was a performance which happened seven times over six months.
I played ‘nostalgic’ non-Western music in the tram and at tram stops in Antwerp. I crafted a playlist carefully through friends’ recommendations and tried to play the songs unobtrusively and non sarcastically ‘for the people’.
Sundays are bad, fridays are good – playing non-western music in Antwerp trams, 2017, action, audio device, portable speaker, photo documentation by David Kalema
Transcript of my artist talk at The Beauty of Difference at Bush Theatre in London, 2019, describing the work.
Antwerp is racially very segregated. Everybody stays in their enclaves. One of my British friends came here for the first time and couldn’t believe how boujee it was. My teachers say Belgians have the most money just sitting there on their accounts. I pointed at the Central Station and said its beautiful and completely built on Congolese blood.
Only on public transport they mingle. North, East, West Africans, Asians, old Belgians.
I asked my friends with foreign roots to sent me music their parents used to play at home. The idea of music behind doors, private. I was living in a shared house at the time and I realised I played Cambodian music less cos I was sharing my space. But Justin Bieber was everywhere.
I was sent a playlist of Berbers, Turkish, Congolese etc music.
On a November night I got in the tram at 9pm.
I had a small bluetooth speaker and my shitty Nexus phone and there were 3 people on the tram. I started playing a Moroccan song and a dude with a big beard turned around and looked at me with a fierce look so I turned it off.
We went on a little loop and a couple came in. I replayed the Moroccan tune, and a saw a glimpse of a smile on the guys face. That gave me all the confidence I needed.
We reached Borgerhout which is mostly foreigners and the tram 24 filled up and I played the songs very loud. People young and old were looking as to where the music came from. My lil bluetooth speaker sat calmly on my lap and I remained having a straight face. They would talk amongst themselves, look at me, laugh and sometimes someone would have the courage to ask me what I am doing. I said I just like the music.
I got off at central station, I was playing Syrian songs. Two men, North African looking and middle aged, came up and then stood next to me, waited for a few seconds, and left. It was like they wanted to say something but words or actions weren’t there. I saw a white guy dancing behind the tram station.
One other evening an old Moroccan grandma started to chatting to me how much she loved what I did and how much she loved the music.
To me, I felt as closest to the city I could have been, and to me, it was an ode to all the foreigners trying to stay alive and sane in that little city.