We first introduced the Ten Cities project, and our coverage of it, last month, and the social and cultural interaction and innovation it encourages. As the next installment, we spoke to Rob Ellis, better known as Pinch – the Bristol dubstep veteran well known for his fusion of other genres into his music, and founder of Tectonic Records – who took part in one of the project's collaborative meets this January in Lagos, Nigeria, to find out about his experiences.



What first drew you to the Ten Cities project?

I guess I was lucky enough that the Ten Cities Project was drawn to me in the first place! When they got in touch about being part of the project I thought it would be a great experience for me -a great opportunity to experience life in a busy African city and to meet some new (talented) people.

What was your meet like? Was it as you expected?

Some aspects were similar to my expectations but the experience itself was certainly much richer. It was too hot, crazy traffic, millions of people everywhere, lots of power cuts and insanely spicy food - all of which I was theoretically prepared to an extent - but actually being there has an incalculable quality to it. The best part for me though was meeting some really wonderful people with big hearts, wide smiles.

What were the most lasting effects of your experience on you, and your music?

Well it has only been a couple of months since the trip so we might have to wait a bit longer to see what lasting effects there are! I was glad to be home by the end of the trip but I now also miss being out there and think about Lagos and the people I met and wonder if I'll go back to see everyone again. Lagos is far more on my mind than many places I've been to.

What do you hope the project might achieve?

I hope it helps to broaden the cultural landscape for all parties involved with the project. Cross-cultural pollination leading to musical mutations - that sort of thing.

What did you hope to contribute and take from it?

I'd like to think that I brought with me a range of sonic sounds and textures that were relatively fresh and exciting to the Nigerian ear. For me - I've taken, among other things, a strong sense of the daily struggle for a musician living in Lagos/Nigeria - and this puts my own experience very much into perspective. It makes me want to put more effort into what I do as I know I'm lucky to have the chance to do it at all.

As a major player in European dance music, how important do you feel traditionally African music is in influencing your music, and that of your contemporaries?

Perhaps less so directly now, but in terms of its place in history - it's had an undeniably huge impact and influence on Western dance music in general. Dance music is very much built up of repetitive rhythmical structures and I suppose this is the most obvious direct link between the two sides. One of the Lagos curators, Afrologic, cleverly pointed out while on the trip that many famous dance music drum machines such as the Roland 808 or 909 are built up of drum sounds indicative of African percussion - shakers, claps, bongos, clavs etc. I thought this was a fascinating observation and feeds directly into your question.

In what ways do you feel the club can be used as a space to reflect a community, and interact with other communities?

Like any space that invites the gathering of people - nightclubs can provide opportunities for different groups/communities to come together and enjoy a common experience. This can have a binding social impact on those involved and I think that dance music has, in some capacity, helped break down racial barriers in the late 1980s - early 1990s UK for example.

Is dance music a more social form of expression than other genres?

I wouldn't like to generalise..

How do you experience the positive and negative effects of modern media, and globalisation, upon your life and music?

Well on a positive note, it's much easier to get music 'out there' and listened to - there's a huge online audience with a relatively insatiable appetite for music. Sadly, the downside of that is that hardly anyone actually buys music anymore, and rarely has the patience to listen to a whole album start to finish. This feeds a music industry based around the 3 minute attention span which I find thoroughly depressing.


The project continued into February, where Ukraine's Vakula and Dubmasta ventured to Johannesburg to team up with Dirty Paraffin, and guest musicians Moonchild, Gamebouy (13 year old rapper regarded highly in the South African scene), jazz band Planet Lindela, and Tito Zwane Pulling Strings. The 14th April – 1st May will see artists from Lisbon and Berlin head to Nairobi. For exclusive coverage of this meet, and the rest of the festival's work, keep your eyes peeled to the 405, or head to the Ten Cities website.