Members: Gabriel Rosenbach, Niko Zeidler, Anton Kowalski, Jonathan Steffen, Max Feig, Moses Yoofee Vester, Moritz Schmolke, Heinrich Eiszmann, Philip Schilz
Occupation: Musicians, performers, songwriters
Current release: Wanubalé are one of the acts featured on the upcoming compilation Two Tribes Volume Two, described as "an intercontinental journey in rhythm, compiled by Ubbo Gronewold and Tobi Kirsch". The album can be pre-ordered from Agogo and is scheduled for September 17th. The compilation also features contributions by Afrodyssey Orchestra, The Kutimangoes, Octa Push and Lua Preta, among others.
[Read our Lua Preta interview]
[Read our Octa Push interview]
Recommendations: I would highly recommend to check out the Berlin "avantgarde" scene. Names like Lillinger/Dell/Westergaard or groups surrounding Wanja Slavin or Petter Eldh for example.
[Read our LIUN + The Science Fiction Band interview, one of Wanja Slavin's projects]
Another Band we listen to a lot at the moment is corto.alto. They are about the same age as we are and they are putting out some amazing music!
If you enjoyed this interview with Wanubalé and would like to know more about their work, visit their official homepage. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, and bandcamp.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Most of us actually met at school when we where about 15. That's when we started writing music together.
Back then it was definitely the big names like Hiatus Kaiyote, Robert Glaser, Snarky Puppy or Takuya Kuroda that mainly influenced us. Nubiyan Twist would be an example of a band that we listened to a lot back than and still listen to on every tourbus ride now. We all started playing instruments way earlier though.
I can’t name the specific reasons for everyone of course but I think a certain thing for rhythm and dance is definitely one thing that drew us all to it and connects us in a way.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I´d say starting out we where trying to emulate the musicians mentioned above a lot. It was definitely a way for us to learn about composition and also just to get to know our instruments better.
As time went on we tried to emancipate from that more and more. But we definitely still find ourselves trying to copy a beat or a feel from a certain track from time to time. The main difference being that the music we draw from nowadays often is from a way different genre or constellation. Produced beats rather than live bands for example.
There has been a lot of change in the music we listen to and play individually over the last years. Bringing these 9 constantly evolving perspectives together is a challenge of course, but its a very rewarding one.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Identity is a rather big term but I´ll try to highlight two aspects. First of all we all where raised in and around Berlin. Obviously the clubbing and especially techno scene always played a huge role in our city. But we kind of consciously stayed away from the techno side of Berlin for the most part. We where rather always on the lookout for clubs and parties that didn’t play techno and didn’t attract the typical Berlin techno crowd.
So we found ourselves going to a lot of UK bass music and broken beat parties. This kind of music only has a super small scene in Berlin. But I guess that was part of the reason why we where so drawn to it. It has influenced us a lot and still is.
Another aspect of identity that is discussed a lot within the band is the fact that we are mainly white men, raised in Germany but we, as so many others, are hugely inspired by Black American Music and Music from the African Diaspora. Although we try to be very conscious of that there is always a conflict regarding authenticity and appropriation remaining.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning we where constantly challenging our abilities on the instrument. That resulted in rather technical arrangements with the main focus being it to be fun to play.
This approach has changed in the way that we are now focusing on composing simpler stuff, that still has a great impact on us and the listener. Growing up musically in that sense has been a big challenge when writing the tunes for upcoming releases.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
We have two drummers. Finding new ways to orchestrate beats is a constantly evolving thing for us, therefore the way we setup the kits is always changing. Checking out new percussive instruments in the studio and then trying to figure out how to incorporate them live is a constant topic. We always discuss wether to use triggered dum samples live to realize certain things but haven’t yet felt the need to go there. It might happen in the future though.
Another thing that has changed the way we work a lot is building our own studio. All releases to date have been recorded at JRS in Berlin which is a very nice but also rather costly studio. If you spend all your money on studio time you really feel the need to come in super prepared and use the time you’ve got wisely. That resulted in very planned out arrangements and a lot of creative work was done before recording. Our process now, having our own little studio is way different.
We tend to come in with minimal preparation and arrange things on the spot. Sometimes just jamming with the rhythm section and then figuring out the role for the horns afterwords. It was very interesting to see how a different workflow can provoke such different forms of creativity.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
The technology that has us questioning the way we make music the most would definitely be Ableton and such.
As more and more of us got deeper into producing music, we got way more conscious of the whole sound design aspect of music making. Honestly sometimes we even find ourselves frustrated by how good a produced demo sounds in comparison to us recording the track live. But luckily we still find a whole lot of advantages and joy in playing live instruments so checking out this intersection between producing music and playing it live has been very influential in a positive way.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
We are working on featuring vocalists on our next releases, which is definitely changing the way we write music at this time.
All 9 of us are also playing with different artists and other bands and we are living in 6 different cities at the moment. So checking out other scenes and discussing music with people outside of our Berlin bubble is super important to us.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
This is obviously hard for me to answer in the name of everybody. But I´d say the majority of us don’t really have a typical routine or schedule as we all are playing and rehearsing with different people everyday. Some of us are still going to music school, some have finished their studies and only our trombonist Jonny has a job outside of music.
I´d say for all of us our social life is very influential for our creative process. It has always been a very collective thing to talk music and go to concerts with musician and non musician friends alike. That's also why our Berlin concerts are always extra special for us.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
If there is one specific moment it would probably be our very first concert ever to be honest.
We where basically non existent at that point and had maybe released one video. But we booked this club many of used to sneak into since we where 14 called Spartacus in Potsdam and spent two months telling literally everyone we knew about it. Until an hour before stage time it wasn’t really clear who would actually show up but somehow we managed to get the place super packed with many friendly faces and I think it was one the craziest experiences for all of us. Definitely one of many that keep us going til today.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Honestly I feel like for us the ideal state of mind for being creative is very counter intuitive and not really reproducible.
Most of the time the scheduled rehearsals and writing sessions in the ideal surrounding don’t necessarily produce the most creative work. It's rather the random spontaneous late night hangs where we come up with the ideas we like most. Or they come up in stressful situations shortly before a gig or something.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I think in one way or another everybody must have experienced both of these effects.
I would describe the power to bring people together and bridge gaps between the most different backgrounds as its biggest potential in that sense. Also its power to lift spirits, be it in forms of meditation or ecstasy, is hugely important for many of us.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
As mentioned above this is definitely a topic that we constantly discuss within the band. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to define where those limits are though. We all rather try to have conversations with as many people as possible who are in a position of emotional vulnerability regarding that topic and except their limits as ours.
For us having these conversations and having an honest interest for other cultures and their artistical heritage is one way to try to define that fine line.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
The visual aspect of a live performance is very important to us. That's one reason why we decided at a certain point that the two drummers are sitting in the middle, front of stage.
Also the smell and heat of a packed club might be repulsive for some, but we definitely find it to be a huge part of the live music experience and would never want to miss it. One of the reasons why it was so incredible to be back on stage again this summer.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think we didn’t necessarily start out thinking of ourselves as artists. It was always mainly the pure joy that we felt when playing music an having this exchange of energies with people in the audience that made us pursue this path. Now we like to think that this joy and exchange alone is far more important for society than you might realize in a specific moment.
It was never of highest importance to us that our art is a proposition in its own right but it was always created with the people who might listen to it and draw from it in mind.
Although our music isn’t political on first glance we do feel a responsibility to at least not cooperate or promote certain companies or organizations and we’ve always been turning down those kind of offers. And we do feel a responsibility to use the power described above in the right contexts.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
For me personally it's not necessarily a thing of what but a thing of how. It's probably more about who is finding which way to express them selves to be the most suited for them. And also on the receiving end, who is finding which way to be the most impactful on them.
Music for sure can be a far more emotionally direct way to communicate than words might be. And its the most beautiful thing to witness that impact.