Bouba from AUSECUMA BEATS: “Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.”

Original band photo by: Nick MkK. Textile Work by Anne Harkin. Handmade collage by B.

Ausecuma Beats are a Naarm/Melbourne-based ensemble that have come together from all parts of the globe – Gambia, Guinea, Mali, India, Senegal and Cuba – to explore the idea of transplanting cultural heritage into a contemporary city through the universal language of music and community. Ausecuma Beats is a melting pot of their rich experiences, languages, craft, heritage and cultures. Their mission is to learn from one another and uplift people with their art. Gimmie caught up with bandleader and master djembe player, Boubacar Gaye to find out more about debut self-titled album, out now on Music in Exile (home of another Gimmie fav Gordon Koang).

Hi Bouba! I understand that you are from Senegal in West Africa; what was it like growing up there?

BOUBACAR GAYE: Senegal is a rich country in the west of Africa and there is a strong French and Arabic influence. I was born in Senegal and grew up there as well, so I had the chance to learn Arabic music and culture and also a chance to speak French too. It is a rich culture because there are so many different tribes there. Each region has their own instrument and I had the chance to learn different instruments of each tribe. 

What is one of your favourite things about Senegalese culture? 

BG: Food! My favourite is a fish and rice dish. 

I know that both your father and uncle influenced you with the music they listened to; what would you listen to together?

BG: My uncle liked jazz music like Miles Davis and my father liked old music called tango, so I listened to those styles.  I get the jazz and afro flavour from what they used to listen to. My uncle used to go to parties and he would wear a suit, he would dress well, and I would watch how he would dress. You have to dress up good to go to the nightclub and listen to good music! His influence on me was in clothes as well as music!

What instrument do you like to play the most? What do you love about it?

BG: I like to play a bass drum called a Dum Dum. I’m a djembe player professionally though, but I like both high and low pitch so I can’t just pick one! They both have energy! 

Why is music important to you?

BG: Music is everything. It educates me, it gave me the opportunity to leave Africa and to experience different cultures and different worlds.  I think if I was not a musician, I don’t know what I would be. My family says that I was born for music and I believe so. Good music takes me out of the street and makes me not take the wrong way in life. When I was young, not everyone takes the right track. Thanks to music, I have found my path. Music is my life. 

Photo by: Nick MkK

How did you first feel when you came to Australia? Why did you decide to come to Australia?

BG: I was in Japan for 8 years living there. I came to Melbourne for 10 days visiting a friend who said that Melbourne was a beautiful city and I should come. Japan was already far from home but Australia is also very far! I came to Australia for music and because of curiosity. My friend introduced me to an African drumming company; the boss was very welcoming to me and he introduced a big community to me. There is a strong drumming community here which made me feel that this is a place I can adopt. I was scared to make the move to come here, I already moved to Japan! My visiting holiday was fun but thinking about living here was not easy. There was stress! Was I making the right choice and decision to do this? There is always something I trust – don’t worry, you have the music! The music will lead you to make your own community! Go for it and don’t look behind. Let it go and move forward. Making a move can be a big decision, but be patient and have your goals. It will not be easy but as long as you keep working on it it will be ok. 

I visited and did the tour things, I like the design of Melbourne, you can see the sky. It’s great! In Japan it is very hard to see the blue sky because there are so many buildings. In the winter it feels like there is no day time because there isn’t too much light, so much shadow from the buildings. 

Throughout your debut self-titled album there flows messages of love and respect; what inspired this?

BG: I think respect is an important thing for us as Ausecuma Beats members because we are all different – sometimes language is difficult as the tone can be interpreted in the wrong way for members of the group who are not fluent in English. We need to be careful – the respect needs to be there. We always need to respect each other even if we have different ways of speaking English. We don’t always agree on everything, but we all have to share music and music is love. 

Your latest single ‘Cherie’ speaks about the importance of equality in relationships, especially in marriage; what inspired you to write about that?

BG: Cherie is a French word – you can use ‘cherie’ to make the relationship very nice, “oh my cherie, oh my love, my darling.”  This word,  ‘cherie’ is for caring and loving someone who is your daughter, wife, or husband. 

The track is based on a traditional song which is a true story from an older storyteller. The storyteller donated his music to the world and many musicians reinterpret his songs. He was singing about his wife; “you carry my children, you make me proud as a man, I don’t know how I can thank you, if i go first i will wait for you, if you go first wait for me,  my cherie we are together for everything.” This story is quite old, not from my Mum’s generation but from my Grandma’s generation!

Each track on the album displays the different talents of each musician; what do you feel are your talents?

BG: The groove! I always make sure we are tight. My role is always to control the volume when we are recording or performing. We all have a role and we have to give the same energy, but there needs to be space to solo. There are so many members, we also need to control all of the instruments and make space. I think in Ausecuma Beats, there is no leader in our music because all instruments have space and are equal. My role is to make sure that there is an equal role in the music. 

Why is improvisation an important part of Ausecuma Beats’ creativity? Can you tell us a bit about your song-writing process?

BG: We want to do something beautiful and unique and to do that you have to let there be space for that, space for creativity and composing music. When you’re improvising, sometimes it can be good, but sometimes it can be good and then crash! When we’re improvising, we’re cooking and everyone brings their own ingredients! 

Auseucma Beats music always starts from the engine – the percussion. After this, we compose the melody, sometimes with the belafon, kora, or sometimes from the percussion. The voice always comes on after we have built the road; when the road is smooth the voice comes in. 

What is something important you’ve learnt from your journey as a creative person that you’d like to share with us?

BG: What I have learnt is that it is beautiful to build a community. You feel you’re all on the same page, it’s great! The best things I’ve achieved in my musical career is to build community. Not only with Auseucma Beats but also drumming. We’re sharing the same passion. If you listen and you want to come and dance, you’re part of our community!

Ausecuma Beats’ debut LP out now through Music In Exile.

Please check out AUSECUMA BEATS via this link.

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