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Larry Achiampong, Reliquary 2: A Letter of 4 Chapters Pt. 4

CIRCA:
Why is public art important today? How did this inform the work for CIRCA?

LARRY ACHIAMPONG:
Public art is such a massive deal. It’s a really, really big deal. You know, you’re asking a young black man who grew up in, you know, lower-working class conditions in the East End of London. I didn’t grow up with, you know, direct access to art in a way that some of my peers in the art scene were afforded or other people of other classes. You think about that example, an experience alone, let’s multiple that alone by thinking about the masses. Then public art is such a massive deal because museums and gallery spaces are still contentious environments because they continue to exclude but also, when they deem fit, gaslight communities, local communities. Black people, people of colour, people from communities that are less privileged, for example. So, in that understanding, to have the opportunity to showcase work in such a way outside in the open on Piccadilly Circus, where literally anyone could be walking by, is such a massive deal to me. You know as a child I would walk through that area doing cleaning jobs. And for this project I’m returning with a work that I hope resonates and opens up important conversations that relate to these issues regarding race, regarding class. So, I don’t think it can be overstated as to how important public facing art can be. I think there’s a mileage that it has that gallery spaces or museums that if we’re honest just can’t contend with. Because it’s breaking those barriers of how people can experience an artwork.

In Larry Achiampong’s own words:

The album ‘Meh Mogya’ came into existence through an initial idea to create an artwork that traces my audible heritage. With my origins leading to Ghana I decided to look into the legacy of Highlife music and more particularly, my parent’s collection of rare, vinyl records. With this little art project I wanted to see if I could amalgamate audio from history that contained moments of the former Gold Coast’s colonial rule and then independence (via the bold striking words of Kwame Nkrumah), with it’s rich palette of sound that went on to influence more incredible sounds in the future including Afrobeat and Hip Life.

During the research period for ‘Meh Mogya’ I came across the musician and researcher John Collins who has been proactive in the Highlife music scene since 1969. Without the kindness of John and the audio samples he gave from the Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation, ‘More Mogya’ would have never been possible.

I do not have a formal education in music, however, I grew up with members of family that made music; my father played rhythm guitar, bass guitar and the synthesiser in a range of church bands when I was a kid and my uncle also DJ’d and produced music.

With that in mind I expanded my production voice via a family of producers through an online forum called The Weekly Beat Sessions, and for 3 years I was given a virtual space to make mistakes, and enhance my ideas.

As far as influences go, I have way too many to count, but in focusing on this project, the following artists certainly made and impact on each project’s direction; Ebo Taylor Dilla, Madlib, Teebs, Flying Lotus, T.O Jazz.

By making these audio artworks I wanted to reach as many people as possible in a way that didn’t need to involve or be confined by a gallery space, but instead utilised the power of social media and the Internet.

I am very pleased to be collaborating with Barely Breaking Even to hopefully bring this ‘Sound of The Sun’ to many more people. Both projects have been remastered and expanded, with most of the tracks lasting longer, for you to groove to! Each album also contains a bonus track.

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