The Attic Podcast: 31. Hisham Mayet


August 23, 2017

Hisham Mayet is a film maker, photographer, musical researcher and sound adventurer based in Portland Oregon. He was born on the Barbary Coast of North Africa. Together with Alan Bishop (member of the defunct cult band Sun City Girls), Hisham is co-founder and co-owner of the Sublime Frequencies label, where he has realized various documentary films and music recordings. He has traveled all around the world and has been documenting many obscure scenes, from eastern psyche pop to Sahel post folk, from ancient to more futuristic.

Sublime Frequencies is a collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression not documented sufficiently through all channels of academic research, the modern recording industry, media, or corporate foundations.

Mayet mixes international folk and pop music gathered in both urban and rural frontiers from his extensive music collection gathered throughout travels and explorations in Southeast Asia, North Africa, West Africa, and the Middle East. With releases like "Choubi Choubi: Folk and pop sounds from Iraq" and "Radio Niger", the label's work in archiving and field recording "outernational" creative practice through a kind of punk ethnomusicology is characterized by an embrace of traditional and innovative forms of performance and other human expression.

One of Hisham Mayet's latest project is based on in-depth collaboration with pioneering composer and musicologist Charles Duvelle. Duvelle's widely-influential recordings, as well as his now-iconic photographs and graphic design were released primarily through the influential Disques Ocora label. They form one of the most important contributions to the human understanding of the rich biodiversity of our planet's music and language, archiving and exposing important expressions of modern music in the context of West Africa, Central Africa, the Indian Ocean, Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia.

"I've always just followed my sense of intuition in regards. Most of what I record and release exists before or outside the formation or idea of a 'music scene' in any particular area. It's been part of the community in various ways and existed before in multiple evolving mutations."

Exhilarating, hallucinatory, harrowing, ecstatic and surreal, Hisham Mayet's films and audio collections reveal a region's rituals, rhythm and landscape, with an aesthetic of extra-geography and soulful experience. Employing an unflinching methodology that continues to inspire contemporaries and audience alike, his many documentaries have been redefining the nature of ethnographic film, and continue to provoke and amaze in equal measure.

Hisham Mayet's exploration of West African possession ceremonies continues in Benin. The cradle and birthplace of Voodoo, Benin was formerly known as the Slave Coast, and most of the slave industry was exported from its shores. Voodoo worship is integral to the every day lives of the people of Benin. This film, shot in 2010 during the country's rich Vodoun celebrations, is an impressionistic lens on the myriad ceremonies that this rich and diverse culture has to offer. Showcasing intimate observations of a variety of Voodoo ceremonies: The cult of Sakpata (god of pestilence and healing), Egoun dramas shrouded in magisterial costumes and the secret police of the Zangbeto nightwatchmen, among other highlights.

*photo by Leah Nash

*by Gabriel Leașcu


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