February 28, 2022
BLACKNESS - PROJECT
I rediscovered my identity through music
The voice of Sonia Garcia, interviewed by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective
Blackn[è]ss fest is the first festival in Italy which presents a re-elaborated version of the African lineage universe. Events and roundtables are organized both to think about the concept of being black, following a path of decolonization of the language, and to discuss topics such as mental health issues linked to racial profiling, discrimination, racism, and also music, cinema, media and representation of black people.
Voice Over Foundation chose to accompany the festival in this path and it decided to tell stories about it through the protagonists' voices during the whole year.
Interview with Sonia M. Garcia, journalist, dj, founder of Sayri platform.
Q: What's your name, could you tell us who you are and what do you do?
A: I am Sonia Garcia, I am thirty and I have been living in Milan for ten years. I was born in Rome, and I grew up in Arezzo in a family of Peruvian origins. I studied architecture and city planning at Politecnico of Milan and, since 2013, I started working as a journalist in a newsroom, writing about music. Due to my job, I started to deepen some musical scenes, in particular I had to do with artists who dealt with experiences such as queerness and lineage from Abya Yala, Latin America, Andes through music. Since that moment I reinterpreted Andean music in electronic and instrumental tone, and I put together the pieces of my history. The music made me feel more complete and it was crucial to understand who I was and to reconnect with my identity and membership. I started to play music, mix it, to organize DJ sets and developing also this means of expression other than writing. Furthermore, before Covid-19 I also developed the Sayri project, a platform of events experimentation, where the experiences of diaspora's women from Abya Yala (Latin America) are at the center of the attention.
Q: Which was the event that brought you to re-discover your identity? And what did it mean to re-discover it through music?
A: My childhood and adolescence in Arezzo have been characterized by a denial of my Peruvian identity. I used to accept only the Italian one, and I used to deny being a non-white daughter of migrant parents. This diversity was visible, but I did not accept it persistently. And this denial was the product of racism and hatred that I interiorized and that brought me to hate a part of me. When I arrived in Milan, I met artists who made use of sounds familiar to me. At that moment, I realized that I actually liked those melodies, tied to folkloristic traditional Andean music, that I thought I hated. Thanks to those artists I put together the pieces of my history. Music has been pivotal. For me, one of the most important artists linked to this path is Elysia Crampton.
Q: In an interview, you talk about a "de-colonial approach" and about music as a means of demand. To what extent is this concept present in your path today?
A: I do not feel like defining my project de-colonial. However, for sure, the footprint and the approach of the project are anti-colonial, because they question certain categories and structures which have been hegemonized and which held power. Even the categories of identity and gender have limits per se and should be re-narrated. Let's say that the aim of Sayri is tied to a new re-narration: what is a Latin American clubbing night? Can it be narrated avoiding the stereotypes of reggaeton or cumbia which have developed over the last years? The aim of Sayri is to be a megaphone also for other realities, richness and melodies born and raised in Abya Yala.
Q: How did you live the Blacknèss festival? What does it mean to you and how do you think it should develop?
A: For me, Blacknèss has been an important moment of sharing and inspiration. It was the successful completion of many moments of sharing and growth that many of us were developing already. It was a very familiar festival, as well as a professional one. It was thought and realized by people of the racialised community for the community. There was a huge attention for the differences, aspects and diversities existing within the community. I participated with my business partner of Sayri, Juana Bel, and I followed the panel on the representation through the media. In general, it was a moment of great inspiration from the human and working points of view. I think it is important to keep Blackness as a safe space, exempt from the violent dynamics. At the same time, I think openness is fundamental. Maturity lies in admitting that we are not a monolithic block and divergence can happen. It is normal and this is valid both for Blackness and for any other group or movement composed of a plurality of voices and experiences.
Q: Which are your projects for the future?
A: I want to end my Journalism Master's, find a less uncertain job, organize parties, go back playing music and develop the collaboration with Blacknèss. And I would also like to go back to my family in the Andes. This is the place where I feel my bond with Perù most alive, especially from a cultural and musical point of view.
Photo credits: Michael Yohanes