Cherishing Freedom

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On the 26th of January, Saudade Experiment will again provide la Rotonde with their homegrown innovative nu-soul. Since the release of their debut EP Flowers and Dust in 2018 and successor IKIGAI in 2019, their atypical sounds and blend of soul, indie, jazz and hip hop quickly attracted the attention of the Belgian music scene. Tune in as we talk with founder and singer Junior Bokele about music, life and much more.

Tell us something more about yourself. Where do you live, work, and eat? 

I live in Brussels – Woluwe Saint-Lambert. I work in music as a DJ, as an artist, a guitarist: loads of stuff (laughs). My hustle at the moment is to get Saudade Experiment up and running, but it’s always a bit of a struggle. 

You mentioned you also work as a DJ, is it something you do very often, or more of a fringe activity?

Well, I used to play from time to time before the pandemic, but then a friend of mine pushed me a little to play during his finissage, which I did. After that, other friends also started to ask me to play for them on various occasions and for a couple of months, I've been playing literally every week. I didn’t really expect it, but yeah, it’s happening (laughs). 

How did you start making music?

I started making music quite late, to be honest, I was about 16. Before that, I was actually really into acting; that was ‘the path’ I was supposed to follow, but then I decided differently (laughs). At 15-16, my interest in music slowly started to replace my occupation with acting and I haven’t stopped since. 

Are there some important figures for you in music? People who influenced your music or how you approach it?

It’s always a bit complicated to answer this question – I’d say R&B and hip hop came first, but when I discovered guitar playing, I became more into soul, rock and indie rock. Then also jazz came along. The thing is, I’ve always been fascinated by the UK culture, so living in London played a big part. I was amazed at how art was made there, and how people were inspired there all the time, you know? In terms of music, it has been quite a big thing for me. But of course, also the US scene played a part – Motown of course, but even rock and jazz obviously. I also loved the Soulquarians: Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, D’Angelo, you name it. 

I understand you lived in London for a while and that played a part in forming your creativity, how was the experience?

I moved there on my own but visited with my family before that. Initially, I wanted to stay for a year, but it lasted a little longer (laughs). The goal was to study there, but that didn’t work out because of the costs, so I started working as a chef but also did open mic’s, hanging out with other musicians etc. 

Some time ago you started Saudade Experiment, how did that come to be?

Well, I started out with some guys from Antwerp (Nathan Van Brande, Arthur Lonneux and Brice Deconinck), but because of the pandemic and the different projects we were working on, it became really difficult to keep the project going. As the one who writes the music and stuff, it made sense just to keep on going. I’m just trying to find new ways to express and develop myself within the project; that’s also when the name change from Saudade to Saudade Experiment came about – the music and the project are all about the experiment: it made sense for me to move from there. 

Saudade Experiment's style has been described as groovy soul, indie rock, jazzy and electronic. The so-called British sound is also very present, what makes this sound and the culture around it so attractive to you?

It’s quite simple for me: in the UK people get very interested when you’re creative when you have this ‘different side’ of you to explore. There is a general open-mindedness and that’s definitely reflected in Saudade Experiment; trying to find new ways to play music etc. For example, the first two EPs are quite different from each other, and that’s the idea: I really want to play the music I want when I want it. When artists get recognition for their work but then decide to mix things up, people often get mad. But doesn’t it only make sense to change and move on all the time? For me that’s key: I wanted to keep this freedom and give people the possibility to listen to different things from me. Why should I stick to one method if I don’t want to? I always wanted Saudade to be more like a collective, a platform you know. I may have a different musician later on, that all depends on where I want to go musically.

I always wanted Saudade to be more like a collective, a platform you know

I guess Saudade Experiment is the perfect name for the jazzy and dreamy soul sentiment you want to evoke with your music. In Portuguese, it means something like a feeling of longing or a blend of melancholy and joyful reminiscence. Apart from that, it’s quite impossible to fully translate. Is that what jazz and soul are all about for you?

Yes, totally. That’s also why I don’t really like to explain my music – what this and that track may mean and so on. The feeling you get from music or a painting only derives from you and your general knowledge about it; I want people to ‘understand’ my music from their point of view and not mine and that’s exactly why the name Saudade inspired me so much.

I want people to ‘understand’ my music from their point of view

Where do you seek inspiration and enjoyment apart from your music?

Well, everything is about music at the moment, but I also like to experiment with other media to get creative. I’m interested in a lot of things, but it always takes time to develop yourself! Lately, I’ve been working a lot with 3D motion, visuals and stuff. Again, it always takes a lot of time. 

What does the future hold on an artistic level? What would you like to realize in the future with or without Saudade Experiment?

I really want to go abroad with Saudade Experiment and work with like-minded people. That’s something I’m really looking forward to. Other than that I would say the 3D motion, I’m quite obsessed with it at the moment (chuckles). I really love it. Those are basically the main focuses right now… Now that I think of it, I would like to work with Flemish artists in the future as well! I really like ‘Flemish craziness’ in terms of music.

I really like ‘Flemish craziness’ in terms of music


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