Crush: LA CRÉOLE (outtake from à part n°8)22 October 2021
interview by ALISON DECHANDON
photos by FANNY VIGUIER
Celebration of diversity in all its forms, a rich musical programme with various influences and exuberant dances are the keystones of the hyper-inclusive LA CREOLE evenings. Like catalysts of energy and goodwill, photographer Fanny Viguier and photo stylist Vincent Frédéric-Colombo have been giving a new lease of life to the pre-established codes, refreshing the Parisian nightlife scene since 2018. This veritable entity aims to redefine the society of “Us” by opening its doors to an eclectic audience with the key words: cohesion and sharing of artistic expression. While LA CREOLE has just celebrated its 3rd anniversary in a world of nightlife suspended by the pandemic, the collective has continued to develop, carried by an unwavering enthusiasm. The meeting.
It seems to me that your collective was formed via social networks?
Vincent Frédéric-Colombo: In general, we both support the project and work together for the whole. If we have to define our roles more precisely, my name is Vincent Frédéric-Colombo, I am from Guadeloupe and come from a background in applied arts, fashion design and socio-anthropology. Today a photo stylist and casting director, I take care of the musical artistic direction of LA CREOLE.
Fanny Viguier: As for me, I am Fanny Viguier, artist and photographer. I grew up in the Seine-et-Marne region and I graduated in Art History, before going on to study photography at the GOBELINS Image School. I take care of the imaging of LA CREOLE and I work on our communication. It was indeed Facebook that allowed us to meet. It was in 2013: at the time I was a photography student and Vincent had just worked as a stylist on an editorial that had caught my eye as a photographer. I suggested that we collaborate and he accepted. That’s how we met. In 2014, we started to develop a project around Vincent’s first creations, revisiting the Caribbean sartorial aesthetic. For my part, I created the images and we reflected together on the social context in which they were inscribed. These are the real beginnings of LA CREOLE. Over the years, we have developed this work combining fashion and photography, with the “CREOLE SOUL” series being born from this reflection. In 2017, we began to refocus on the term “Creole” and the essence of the identities that make up this culture. It was an exhibition that made this reflection happen and it is the opening of this one, which ended in a real party with Crystallmess on the turntables, which finally gave birth to the evening and the eponymous collective that you know today.
What marks the uniqueness of LA CREOLE evenings?
Us: It is absolutely an experience to be lived. From a musical point of view, it mixes influences from the Sound System, electronic cultures, carnival, the Ballroom or even festive events like the Midi Minuit dance parties in the Antilles. It is also the eclecticism of the audience, coming from very diverse horizons, which enters into communion. A magic begins to develop, all in a dynamic of benevolent unity. People really let go, we come to express ourselves, to meet, and the energy really circulates through dance. Dancers such as Snake, Patricia Badin, Ziickos or Mariana Benenge have also naturally come to join our team over time. Their presence is a catalyst, they are a kind of bridge connecting DJs to the public.
Behind this collective and these evenings, is there this desire to make known not the Creole culture – usually depicted as a pretty postcard – but the Creole cultures in the plural?
With regard to these cultures, we more often seek to see only the environmental benefits, lush and exotic, than to question their socio-historical complexities. Creole culture is, in essence, a mixture of several cultures and by definition, the word “Creole” includes meetings. The history of Creole societies is very specific since it was born out of the terrible context of colonisation and slavery. However, from this genesis, or rather from this “digenesis”, with all the layers and levels of complexity that it involves – uprooting being a central element – cultures specific to the mixture of these populations from Africa, Europe, Asia or even indigenous peoples of the Caribbean area appeared. There are, for example, several Creole languages. The regions of the world in which they exist are multiple and they all have their singularities. However, they have this common base which is the history of their development linked to their belonging to several territories, from the model of creation specific to Creole societies, born from the bringing together of atavistic and composite societies in the spaces of colonisation. Martinican writer Edouard Glissant theorised the concept of “creolisation”. It is about “the bringing into contact of several cultures or at least of several elements of distinct cultures, in one part of the world, resulting in a new figure, totally unpredictable in relation to the sum or the synthesis of these elements”. When we speak of a miscegenation, we refer to a process of consensual mixing, but colonial times are not times of miscegenation in the voluntary, joyful and rewarding sense of the term that we know today. This happened by force of circumstance: however, the result is Creole societies, rich in the convergence and the multiplicity of all the elements that constitute them, through “the meeting, the interference, the shock, the harmonies and disharmonies between cultures, in the realised totality of the earth-world”. This creolisation phenomenon can be applied to other things: it was an extremely visionary way to understand the world today.
These festive evenings have a real fight at the foreground: that of diversity in all its forms …
This is indeed part of what we explained previously, the evening has been developed as a meeting and is part of the heritage of Édouard Glissant’s “everyone”, as he spoke of rhizome in order to conceive a plural identity. The CREOLE tends to go beyond all forms of clichés, it celebrates diversity, the mixture of cultures and musical genres. It is a moment which is devoted to sharing, exchange, eclecticism and mixing. The world of nightlife as we approach it can also be a reflection of the possibilities of a society that we dream of as progressive and conscious. Our desire has always been to welcome anyone who would like to attend the party regardless of their origins, sexual orientation, background or social rank, gender and anything that could be a discriminating factor elsewhere, as long as they respect the ‘Other’ with a capital ‘O’, within the greatest spectrum of what this may be. The philosophy that we advocate is fully embodied by the eclecticism of the audience that comes to our parties as much as by the musical programme.
‘We have chosen a unique positioning in LA CREOLE’s imagery by playing against evening flyers with so-called “tropical” atmospheres highlighting ultra-gendered female bodies in a saturated chromatic atmosphere.’
Did you feel that you had a role to play and a place to take in the nightlife?
Things happened quite naturally. We did not try to take a particular place. Rather, we tried to create a space in which we would feel good. This is articulated around several central points such as dance above all, but also other parameters. A fairly new musical programme in the world of Parisian clubbing, in which sound currents of Afro-Latin Caribbean influence are mixed with electronic, carnival and queer cultures stemming from the Ballroom (voguing). Another very important aspect for us was to involve the traditionally discriminated LGBTQI + communities in parties representing these musical trends. However, even if Afro-Caribbean and LGBTQI + identities have a very central place, LA CREOLE is deliberately not a single-sex night. This is also what characterises the members of the collective. It’s an inclusive evening that advocates the mixing of genres in every sense of the word. On our dancefloor, communities meet that would not necessarily mix normally. Until now, the combination of all these elements did not actually exist in Paris. It was the recognition of our peers and the enthusiasm of the public that made us understand that we had refreshed the Parisian nightlife scene. Although when we started out, we had difficulty motivating Parisians to travel to Montreuil, over time and with the crowds that we saw when the doors opened, we understood that our events went far beyond the local sphere.
In 2018, the London magazine Dazed and Confused even quoted your evenings in one of its articles on Parisian nights celebrating musical styles for all tastes: dancehall, techno … Here, again, we find this idea of mixing genres. What are the key words of your evenings?
This mixture of musical genres is one of our signatures. “Fusion” could be one of our key words. We see this evening as an immersive laboratory. An eclectic mix creating a dialogue between genres that had previously been distant, embracing popular and traditional sounds contrasting with more daring BPMs. We seek musical risk-taking: each set is a unique proposition. The sound creations of the artists we book complement each other organically during each evening to create a unique experience. Each evening brings its share of surprises with each DJ’s unique interpretation of LA CREOLE through their own universe.
How do you book the artists?
These are artistic favourites, meetings, exchanges … Our discoveries can be made on one of our evenings, via word of mouth, under the advice of the artists with whom we work, or even thanks to the magic of the Internet which allows you to find DJs. Some international labels also send us names of artists when they come to France. Usually we book four artists per evening. We always integrate new faces in our line-up, whether known or unknown, in whom we detect a singular energy. We also have our residents (Greg, Sylvere, Lazy Flow) who have naturally defined themselves over the evenings. Each, in their own way, offers a certain touch that seeks to channel our mind. It is a sound experience constructed within an explosive progression.
Is there also a desire to reconnect with the atmospheres of legendary underground nightclubs of the 1980s, such as Bains Douches in Paris or Studio 54 in New York? These clubs invited the crème de la crème of the time, but with this hyper-inclusive spirit, encouraging meetings.
The hyper-inclusive aspect, encouraging meetings, does indeed correspond to our philosophy, but the “crème de la crème” aspect is far removed from our conception. This implies an elitist idea of a certain Parisian-centric public, the intellectual bourgeois bohemians. With hindsight, we realised that we followed more in the tradition of the club La Main Bleue in Montreuil, which in the 1970s had already brought together a diasporic public, aware and eager to enjoy a more human and underground clubbing experience. It is true that some of our dates are set according to the Fashion Week calendar, and our evenings have also become a kind of alternative meeting point to the after-show during this period. However, as we said above, there is neither a certain type of identity you must conform to in order to enter, nor social rank or dress code to respect. To be refused entry to a party on the pretext that one does not follow the codes of one community rather than another can be extremely humiliating and morally violent. We reject the discriminating codes of the white, hetero-normative patriarchal society that seeks to homogenise the world. However, we also do not specifically seek an absolute hegemony of the underground. To put it simply, anyone who thinks they will find their place there and who expects to offer just as much for others is welcome.
Does the night allow you to be more curious about the other?
Is there really a best time to be curious about the other? It can in any case be a gateway through which to do so. The party is linked to sharing, it is intimately linked to the night. Music is a universal means of expression which is felt, it does not require any particular initiation, and it is part of emotional sharing. Night also offers a space and time during which some feel more free to assert their identity, far from the patriarchal and hetero-normative codes of the civil world. For some, it is also a space for expression that can prove to be vital. Openness to others results naturally from the individuals who make up the party. With LA CREOLE, we have undoubtedly succeeded in creating a space in which people generally feel free to be themselves, despite their sometimes very different horizons. This generates a feeling of well-being and general plenitude which helps to create a “safe” space. As a prevention mechanism, we also make it a point of honour to speak with audiences who are assumed to be unfamiliar with queer worlds, in order to inform them of the rules of respect that apply in the space in which they are about to enter.
‘With the strength of the Internet in being to be able to cross borders, it was an opportunity not only to bring together an international line-up, but also to rediscover the energy of dance. Even though it was behind screens, people were there! It was very nice to see that even in this format, the ties still existed.’
The imagery of your evenings is very polished, retro and yet very contemporary …
Vincent Frédéric-Colombo: LA CREOLE has its origins in a photo project, so it’s true that this is also a key point we try to get across as we communicate. Each evening is accompanied by a photo shoot, directed by Fanny, she shares artistic direction with me, as I manage styling and casting. It is still a portrait. These images are a way of offering a large panel of faces and various identities that may be part of what Creolity can be. The idea is always to mix folk or traditional codes with modern and current elements. The black and white which has characterised the project as a whole since its genesis also tends to give it a timelessness: this was intentional on our part. And we draw a lot of inspiration from archive visuals. We have chosen a unique positioning in LA CREOLE’s imagery by playing against evening flyers with so-called “tropical” atmospheres highlighting ultra-gendered female bodies in a saturated chromatic atmosphere.
Fanny Viguier: We both come from the fashion world and we wanted to use our experience to offer strong visuals. The photos of the evening, strictly speaking, are also an integral part of the project. They are the most documentary and palpable part of the energy that circulates in the evenings. This is the other, more journalistic, side of my work. What’s more, they are taken with a disposable film camera, which is a tool coherent with the atmosphere of the evening, insofar as its practicality allows me to deploy it instinctively without being encumbered, and to keep the moment alive, while also maintaining the additional element of surprise until development. These are the only colour photos of this project, a visual testimony of the festive energy and the dancing bodies in the promiscuity of the Le Chinois club in Montreuil.
With the current pandemic, have these exuberant evenings have become “digital parties”? How did you rethink the festive side?
In our evenings, the energy of the audience and the way this human flow connects is paramount. So we haven’t invested a lot in the Internet since “everything stopped”. However each time we did it, it made sense to us. On 9 and 10 May, just before the end of the first lockdown, we celebrated the “National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade, Slavery and their Abolition”. We therefore organised a “Zoom Party” with 24 DJs from Paris, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Canada, the US, Mexico, Switzerland and more. All over the course of nearly 20 hours of live music.
With the strength of the Internet in being to be able to cross borders, it was an opportunity not only to bring together an international line-up, but also to rediscover the energy of dance. Even though it was behind screens, people were there! It was very nice to see that even in this format, the ties still existed. What’s more, through this event, the profits for which were donated to the fight for reparations related to chlordecone (a harmful insecticide), we were able to raise awareness at our level, on this subject specific to Martinique and Guadeloupe. Today we are about to organise a second 2.0 evening, this time on the occasion of LA CREOLE’s third birthday and in collaboration with the Camille Camille sessions. For this edition, we decided to bring together 11 DJs at La Machine du Moulin Rouge, along with the team’s dancers, and rebroadcast this event on Twitch. 7 hours of set on the horizon! Save the date: Sunday, 7 February!*
Interview in February 2021
You bring the airwaves of Rinse France to life every 4th Sunday of the month, this allows you to keep in touch with the regulars but also to make the artists work … What programmes do you offer?
Our show on Rinse is hosted by Vincent. For us, it is a way of making musical categories born in territories linked to Creole cultures more accessible, as these are often unknown outside the diasporas concerned. The formula remains variable, it is generally a discussion around a musical genre from the Afro-Latin Caribbean musical repertoire, followed by a DJ set which revisits this genre on the turntables. From time to time, we also simply invite DJs who are dear to us and whose repertoire is in keeping with the LA CREOLE movement. It is a space that allows us to hear a rich musical spectrum responding to various social reactions or historical upheavals that have rarely crossed these societies, as well as to the advent and evolution of the societies themselves. Each episode is intended to be a musical exploration, with crossing visions of categories between the musical, historical and social angle. All complemented by personal anecdotes from the guests.
Any plans for nightlife projects abroad when the situation allows?! London, New York?!
For the moment we cannot comment on any specific project. But connections have been made all over the world. We are developing artistic friendships that may eventually open us to future collaborations. We hope, among other things, to be present at the Notting Hill Carnival in London and to make a small tour in the Caribbean region.
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