Originally hailing from the Central African Republic, but often acting as an ambassador for all of the subcontinent thanks to his diverse and prolific collaborations, Boddhi Satva is one of electronic music’s true originals.
Having recently released a massive double CD album retrospective showcasing highlights from his 18 year production career, Boddhi Satva‘s sound is unmistakable: precise yet organic, futuristic yet deeply rooted in folklore. Taking an active interest in Africa’s many spiritual, religious and musical traditions, embracing its multitude of languages and styles gave Boddhi a unique cultural perspective; encapsulated in a sound he calls “Ancestral Soul.”
Boddhi Satva photos by Indi Nunez
Now living in Portugal, studiously ignoring both geographical and genre boundaries as he continues to connect and create with artists across the diaspora, Boddhi has been running his own Offering Recordings label since 2007 and recently launched new imprint Batakari in association with BBE Music, where I work and where I met him.
When the COVID19 pandemic first hit and Europe went into lockdown, Boddhi didn’t miss a beat, providing some much needed “normality” with his daily DIY live-streaming “Quarantine Grooves” DJ sets, as well as companionship, closeness and in-depth conversation in his post-show Zoom Q&As. As an outsider getting to know Boddhi, it’s striking how his magnetic personality, in tandem with his music, has organically drawn together a global community filled of positive, supportive energy. In many ways Boddhi’s presence and accessibility during the pandemic lockdown seems to have cemented this, with fans connecting with each other on comment boards and forums, moving the conversation beyond music and into broader cultural connection. At its essence this grassroots communication has always been the function of folk music, which (although we might not immediately consider it to be so) is surely what all forms of dance music are: music for the people, by the people. When you strip away the mega-festivals and big brands and see an artist like Boddhi playing his heart out to a group of fans/friends (the lines between the two blurred by the level of no-frills access offered by Instagram Live and Zoom), this whole thing starts to feel a lot more like jamming around a campfire. I caught up with Boddhi Satva towards the end of lockdown to ask a few questions about his experience of this new level of online connection, and also get his definitive list of ten tracks that encapsulate the Ancestral Soul sound.
First, talk us through Ancestral Soul. It’s a great way to describe a certain feeling in music; something beyond “deep,” which has become such a throwaway term now. When did it become defined as a concept for you?
I believe the “Ancestral Soul” name arrived when I experienced a DJ set by Osunlade back in 2004. That night I went back home and the concept just came to me. The sounds and the overall identity was materialized in my mind. It is then with time and by fine-tuning the sonic envelope that the sound really defined itself.
Does “deep” even mean anything at all these days?
It does, I just believe that just like many other genres that came to be created, a new generation of producers/consumers started to give the term their own contemporary definition of it. More than ever, the word has been misused and led to a new way of qualifying what is Deep is [shouts] THIS IS SOME SERIOUS DEEP… [Boddhi tails off into laughter]
So you started broadcasting live through Instagram every day when quarantine began in Portugal, and making yourself available for Q&As afterwards. What inspired you to make this commitment?
I love the art of DJing and since I had a sense that we wouldn’t get back to work anytime soon. I felt like it would be a great idea to give my online community a daily show. I then reached out to my booking agency (Nacaza Group) and one of the biggest sound guys in the country (ExpressAudio) and they installed a nice little system at my place. The format really worked out as a daily show until the 50th day of shows, just a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been doing it every Wednesday and Friday. Given the new dynamic we are in, I’m feeling like this is going to be the new normal for us as DJs and it seems a new business model is getting shaped.
Essential Ancestral Soul Cuts
/// Boddhi Satva & EMan – Sweet Brown Sugar
/// Boddhi Satva feat. Zano – JuJu
/// DJ Kev Karter – Descendents
/// Tellaman – Practice (Cuebur Remix)
/// Homeboyz – Ven Pa Ka
/// Badi & Boddhi Satva – Virgil Abloh
/// Ivory White & Boddhi Satva feat. Ahmed Sosso – Farafina
/// Rosario – Mojo
/// Freddy da Stupid, LiloCox – Profecias de Salem
/// Satelite, Demented Soul, Tman – Amazing Amazon
The Q&As on Zoom have given fans unprecedented access to you as an artist. I’m wondering, have there been any unexpected bits of knowledge, inspiration or new understanding for you from doing this? Do you feel more connected to your fan-base?
Oh yes most definitely. Had it not been for this unfortunate situation around the COVID19 pandemic, I doubt that these connections would have taken place the way they did. Clearly, this is showing me a new approach outside of the music and allowed me to connect with some amazing people from all walks of life and build a much tighter and more committed musical family around the Boddhi Satva brand.
I’m happy you said “as an African” and not just “Central African.” You see, for me, it feels like I’m home anywhere I go on the African continent.
As an African artist working in Europe, how important is it for you to touch home soil on a regular basis? Is the not-knowing when you’ll be able to return posing an issue for you?
Well, it is important indeed and I’m happy you said “as an African” and not just “Central African.” You see, for me, it feels like I’m home anywhere I go on the African continent and therefore not knowing how soon things will get back to normal can be somewhat of an emotional thing, but I’m not worried much. Internet helps with keeping a worldly and African connection.
Tell me about your recent project “18.” This is a big career benchmark for you. How’s it been received and how does it feel, reflecting on almost two decades doing this?
Oh, it’s a surreal emotion, I must say. I had many times when I wanted to stop and give up. Many times of doubts and existential questions related to my career and how difficult it is to be in the music industry and maintain longevity and consistency. I really feel like it went very fast and that there’s so much more yet to be done.
Tell me about your new label venture: Batakari. How did this come about? What does the name mean? What’s the music policy?
Batakari is my new and first venture with label mogul and legend Peter Adarkwah from BBE. Peter is responsible for the name which is the word for traditional Ghanaian war attire, which became later a mark of power. The Batakari was actually worn by Kwame Nkrumah during the Ghanaian Declaration of Independence on March 6, 1957. The music policy is oriented towards the new and future African and African Diaspora’s sonic creations (Afro beats, Afro Pop, Afro House and beyond).
What else do you have coming up?
I have several singles upcoming on my label Offering Recordings. The re-release of my first album Invocation on Louie Vega’s Vega Records, and a big collaboration with Stonebwoy, Preto Show and Tenny called “Ragga Ragga” coming soon, as well as an LP done together with Belgian/Congolese vocalist Badi titled “Trouble Fête” both due later this year on Batakari.