Artist to Artist: IKOQWE


If you visited present day from the future, you’d be pretty astounded by the reality that greeted you, wouldn’t you? In fact, you’d likely question the inhabitants’ ability to keep this thing we call earth moving for years to come.

These are themes that IKOQWE—a duo of fictional characters from a distant space and time—explore on their new album, ‘The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite‘, wielded through a fusion of hip hop, electronic music and ancestral Angolan instrumentation. 

Marking the reunion of two old friends: Angola-born, Lisbon-raised producer Batida AKA ‘Coqwe’ and Angolan rapper-turned-activist Ikonoklasta AKA ‘Iko’, the 11 tracks across the album confront topics like neocolonialism, iniquities and falsified history and utopian solutions, translated through vocals in Angolan slang, Umbundu, Portuguese and English.

The music matches the power of the lyricism: atop their blend of old school hip hop influences and traditional Angolan music, the pair layer sounds sourced from the International Library of African Music’s archive and field recordings made in Angola by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey during the ‘50s.

Following the release on Crammed Discs earlier this month, Iko and Coqwe discuss civilisation, learning a language from a horse and Daft Punk’s robot life cycle.

IKO: After the conclusion of this exploring mission, would you agree we should write in our report that earthlings are doom-bound and they are the very cause of their approaching extinction, Coqwe?

Coqwe: I do, Iko. They are the top predators and affect not only their lives but the whole planet. The structure called city is not working at all. The majority is too moderate. Not sure they will make it on time. If they do they will find a way to do damage to other planets.

IKO: Did you enjoy this mission and would you enlist yourself to come back?

Coqwe: In a strange way I feel this is our thing, Iko. Especially when we just look like artists entertaining. If we manage to have a means of transportation with a better temperature controller and I would say… an upgraded sound system, I would do this more often.

IKO: What do you think we’d find different upon our return and what should we do different to achieve a better interaction with this planet’s inhabitants?

Coqwe: Not sure. Repeating and expecting different results may be called faith but also insanity. Mental health is a key issue on the Planet, Iko. If humans are more stressed than they have been, they will decrease their health even more. I don’t think pressure alone works. I have hope on younger humans. Maybe we just focus on them. I would also like to develop more interaction with the other animals and life on the planet. They should be way more listened to. I guess it depends on what the new ones will do.

IKO: Do you feel like we are leaving our fellow earthlings with something meaningful to chew on?

Coqwe: They do react with words like experimental, dark and deep to what we do but we cannot control if they chew, spit, actually if they put it in their mouths to start of. Let’s wait. But attention is so spread right now that it is difficult to understand what humans actually retain. Not sure they have a drive now. Looks like they are just asking to be fooled in a kinder or angry way. On a positive side, I am happy with what we have done. We should keep doing it infinitely and come to share. 

COQWE: And what are we taking from them back to our little planet?

Iko: That dance, music and poems are very powerful all together. They are essential to life. Memory too. Keeping enthusiasm is the key to keep doing positive things. Uniqueness is the goal but never missing the fact we exist together. Maybe the strangest is that Utopia is a very misinterpreted concept here. Sounds like it is not viable.

COQWE: Is there one thing that keeps surprising you on human nature?

Iko: Hard to pick one. There are so many amazing things these curious creatures can do and achieve, both great and outright cruel, there are so many paradoxes, so many incongruencies that I don’t think I can be adamant enough if I say they’re one of the most interesting creatures in the whole universe to study. Perhaps one of the most intriguing characteristics of this species is that, albeit possessing a super computer at their dome piece, they seem not to learn from past mistakes and keep fatally falling in the same traps over and over again.  

COQWE: I met a horse the other day. It’s been really good to learn his language. He is quite straightforward. What was the last animal you met that challenged you to learn a new language? Excluding humans.

Iko: Every living creature, no matter what planet they’re from, has always had this effect on me of making me crave being able to reach out and communicate with them, learn their codes, interact positively, befriend them. Even the most nasty and often misunderstood.

COQWE: What do you think about Daft Punk committing suicide? I mean, one of them. 

Iko: Well, he was rather euthanised since he obviously needed the approval and assistance from his partner to put an end to his misery. I think that it comes a time in every robot’s life cycle where things, no matter how glamorous they may seem from the outside looking in, stop making sense and if there’s no longer any joy at our designed tasks, we should just walk away without a hint of a guilty conscience. I totally respect his choice. Plus that opened a second vacancy at the very uptight “incognito scene”, already sore from the excruciating loss of our dear MF DOOM.

COQWE: Do you think the other one will go solo?

Iko: That’s what it looked like from their final communication as a duo. Robot #1 resembled a yet pretty determined and focused entity moving forward. Will he carry on as just Daft, Punk, or completely reshape his stance, that’s the unknown factor in this equation.

COQWE: Would you go solo one day? If so, what kind of thing would you be doing differently?

Iko: The future belongs to the cosmos and all of us living creatures are destined to be unique and follow our own paths. Sometimes they coincide and, when they do, we should rejoyce about being able to share the trip as well as the burden, but when they don’t, we must keep going until is our time to definitively shut down our hard-drive (or until someone shuts it down for us). I have no idea what I’d be doing differently if our paths diverged, if we’re not assigned the same missions, but I’m sure I’d keep experimenting, mixing, blending influences and trying my best to be meaningful, just as I’m sure you’d do too.

COQWE: Did you get too close to the object of study, Iko? Are you turning into human?

Buy The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite HERE.