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June 08, 2022

Creating non-Eurocentric cultural spaces is a way of saying: we exist and we are here

The voice of Ismael Pacheco, 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 Ismael Pacheco, artist and Dj and co-coordinator of the Blackness festival.

D: Can you introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

I am Ismael Pacheco, I am 29 years old, born in Quito, Ecuador and raised in Italy in the province of Milan. I work in the world of music and culture, I am a DJ. After studying social sciences, I started studying at the Conservatory of Milan, then I decided to stop studying because the academic world did not give me the answers I was looking for. So I started creating events and joining groups such as the Kirykou collective or Camera Oscura in Milan's Isola district, promoting experimentation in the audio, visual and electronic fields. They are two projects that give space to young, growing artists and create a sort of network in which we talk about music, books and films from our own point of view. In fact, we are all people with a migrant background and here we manage to give a point of view that is not only Eurocentric. Each of us, during our lives, has seen that there were no answers or spaces that could offer a cultural offer closer to our own; this is why the musical events and DJ sets in which I participate try to reflect on this need.

D: Which kind of music do you promote? 

I try to create a narrative of sounds, starting with one genre and ending up with another, developing a musical path where people can come together. In short, it's about Andean sounds, Latin American sounds, but also Afro-descendant sounds, for example cumbia is a mix of the two. I'm incorporating other genres there, for example electronic music made in the last twenty years, trying to create a desirable content and bring these experiments around. Music allows me to research and build bridges between people. The idea is to unite, to create a narrative of a globality, of a humanity that has always existed. 

D: Why did you feel the need to create spaces? 

Thinking about enjoying music in the Milanese nightlife is not so obvious. There are events where a certain type of person feels at ease while for others it is not so. What kind of audience frequents certain places? How accessible are they to others? There are social, cultural and economic factors to consider, for example going to Latin American dances can be different in the centre and the suburbs. Or how much does the evening cost? What are the ideas of the organisers? What model do they respond to? You can also organise the Latin American evening but then who is in it? Who is it for? So when we talk about spaces I am also referring to this, to the absence of spaces for people with an immigrant background. And I, like many others, felt the need to create our own spaces. There were no spaces and we created them. With Camera Oscura there was the need to have a space within a Milanese cultural environment and to attract those who were curious. With Kirykou, there was a need to go even deeper, to think about multiculturalism and to assert ourselves. Organising an event in which black DJs play or books are presented by people of indigenous descent is not a given. It means asserting oneself, reaffirming that we exist, because usually in traditional narratives we are not present. It's a way of asserting ourselves, it's marking our position, I'm there and I'm present. 

D: How did you meet music? 

I met her late, in primary and secondary school I had teachers who never stimulated me. I had just arrived in Italy and I didn't know the language well, so having teachers like that didn't help. My real encounter with music came later, when the electronic music movement spread and affordable music production software came out, at the end of high school. Then I chose to enroll in Social Sciences because I have always been interested in philosophical aspects related to humanity. I made the leap of courage later by enrolling in the Conservatory.  

D: And what about the Blackn[è]ss fest? 

I was contacted by Ariam Tekle to participate in the first edition as an artist. At the beginning I was a little bit in a dilemma because I thought my presence was wrong, but then I realised that it was a festival created to offer a space, stories and narratives that start from the concept of blackness but not only, because there are racialised people like me, visibly "foreigners" but not black. I find this festival important from a historical point of view because until now the cultural offers, linked to other continents, were not addressed to people who came from these places or had other origins. Usually people talk about Asia, Africa or Latin America, but the people directly concerned never speak, nor is the audience composed of people of different origins. It's a festival about blackness that wants to speak to black and racialised people, it doesn't exclude anyone but thinks about nuance. At the festival I also discovered what residencies were. I didn't know anything about it, it's not so obvious if you're not in an artistic network. Even simple information or knowledge of spaces depends on the social class and the networks a person is part of. 

D: Which are your future projects? 

I would like to continue to carry on the message of multiculturalism through sounds, to trigger mental and cultural processes so that fertile ground and new things are created in Italy. The continuous research that I do with music is the union of several elements, indigenous, Afro-descendants, the two pillars on which all Latin American music was formed, and with these two elements I try to create a language that unites people. 

Photo credits: Matteo Varisco

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