HOMELANDS is a year long series of global tours, artistic residencies and insights that
documents musicians visiting their roots, learning about where they came from and creating something new amid their jourrney of self discovery.
In this third episode of the HOMELANDS road trip, we follow UK producer DIZTORTION as he explores his Surinamese heritage. London-based, Dutch-born Diztortion was challenged to visit Suriname, to make new music with local artists and explore and reflect on his culture.
What was it like going back after so long?
After a nine hour flight to Suriname, the smallest independent country in South America, which I hadn’t seen since 1999, we went straight to the capital city Paramaribo and did the tourist thing. We visited the old wooden colonial buildings in the city centre, on the UNESCO World Heritage list, visited my uncle’s shoe shop and ate at Roopram Roti, which is like the McDonalds of Indian street food, nice.
What was your first day like?
400 students came to hear me talk at Hendrik School, ‘on how music can change lives.’ I was with Adika, a 17 year old Surinamese singer who was working with me on my HOMELANDS residency, and the film crew from the Paramaribo News team.
‘Fester Skank’ is now huge in Suriname, although as a producer my face wasn’t familiar, everyone knew Adika a local artist. In a very traditional society, she is opening a new lane for herself and getting airplay on Dutch language stations.
I then led an industry Q&A about creating global exposure for Surinamese musicians and that evening, led a hands-on workshop with 20 young artists to build some beats. This is always where it gets interesting for me, when ideas become real sounds and rhythms. One thing I was keen to show them is that today, you don’t need loads of money – or even a keyboard – to be a musician. Just a laptop, passion and a lot of hard work.
Was day two easier?
No, we took the homelands documentary team out of the capital to meet my extended family. Some of my mum’s side still live in the house my grandad built at Saramacca, a twenty mile drive from Parbo. My dad’s family are from further away, in New Nickerie, but some live in Paramaribo. People here share what they have with you and the food just keeps coming. We ended with a drumming session with a local youth group- real drums, no digital.
Did you catch the vibe?
After the previous day, I wanted to put these emotions straight into music. I headed to the studio to work with Adika, and local musician Tjatjie Bel – a Reggae artist from Geyersvlijt. Tjatjie is starting to write in English, which interested me because I wanted to go the other way and capture some of the Surinamese patois – some call it Sranan – in the music I make here.
The studio was at the back of a family home and was the first time Tjatjie and Adika had worked together, but it didn’t take me long to sketch out some ideas on my laptop. I produced the sessions; there was a good vibe with strong ideas and we put together a fresh, young, bouncy club track rooted in Surinamese style.
What was the last day like?
We visited Downtown and saw the Saint Peter and Paul cathedral – said to be the largest wooden structure in the western hemisphere, and a beautiful synagogue sitting right next to the Caribbean’s largest mosque. We ended in the large covered central market on the Waterkant. I was reminded of my dad and how he used to walk through here, buying ingredients to take home and tasting cherries as he went. HOMELANDS has reawakened my love for Suriname, and I know I will come back here again soon.
Check the link to watch DIZTORTION’s short film of his Homelands Surinamese adventure and get details of the Homelands national tour.