EKU EKU EKU (a call to death)

Goethe-Institut Virtual Partnership Residency with Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi (crazinisT artisT) and HYENAZ 

EKU EKU EKU (a call to death)

BUY THE TRACK HERE: https://hyenazhyenaz.bandcamp.com/track/eku-eku-eku-a-call-to-death

All proceeds from Bandcamp sales benefit perfocraZe International Artist Residency, Kumasi, Ghana.

On the day of cranizisT artisT / Va-Bene’s 40th birthday, it is with very great excitement that we release our audio visual collaborative work into the world. It is a piece reckoning with death, about speaking between the living and the dead, and about speaking across time and space. In honor of this day and of this collaboration.

Va-Bene is one of the most courageous and inspiring artists/activists we have ever met. sHit founded and leads the incredible international artist residency in Kumasi Ghana and is a beacon of light as a courageous queer person, performer, speaker, truth teller. sHit also works tirelessly fighting for LGBTQI+ rights in Ghana.


Credits

EKU EKU EKU (A Call to Death) is a Virtual Partnership Residency between Ghanaian multi-disciplinary artist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] and HYENAZ, with support from Goethe-Institut. Special thanks to Silent Green Kulturquartier Berlin.

Field Recordings and Performance: Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] and HYENAZ
Cinematography by Onsoh Edward (Kumasi) and Sally Dige (Berlin)
Song in Ewe (Dirge) by Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT]
Sound Design and Video Edit: HYENAZ
Costumes (HYENAZ): Juan de Chamié of EXIT Berlin
Costume (crazinisT artisT): crazinisT artisT studiO


Methodology

The field recordings and visual materials for Eku Eku Eku (a call to death) were gathered on the 20th of April 2021 at 14:00 CET / 12:00 GMT simultaneously in Berlin, Germany and Kumasi, Ghana. Using a deep listening methodology that HYENAZ had previously developed during the course of their first Virtual Partner Residency with Detroit-based artist Jova Lynne, both partners spent one hour making a parallel ritualistic and performative journey in their respective cities: Berlin and Kumasi, which were documented by their videographers.

Prior to the day of the performance, we made several calls to form what would be the central theme to our work, finally deciding on a meditation with death. Death has been and will always be a central theme for the living, but this year due to the global pandemic, meditating on death seemed particularly poignant. HYENAZ decided to enact their end of the ritual in the Wedding Crematorium, at Silent Green while Va-Bene created her performance in one of Kumasi’s cemeteries.

We decided on the color of red for our project in order to further unify our journeys. Once we were dressed and prepared, we called each other to check in before beginning. At the end of our respective rituals, we made a call again, discovering that we had completed our rituals within minutes of each other.

We followed this deep listening score for the simultaneous ritual:

Grounding. Find a comfortable position where you can relax your body into the location. Think about grounding. If you feel comfortable, come as physically close to the ground as possible. Lie on the ground. Let whatever parts of your body that touch the ground sink deeper into the ground. Concentrate on rooting. Capture the ambient sounds located there. Film yourself in this space, becoming grounded. Move the camera very close to your body to get some of the sounds and sensations very close to your skin and to your body against the earth.

Deep Listening. While letting the recording run, think about the sound that you hear. What sounds do you hear closest to you? What is more distant? What is even further away? Take note. You can also move your body in small micro-orientations to signal that you receive the sound. It could be an arm movement or a very subtle shift in your weight, depending on how you are positioned. Articulations. From this grounded space, what words come to mind. Try not to edit yourself. Just say the first words that come to mind. Say them outloud so that they are captured by the camera and microphone. Don’t worry at first about capturing a good recording, just let the words flow. Once you know what they are, repeat the same words again clearly into the microphone/camera.

Colour. What colour association do you make or feel as you occupy this space? Does the colour have a sound? Does the mood produced by the colour have a sound? Make a sound offering into the microphone, a squeal, song, gurgle, scream … be free Immediate concentric circle. Stand up and take space. From this specific place, take your camera and move slowly around your location in 360 degrees. This is the immediate circle and site of “home”. Move slowly so that you can notice details around you. Then take the camera and have someone move around you in 360 degrees to get you from all sides.

Mapping. Travel with your mind in concentric circles starting with the closest circle and moving out further and further like the skin of an onion. Name what is there and what it means for you, what is its significance, personal, political, contemporary, historical, futurological.

Found instrument. Find two objects within and around this site which can produce distinct sound and “play”. For instance, a wire scraped on a bench, or a tin can on the cement ground. Play your instrument while the recorder is set on the ground in a set location and record for at least 2 minutes. Let yourself record both distinct “hits” of the instrument as well as experiments in rhythm. Film yourself playing this instrument Free

Movement. As you have called into all directions the sounds and energies, begin to let your body move freely in response. Try to film your movements from different directions. Allow any sounds that rise to emerge from your body. Interact with the space and its objects in any way you feel compelled to.


Lyrics

(sung by Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi [crazinisT artisT] in Ewe)
Mother mother mother / Na Na na, Naye Nayee Nayee
If you reach the peak of the mountain Agou and hear any voice, you know that I’m the one calling you / Ne do Agou toa nu de maa ne se gbedidia de, nanya be nye le yor wo
Death doesn’t like good things / Eku me nya nu nyui ooo
Death doesn’t kill wicked people / Eku me wua amevodi wo
Death doesn’t pity poor people / Eku me kpor nublanui ne ame dahe woo
Death doesn’t know good things / Eku me nya nu nyui ooo
Death doesn’t know beauty things / Eku menya tungbe oo
Death doesn’t know wealth / Eku me nya hotsuioooo
Death has caused us a lot / Eku wo nu mi
Death has wounded our heart / Ekue dabi miafe dzi nu
Death doesn’t say it will go and come / Eku megblor be me yi ma vao


Editing Technique

Key to the emergence of the a/v work Eku Eku Eku was the experimental cutting techniques through which HYENAZ edited and assembled the piece. Normally we begin by composing a work from field recordings, and then cut the video to match this audio work. This time we worked from the video first using a modified version of the JAWA technique developed by the artist Tasman Richardson. When Tasman Richardson creates a/v works, they begin with found footage, scrubbing, cutting and looping to create percussive sounds and melodies using only the audio and visual material present in each fragment of found footage. We attempted the same, utilizing the audio visual field recordings we had each gathered, building the audio and visual composition in one step, from only the sounds and images present in each fragment.

This process resulted in a composition with an extremely tight relationship between picture and sound, content and form, and allowed us to merge the worlds of Va Bene’s ritual performance in Kumasi and ours in Berlin. However, it was not without challenges: We struggled with the sheer number of audio and visual tracks layered on top of each other. Creating music within a NLE like DaVinci Resolve, which is designed primarily for video editing, lends a fragility to the creative process, a careless key stroke can easily change the relationship between vast amounts of audio and visual material and undermine days of work. In the end we exported the audio stems from the video and worked with them in our DAW Bitwig to finalize the composition and to process and add effects to some of the sounds that were lacking presence in their raw form. We then reconnected the audio and visual before exporting the final work.