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Half the World in 49 Songs

The musician and composer Cedrik Fermont cuts lanes through the highly constructed geographical and imagined landscapes of our world. The compilation Uchronia from his label Syrphe (2018) consists of 49 songs from artists of 32 different Asian countries. We asked him about his five favorite songs.

Old Map of Central Asia (Photo © by Flickr/cea)

«Asia is not a continent». This is not an unusual start in conversations with Cedrik Fermont. If one had to describe the musician, sound artist, and essayist in one term, the most appropriate would probably be: networker. But given the fact that this term is infected by neoliberal’s most beautiful dream (the constant commercial utilization of relationships), it would be better to describe him as personifying crossroads. On his constant tours as a musician and founder of the label Syrphe [1], Fermont meets hundreds of musicians and sound artists from all over the world, and has established a lot of long term relationships and created a huge network of underground musicians.

The compilation Uchronia [2] consists of 49 artists from noise and free improvised music from 32 Asian countries and the diaspora. With the aim of reaching «beyond the obvious structures as well as beyond the connections to Europe and USA», the compilation shows how music is able to travel without borders, and to create alternative, non-eurocentric maps of the world. Norient editor Philipp Rhensius met him in Berlin to pick out his five favorite songs of the compilation. But before we move on, let’s clarify the statement from the beginning. Fermont writes in the accompanying essay, «geographical Asia is a cultural artifact», later claiming that «Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South, Central and Southeast Asia, and Russia all shared various cultural and historical events as scientific discoveries and trends.» And this – the compilation – is how experimental music from these countries sound.

Cedrik Fermont aka C-drík (Photo © by Frank Sebastian Hansen)

1. Gülce Özen Gürkan: «Fag Boy Jesus»

«It’s a very important piece and it is very political, maybe the only explicit one. Gülce Özen Gürkan is really active in the field of veganism, human rights and LGBT rights. The piece sounds like very old school electro acoustic music. The piece was made for an exhibition in Istanbul but it was censored because of the title, which is a big provocation in Turkey. It is about a homosexual being bullied but I won’t tell you more because it is important to listen to the text, spoken by a synthetic voice.»

2. Saadet Türköz, Zeynep Sarıkartal, Başar Ünder: «Shine»

«This piece is from a Kazakh Turkish project. It was hard to find musicians from Kazakhstan until somebody recommended Saadet Türköz, an experimental vocalist. But by the time I finally reached her, I just had five days left to finish the compilation. She told me she had no time to provide anything. Then I learned that another musician I know, Başar Ünder, was performing with her in Istanbul. I asked him to record the session. Normally I don’t release live sessions but this one turned out to be very well recorded.»

3. Children Of Cathode Ray: «Mantracks»

«This band is an audio visual project from the Philippines. I’m really happy that they are on it because they are the pioneers of the Philippine experimental music scene which started in the 1980s. I love their music and they gave me a very old piece, which was probably recorded around 1989/1990. I like the way they experiment with sound and visuals and especially their DIY approach of making music.»

4. Phu Pham: «What Could»

«This decision is purely based on my personal taste. I really like this piece because it is just beautiful, very emotional and very minimalistic. It is an introspective piece and you need to listen to it in a very quiet environment with all its organic details. It sounds like a living being.»

5. Kei Watanabe: «We've Forgotten How To Breathe»

«Kei Watanabe is from Sri Lanka and she works with tapes and loops. It is interesting to see that she works like this as it is pretty old fashioned and uncommon nowadays. Her piece reminds me a lot on my past and the tape scene of the 1980s. It was a time when I myself collected a lot of tapes and published tapes as well. The piece sounds a bit broken and it has a very eerie and strange melody, probably made with flutes. It sounds like a melancholic ceremony in a weird way.»