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Running for almost four years now, TRAUM is a monthly live music event organised by Hejira members Sam Beste, Alex Reeve, and Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne that seeks to extend conventional live performances into curated cultural experiences.
Established at the start of 2012 at The Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston, TRAUM has played host to performances from the likes of Micachu, Matthew Herbert, Gwilym Gold and more, with a different visual artist frequenting the venue to transform the space. Co-founder Sam Beste recounts how on one evening, 100 green bow ties ended up in circulation but we won't give it all away, as there's more of that in the interview below.
As well as integrating the audience further via immersive art, they also run an amazing printed zine that is distributed at TRAUM parties. Covering a varied ground, the content ranges from information on the artists performing, through to recipes and poetry.
Keeping a steady momentum, TRAUM is slowly but surely blossoming from its early buds as a live music event into a steadfast collective, working from their studio space in South Bermondsey. All this considered, we decided to team up with the group for an extra special edition of TRAUM, as part of our Dummy Presents series in Miranda, Ace Hotel London. In the build up to the evening – which will feature TRAUM staples Hejira and performances from Leiik, Francesca Ter-Berg, Flora Curzon and DJs Coby Sey and Wussah – we interviewed one of the founders Sam Beste to find out how live music, Ethiopian food recipes, and 100 green bow ties combine to lock arms so effortlessly.
Read the interview below and keep watch for something new from Hejira's Rituals series, coming very soon.
Tell us more about TRAUM. Why did you start the project?
TRAUM: "We have always believed that the specific qualities of the space in which music is performed will profoundly effect the nature of that performance, both for the audience and the performers. So in tandem with developing our music, we have also had an interest in curating our own events, and this is what led to us founding TRAUM back in 2012. For our first TRAUM series, we invited a different visual artist to transform the space at Servant Jazz Quarters in some way. For instance, Duval Timothy created 100 green bow ties that were given to audience members upon entry, who were encouraged to wear the bow ties however they wished. Some tied it in their hair, others around their wrist, and Duval was also offering lessons for those who wanted to learn how to tie it around the neck in the traditional fashion. Duval's intervention really helped to create a relaxed atmosphere in the space, which in turn had an influence on the performing and listening experience. TRAUM has given us a structure to develop our ideas as a group of artists, but it has also been a space to make and reunite friends."
Tell us more about the zine you do for each event? Is it quite a planned publication or is the content very spontaneous? Do you work on this as a group?
TRAUM: "Since the beginning, we have had a tradition at TRAUM of giving something away to the audience on the night which they can take home with them. For our first 12 events this arrived in the form of a series of Hejira off cut recordings we called 'The Dust of Dreams', which were available to TRAUM attendees through download cards given to them upon entry. In 2015, this concept blossomed into our zine called 'Rituals', a new volume of which is available at each TRAUM event. The zine features interviews, poetry, cultural recommendations, recipes, illustrations and photography from artists affiliated with TRAUM. In addition to all the written content, the zine also includes a link to some free music, which we make available to download on our Bandcamp.
The process of putting together the zine usually includes a mixture of planning and spontaneity. Once I've gathered together all the content from the contributors I type it up by hand on my typewriter. This part of the process is very spontaneous and I usually like to do it quite quickly, leaving room for plenty of mistakes and typos, which have become part of the aesthetic of the zine. And yes, it's very much a group effort. Once I've typed up the zine it goes through the whole TRAUM team in order to get scanned in, arranged, printed and assembled… this is all quite time consuming!"
"TRAUM has given us a structure to develop our ideas as a group of artists, but it has also been a space to make and reunite friends." – Sam Beste, TRAUM
For those who haven't read it, can you elaborate on some of the stuff in the zine?
TRAUM: "Food has always been a big part of TRAUM as we have some very talented cooks in our ranks! In our first TRAUM series, we collaborated with our friends Relay Tea Room, who made incredible canapés of delicious cakes, which were given out to audience members in three rounds throughout the night! So it felt natural and fun for us to include a recipe section in the zine, with different people from our community contributing a culinary delight each time. In the first zine Rahel, one of the TRAUM founders, shared an Ethiopian recipe, and for this coming event Francesca Ter-Berg has contributed some of her kitchen secrets."
Is TRAUM very much a group effort? Do you bounce ideas off each other?
TRAUM: "Community and togetherness is at the heart of everything we do; if we lose our sense of togetherness, we lose the heart of it. So yes, TRAUM is very much a group effort and it is continually exciting and inspiring to be part of this vibrant and growing collective of creative people. We are currently in a particularly productive phase in our studio in South Bermondsey, with each of us bringing lots of ideas to the table that we then develop as a group, in addition to working on music from scratch together. Our hope is to cultivate and maintain an open atmosphere where we feel comfortable and brave enough to share, develop and transform our ideas with one another."
How do you feel about doing this next event with Dummy?
TRAUM: "It means a lot to us to be doing this next event with Dummy. Putting on TRAUM shows entails a a lot of work and we have always been keen to collaborate with other promoters and event organisers in order to broaden our reach. We are also excited to be performing in a new space as we've never played at Miranda before. I saw Gwilym Gold perform there a while back and liked the venue."
"Although TRAUM began as an event, it is gradually evolving into a collective. The events are becoming spaces and times in which the collective perform in multiple guises and combinations." – Sam Beste, TRAUM
What sort of music can we expect from the line-up?
TRAUM: "Francesca Ter-Berg and Flora Curzon are an incredible string duo that we've had the pleasure of becoming friends with over the past year or so. They are heavily influenced by folk improvisation traditions from across the world and their performances have a meditative power that invites the listener into a trance like state. They will be followed by Leiik, a band with an expansive ethereal sound, full of lush synths and subtly evolving textures. Then TRAUM founders Hejira will play a set of songs. We're not entirely sure what we're going to play yet as we're writing so much at the moment, but there will be quite a bit of cross-collaboration on the night itself. With any luck, Fran and Flora might even join us on strings for a track!"
If you could go back in time to any musical era, when would you choose and who would you hang out with?
TRAUM: "The idea of going back to the jazz scene of New York in the '60s is interesting to me. Jazz was on fire back then. I'd like to have hung out in the Blue Note studio and observed how the engineer Rudy Van Gelder got that magic sound! Or to have sat in on the session when Miles Davis' second great quartet recorded their album 'Nefertiti'."
Is there anything else on the horizon for TRAUM?
TRAUM: "Although TRAUM began as an event, it is gradually evolving into a collective. The events are becoming spaces and times in which the collective perform in multiple guises and combinations. At future events we would love to continue to expand on our original desire to create ideal conditions for the performance and experience of our music, through deeper collaboration with a widening team of lighting designers, stage directors, visual artists and sound artists. That's the continuing dream…"
Dummy Presents: TRAUM at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch on April 13th (free with RSVP).