Creative Spotlight: Interview with Noutéka

"Being a collective composed of artists from diverse cultures, backgrounds, influences and ages makes our work vibrant, with a unique signature."

Words: Rachel Cameron-Potter and Noutéka

Images: Provides by Noutéka (individual photographers noted in caption)

First members of the collective (Left to right: SamPro, Nayana Saw, Fro., GoodSoul)
The first members of the collective (left to right: SamPro, Nayana Saw, Fro., GoodSoul) | Photographer: Jack Thompson

Noutéka is an independent collective founded by Fro. based in London. The collective is made up of various artists collaborating to create vibrant and original music, graphic designs and dances.

Hello! First of all, how are you doing? How are you finding Lockdown 3.0?

Hi, We are doing great and very happy the album has been released! This lockdown has been very challenging for us, especially because of the grey and cold weather. We're trying to stay as creative and productive as possible, though.

Can you tell us a bit about the band’s background? How did you all come together to form Noutéka?

The idea of a collective had been in Fro.’s (producer, rapper, videographer) mind for a long time before the official start in 2018. The purpose was to create a platform where artists can collaborate and get stronger collectively.

Noutéka was founded after Fro. met with Pheori (producer, guitarist) and SamPro (producer, rapper, graphic designer) for jam sessions. After making music together for a few months, they were joined by Nayana Saw (photographer, dancer, communications) and GoodSoul (singer, communications) around the release of the Men & Mice EP from SamPro.

You now boast various creatives, dancers, musicians, photographers and graphic designers. Wow! Tell us about your evolution from a band of four to a larger collective.

The release of the Men & Mice EP from SamPro has been our first experience as an independent label and collective. There were only four of us (Fro., Nayana Saw, SamPro, GoodSoul) at this time and we took care of everything from recording, mixing, communication, merchandising, marketing, with everything being self-financed. We learnt a lot from this first project and it allowed us to perform live and connect with new artists interested in Noutéka artistic propositions.

A really important step for us was the beginning of our event “Quartier Libre”. In September 2019, we were invited to perform weekly by our friend Emma Yasumi, who was opening her kitchen at 5Miles (in Tottenham Hale) with her partner Oliver. From this point we’ve slowly been able to realise the initial idea of Noutéka as a collective.

We started with live music and eventually integrated some dance performances into our shows, with each performance getting a bit longer every time. We kept evolving, adding visuals and projections, and met new artists willing to be involved in the adventure along the way. We ended up with a full event, proposing at the same time a dance choreography, open mics, painting and photography exhibitions and alongside our live music. (The food from Umami Salame was for the occasion, a fusion of Caribbean, Asian and Italian flavours.) At the same time, we were already working on L I N E S, connecting with even more people music wise.

The collective Noutéka performing at Quartier Libre
Noutéka performing at Quartier Libre | Photographer: Nayana Saw

Give us an overview of your latest LP, ‘L I N E S’.

L I N E S is an ambitious compilation bringing together 15 artists from all over London. The project embodies the city of London, whose image is manifested through the lines of the underground and soundscapes from which our music is inspired.

L I N E S transcribes the specific mood and energy drawn from whichever train line each artist picked to represent themselves. You will feel the dub from the Victoria line as you approach Brixton. You will dance away your fears and anxiety through the Metropolitan line as you make your way to a date you’ve been waiting for all week. The list goes on.

How do you create your albums? Do you decide the concept first (for example, you knew you wanted to have an album based on the London underground) and write lyrics around it, or is it the other way around?

Like a lot of things we do, the concept of this project came to us inadvertently - we never really thought of doing an album about the London tube or travelling in London. The actual lyrics of the songs from the album, despite their names, aren’t even about these topics.

The first few beats were produced by Fro. Suffering from claustrophobia, he used to take his laptop on the tube and start producing beats during his journey as a way to escape. One day back in the studio with the crew, we opened a folder of his last productions and it was already named after the tube line he produced in. The original concept was already there in front of us. We quickly realised how much L I N E S could really touch people in a city like London. Every Londoner spends so much time on transportation and we all have stories in the tube. It’s really a part of our lifestyle. With Sampro and Nayana Saw, who are the other executive producers of the album, we decided it should be a compilation and we began developing the idea, creating designs, calling friends to sing, produce, play instruments...

We also wanted to celebrate the city's diversity and all the different vibes that you can find find in different areas through the music, without addressing it directly.

Noutéka LP L I N E S album cover
LP L I N E S album cover | Designed by SamPro

Can you tell us about the book that inspired Noutéka?

The concept of Noutéka is taken from a Caribbean book called “Texaco” written by Chamoiseau. It can be translated as “we were doing it” and it describes what a group of Afro-Caribbean people decided to do after slavery in Martinique. They rejected life in the city and refused to go back to the plantation for money. They sought to design their own way of life, developing an independent way to survive using ancestral knowledge as they left for Virgin Hills of the island to live it. We humbly try to honour their experience and their name in our approach of being creative.

What have been your favourite projects to date?

L I N E S has definitely been the most challenging project we've accomplished so far. Bringing all the artists together, polishing the tracks, promoting it as best as we could hasn’t been easy at all. We did it all independently, with no external financing except for the money raised from a successful Kickstarter campaign. Obviously the virus and the lockdowns did not help and made the process even longer, but it’s definitely been the most rewarding. All the skills that we've gained and the collaborations that we made have made us really proud, and it's exactly how we want it to be. Also, we've had a lot of positive feedback from various magazines and radios, so it's definitely been a massive step forward for Noutéka.

Can you share any exciting projects that Noutéka have in the pipeline with us?

We think that it’s now time for each artist in the collective to release their own project. It took us a long time to finish L I N E S and I think everyone is hungry for it.

J Wye and Pheori are working together on new productions. Fro. is pretty much ready to release a new EP, such as HopeSigh. SamPro will surprise you with some new creations. Let’s not forget our Season 2 of the Pangolin show about beat making production open to anyone that you can follow on YouTube as we start to develop our radio activities. Some other shows should arrive shortly.

On top of the music, we would also like to take more time to develop new dance performances and keep adding to our Nou Ka Dansé format that you can find on our Instagram and YouTube channels. Obviously we can’t wait for the lockdown to end and perform live again! Everything will be accessible from our website, so stay tuned. ;)

Final question – what do you find the most rewarding about your work?

Being independent is key for us, but we also want the quality of our productions to be professional. It’s a massive achievement that we managed to keep the freedom to create what we want, when we like, without pressure from a label. Also, being a collective composed of artists from diverse cultures, backgrounds, influences and ages makes our work vibrant, with a unique signature. It is a good environment to be creative in, and we learn a lot from each other.

Instagram: @nouteka_

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