In a holistic extension of the core ideas, shrine-environment and sculptural-sonic materials used within Tahjèsè #3i / barɨŋ báchɔ́kɔrɔk #4 at The Showroom, Em’kal has continued developing these sound sculptures and polyrhythmic beat generators at his studio in Amsterdam.
Assemblages of entangled sculptural, analog and electronic elements form a new live interface, which he names Kerakaraka +1i / e-Mungo West #7. This relies on the weather and the elements to create atmospheric environmental acoustics, as well as water and oil-run polyrhythm generators, and customised woodwind instruments.
For Em’kal the semi-enclosed space created by this sculptural/sonic environment becomes a shrine within which he continues to explore ever-new solo and collaborative improvisations in which to reflect, intercede and share sonic dialogues.
In total there are three tailored ‘stations’ within the studio in Amsterdam: an analogue shrine-space, mɔ ntaï Tabindɛ, which translates from Kɛnyaŋ as 'little Tabindé's cave'; a second analogue space called njyé mbieven, where footnotes and conversations with acoustic artists, musicians and poets take place; and MbiEshobi lounge, where collective inter-sessions take place with the use of arhgbrou 4.3, a quad speaker setup with three subwoofers.
Image above: Em'kal Eyongakpa, Tahjèsè #3i / barɨŋbáchɔ́kɔrɔk #4, installation view (detail), The Showroom, London, 2019. Courtesy of Max Colson
Video below: Em'kal Eyongakpa, live session recorded together with Magdalena Akua Agyekum / azura pataku at mɔ ntaï tabindɛ, an analog studio/sound sculpture within Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk Bijlmer, Amsterdam, during The water hit me collective residency, August 2020
““So...drops like these make up rivers, and you decide where we stop the beat. We make a rhythm machine. And we tell a story. And so we see what happens...”
– Em’kal Eyongakpa with Magdalena Akua Agyekum
This intimate video, recorded by a fixed camera, documents an initial conversation between Em’kal Eyongakpa and Magdalena Akua Agyekum within mɔ ntaï tabindɛ, which led to her subsequent residency in Amsterdam. In a durational, spontaneous exchange, Em’kal experiments with kerakaraka +1/ eMungo West #7 whilst having a conversation with Magdalena; an improvised call-and-response. Using the analogue polyrhythm machine, dripping water is accompanied by an array of adapted indigenous, percussive and wind instruments from the Cross river basin in the Cameroons and beyond. Em’kal and Magdalena create textures and rhythms against irregular beats, creating counter points that provide a backdrop for their poetic, intuitive storytelling.
The 45 minute sequence was shot during Magdalena Akua Agyekum’s residency, The water hit me, in August 2020.
Em'kal Eyongakpa was born in Mamfe, Cameroons and is a Dutch resident, currently based in Amsterdam. His practice extends to self-organised community research spaces and autonomous art hubs, from KHaL! SHRINE in Yaounde (2007-2012) to the recent research platform and fund Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk / ɛfukuyu. Eyongakpa holds degrees in Plant biology and Ecology from the University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon, and was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. His work has recently been exhibited at the Jakarta Biennale (2017), 13th Sharjah biennial (2017), La Biennale de Montreal (2016), 32nd Bienal de Sao Paulo (2016), 9th and 10th Bamako Encounters (2011, 2015) and 10th Dak'art Biennale (2012).
For Em’kal, his current studio base in Amsterdam is conceptualised as a network of collaborative live-work spaces in which he hosts events and interventions with an ever-growing constellation of collaborators. He names this symbolic, collective space Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk, which translates from Kɛnyaŋ as ‘children/people of the community, village, or nation state’. Selected recordings of live events, studio sessions, and work-in-progress during hosted residencies are also presented and shared for wider audiences via his ɛfúkúyú blog online
In an earlier video documenting a similar yet solo session within Mɔ́ ntai tabindɛ, Em’kal draws from and revisits a poem he wrote titled Border Palaver, written in Berlin in 2014, echoing his enduring, visceral engagement with liminal states, portals and border zones, through both a political and poetic lens.
The words of the poem reflect upon two post-war walls marking new borders that emerged following the defeat of Germany during the twin World Wars: the ‘Mungo Border’, which was drawn up between former Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon after Germany’s surrender in World War One; and The Berlin Wall, built after World War Two.
“These hosted sessions continue to reflect on ideas relating to utopia and dystopia, on lands with cultures linked to water, be they occupied / free; physical / ideal; literal/ metaphorical.” - Em’kal Eyongakpa
Video above: Em'kal Eyongakpa, live session recorded at mɔ ntaï tabindɛ, analog studio/sound sculpture within Bɔ́ Bɛtɔk Bijlmer, Amsterdam, June 2020.