing with Owimy Sigoma Band at Village Underground, right the way through to linking up with 2 Bears and hip-house legend Senyaka in South Africa as part of the British Council and Live Magazine ZA’s Connect ZA program. His involvement with Autonomous Africa confirms him as a key-player in the ever-expanding plain of Africa inspired electronic music, and his selection of challenging beats certainly didn’t disappoint. I strongly suggest you get along to anything that any of these names are involved with, but particularly to Autonomous Africa stuff. In that illuminating interview (read it), McIvor calls on us to “get educated as consumer[s] and use this great power wisely, encouraging other people [we] know to follow suit”, so that’s what I’m trying to do here. 

Words: Joseph Gray

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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