Journalist. Radio girl (BBC WS, DW). Writer (first book on Massive Attack and Bristol), I also work on film projects. Born in Paris, I have been based in Prague, Miami, London, Nairobi (covering Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia), and Bristol, UK. I travelled from Italy to Haiti, via Tunisia, Liberia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Niger, Turkey, Iraq... My passions: Africa, Europe, literature, music, arts. This blog is to share my work and cultural discoveries from around the world.
The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is 'the will of the people'. We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People's Vote may not happen - so vote now.
The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is 'the will of the people'. We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People's Vote may not happen - so vote now.
Sur la date du 29 mars… Cette date est censée être celle de la sortie officielle du Royaume-Uni hors de l’Union Européenne. Négociée après le référendum du 23 juin 2016, elle est rapidement devenue intenable car l’UE et le Royaume-Uni devaient d’abord se mettre d’accord sur certains termes définissant leurs futures relations. Or, aucun accord définitif n’a été trouvé, car celui négocié par la Premier Ministre Theresa May avec Bruxelles ne cesse d’être rejeté par le Parlement britannique (pour la dernière fois la semaine du 11 mars 2019). Il ne satisfait personne, ni les ultras du Brexit, ni les pro « Remain », encore très nombreux ; ni les Tories qui le trouvent compliqués et incertains ; ni le DUP nord-irlandais unionistes ; ni le Labour Party qui veut mettre fin à l’austérité mise en place par le gouvernement actuel.
Depuis janvier 2019, la date du 29 mars semble donc intenable. Et Theresa May a demandé à Bruxelles un délai supplémentaire, jusqu’à fin juin. Ce à quoi l’Union européenne a répondu le 20 mars qu’elle a besoin de savoir pourquoi le pays souhaite un délai, sinon elle ne pourrait lui accorder de rester dans l’Union que jusqu’aux élections européennes en mai 2019…
Après cette date (ou une autre, si la sortie est repoussée comme c’est probable), doit s’ouvrir la véritable période de négociations sur le type de relations, notamment commerciales, entre le pays et l’UE pour les années à venir. Certains parlent d’une situation proche de celle de la Norvège, d’autres députés souhaitent que le Royaume-Uni reste dans l’union douanière européenne, pour ne pas payer de taxes à la consommation. Sinon, tous les accords devraient potentiellement être renégociés, ce qui pourrait prendre des années ! Si ces accords ne sont pas trouvés, les Britanniques pourraient perdre leurs droits de résidence et de travail dans l’UE et les Européens les mêmes droits au RU. Toutes les régulations commerciales devront aussi être renégociées. Et de nombreuses entreprises européennes et extra-européennes ayant un siège en Angleterre seront largement pénalisées financièrement et fiscalement si elles restent sur le territoire britannique.
Sur les blocages dans les négociations entre l’UE et la Grande Bretagne…
Beaucoup de choses mais surtout les négociations sur l’accord ont bloqué sur certains points en particulier, dont la place du RU dans l’Union douanière européenne, le sort des travailleurs étrangers, la question de la frontière entre la République d’Irlande et l’Irlande du Nord, territoire britannique.
Sur la frontière avec l’lrlande et les cas des Ecossais…
Le cas de la frontière entre la République d’Irlande et l’Irlande du Nord est très problématique. Surtout que plus de 50% des Irlandais du Nord ont voté contre le « Brexit ».
L’Irlande du Nord ayant été en guerre pendant des décennies, c’est l’UE qui a permis le succès de l’accord de paix du Vendredi Saint (The Good Friday Agreement), en 1998. Et l’absence de frontière entre les deux parties de l’île a enfin permis de la pacifier. Les deux Irlandes ne souhaitent dont pas voir revenir la frontière. Les Irlandais du Nord, qui sont britanniques et les Irlandais de la République d’Irlande voyagent presque tous quotidiennement des deux côtés, travaillent et vivent avec l’autre communauté. Or, si le RU quitte l’EU, cette frontière deviendra la frontière la plus occidentale de l’Union et donc une zone de trafic à haut risque, comme la frontière entre la Pologne et l’Ukraine.
Donc l’Union réclame une frontière, ce que personne ne veut sur place. Le gouvernement britannique a proposé la solution du « back stop », c’est-à-dire une absence de frontière fermée pendant une durée déterminée, mais personne n’est d’accord sur cette durée, ni sur la façon de contrôler les passages de biens et de personnes sans frontière ni douanes… Les Unionistes irlandais refusent l’idée d’un back stop indéterminé qui remettrait à long terme en cause l’appartenance de l’Irlande du Nord au Royaume-Uni.
Je me suis rendue à plusieurs reprises en Irlande du Nord pour réaliser des reportages à ce sujet. La question est très problématique sur place car l’île est petite et la plupart de ses habitants ne se rendent jamais en Grande-Bretagne mais souvent dans l’autre partie de l’île d’Irlande. Cela crée déjà des tensions et risque de supprimer de nombreux emplois, des sources d’approvisionnement, etc. Or l’Irlande du Nord est largement dépendante des importations. Certains craignent la résurgence du conflit et des revendications d’indépendances de Irlandais du Nord ou de rattachement de l’Irlande du Nord à la République d’Irlande.
En ce qui concerne l’Ecosse, où je suis allée à deux reprises depuis juin 2016, plus de 62% de la population a voté contre le Brexit, et la région est généralement et de longue date très pro-européenne. Elle dispose d’une large autonomie et de son propre parlement, et sa politique diffère souvent de celle de Londres. Les tensions sont donc récurrentes et beaucoup d’Ecossais souhaitent obtenir l’indépendance, et - si le Brexit se produit enfin - demander à réintégrer l’UE. En 2014, les Ecossais avaient organisé un référendum sur cette indépendance et le « non » l’a emporté à 55%. Mais à présent, les raisons de désirer une séparation sont bien plus nombreuses et de plus en plus de députés demandent un second référendum. Le sentiment général est que l’Ecosse veut désormais quitter le Royaume-Uni, ce qui mettrait fin à une union datant de plus de trois siècles (1707), soit bien plus longues que l’unité de la Belgique, de l’Allemagne ou de l’Italie par exemple.
Sur les conséquences potentielle de cette situation au Royaume-Uni…
Ils sont nombreux. D’abord les habitants des régions les plus pauvres, qui risquent de perdre les fonds d’aide de l’UE, dont la Cornouaille dans le sud-est de l’Angleterre, et le sud du Pays de Galle, des zones agricoles appauvries. Puis les régions désindustrialisées du nord de l’Angleterre, où le chômage est déjà plus élevé qu’ailleurs. Et bien sûr, les 3 millions d’Européens qui vivent au Royaume-Uni et risquent de perdre tous leurs droits : droit de travailler sans permis de travail, liberté de circulation, droit au regroupement familial, etc. Cela affecte des secteurs fragiles de l’économie britanniques, comme les centres de santé, où les emplois de base, comme les aides-soignants, sont largement fournis par des travailleurs européens. De plus, de nombreuses entreprises, notamment américaines et chinoises, ont déjà délocalisé leurs sièges sociaux pour les installer dans une ville de l’EU comme Bruxelles ou Paris, car elles commercent avec les 27 bien plus qu’avec la GB seule. Cela entraîne de nouvelles pertes d’emploi.
Sur les conséquences potentielle pour le reste de l’Europe…
Les négociations entre l’UE et la GB se sont révélées poussives et négatives, ce qui ne peut qu’affaiblir l’UE intérieurement mais aussi diplomatiquement. Les velléités d’indépendance de l’Ecosse et le problème de la souveraineté britannique sur Gibraltar en Espagne ont réveillé les questions catalanes et basques, peut-être même corses. Mais ce qui est sûr est que la situation a probablement découragé tous les autres Etats-membres d’envisager un retrait et discrédité les promesses de retrait sans encombre ou libérateur, telles celle de François Asselineau ou Marine Le Pen. Le Brexit est devenu un véritable cauchemar pour les Britanniques, occupant l’essentiel du débat public, à un moment où de nombreux activistes espéraient combattre le changement climatique ou l’évasion fiscale…
Sur la position du Labour Party Je participe à un podcast sur le Brexit, Remainiacs et le sujet y est brûlant. Le dirigeant du parti travailliste, Jeremy Corbyn fait campagne contre l’austérité du gouvernement actuel mais pas vraiement contre le Brexit. Il a toujours été frileux quant à l’UE et beaucoup lui reproche d’avoir imposé ses sentiments anti-européens à tout le parti, dont les membres et les députés sont, selon tous les sondages, à plus de 80% pro-européens. Le leader défend une ligne protectrice des ouvriers et donc contre les grandes entreprises, et pense qu’au fond sa politique serait plus simple à mettre en place hors de l’UE. Cependant, le Brexit a provoqué une chute de la livre sterling et un départ de nombreux investisseurs, entraînant un cercle vicieux pour l’économie. Plusieurs députés ont donc quitté le parti début mars. Le numéro deux du parti a promis de soutenir l’idée d’un second référendum, qui est promue par les Libéraux Démocrates et de nombreuses associations depuis plus d’un an, mais même à ce sujet le Labour se montre divisé, et Corbyn toujours frileux.
Sur un second référendum…
Le groupe nommé « Best for Britain » et la campagne pour un « People’s Vote » appellent en effet à un second référendum sur le Brexit, qui proposerait peut-être plusieurs options dont celle de rester dans l’Union européenne. Ils sont soutenus par les « Lib Dems » et une large partie de la société civile, surtout dans les grandes villes. Ils font campagne tous les jours devant le Parlement et dans d’autres villes. Ils ont organisé une manifestation le 20 octobre dernier, qui a réuni près de 800 000 personnes à Londres, et une autre à nouveau le 23 mars. Mais pour l’instant, le gouvernement refuse obstinément un second référendum.
Cependant, si l’accord de sortie de Theresa May est rejeté de nouveau, un second référendum pourrait se révéler la seule solution efficace et démocratique pour sortir de l’impasse. Et le gouvernement britannique devrait alors demander un report de la date de sortie, à fin juin, mais dans ce cas, le pays serait dans l’obligation de participer aux élections européennes de mai 2019. Ce qui rajoute un défi supplémentaire, et non des moindres.
Mélissa Chemam est une journaliste indépendante, bilingue, basée à Londres, travaillant régulièrement pour la BBC, la radio allemande Deutsche Welle, la radio canadienne CBC, le magazine anglais The Bristol Cable, entre autres média. Après avoir été correspondante à Miami, Londres, Nairobi, puis Bangui, elle a été basée à Bristol entre 2015 et 2016, et voyage régulièrement en Italie, France et Afrique du Nord. Elle est également auteur et chargée de recherche et a travaillé sur plusieurs films du réalisateur haïtien Raoul Peck. Son livre sur la culture née dans la ville de Bristol, En dehors de la zone de confort - de Massive Attack à Banksy, a été publié en 2016 en France et en 2019 au Royaume-Uni.
I'll be devastated if I couldn't travel to the rest of Europe... don't know how people could vote to voluntarily give up on their freedom of movement. Going to Italy at least once a year. To France every 3 months. To Greece this summer. The world is beautiful and Europe is ours!
Cheers to all the non-helpers, non-unablers, the ones driven by jealousy and competition, the one letting others down. Each one of us has a different path... You trying to block someone else will only add to your bad energy... We're here to empower each other. We're all connected in some way. If you're more interested in your own promotion than anything else, to the point that you're ready to hurt others to get your promotion or preserve your career, one day, life will catch you back at a crossroad... Words of wisdom. -
For hist latest self-direct video, Congolese-Belgian musician Baloji has created a visual declaration about the zombie-fying effects of communication technology.
In this two-part music video, which he also wrote, art directed and styled, we first travel to a Kinshasa nightclub where the hypnotizing blue glow of cellphone screens compete with the dancefloor’s neon lights. Despite the presence of a playful selfie stick dance routine and comical crown forged of phones, this is a baldfaced commentary on today’s digital culture.
The Lubumbashi-born Baloji, who also produced this high-octane film, wanted to critique through satire what he calls the "self-imposed isolation" encouraged by mobile technology. “My phone as an extension of my right hand was an interesting angle to address some of the themes that fascinate me,” he says. "We have an almost carnal relationship with our phones."
Moving from the club at nighttime to the street in daytime, a pensive trash-heap merman, spirit gods made of bottle lids and condoms, and an imaginary despotic politician are just a few of the characters that make up the video’s chaotic mise-en-scène. Baloji’s seemingly eclectic music tastes collide, slide and morph into each other as Africa’s biggest influencer injects afro beat with dance and funk, while also combining traditional tribal rhythms with clickbait-worthy lyrics.
Talking about the visuals that inspired the film, Baloji explains: “I was reminded of a photograph by John Stanmeyer of migrants on a shore in Djibouti—raising their phones in the air to try and catch a signal. This picture illuminates our relationship with our phones.”
Baloji’s self-taught visual artistry earned him the Best Concert prize at the 2018 D6BELS Music Awards in Belgium. This 14-minute music video gives the multi-talented musician and artist an opportunity to breathe life into his electrifying stage performances and set design.
The film's soundtrack is taken from Baloji’s 2018 album 137 Avenue Kaniama, which will be re-released by Bella Union as a one-track mixtape, called Kaniama: The Yellow Version, on May 3.
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This is a conversation I had with Melissa Chemam, the author of Massive Attack Out Of The Comfort Zone... The Story Of A Sound, A City And A Group Of Revolutionary Artists - The Book Is Released in March - The Subject, well - I Think We Know That Is Special! As for the Author, the writer, the incredibly inspiring Parisian Journalist behind this.... Well Judge For Yourself! - pauliepaul
Melissa Chemam In Conversation
Hi Melissa, can I start from the beginning - How/Where did you get the idea for this? Can you think back to that moment when you first had the brainwave for the book?
Hi paulie, Yes, of course. It was just an idea that I thought ‘it’ll never happen, but I’d love to do that!’ and this notion lasted for weeks and weeks before I seriously tackled how to approach it. So, what happened was, I’m a foreign news journalist and I spent three months working with a UN agency as a spokesperson, meeting journalists, taking photos and interviewing them in order for the UN to be able to broadcast what’s been going on in a country. After returning from an assignment in Africa to the newsroom in Paris during the summer, I pondered a lot on what’s useful in news, what’s inspiring people – because we always seem to be commenting on what’s going wrong and what needs to be changed, but we’re not bringing any options on how things can be changed. I’ve always worked in the Arts and Music sectors because that’s where my interests are, where my niche is, so in the summer of 2014 I was back from central Africa, reporting on events in the Middle East, what was happening in Israel and Palestine and it was really, really grim. I started thinking, ‘well, I’ve been a journalist for twelve, nearly thirteen years and I want to do something that brings more inspiration to people’. I was listening to a lot of music, as summer in Paris can be quite slow. I was listening to Mezzanine a lot and at this point I read an article in The Independent about this very same band, Massive Attack! They were touring the world but were actually going to be performing in The Lebanon for two nights at the Baalbeck International Festival, and then they were to be coming to Paris to perform at a humanitarian festival called La Fête de l'Humanité. I read the interview with them and they had been to a small village near Beirut with a small charity they had been supporting for more than ten years, helping Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Lebanon is a one of the countries that has the highest ratio of refugees - there are four million people there and one million refugees on top. It is a little known fact that Massive Attack have donated funds and equipment to enable the local people to be able to make music, so the band went there publicly, knowing that journalists would be forced to go and take photos, because ‘Oh, there’s a famous band in the area’ and it brought attention to what the children need, how the international community can help them and to show the reality of how unfair the situation can be. I was very moved, because I’ve always loved their music and I knew that they were not just political like some bands can be, but always had a sense of discourse about their own world. They seemed to dig deep into what kind of world we live in and, from my perspective, each album said something different about that. At that particular moment it seemed they had shied away from publicity for some time – I had not read an interview from them for three or four years, but suddenly they were giving time and speaking out about something that was obviously very important to them and I felt the same, because I had just been away for three months in a country, spending all my days with displaced people.
So it was very interesting for me because it was as if they were answering the question I had been pondering about how to bring positivity to the news and change what is reported in the press.
So how did you manage to transform this idea into something you could work with?
Well, it all seemed to come together that September. I had lunch with one of my best friends, who was my very first editor. He’s a music journalist and he said ‘Yeah, you’re right, you should write more about music, be more optimistic! You can work with me – we can do something together’ He told me he had an idea for a book about a village in France in the seventies where there used to be a club and it would be fun to retell that, but I told him that although I would love to work with him, that story was not for me! (laughs)…… I don’t drive… I cannot work in a village… I never work in Paris… let me think of something else! All this time I was still listening to Mezzanine so a few months later I spoke to him and said ‘Look, this might sound crazy. I’m not British and this is a big band…. They don’t give interviews, but maybe I could try to have an interview with Massive Attack about their relationship with Bristol and how it made them become so special – because there is obviously a link?’ And my friend said “Yeah! Go ahead! You’ve done crazier things – you’ve been to Mogadishu, you’ve been to Haiti…. Go to Bristol and see what you can find out there.’ He told me that if I brought something interesting back he would introduce me to a publisher but I was just doing it with an open heart to see what may happen, you know.
This is what amazes me, so you went to Bristol with this idea..
Well, I knew I could probably get to meet people like Tricky, because he was touring a lot and often played gigs in Paris – in fact he used to live in France. I thought if I could just get to meet people in Bristol who knew the band I could maybe just recreate the story that way. So…. I went to Bristol and my first two weeks there were just so awesome I nearly moved there permanently! I met so many people and interviewed all the people I wanted to speak to. I visited the venues from their early days, explored the city, which was at the time the ‘European City for Environmental Protection’ or ‘The Green Capital’ so I interviewed people about these issues too.
Did you have a rough idea though, a plan on how you could move forward - practically?
Yes, I really wanted to meet 3D, because in my research about the band, he seemed to be the most instrumental in articulating about the issues they are concerned about. He’s the one who writes the lyrics AND who creates the visuals for their shows, so he’s the one I really wanted to talk with. It wasn’t easy getting to meet him. I sent a LOT of emails! I felt like I was launching a bottle into the sea… but eventually it happened and he actually sent me a message saying ‘If you’re in Bristol, come to our studio.’
Can you remember that moment? How did it feel?
It felt amazing – and right. I’m not the kind of journalist who hangs around at the stage door. I can’t do that. An interview has to be agreed and prearranged. I’ve seen situations where journalists have been pushy and in some cases they have achieved great success, but in some it has been really damaging so I have always been determined not to be like that.
It seems to me that you had a connection with the band because of the charity work that they were doing, very unsung I may add. Do you think this connection as well as inspiring you, might have in someway opened a door -
Well music and charities have a long history together. There’s been Band-Aid, U2, Coldplay and Fair Trade… but what I liked about Massive Attack was that there was nothing like ‘we’re super-billionaires, we’re married to a famous actress, we have a face on every magazine, but we give a cheque at the end of the year’. It was something completely different to that. Their concerns are really coming from their own travelling, their own experiences…. They’d been to Israel, for instance, supporting David Bowie in ’96, and that really stayed with them because they were like ‘Well we’re British, we know the history, so why can’t we go to Palestine?’ They asked a lot of embarrassing questions and got no answers. So they decided not to go again. Being forced to play only in one area and not in another two streets away was horrible. This was wayyyy before the boycott and they were never about boycotting the Israeli people, Mezzanine was a No.1 album there, they respect the Israeli people; but they said ‘We want to play Tel Aviv, but we want to find someone who will organise a show in Ramia as well.’ Obviously that is very difficult to do, so nobody has ever managed to do that.
Did you have any idea of how deep you were going to go into the band’s dynamic?
Oh no – I didn’t think I’d have an opportunity to talk deeply about anything. They might see me for twenty minutes and then forget about me completely! (laughs) When we started talking it was not like an interview – it was more a discussion. Because I had already met some people in Bristol, I wanted to arrange a meet with some of those who were not so famous… people who had maybe played guitar with them, or been in the same studios, to recreate the reality of the time for those like me who were not there, to get a feel for what was happening. That was what was important to me. I chose Massive Attack because their message resonated with me and I wanted to find out about what made them who they are.
How do you make that work practically though?
Well it was impossible to get all the members together at the same time. Massive Attack are not really a band as such, different members come together at different points. We had to do things in a way that was more in the spirit of the band. We talked about how to write and compile things and at some point we talked about what would be in the book. It was a weird dynamic. I asked a load of people if I could meet Mushroom – but Mushroom is the last person who would give an interview about Massive Attack! He left the band twenty years ago, he’s not in England much and the band are about so much more than the people who have been involved. The book for me was going back further, looking back at Bristol, its part in the slave trade, to explain what has become NOW, why Massive Attack are more relevant NOW than any other musicians… yet they are not just musicians, they are more than that. They are artists, creators, representing our world as it is NOW. What can any past member tell us about that? All past members have played their part but this book is about NOW.
Your book touches on some other subjects too, Street Art, for instance. I’m a big fan of Blek le Rat, do you remember him in Paris? I know he's mentioned for inspiring, dare I say it, Banksy…?
Oh yes of course. You know that ‘RAT’ is an anagram of ‘ART’? The official line is that a lot of people had the same idea at the same time… but maybe that’s also Banksy being… cheeky….!
I think it’s more about being inspired by somebody – or a movement… being apart of a movement and carrying it forward?
Well yes. The thing is that 3D is an artist, and was an artist before he was a DJ. He was a punk, then a street artists, then a rapper, then a member of The Wild Bunch, then a founding member of Massive Attack, and now one of the most political musicians of an entire generation, you know…
You could probably write a book on him alone!
Yes you could… except that he would not like that at all, because everything he has ever done – and he has stated this to me on more than one occasion – everything he’s done has been about being communal. I have asked him ‘Why don’t you do YOUR album? You are the one writing everything, it’s your lyrics, your vision, why not do YOUR album>’ and he always says ‘It’s the last thing on my mind, it would break my heart to do that. We started when I was eighteen years old, in a cave, with twenty guys. My goal was never to be ‘hey look at me’, it’s about collective creativity’.
That is completely in contrast to today’s general ‘Want to be famous’ attitude, isn’t it?
Yes, the book talks about that a lot. Especially with regards to their fourth album. It all became about behind the scenes… ‘You won’t see us’….’We won’t give interviews anymore’…it’s almost like a brand, a name. It doesn’t matter who’s in Massive Attack. It wasn’t easy for 3D. He had to do an album and he missed the other guys terribly and was afraid that maybe the band was finished and he would not have the heart to carry on without them or just invite other people to join in, because they had this history together – they grew up together and were very young when they started. You cannot get over this by just changing your guitarist.
I really feel that this book is a special event. It’s more than just a biography. I feel that you are part of this story too, because of the way the events unfolded and how they accepted you into their fold, you have actually felt this.
I’m so happy you feel that way. I have done interviews with other people and many of them were like ‘Who is this girl?’ “Why isn’t it a guy from the Guardian calling me?’ Obviously they never said that but I could feel that sentiment behind their words. I was like ‘Fine. If you’d rather talk to another middle class, middle age British man, then that’s your thing’. But obviously, I have a different perspective – I do what I do and I don’t mind if I don’t sell the book, it’s about integrity.
Can I ask about you? I look at your C.V. and it’s amazing. Did you have a really formal academic education?
Yes, the thing is that my parents didn’t. They couldn’t go to high school because of the political situation and the war etc. When I was very young we lived above a kindergarten and I really wanted to go to school. I was lucky because I had a really good memory so I was like, the brainy child in the family. It was a weird situation because my grandparents could not read or write in any language and war stopped my parent’s education so they were really focused on my sister and I having a solid education.
One last question: How did you know when the book was finished?
Oh gosh. I wrote it in French first, and edited it myself, then I had to write it entirely again in English! It was difficult finding a publisher in England because people didn’t know me there, and people don’t like to buy books written by foreign writers they don’t know. I guess they didn’t trust that I could do something special. I am glad that I have proved them wrong!
I can’t wait to read it, I wanted to talk to you purposely before I read it.. Is it true that you are speaking at an event at the British Library soon? Are you comfortable speaking in public?
Well actually I wrote the book so I could speak about the book! I am not comfortable being filmed but am very much a radio person so I am happy talking into a microphone! This story is important. It is about young guys – none of whom did any A-Levels, who turned their lives around with their creativity. Massive Attack are outside the box of their contemporaries and that has enabled them to have a very critical position, where they can comment freely on art, society and politics.
Thank you so much Melissa. It has been a real pleasure chatting to you.
The story of a sound, a city and a group of revolutionary artists
Bristol was part-built on the wealth generated by the slave trade, an arrival point for Caribbean immigrants, and a melting pot that shaped one of the most successful and innovative bands of the last thirty years, Massive Attack. Journalist and broadcaster Miranda Sawyer talks to the author of a new book on their story, Melissa Chemam, and special guests, artist Inkie, producer Mad Professor and musician Mark Stewart.
Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone (Tangent Books, Bristol, 2019) is based on a long series of interviews with Robert Del Naja (known as 3D), other Massive Attack members as well as many other musicians and artists who worked with Massive Attack or saw them arise. It explores the often non-conformist history of Bristol and how it shaped the formation of the Wild Bunch and then Massive Attack, and how band members 3D, Daddy G and Mushroom shared this space with musicians and artists including Banksy, Tricky, Portishead and so many more. Chemam follows the making of their groundbreaking album Blue Lines; their astounding successors including Mezzanine, and their unique collaborations with Horace Andy, Shara Nelson, Tracey Thorn, Madonna, Elizabeth Fraser, Sinéad O’Connor, Mos Def, Damon Albarn, Young Fathers, Adam Curtis, Banksy and others.
This event will have speech to text interpretation.
Melissa Chemam is a French journalist and author who has worked for France 24, the BBC World Service and Radio France International, as well as many magazines, and for the filmmaker Raoul Peck. Massive Attack: Out Of The Comfort Zone is her first book
Inkie emerged as a graffiti writer from the notorious 80s Bristol scene where he painted alongside 3D and Banksy. In 1989 he came 2nd in the 1989 World Street Art Championships, but was also arrested at the head of 72 other writers in the UK's largest ever Graffiti bust, Operation Anderson. Inkie has since worked as head of design for SEGA, Xbox, and creates prints, illustrations and clothing; his beautiful trademark style takes inspiration from everything from Mayan architecture, William Morris, Alfons Mucha and Islamic geometry, and has appeared in the books Bankys Bristol, Children of the Can, Graffiti World and magazines Graphotism and Dazed & Confused
Mad Professor is one of the leading producers of dub Reggae music's second generation and was instrumental in transitioning dub into the digital age through releases on his own Ariwa Sound label and collaborations with the likes of Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly and Robbie, Pato Banton, Jah Shaka and Horace Andy, as well as artists outside the realm of traditional reggae and dub, such as Sade, The Orb, and Grace Jones. In 19915 he created an entire dub rework of Massive Attack’s Protection album, and went on to repeat this for Mezzanine – with those versions only now appearing, 20 years after being recorded.
Miranda Sawyer is journalist and broadcaster. Her career began in 1988 with Smash Hits and through the 1990s she wrote for Select, Time OutThe MirrorMixmag andThe Face. She is now a feature writer for The Observer and its radio critic and her writing also appears in The Mirror, GQ, Vogue and The Guardian. She makes radio documentaries for Radio 4 and BBC 6Music and interviews musicians and artists for The Culture Show. Her latest season is Sound and Vision for 6 Music, which invites actors and directors to discuss key musical moments from their films
Mark Stewart and his first band The Pop Group blasted out of Bristol in 1979 with the wired, avant future-funk manifesto of their ’We Are All Prostitutes’ single and the vibrant, cyber-punk energy of his music productions has been undiminished ever since - across anarchic dub reggae inspired collaborations with Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound; his early hiphop-influenced oufits Maffia and Tackhead, ‘industrial’ albums of the mid 1980s cited as seminal by Ministry’s Al Jorgensen and NIN’s Trent Reznor through to techno and proto dubstep.
Book Cover art from Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone by Melissa Chemam.
The last time there was a collaboration of such cultural enormity between the UK and France was the building of Concorde. Thank Tangent Books for picking up on this text and what a prize. Melissa Chemam is giving us two books for the price of one. On one level it’s easily accessible, a good read, a real page turner but kicking it up a gear it has an academic quality and would be a brilliant research tool, of this genre, time and place.
Bristol has a special place in my heart and Massive Attack has accompanied me over thousands of miles in many dodgy motors, but I could always rely on them. There is something exceptional about Massive Attack even before a superb chronicler as Chemam gets near them. I remember seeing Grant around St Pauls and in the local pub off Jamaica Street. The brilliance walked amongst us and that counts for a lot. Built from the ground up on a foundation of hard learnt experience and this comes over in the writing. This book is Bristol in many ways, the diverse music and cultures coming together and creating something truly unique. The real deal.
Everything works: The cover, I think it’s brilliant and I’m reasonably qualified I work at a major London gallery, the content and the context.
Call me dramatic but Out of the Comfort Zone is a message of hope to a younger generation, that you can get things together, much is still possible. Not because of… but in spite of.
On Facebook: Really enjoying this excellent book by Melissa Chemam on Massive Attack & the Bristol music scene. Published in English this week (the original French edition has been out a while), it’s a hugely enjoyable read, exploring the social & political background that informed a whole generation of Bristol artists & musicians. A city & a scene that had a huge influence on me personally & the music I went on to make with Earthling It’s certainly bringing back a lot of memories! Those fantastically exciting years of discovery, from the early 80's onwards : post punk bands, blues parties & sound system culture , weird art happenings , living in Stokes Croft & Montpelier, squat gigs , the Special K cafe & early Hip -Hop & Electro... Me hiding behind the bins over the road from Smith & Mighty’s studio on Ashley Rd, just to get to listen to the amazing new music coming out !! #bristol#bristolmusic#massiveattack#portishead#tricky#earthling#smithandmighty#carlton#markstewart#thepopgroup#blackroots#thestartledinsects#banksy -