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  • Natalie Greffel on myth music, Afropean consciousness and the Berlin jazz scene


Natalie Greffel on myth music, Afropean consciousness and the Berlin jazz scene

We caught up with Natalie Greffel ahead of her appearance at XJAZZ! Festival on May 12.

Photo: Natalie Greffel

Originally from Mozambique and raised in Denmark, Natalie Greffel is one of the most exciting new artists on the Berlin jazz scene, offering a unique take on Afro-Brazilian music.

A music student in Berlin in 2010, Greffel went on to win a Creole music competition in 2017, before releasing her debut album Para Todos in 2020. She’s just one of the many exciting Berlin-based artists performing at this year’s XJazz! Festival.

Exberliner caught up with the musician to find out more her record’s concepts and leanings, and what we can expect from her up-coming performance.

How’s Berlin for Afro-Brazilian music at the moment?

Well, since I am not from Brazil I am not sure I would be the most qualified person to answer this question. Brazilian music and art exist on many social levels, expressed especially through the Afro-Brazilians and some non-Afro-Brazilians who are present in Berlin. From what I see and hear through my artistic communities is that the music they create when received as a leisure and enjoyment is accepted pretty well in Berlin, but the artists themselves don’t receive the same acceptance and opportunities.  

I recommend these names: La Byle (Music Collective), Sanni Est, Nara Virgens and Dj Grace Kelly

It says in your bio you competed in a Creole music competition in Berlin. Can you explain more about that?

We are thinking deeply about the care of Black bodies and minds, rituals, creative music

Yes, so I applied for the competition back in 2017 when I had just finished writing a few songs for the album which became Para Todos. The organizers of what used to be called Werkstatt der Kulturen (now Oyoun)  approached me and said I should try it out, and I became part of the three bands that won and I spent the money on recording the album.

In a summary, what is your album Para Todos about?

Para Todos is an album about my initial engagement with colonial legacies and connections between my Mozambican heritage and Afro-Brazilian music. I wanted to engage with the music of the Black diaspora which was rooted in a common Portuguese language and see what would come from that experience.  

About the record, you say it is an attempt to deconstructs the paradigm of Brazilian music. How does one attempt to do that?

Hmm, not so much deconstruct but more converse with it. Two examples; the lyrics I had been presented with in Brazilian music are testimonies of their cultural stories, the land, and their experiences, so I did not repeat these writing styles but instead maintained their rhythmical phrasing and inserted my personal experiences and life.

Another example is learning a few rhythms and styles such as Baião, Maracatu, and Partito Alto, and thinking about how these can still exist without having to create a replica of them. My song “Canto pra Você” exemplifies that reflection, which started with the Baião rhythm.  

What have you learned since your last record, and how can you see it shaping your next record?

I have learned a lot! I started playing bass live, and not just practicing in my room after the record came out so now I think more deeply about rhythms and how to be rooted in music through different positions. In between Para Todos and my next record, I also started a framework for thinking more deeply about the social truths of music-making for Afropeans in conversation with the African diaspora and Africa. This project is called New Past and we are currently releasing our vinyl with the New York label Coloring Lessons.

Where can people expect to see you performing in Berlin?

XJAZZ! Festival on the 12th of May with the incredible artist Angel Bat Dawid.

What have you been up to recently, and what can we expect from you down the road?

I just finished my master thesis (composition/performance) on framing Afropean consciousness through myth music and ‘imaginagency’. I had to do both a written thesis and musical recital on that topic. Besides that I’ve been collaborating with Muscle Car, Angel Bat Dawid, and bringing out new music as New Past, a project I that I’ve worked together on with Philo, Eden Girma, and Morgan Guerin.

Coming up now I will buckle down and practice, transcribe music, and work on my album under Natalie Greffel. 

What can we expect from your XJAZZ! show?

Something different and focused. I am currently talking a lot with Angel as part of our preparation for the concert and our relationship. We are thinking deeply about the care of Black bodies and minds, rituals, creative music, dreams, cyclical time, and how to envision our music through digital sound sculpturing. It’s hard to summarise because I don’t even know where we will go yet and we are deep in the thinking right now. But it will for sure be lovely.

  • XJAZZ! Festival May 8-14, Kreuzberg, more info here.