Track By Track: Parrish Smith – Genesis Black
Fresh off the back of his appearance at Dekmantel this weekend we are delighted to be able to feature Parrish Smith on site. The Dutch producer has a deeply rooted understanding of sound and craft, his latest album "GENESIS BLACK" sees him dig through the Tropenmuseum’s ethnographic music archive in order to create a reflective soundscape to the colonial past of the Netherlands. He also utilises the written word of Surinamese slave resistance writer Anton de Kom, the result an analytical album, a statement on the past.
Parrish Smith describes the release as such:
“The sounds are not perfect; it is more primitive. In almost every track you can hear noise/hiss pops and clicks. I don’t want to romanticise this whole subject”
He guides us through the album below:
Between The Coast and Mountains
I wanted to give the listeners a welcome to Suriname. I approached this track with a visualisation of flying over Suriname…having an overview of the country with a dreamy state of mind. It’s a small country between the Atlantic Ocean and the unreachable mountains. Suriname was rich with sugars, tobacco, gold and coffee and inhabited by indigenous people… The wind, the sea, birds and pureness was my state of mind when I made this piece.. just gliding through the riches of Suriname. Maybe the sounds won’t make sense for the listener and they will probably think of other type of feelings…I think that’s the beautiful part of this project to have someone thinking what else it could be… and having your own part of the story that will emerge and develop while listening to the album till the end.
This song is about saying goodbye to our brothers and sisters. The ships are coming, life’s getting thrown overboard and the same people are suffering during the journey. The basis of this track was a sample of a flute that I stretched out sounding like stacked strings and a sample of a lady singing to her brother at a wake. It gave me the tense and eerie feeling of abandonment. Maybe the listener can have the sense of being inside a ship which would be correct. I did this to give the track a little bit of specific content and from there the sounds will guide you through what I have felt too; emotions of abandonment and isolation.
''fifty hard felt years of pain
move their way into my involuntary intellect
let me not, be standing in troubled waters, let me be a harbor to my only self
sailing free and carefree to the, rocking of my own refugee
not bailing out in traumatized waters, from a mental waterlogged boat of fears and devastation
push back…as the door of healing permit
but until….i (I) will beg the mental parts of me
to submit less to darkness and pain and give into small lesser cares in a temp to save what can be saved
love self as much as one can, and pray, and pray and pray
because local politics is the new devil''
Slave code, in U.S. history, any of the set of rules based on the concept that slaves were property, not persons. Inherent in the institution of slavery were certain social controls, which slave owners amplified with laws to protect not only the property but also the property owner from the danger of slave violence. The slave codes were forerunners of the black codes of the mid-19th century. The whip was the most common instrument used against enslaved Black people. There were even businesses that were established to perform whipping services. A slave would be punished for; resisting slavery, not working hard enough, talking too much or talking in their native language, stealing from his master, murdering a white man, trying to run away.
Cornelis Gerhard Anton de Kom, a Surinamese revolutionary and writer. Born on 22 February 1898, Paramaribo and died on 24 April 1945, in Sandbostel bij Bevern uber Bremervorde.
His father was born as a slave and his surname is a reversal of the owner's name which was not uncommon. Anton de Kom is hailed as a “freedom fighter, activist, unionist, writer, exile and resistance hero”. His motivation is based on oppression and injustice brought by colonial motives; the inequality that people feel when considered to be third party citizens.
Taken from the writings of Anton de Kom:
“The truth will rise against the storm, whose seeds will spread. The Surinamese people, loaded with the history of colonialism, have a long way ahead to become a full fledged nation. No people can come to full wisdom that inherits the feeling of inferiority. No better means to cultivate the inferiority of a race than this history of education. Calling and praising only the sons of another nation. It took a long time before I completely freed myself from the obsession that a black man unconditionally the lesser is of every white man”
Divide and Rule
Divide et Empire also known as divide and conquer is a combination of political and economic strategy of gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into chunks that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. This strategy was used frequently by the Europeans. In the face of continued slave and marooned resistance, diplomatic pressure and the growth of liberal ideas in the Netherlands significantly regulated the rights and duties of slaves and plantation managers. The colonial elite would use a divide and rule policy to keep all groups in check. This subject was important to highlight as this is happening right now. This was used in Suriname but was already used in Africa for example by setting up rival tribes against each other and weaken one of the two.
“Divide and rule. Racism is the consequence of slavery.. nothing economic but political. The old age strategy of divide and rule. Capitalism created racism and can’t function without it. First priority is abolishing all traces of exploitation and racism.”
Hunger is a Sharp Sword
Hunger makes the best man evil and inhuman. It hurts to almost have nothing to eat.
''The negro is not entitled to power during it
Time elapsing between closing the over-
Arrival and departure date to work-
Place. The cost of food, also in case of
Illness he may pay for himself. But the length of it
Working day, which must last at least 8 hours
Determined by the supervisor, which only determines
Or a sufficient amount of labor has been provided.
This is how the negro works in the unhealthy wilderness
At a rate of 1.25 a day.’'
This track is about the unheard voices of that period of time. This track built up mostly entire out of voice manipulations. The voice is routed through an harmonizer – delay/reverb and various filters to almost have a musique concrete aesthetic. I had the idea to use this stretched out violin strikes but I didn’t have a violin so I used my voice instead.
When slavery was banned and the people were free. They belonged to nobody and no one had a heart for them. When they were needed, they hired them for as cheap as possible, 1 pay day equaled 1 meal a day.
The Sleep of Hundred Centuries
“The wide plains of the savannahs, the forests and the
High granite mountains of Mother Sranang are sleeping since hundreds of centuries.
No history has been written for them."
Suriname was inhabited in about 3000 BC when the first Indians came to the country. The most important tribe was the Arawak tribe living next to the Waran's and Caribbeans.
This track is an ode to the indigenous people of Suriname. The flute is like the wind blowing heavenly and peaceful yet the track has a dark undertone which depicted the darker outcome of the indigenous people. The Indians were stated by Hartsinck as ''being hospitable''. They had a certain honesty and justice which they showed in all their actions with mercy and friendliness. They lived from hunting and fishery. Almost 20,000 natives lived in the midlands of Suriname, unfortunately they were driven away from the best places by the Europeans.
Rain Upon My Servitude
In 1963 slavery was ended. State commissions investigated how to deal with slavery without harming the involved parties. More than 100,000 slaves worked for almost nothing but they were still denied to give something back. Was there any freedom after this?
They wanted to show in their way that the Surinamese were free, in their own sentement: “Freedom, what are we looking for?"
I wanted to start out with a basic melody that loops throughout the full track. I wanted to experiment with 1 loop that gets more and more intense while it's carrying you and me through the story of, the lack of care and servitude of the slaves.
I sampled the chimes from the archive and put it into sequence and step by step I layered the track with different sounds in the same sequence. I think the stretched out vocal resemble a lot of feelings I had when reading about this certain subject and also what the people that era may have felt.
Anton de Kom laid bare the immense wound left by three centuries of slavery: the fact that an entire people knew nothing of their own history. To live without knowing your own history, he wrote, is to be cursed with an eternal sense of inferiority.
There were plans for a monument of Anton de Kom and in 2006 the statue was finally inaugurated. The statue was made by a Dutch artist who had preference over a Surinamese sculptor who had a lot of popular support (Henry Refurm). For some people it is a controversial statue but in my own opinion de Kom likes to provoke, is rebellious and speaks through his art.
Translated from Dutch to English:
Goodbye, Akoeba goodbye!
Goodbye, Akoeba, my wife, my dear, goodbye!
I won’t return until I’ve defeated them
For a very long time they defied us
First bought and sold and then beaten.
On both our faces the seal is branded
Of the master's name, for evermore
It was on the plantation that I found you.
You had a mother, where did she stay?
And your brothers and sisters? They rest in the ground,
One has driven them all to death.
Do you remember that evening, lady,
That I brought you with me?
The master was drunk, he roared and wished
That you had come to the nest with that smear.
Now you're standing here for me, you brave woman!
Test me, I'm strong and I will leave strong.
I'm twice as courageous, Akoeba by you.
See, these fists are hard like the stones
Do you already hear the white people? their army
Speaks like the countless leaves of the trees.
Before they are beat, I won’t turn again
Kiss Me ! …. The white soldiers are coming.
Get the release HERE.