MARYAMA LUCCIONI: MUSIC, CLAIRVOYANCE AND THE INFLUENTIAL ENERGY OF CITIES
Katrice Dustin interviews Maryama Luccioni for part 2 of a series on creative Black women in Berlin.
Part 2 of 3 from an interview series by Katrice Dustin for YUN, highlighting the voices and talent of creative Black women in Berlin.
If you live in Berlin, chances are you’ve at least heard of, if not been on the dance floor at African Acid is the Future. The club night-cum traveling concert series cum-record label form a collective headed up by Paris/Corsica bred DJ and curator Maryama Luccioni aka Maryisonacid.
Established in Neukolln in 2014, the party is a rebellious affront to the once exclusively techno driven club scene of Germany’s capital, fusing traditional Afro rhythms with electronic beats, house, psychedelia, jazz and everything in between. The nights are known for their exuberant and unexpected energy shifts, wherein it’s not unusual for a live act to spontaneously present itself during the height of a 3am DJ set.
Maryama has since brought her superlative, multifaceted musical taste to curating a concert series at the Volksbuehne theater’s Gruner Salon, hosting a show on Worldwide FM Radio, and DJing at esteemed events such as the Venice Biennale. After an exhilarating tour of the AATIF club night which spanned across countries such as Japan, Sri Lanka, and India, Maryama found herself — like so many traveling at the time — back in Berlin amid news of the Coronavirus pandemic. With the club night currently on hiatus, we met Maryama in her Kreuzberg apartment, situated neatly beside the canal and filled floor to ceiling with unique treasures from her life and travels. Here, we talked about the impact of cities, the invisible nature of prejudice and her open relationship with Berlin.
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I am a record label owner, a DJ, and I host a monthly radio show on Worldwide FM. I also curate concerts for the Gruner Salon of the Volksbühne theater of Berlin. As you know, a few of these activities have been on hold since March now…
WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT IT?
For me, it’s simple. It is the challenge of a new idea, a new story, and then how to share that with as many different people at once. It keeps me inquisitive and pushes me forward while learning from all the people I get to work with. Curating concerts has been an incomparable joy. Hosting radio shows is my therapy and the format I feel the most free to curate the music I love the most.
YOU’VE LIVED IN CORSICA AND PARIS, AND NOW BERLIN. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THESE PLACES AND HOW THEY SHAPES WHO YOU ARE NOW?
Corsica and Paris were both tied to each other as I grew up between both places. I spent most of my formative years sharing time between school year and holidays going from one to the other. I guess it gave me a sense of fluidity and an ability to adapt to different environments. I could say that Corsica made me strong and quite fearless. I grew up as one of the only mixed kids of my school — of my city even.
It seemed to me from an early age that I would have to deal with that difference, which took time to define.
Paris is where I was born, and it’s where I came back to later with a certain apprehension of how to fit in and which direction to take. On the other hand, it provided an immense sense of honouring aesthetics and sophistication. Corsica gave me the wilderness and Paris prepared me for an ‘other people’ wilderness.
HOW DO THE MUSIC SCENE COMES IN PARIS AND BERLIN?
My feeling is that you couldn’t have found less in common between them 10 years ago, but it feels like in the past 5 years years or so Berlin has influenced Paris much more when it comes to how to gather people. Paris seems to have gotten rid of its very structural way of hosting people and got a bit more loose. The influence of Berlin techno parties is everywhere, both musically and vibe-wise. Paris for me has a lot more resonance to hip-hop & rap culture.
HAVE YOU LIVED ANYWHERE ELSE?
I lived in NYC briefly back in 2009 and Istanbul back in 2013… I love both of these cities very much. Somehow they have similar energy — crowded and vibrant, day and night.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO BERLIN AND WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO STAY?
I broke up with Paris and started an open relationship with Berlin. I started to come to Berlin in 2010 on a regular basis, so staying just happened naturally. A wave of friends were also taking that step, and I was charmed by the absence of “social pressure”, the space, the sense of utopia and freedom… So I took the opportunity and stayed. At the time it was still very easy to do so. This is the story of so many people that moved here.
BEST SOUNDTRACK TO A BERLIN WINTER?
A night at African Acid Is The Future, haha 😉 My pick would be the Ethiopian pianist Tsege Mariam Gebru.
WHO ARE SOME WOMEN IN YOUR FIELD THAT YOU ADMIRE?
Vava Dudu from La Chatte, Faty from the band Tshegue, Danielle Tobago of Aerea Negrot.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED AS A BIPOC WOMAN IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY IN BERLIN?
I was recently thinking about this and that probably for the most part I’m not even aware of it, that’s the tricky part. Not every aggression is obvious, sometimes the enemy is invisible. Not to sound paranoid, but I’m certain of that. In the so-called club scene I’ve encountered a few prejudices and occasionally received some remarks that were disrespectful and ignorant. I believe it’s part of why I decided to put my energy into African Acid is the Future.
I’ve explored all facets of the Berlin club scene, either as an insider or a regular dancer.
I was disappointed by the lack of acknowledgment in our project because it wasn’t solely techno-centered. It proved to me that there is a denial or disinterest of actually knowing the roots of this sound.
It’s funny and a bit annoying for me to see some of the same people who politely avoided connecting to us, now trying to fit into the fight for discrimination and trying to look inclusive. Today, the challenge for me is to be clairvoyant about people’s intentions when I’m being requested as an artist or when answering their invitation with AAITF. There has been a shift of interest and involvement towards this matter, and I like to see if it’s honest and just not to tick some boxes. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other people in Berlin — people who didn’t make me feel l had to fight or struggle to do what I do — who gave me a voice and a platform to express my ideas.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER BIPOC CREATIVES IN YOUR FIELD WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Reach out to people who have already been in the industry for a while, so perhaps they can help you find some answers and comfort. I would also recommend to stay aware of possible tokenism and call it out. The club scene had a sudden awakening this past year, which is good but also demands vigilance. Be proud and loud, always.
You can listen to Maryama and African Acid is the Future on Bandcamp and Worldwide FM, and follow on Instagram.