Echoing Europe – Postcolonial Reverberations

A Sound Performance by meLê yamomo.

Noise, din, background buzz, sound waves hit the eardrum. Sounds are physical touches. Touches of something unknown. If we knew what it was it might actually be “music”. Who decides what is “sound”? Who would classify it as “music”? Can we stand this touch?

In Echoing Europe, the performer, composer and sound studies scholar meLê yamomo re-arranges European musical appreciation as colonial history. The focus is on the recording techniques in times of colonialism, specifically in the period 1890-1950 in Southeast Asia.

The portable gramophone turned fleeting occurrences into transportable raw materials for the scientific and historical construction of Europe and its “outside”, its understanding of music. In Berlin, in the world’s most extensive archives, sound recordings are stored as trophies of a colonial sound-appropriation. What do we hear in these recordings today? What do they mean for the construction of our image of Europe, the European musical tradition, for the construction of “others”? For years meLê yamomo has been concerned with these historic recordings and sound linkages, with the related demarcations and the violence. There is a separation between “music” and “sound” ‒ with all the violence that comes with borders.

With Echoing Europe, meLê yamomo creates together with the performer Pepe Dayaw a new sound chamber at Ballhaus Naunynstraße: electronic music and historic sound documents, recordings dealing with the Berlin archives and their current policies constitute the elements of his musical narrative. A central issue in this is his own role as performer and scholar, as Person of Color, his mobility and forced paralysis within postcolonial academic and cultural structures. After participating in the international performance festival Permanente Beunruhigung, this was the transnationally operating performer’s first work at Ballhaus Naunynstraße.

Performer: meLê yamomo, Pepe Dayaw

World premiere:
Thursday, May 16, 2019

Other Performances:

16-18 May 2019
16-19 December 2019
8-11 April 2020
18-21 November 2020

Produced by Kultursprünge at Ballhaus Naunynstraße gemeinnützige GmbH. First production financed with funds from the Land Berlin, Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

Press Reviews:

„Wenn wir an Kolonialismus denken, haben wir meist bestimmte Strukturen oder bestimmte Bilder im Kopf. Wir denken aber kaum darüber nach, wie Kolonialismus klingt. Für mich sind diese historischen Aufnahmen Beweise, dass Kolonialismus auch mit solchen Aufnahmen konstruiert wurde.“ (meLê yamomo in Interview with Deutschlandfunk, May 2019)

„Echoing Europe is an intervention to reanimate and engage the affective epistemologies of these retired objects of silenced colonial history.“ (meLê yamomo in Interview with TRAFO Blog for Transregional Research, July 2019)

“Sometimes you only have to listen…” About the sonic entanglements of our colonial past. (meLê yamomo in Interview with Textures, Online Platform for Interweaving Performance Cultures, December 2019)

„Was die Aufnahmetechnik ermöglicht hat, ist die globale Migration von Sound, doch die Körper, von denen sie genommen wurden, spielen keine Rolle. Bis heute: Sie haben keine Visa, sie haben keine Möglichkeit zu reisen. Das ist die globale Vernetzung, in der wir leben.“ (meLê yamomo in Interview with Van Outernational, January 2020)