Reflections on alandala w/ Afriqua

Sidestepping the thinning membrane of today’s inflated trends, Afriqua is achieving equilibrium between youthful inventiveness and a mature artistic philosophy.

Standout tracks “Soul Correction,” “Chronic Cool,” and his R&S debut “Aleph” have been DJ and crowd favorites alike, and exemplify Afriqua’s approach to production: weaving deep samples into spacey sonic tapestries, honouring black heritage while propelling it into the future.

Anticipating his returning trip to Cluj-Napoca, we’ve crafted a narrative about his rollercoaster of emotions linked to Romania. Enjoy with people you enjoy!

My first memory of Romania, oddly enough, occurs during my early childhood in Hampton, Virginia. With my Michael Jackson obsession at its peak (although it admittedly hasn’t waned much since then) my Nanna recorded a VHS of MJ performing in Bucharest for me. It quickly became my prized object, practically a religious icon for 3-year-old me. I’d seen it enough to remember even the commercials that my grandmother had mistakenly recorded, not to mention the entire programming order, and for some strange reason, that it happened in Romania.

Little did I know that two decades later, I’d have the chance to get to know not only the capital city graced by his holiest Jackson, but a variety of others, each with their own flavor. I got bit by the Romanian bug almost immediately upon hearing the arpiar triumvirate at fabric nearly 10 years ago, and while many were surprised that such a vibrant musical culture could arise from such a small country, it fit completely into the Romania I’d been imagining since I saw MJ make thousands of girls faint by removing his sunglasses there. Adding the classical musical side into the mix — George Enescu, Sergiu Celibidache, Dinu Lipatti, Radu Lupu — only increased my estimation of the musical culture and curiosity about the country. This made it all the more exciting to begin finding so much support for my work there and regularly visiting.

As much as I’ve appreciated all of my visits, it took coming to Cluj for the first time to consummate the relationship. My first gig, in Bucharest, ended in the after-hours tragicomedy of my drunkenly relieving myself on the stage of Club Eden before being lifelessly transported back to the airport, thus ending the illusion of being able to keep up with Romanian artists on the drinking front. So the following summer, I came back to Romania with something to prove. I’d heard a lot about Cluj and Alandala from Pola, and looked forward to playing together there when I was finally invited.

My agent and I arrived together, and were welcomed by the team’s driver blasting the new tunes of a young producer friend — his name was Macarie, as it turns out — in the car on the way out of the airport parking lot. When we finally got to the party that evening, we’d been well warmed up by a day of positive interactions with everyone.

We had no idea how special though. We really brought the roof down…

 

It was a particularly cold and windy night, and a particularly bad one for tent. My agent suggested that I stop playing, but a seemingly pathological instance of show-must-go-on feelings compelled me to continue. For a few moments, I feared the party would end, but to my eternal amazement that solution never seemed to cross anyone else’s mind. Instead, while continuing to play, I watched an entire crowd team up to remove the roof under which they were dancing just an hour prior, only to continue for another 9 hours afterwards unfazed.

Talk about dedication… It went on to be what’s still one of the most memorable gigs I’ve ever played. Pola graciously let me carry on playing well after my scheduled time, before joining in to play together. After half a day, with holes in the dancefloor, and my agent in the ruins of Don Julio (everybody’s first time, huh?), smiles abounded as we rolled back down the mountain into reality.

As if the Feleacu hills weren’t high enough, alandala’s altitudinal inclination brought us to even greater heights upon my return 6 months later. The ambiance in Baisoara was entirely different, the ultimate winter wonderland, but the vibe inside the hotel was just as warm. The main event featured Jay Bliss, myself, and Dan Andrei. The only thing better than a great sound-system outside is a great sound-system inside, and coupled with the ideal acoustic treatment (most importantly an appreciative audience packed into the room) it made for an unforgettable party. And that was before we went upstairs to continue.  

There’s something delightfully egalitarian about a community of partygoers, organizers, and artists occupying twin beds in an unmodernized ski lodge for the sake of dancing together. What you lack in the comfort of your room is entirely compensated for by the party carrying on indefinitely an elevator ride away. It disarms your city senses, those which regulate such bourgeoise concerns as sleep, nourishment, and — the age old enemy of DJs — flight times.

It’s hard to leave. So I didn’t. Instead, after a hearty dose of encouragement and teasing from Sorin and Pola, I decided that my newfound Dacian spirit couldn’t be confined by the restrictions of Lufthansa and an angry girlfriend. After all, missed flights always sting for a moment or two, but also mark the point at which the real fun begins.

In typical Romanian fashion, the after-party ended up being one of the highlights of my year.

In even more typically Romanian fashion, the after-after-party which followed did as well. In the first, Andrei and I played back-to-back before breaking off to play solo for a select group of dancing silhouettes in the rose-tinted loft we’d migrated to. In the second, after our descent back into Cluj, we kept our four remaining friends dancing while producing and recording two impromptu tracks together in Sorin’s compact home studio. We would probably have finished an EP had Pola’s good sense not intervened to ensure our making it to the airport in time.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I left feeling distinctly in touch with Romania’s unique musical essence. My Nanna introduced me to it, and Alandala has come to represent it like no other party can.

After all these flashbacks, it’s obvious that we’re looking forward to our next winter adventure with Afriqua. To many great times ahead ▼