Our final podcast of the year shines the spotlight on Henrietta Smith-Rolla, better known these days as Afrodeutsche. The emerging electro producer distinguished herself through more than a decade’s worth of music experience straddling divergent genres. The emotional depth displayed in this cascading, intricately woven 1-hour excursion is a testament to that.
Hi Henrietta, how’s it going?
I’ve been on an education tour with Ableton, doing Ableton Masterclasses in Europe and Ghana, visiting uni’s in Manchester and London, sharing my personal process for writing using Ableton, and how I write for film.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you do at Ableton?
The first Masterclass I did for Ableton was at ADE in Amsterdam, which I have to be honest, I was at my most nervous. It was the first event Ableton had asked me to do… it’s always difficult to know if what you’re sharing is helpful or insightful. It all went well though, but funnily a woman came up to me after and said: “You know you didn’t have to be so nervous… you know we could see your hands shaking.” I hadn’t realized there were cameras filming my hands, haha. I actually loved it!
As a result of doing these classes, I’ve learnt that everyone has their own way of making their own process, but it’s helpful just to see how others may approach composition, production and writing.
Do you feel like making experimental electronic music is a way to encompass all the musical heritage and diversity that is inherent to your roots and growing up in Manchester?
Completely. It’s funny though; I never thought of my music as being experimental, but I guess it is. Music is a language to me, electronic music/sounds are always in my head, but the music I make that I’m happiest with is the stuff that has come from how I’m feeling. My connection to my roots and identity is an ongoing topic for me, but I know I’m very lucky to have music as a way of processing this.
Do you think there is a link between the music you make and music that the city is known for (thinking of bands like New Order to Stone Roses)?
There’s definitely a language for music that comes from the city, a language I connected with when I moved here. The sounds of New Order absolutely have left a legacy. I think their honesty in sound, the stripped-back attitude to pop music, synth-led pop that hadn’t really been heard before – that sounded like future music that really embraced new music-making technologies.
This attitude is still present in Manchester to this day.
Have you personally witnessed the scene change in the past decade? If so, has the change been noticeable in your work as well?
Scenes are constantly in motion, some so transient they are here for only a moment… but there has definitely been a shift in the world of electro. It’s fascinating to be into a type of music, be making this style of music for most of your existence and then see people getting bang into it, or at least revealing the love for it that’s always been there.
I’m buzzin’ about it; there’s so much new stuff, all nods to the “traditional” but it has clearly also picked up so much influence from other well-good scenes! For me, electro, like a lot of other genres, comes from hip hop, hip-hop grooves, breaks, rhythms; that scene alone has changed so much with technology, all influencing each other. Well good!!!
Which other unruly talent do you look up to?
Hands down Nkisi. Being able to speak without words, groovy as fuck, always moves me, then I get locked into one piece – a track called “Violent Tendencies”; it’s so beautiful. Dale Cornish is another stunning soul, both recorded and live; again, honesty and stripped-back grooves you can get locked into. I can’t stand still when I listen to Dale.
Thanks Henrietta, and Happy New Year!