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PAM Rewind: Boddhi Satva's world in 15 tracks

Every month Cortega picks a DJ or producer who puts Africa and its diaspora in the spotlight. Featuring an exclusive playlist of the 15 sounds that have shaped his musical universe. Today we invite the Central African producer Boddhi Satva.

Growing up in Bria, a small mining town in the heart of Central African Republic, young Armani used to spend his free time playing basketball and rapping with his band Gbekpa Crew. His formative years were spent cutting diamonds in his father’s business, where he surely developed the precision and attention to details that have come to characterize his razor-sharp music production skills. Soon after moving to Brussels in his early twenties, Armani chose to fully embrace his passion for music under the moniker of Boddhi Satva. His distinctive style – which has come to be known as Ancestral Soul – is both deep and spiritual, weaving together a wide spectrum of African music to his interpretation of a house beat. In 2020, Boddhi celebrated 18 years of musical excellence, which saw him collaborate with the likes of Oumou Sangaré, the late DJ Arafat, Louie Vega or Osunlade to name just a few. He is also the CEO of the Offering Recordings label, which has developed an almost cult following among the afro-house community.

Fela Kuti – He Miss Road

Man this album… I still vividly remember. It was the summer 1996 and I was with my older brother Laurent and his boy Bobby in Namur. He had the 12-inch vinyl and a massive sound system. The cover caught me instantly with its artwork. He played the record, and “He Miss Road” comes on… Bro. It was just a life-changing experience. Mind-blowing. An explosion of emotions. Even now talking about it I still have goosebumps; I can still feel it all the way to my scalp (big laughter). I listened to it on repeat and Bobby would tell me about Fela and the Afrika 70. When the holidays were over, I left and when back home to Central African Republic, and for a whole year I didn’t have access to this album, but I was obsessed with it. There were no record stores in Bria where I lived so accessing music wasn’t easy. Only a few years later my brother bought the CD and I ended up stealing the CD from him (laughs again). This record is so important to me, it shaped me as a musician.

Koffi Olomidé & Quartier Latin – Magie

First, you have to understand that Central African Republic has always been a massive consumer of Congolese music. I remember in 1994 when this album came out, I lived in Bria, 600km away from the capital Bangui. Like most African towns, we had these guys with little boutiques who were selling all kinds of stuff, including cassette tapes. They had Nigerian ripoffs of pretty much anything. Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Ace of Base, and tons of African music, there was a whole bootleg distribution circuit. Magie had this yellow cover, I can still see it. I had bought it for like 2000 FCFA. That song was such a big hit in the region. Ah!!! Koffi Olomide! Huge memories dancing on this, with my crew. Toidere, Djiby, Sylvain, Aladji, Cyril, Willy, all my bros were hooked on this, and the maestro DJ Fanfan was playing this on repeat mode.

Petit Tchadien – Pauvreté 

That’s another big classic for Central Africans. Beautiful melody but beyond this, a record that was super powerful because it spoke about being looked down upon for being poor. Many people could identify with that, being discriminated based on social status and lack of financial means. The song is so poignant and rhythmic. It’s an integral part of growing up for me, along with other classic bands like Petit Centro, Musiki, Canon Star, Waka Star, all these guys. Very influential music of my youth indeed.

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing 

It’s on the first album my Dad ever played for me, along with “What’s Going On”. He used to play these tapes in the car. I obviously didn’t understand English but my dad said it was one of his favorite songs. You know, my father was very strict, but also cool at the same time. I had a huge admiration for him, and this song just channels great memories with him, and how he passed on his love of music to me.

Erik Satie – Gymnopédie No. 1 

Completely different genre but same story as Marvin Gaye. This song was a favorite for both my parents who would play this at home in the evening. This joint still conveys images of me as a kid, you know, moments of bonding with both my parents and my younger sister. It’s a very intimate song for me and directly connected with my family. It’s music to calm things down after a busy day. Music that elevates the soul before you fall into sweet slumber.

IAM – L’École du Micro d’Argent 

Yo, this album is such a pivotal album for me and my bros, as important as Fela Kuti. Big shoutout to Akhenathon, Shuriken, Kheops, Imothep, the whole gang. We are talking high science, metaphysical, philosophical. We’re talking knowledge in its purest form. As kids we used to have our hip-hop crew and perform in front of small crowds doing covers. And the first cover that we did was this song, l’Ecole du Micro d’Argent (starts rapping “Assis en tailleur, voilà des heures que je médite. Sur ma montagne, je n’arrive pas à faire le vide”)…

The Notorious B.I.G. – Mo Money Mo Problems 

I was in Miami when I first heard it, visiting my cousin Edicito and his fam. This guy was a player. Good looking guy, green eyes, this and that… All the girls were after him. The song just channels Miami for me. Sunshine, shared condo pools and girls in bikini… Although at the time I wasn’t so slick with the girls. I was super shy and didn’t speak good English. And my Moms was around so, I had to keep it chill.

Miles Davis – The Doo Bop Song (feat. Easy Mo Bee)

Yeah, big big song for me. Once again, my father is the one who introduced me to Miles Davis and this whole body of work. This album is very important to me, because I had never heard jazz and hip-hop fused together. Just like Jazzmatazz and this whole era. And actually, years later I had the honor to meet Easy Mo Bee and hear this legend tell me he loved my music. I couldn’t believe it. We’re talking about the man who made some of the biggest hits for Bad Boy (NDLR: label founded by Puff Daddy, which was home to Notorious BIG, Faith Evans, Craig Mack and many more). I was done, bro. Major recognition.

Oumou Sangare – Moussolou 

There is a big Malian and Senegalese community in Central African Republic, so I would hear West African music on the regular. People would play this all day, everywhere like in their homes and kitchens. I would hear these magnificent songs, and Oumou Sangare was already so big at the time, and she still is. I was always fascinated with her voice. And the music was so unique, with the kora, and slower rhythms, unlike anything that came out of Central Africa. The album itself is also important to me because I did a remix of “Ah Ndiya,” the last song on the album. That’s how I got introduced to her actually, because one time in Bamako, traveling with my father who knew her. He took me to meet her at her car dealership. She was super nice and I played her my remix and she gave me one of the best compliments I ever received, saying “you know I worked with many great names in music, people like Peter Gabriel, but I have never heard anyone do what you did with my music”. I never let it come to my head, but I mean, this was so meaningful. Oumou Sangare, a queen, telling me that my sound is special. She really kind of adopted me on the spot.

Mamosadi KB – El Musica (feat. Osunlade)

Big tune. Big tune, man. There are many songs by Osunlade I could have cited, but I remember this one specifically kind of flipped my whole perception of music, and what I was doing, which was already very inspired by him. I had tried to emulate it in so many ways, but it was just too hard. Obviously, I couldn’t play guitar, and I still can’t, but this song really forced me to dig deep and develop my production skills (laughs again).

Alton Miller – Sweet In The Morning (Rubadub Mix)

This was on the Rhythm Exposed album. It’s also a pivotal song for me, because listening to this song, playing on repeat, analyzing its structure, it’s really helped me become intentional with my vision for the first time. From this point on, I decided I want to work with all the guys I admire musically. That was the intention, and Alton Miller is the first person I became intentional about collaborating with. Funnily, a couple years down the line, we even became roommates for a few years. Amazing period of time.

DJ Mix Premier – Lumiere 

Ahhhh. Ouiiiii. Le coupé décalé ! This, alongside DJ Caloudji, and of course Douk Saga, Arafat (rest in peace, both of them). That whole era in time is special. I just love the music and the whole vibe. If you listen to the drum pattern, listen to the syncopation, I mean, everything is there. It was a very important tune, and the adaption of these rhythms in house music didn’t really exist before. So this song really influenced my sound at that level, in particular in terms of the drum pattern. Actually back then, the term “afro house” wasn’t really even used, and there was plenty of space to introduce more African rhythms in house music, so that’s what I did drawing from such tracks, while adding my own touch and my swing to make it unique.

Kaysha – On Dit Quoi

Yeah. Kaysha, the legendary, the one and only! My brother from another mother. Actually, very few people know it, but him and his sisters are among the forefathers and pioneers of hip-hop in France, from its very inception. He is a living legend, and without even knowing it, I became intentional about working with him. When I first discovered his music on MCM Africa, it was mind-blowing. Fast forward a few years and I am his best man at his wedding… We’ve become family. Kindred spirit, nourishing a dream, having clean intentions and a clean heart, moving on purpose. He is so genuine and generous with his knowledge. And a constant innovator, like one of the pioneers in zouk and kizomba as well. He is very avant-gardist in the way he understands music and the industry. He saw the digital move for example before it even happened.

Boddhi Satva – Punch Koko (feat. Yacoub)

So this song came to life in Mali, in Bamako. I went there to make music but also see my parents who were living there for a time. And my dad had met all these musicians, so he introduced me to Yacoub (Jacob Soumeiga), also called the Jimi Hendrix of Mali. I’d also met Mangala Camara on that occasion, whose music I loved and whom I would later also work with. So anyways, Punch Koko was a tribute to my parents. The name comes from a club in Bangui called the same, and I named the song this way because it always got me imagining what my parents would do when they went out and partied with their friends. Yacoub did amazing guitar and vocals on the song. And it’s become a landmark track for me, because it got me signed to Louie Vega’s label (NDLR: Vega Records, one of the most respected imprints in house music) with my own release for the first time. This kind of marked the launch of a story that would set forth my entire career. It remains a big song for me, and I am forever thankful to Louie for the work and the support. He actually put his hands on that track and actually helped make it timeless. Anyways, a major turning point for me.

Celaya and Pegguy Tabu – Turn to You

There are so many current songs I released I’d like to talk about, so it’s impossible to choose, but let me pick Turn To You, which came out in January 2021. It’s a song that took off really well, one of my top songs on Spotify, which organically kind of blew up within the dance community. It represents something like a fresh vibe for me, in terms of the rhythmic pattern and the mixing, which has become a lot more refined over the years. This said, expect the unexpectable when it comes to me. I am not limited to one sound, and I’ll keep on delivering new stuff and I’ll keep on surprising you all.