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The planets have aligned for Foreigner and the Moonshine collective
Foreigner lors du Junkyard Jouvert! en 2019 - Photo: Patrick Struys

The planets have aligned for Foreigner and the Moonshine collective

In L.A. and Montreal, events organised by Foreigner and the Moonshine collective are a concentration of African-Caribbean cultural celebration. Destiny conspired to bring together Foreigner and Hervé ‘Coltan’ Kalongo for PAM, in order to look back on an amazing collaboration, and speak about the crew’s latest mixtape, SMS for Location Vol. 3.

Saying of Adam Cooper – aka Foreigner – that the travels of his youth provided many formative experiences, is an understatement. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, he spent much of his childhood in Venezuela before moving to New York City to study. Forced to return to his country due to a lack of professional opportunities, he later set sail for L.A. to join his girlfriend, unsure of what else he’d find upon his arrival. Very early on he recognised the potential of his new home. ‘What L.A. offered to me was a really cool culture of entrepreneurship, creativity, experimentation, and carte blanche to do what my heart was telling me to do.’

Foreigner in Los Angeles – Photo: Azah Ayanna

Before him a road was opening up; a path that would allow him to bring to life the many projects fizzing in his mind. ‘In my head and on paper’, he says, ‘there are a lot of ideas. When I see some sort of logistical opening, like a collaboration or an available warehouse, that’s when I can bring those concepts to life.’ In 2018 he found out that one of his favourite clubs had a huge open-air junkyard. No need to tell him twice…‘I immediately had an idea for this crazy party called Junkyard Jouvert, and now people love this event here in L.A.!’ During these dazzling evenings, sweat mixes with multi-coloured dust as a soundtrack of the latest and best African and Caribbean and electro sounds surrounds you. However, whilst L.A. is the world capital of avant-garde electro – the label Brainfeeder being at the forefront of that – African-Caribbean music remains underrepresented, at least according to Foreigner. ‘There’s always been a strong Caribbean and African presence here’, says the former member of the Rail Up collective, ‘but it is usually very hard to find. It’s not like NYC, where you can find a great African restaurant or a party at the corner of the street.’

Project Moon

Hervé Kalongo was born in Congo. With the singer Pierre Kwenders and other childhood friends, he began exploring music when he arrived in Montreal. Having studied marketing at school, he began by trying to put his theoretical knowledge into practice and helping out his musical mates. ‘There are so many things to do in Montreal when it comes to representing a musical landscape, and that’s basically how Moonshine came to life.’ Night after night, the crew brings together talented DJs, visual work, and original concepts, and is unmissable when it comes to clubbing and African and diaspora electronic music.

4500 km separated these two parties that had each contributed in their own ways to bringing something important and fresh to their local scenes. A mutual friend living in L.A. was the one who sparked initial contact between the two, convinced that a collaboration could be alchemical. Hervé contacted Foreigner, intrigued by his reputation and versatility. It was the most natural thing in the world to set up their first event together, bringing Moonshine to L.A. Foreigner explains that ‘the reason why our friend made the connection between Moonshine and the events I was doing is because he saw that Moonshine always had live West African percussion at their events, at the same time as having electro DJs with some sort of relevance to the African diaspora. The event that our friend saw me producing also had live percussion from Trinidad and Tobago, with the Laventille Rhythm Section.’ Though the links might have seemed a little tenuous at first, he quickly saw some obvious connections between their work. ‘The rhythms are very different, but it’s still part of the same African diaspora universe of rhythm. It made things easy because we can speak the same rhythmic language, even though we come from different places.’

Foreigner and Hervé “Coltan” Kalongo in L.A. march 2019
Perspectives intertwined

‘I am always joking when I call him the LeBron James of this event, because he can do everything’, smiles Hervé. ‘He has a 360° vision on every aspect of what it takes to create something.’ Hervé also admits that their first exchanges on social networks were crucial, Foreigner responding with his feet on the ground and his head firmly screwed onto his shoulders, despite the fantastic nature of his projects. ‘We immediately said, let’s try to collaborate on something’, Hervé continues. ‘Whether we make money out of it or if it’s just for the sake of it. That’s why we built this platform – to be able to reach out to other people and show the Montreal crowd what’s happening musically elsewhere. At some point, things can sound really familiar and same-y. We didn’t want that to happen with our events, so we are making sure to reach out to the right people!’

Just as enthusiastic about Moonshine’s spirit, Foreigner returns with a volley of compliments. ‘They are the best people, they are kind, friendly, fun people to be around, but they are also the best electronic African music collective that you can come across. They conduct business with pure integrity.’ It’s true that the team does nothing by halves. When they decide to organise an event, its cutting-edge music, films, visual arts, design, clothing lines – each artistic component leading to something else. ‘It’s almost like a Netflix show,’ Foreigner says, allowing a moment for Hervé to stop laughing. ‘It’s kind of hard to believe that these people are really solid friends, with a common vision, and that friendship allows them to really experiment, try things, agree, disagree, adjust, and try again. That’s why Moonshine has a clear message from a philosophical point of view.’

On both sides, the desire to experiment is palpable. Hervé describes it as being in a state of perpetual motion, Moonshine feeding off Foreigner’s work, and vice versa, but with neither one copying the other. ‘When they asked if I wanna work on something, on this mixtape, I jumped at the opportunity,’ remembers Foreigner. ‘They really allowed me to explore my capabilities as an artist, to create something visually experimental and expressive. Normally, I approach things as a marketer. Moonshine, they make things that they like, and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem!’

Foreigner, Uproot Andy and Hervé Kalongo in New York, september 2019
The mixtape you want to watch

Sound and video are integral parts of a Moonshine music party and the mixtape SMS for Location is intended to recreate these parties for those who listen. For 5 years, every Saturday after the full moon, the collective has been planning a secret gathering, texting the address to the party-goers who’ve given the organisers their number. ‘Before, I used to use my own number’ says Hervé, ‘at least for the first 3 years. It was becoming hard to handle on the weekend! So Félix developed this app where we could answer the phone numbers correctly and on time.’ What started out as a series of local parties has now taken on an international dimension, outpacing a global wave of African music thanks to its alternative streak. ‘We play more Gafacci than Burna Boy stuff’, says Hervé, proud to have launched a series of mixtapes that serve to showcase their work.

For this third chapter, which brings together artists such as Pierre Kwenders, Pedro, and Anderson MidNite, Moonshine decided to add a visual layer to it all by bringing in Foreigner – the man of the moment. ‘At the beginning we were not even sure what Adam actually did. Sometimes he’s a DJ, sometimes he’s a producer, sometimes he’s behind the camera. For the mixtape, we have people from different countries and backgrounds. Adam has travelled and lived in so many countries, so he’s the perfect guy for that type of thing!’ Having looked through the initial spec, which essentially consisted of VJing, Foreigner let his artistic juices run wild and created a video for each song. What might look at first like a crazy collage of clips found here and there online, actually contains many more messages than one might notice at first glance. ‘We like the aesthetic that Moonshine shares which looks effortless, and like anyone could do it with an app on their phone. But actually not! There is a lot of thought that has been put into it.’ To illustrate their point, Foreigner and Hervé told us about four videos that caught PAM’s eye.

Merci & Marco – Evade

Foreigner: The video game background kind of popped up in my mind when I thought about the work that Moonshine is doing and that I’m doing, particularly because as the stuff I’m doing is underground, it’s not the traditional clubs. At some point, it’s a little risky to do these things. From my point of view it is really about making a statement like ‘it’s not a game, we are actually doing this’. And I added a layer with a Black man evading the police. It’s the hardest thing in the world, especially in America. Evading the police in the US is super human. There is this dude in the video trying to flip over a fence, running from the police. Nowhere else, I’ve never seen anybody do that shit ever in my life. But when you evade the police, you have to be superhuman. Super Metroid is a classic Super Nintendo game that nobody really ever finishes. I’ve never met anybody that ever beat the game! But there are some videos on YouTube of people beating the game in an hour. Showing the intensity of the game in the background, with this superhuman scene of people surviving the police state is a really cool exploration of the word ‘Evade’, and is tied to the stuff that Moonshine and I are doing.

Hervé: The song was made by Merci and Marco from Chile. I remember when I was talking with them there were all these protests happening in Santiago. The way Adam did the video, it was a struggle that some people in Chile were living at the same time. I don’t know if Adam made the connection, but it was just super clever to see how this video turned out!

Foreigner: I didn’t make that connection and that’s the kind of coincidence that happens quite often when we work with Hervé, Moonshine and so on. Spiritually and philosophically it lines up, – that’s one of the pleasures of working with Moonshine.

Nate Husser & Dapapa – Are you stoopid (dumb)

Foreigner: I thought of the grocery store because there’s a lyric talking about going to the supermarket to buy some stuff. That 7 Eleven scene is just reminiscent of what your pre-party process is. There is a bright light, it’s cold in there, you get your alcohol, your Red Bull, you’re getting ready. And then the craziness starts in a dark and loud place. I just wanted to make it feel a little crazy, with the video of that girl dancing on that guy’s head in Panama. [laughs] It’s a party song! And I just wanted to feel like it was progressing from the pre-game into the craziness. I think I achieved that with this video!

DJ P2N feat. DJ Boyoma – Mosapi

Foreigner: This is the first one I made. To me, P2N represents a really cool episode of the Netflix show of Moonshine, season 2, episode 3…[laughs] When I came to Montreal in August 2019, I stayed there for like a week, I DJed at a party, and we went to Osheaga festival. It was a nice summer week. At the party itself, Pierre Kwenders and Bonbon Kojak introduced me to P2N and MC Redbull, who are both Congolese.

Hervé: They are part of this new wave of Congolese producers and MCs, where music is mostly being spread via Whatsapp.Foreigner: Their shit is hot! When I heard them, I said I need all their music. It was no surprise to see P2N on this mixtape. Naturally, I went to that song first, and I just felt like I was speeding, driving so fast. The film in the background is a famous movie called C’était un Rendez-vous. It’s like a high speed drive through Paris in the early morning. It ends when the guy meets up with a woman in a park. But the speed and look of it touched on my experiences in Paris with Moonshine. Paris with Moonshine is a fast life! There are a couple of clips of this guy on a motorcycle in Jamaica. And this motorcycle looks like the same one being chased at the gas station by a bull. It was an exploration of those things.

Coco Em – Emma’s Wisdom

Hervé: This video was on my top list. It’s super powerful. I don’t know how Adam came out with that one but when I’m showing this video series to people I always start with that one first because most people don’t get it, they just drop out, and they don’t know what’s going on. Just hearing what Coco Em is saying about gay and queer people in Kenya, and seeing people basically in trance…I just love that one.

The mixtape is available to listen to and buy on a ‘name your price’ basis from their Bandcamp site.