Mathias Schønberg: Welcome to the CTM special for today on Refuge Worldwide. I am Mathias Schønberg and for the next 2 hours I will be showing a few highlights from the CTM, the club transmediale, Festival programme. Later in the show we’re gonna get a visit from one of the artists of the festival NZIRIA and their collaborators here in Berlin. So without any further ado I think we should start listening to a track from their latest release.
– First hour of the show by the host themselves and music –
Mathias Schønberg: Alright, that was »Hard Tarantella« by NZIRIA and now I have NZIRIA in the studio with me right now as well as their three Berlin collaborators for the CTM Festival. Now to give you a quick introduction: NZIRIA is the new experimental project by the artist Tullia Benedicta that debuted their full length »XXYBRID« record in ‘22 on Gabber Eleganza’s label Never Sleep. Does that sound about right?
NZIRIA: It does.
Mathias Schønberg: Okay good, I’m glad. I’m just reading from the CTM programme here in order to not try to put too much interpretation in from my own side. Now, to give all of the listeners a little bit of introduction, the programme explains it as such: NZIRIA integrates the main forms and themes of neomelodic song, southern Italian vocal pop from the mid-seventies. Through powerful and androgynous singing, they reinterpret the stereotypical stories of the genre, welcoming narratives of the LGBTQI+ community and singing of queer love and mercurial identities. Re-appropriating the Neapolitan dialect – the word nziria itself indicates the obstinate and unprovoked tantrum of children when they’re tired – they describe their work as »hard neomelodic,« combing the two disruptive tonalities to celebrate hybridity as an arena for unrestricted self-determination. How do you like this introduction NZIRIA?
NZIRIA: I think it fits. I think it matches what the project is. Maybe you would like to know more about the hard neomelodic? How I started?
Mathias Schønberg: I would love to know more about that but before we get to that I think we should introduce everyone else here. You have been working for the CTM Festival specifically with some local based artists here. Amongst is Bianca Peruzzi, who is the director of the performance and Janan Laubscher and Franka Marlene Foth. Bianca, would you introduce yourself really quickly to the listeners?
Bianca Peruzzi: Sure. I am a collaborator of Tullia (NZIRIA) since a very long time and I’m curating the performance we do together from a light designer point of view and artistic direction point of view and we are creating the whole visual imaginary of NZIRIA’s project through performances and videos.
Mathias Schønberg: Thank you. Janan, would you say a couple of words about yourself also?
Janan Laubscher: Yes, sure. My name is Janan Laubscher. I am a freelance dance artist. Now based in Berlin for 4 years. Mostly I was born and raised in Las Vegas and I’m here now and I’ve collaborated with Franka for close to 4 years now.
Mathias Schønberg: Thank you. I hate to say this but you have to really stick your faces in the microphone at an uncomfortably close distance.
Janan Laubscher: Like this?
Mathias Schønberg: Yes, like that. Franka, will you tell us a little bit about yourself too and your role in the project?
Franka Marlene Foth: Yes, sure. I’m Franka Marlene Foth. I am based in Berlin, I’m also born and raised here and I work as a choreographer mainly and specially also on this project but also as a performer here on the 2nd.
Mathias Schønberg: Excellent. Could any of you tell us a little bit about how did it come about that the 4 of you would be working together for the CTM Festival?
Franka Marlene Foth: Okay, I can do that quickly from my side. I don’t know how it was for you but I collaborated with CTM before, so basically they contacted me because NZIRIA was looking for collaborators based in Berlin. Then I listened to their music, could totally resonate with it and then contacted them also, mentioning that, and that I would love to collaborate. This is how it came about.
Mathias Schønberg: Thank you. I’m gonna be asking you after the next song, how it has been working together and has anything gone terribly wrong or any fun anecdotes? Then I’m sure it would be entertaining to hear but before we do that I would like to know a little bit more about this hard neomelodic. Can you tell us a bit about the background and the material that you build on to create this sort of genre hybrid?
NZIRIA: Yes, so hard neomelodic to me started kinda naturally but it started mostly as an experiment. I was in a time where I was kinda obsessed with neomelodic music which is a specific genre of the Neapolitan song, which is a song that was born in Naples and around Naples during the end of the 70’s, early 80’s. It’s a very peculiar genre that talks about Naples not told, that you will see in postcards or see in films. It’s a new narration of Naples that talks about stories of problems in the neighbourhoods, problems of love, desperate love, struggle and all these kinds of things and criminality as well because this is something that is unfortunately quite present in Naples. I was kinda obsessed with it because I thought that somehow I could reconnect with the way of singing because it’s quite particular and quite, I would say, baroque. It could sound Arabic sometimes and it could sound similar to fado or to flamenco singers. I was really fascinated by the genre although I realised that I didn’t really like the arrangements and the background music because it was a bit too simple and pop. So I started playing around with that and singing in Neapolitan to me came out quite naturally also because I’m half Neapolitan so of course I could understand the words and the dialect, I could speak it a bit. Even the way of singing, which is quite particular to me, came out pretty naturally so I thought it was a sign I should have gone deeper on this research. Eventually I decided to experiment and try to add something more personal which is my background in electronic music. Especially, I wanted to investigate and research more on a specific genre that I somehow touched when I was very young, like 12 or 13 years old, which was hardcore gabber. It was a genre that fascinated me a lot and that I never really explored deeper in depth during my years as a musician. So I took this chance to try something new and definitely one thing that somehow was a sort of connection. The first connection between neomelodic music and hardcore or Neapolitan music and hardcore was definitely the connection between the tarantella and the hardcore gabber music. Somehow they are pretty similar because they have this kind of energy, drive, that just goes and talks straight to your belly and to your guts.
Mathias Schønberg: Isn’t the reason why it’s called tarantella also that it’s like having a spider in your ear? I remember somebody telling me that once
NZIRIA: That’s the taran.. Yeah.. No.. It’s kinda complicated because the tarantella is a specific dance coming from the south. It can be done in many regions of the south. Naples is in Campania which is more on the west coast while the taranta, which is the other dance, the one with the spider that you were saying is in Puglia which is on the east coast. The regions are next to each other so obviously there are differences. The tarantella is more of a religious dance, it’s connected to the Holy Mary.
Mathias Schønberg: Okay, I see. You will also be doing a talk in silent green. On which day is it again?
Mathias Schønberg: 31, that’s the beginning of next week. What CTM writes about it, it’s called Temporal Dichotomies & Speculative Mythologies where NZIRIA, who’s live with us right now, will present their explorations of different temporalities and how artistic means of the digital can be used to combine techno futuristic ideas with the elements of folklore rooted deeply in the past ancient spiritual traditions and mythological ideas which corresponds very well with what you’ve just explained to us about your mix of gabber techno and traditional folklore tarantella. Should we listen to one of your songs together and get an example of how this hard neomelodic singing actually sounds like?
Mathias Schønberg: Alright. I think I have one ready right here.
Mathias Schønberg: Alright, that was NZIRIA with the track Pensiero meaning something like thinking? If I’m not entirely wrong even though I don’t speak Italian. You can catch them at the CTM Festival on the 31st with a performance.
Franka Marlene Foth: 2nd.
Mathias Schønberg: 2nd! The other thing is on the 31st. Thank you. The 2nd. I’m being corrected by the artists that are in the studio with us now. Let’s turn a little bit towards the dancers and the director and the visual artists in this performance on the 2nd next week. It would be great to know, when did you first start working on this performance together? Bianca? The director.
Bianca Peruzzi: Originally this collaboration of creating something that was enlarging the idea of a concert than rather bring anything to something performative started a year ago when me and NZIRIA started to collaborate on NZIRIA’s shows and then we decided to involve dancers as Franka explained a couple of minutes ago. We started sessions of calls because me and NZIRIA live in Italy therefore we started to discuss with them about the performance that we would have created and we actually always wanted to involve dancers in the show because we worked a lot with the symbology of Christian culture and Neapolitan culture, therefor we really created lots of moments of tableau vivant in our music videos for example. Therefore this idea of bringing this imaginary that works very well in photos and videos in a show with a performance in a theatre was a very appealing idea for us and it’s great we’ve involved them.
Mathias Schønberg: Thanks! But I was just told when we listened to the last song that you only all met today for the first time. How has that been? What have you guys been doing?
Franka Marlene Foth: So mainly, I mean over the past weeks, we exchanged and I got really into the music and I’m a very visual person so as soon as I hear music it does something with me and the pictures arise basically in my head and what I see and what I want to create. So this has happened to me before so I made all the notes and today we shared all these notes. So we basically structured the songs, how they will be played and what will happen on stage to each song and how we envision it with the lights, with the performance, if we all three are there or just NZIRIA and this is basically what we did today that also consumes a lot of time to get structure and everything and to share the vision before we really start to work physically on it.
Mathias Schønberg: I can’t help but notice that you say the pictures you envision. Which is interesting to me because it’s dance because I think of embodiment and like the way of physically inheriting the music and conveying that but are you thinking more in terms of visual about the dance for this performance?
Franka Marlene Foth: Yes, totally. I think everybody works different. Every dancer or choreographer. In my case, I know my body and how I want the movements to be but for this to know I don’t have to necessarily start on doing the movements because I specially when I work for a show like this I have to see the whole package and for me music triggers a side of me that envisions already the visual I want to see and then of course the movement I want to see with it and then the movements I will just figure when I’m in the studio but I have it already before in my head. I don’t know if it makes sense.
Mathias Schønberg: It absolutely does.
Franka Marlene Foth: But yeah of course we have to then structure and try everything out with the body obviously.
Mathias Schønberg: So are you going to go back to the studio and keep working on it tonight when you’re done with this interview?
Franka Marlene Foth: I think some of us may but I think we start fully tomorrow because today we had a lot of brainwork already.
Mathias Schønberg: Any other plans for the evening then?
Franka Marlene Foth: Maybe.
Mathias Schønberg: Let’s talk a little bit about the CTM Festival theme but let’s do it after we’ve listened to another song by NZIRIA. Let’s get some music in the booth.
Mathias Schønberg: Alright, that was NZIRIA who will perform with this group of nice people I have in the studio, Janan, Franka and Bianca that are working on the performance And then a Flame Rumbled Like an Earthquake. You can catch it Thursday next week at the HAU as part of the CTM programme. Now before we kind of round up things and play one last NZIRIA track because I love them, it’s going to be a question about the theme of the CTM Festival this year »Portals«. It is explained that music and art can somehow be a gateway to other realities in terms of experiences beyond one’s own. Maybe this is a difficult question to ask and you’re all welcome to chip in but to begin with let’s hear you NZIRIA like what kind of portal are you going to be opening up to the CTM crowd on Thursday?
NZIRIA: First of all I think that art and music can be vehicles of messages and can be portals to underworlds and subcultures and actually gates to new things, you know? So I reckon that with this show we will certainly try to open a portal to, let’s say, my experience at first. My past, my roots, and the experience that I’m feeling right now as I continue researching, let’s say, my personal essence and my roots investigating where I come from and my background. So this is the first thing and secondly, it’ll surely be an open gate to a little universe of Naples which is filtered by my lens of course and my experience but with this record XXYBRID and with this live and then A Flame Rumbled Like An Earthquake, we will try to somehow create a bridge and a connection with another world which is out there somehow which is living there so it will be a certain picture of what I’ve lived so far and let’s say a collection of emotions and suggestions and perceptions that I want to bring in and to show to the audience.
Mathias Schønberg: Wow. I really want to thank you for answering so elaborately and so interestingly. You’ve clearly put a lot of effort into it and I am looking so much forward to the performance on Thursday.
NZIRIA: Are you coming?
Mathias Schønberg: Sure, absolutely!
Mathias Schønberg: I have a few different things to do, I also have to write about a few other events on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but they’re all at Berghain and a little bit later so let’s see if I survive next week at all.
NZIRIA: Haha, okay. Good luck.
Mathias Schønberg: Would anyone else like to add anything? Do you have any recommendations for the listeners of what else to see in the CTM programme? Or are you doing anything else yourselves this week?
Franka Marlene Foth: I mean, I know myself from rehearsals so my body will probably be really tired so after our show I will join everyone else I think.
Mathias Schønberg: That sounds reasonable and I absolutely know the feeling of working on something. There’s really absolutely no future beyond that point to which you’ve worked up until. Thank you so much for coming, it was a true pleasure. We’re going to listen to one last NZIRIA track and then head on to the next focus of the CTM Festival. Thanks a lot.
Originally broadcast on Refuge Worldwide.
Photo: © CTM Festival / Frankie Casillo 2023