Following the release of his debut album ‘Polytone’ on his own Labo T imprint, we caught up with Teho to discuss the concept of the LP…
You travelled a lot with your parents when you were young. Can you tell us about your experiences? Where did you go? What did you see?
When I was three years old, I went from France to Senegal in a Land Rover with my parents, so we went through many countries (Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Gambia and Senegal). I don’t remember a lot from these travels because I was too young, but I have the feeling it helped me to become familiar with different cultures. I still have the pictures from that trip at home of when we drank tea with Tuaregs in the middle of the Sahara desert, which is pretty unusual!
Later, when I was 8 years old, we went again to the south of Senegal, a region called Casamance, and I remember how wild it was. Crocodiles swimming around us when we travelled down the river in a small boat, or again some pelicans that were bigger than I was.
These are two examples of my trips when I was really young, but I travelled more when I was older than this.
How did each place differ and how did this influence you?
I think you can imagine how different Sub Saharan Africa is from Europe. The traditions, the cultures, the landscapes, the houses are so different at every point! And those differences influenced me to understand Europe is not the centre of the world. There are so many people who live differently than we do and I was interested to learn how they do.
You recently released your new album ‘Polytone’. What’s the message behind the compilation? And how is this explored in each track?
I wanted to share a message of acceptance and understanding between humans, and in my opinion, the best way to make it happen is step by step, accept and understand that the differences between all of us are not a weakness but a strength. So I tried, in each track, to use different instruments and different types of vocals. For example, in ‘Yamataï’ I used the Koto which is a traditional string instrument from Japan, but also a Japanese flute called Shakuhachi and a Guzheng. In this album, I explored many cultures from all over the world through my music to make a one and only universal piece of music. This is the message, we are all on the same planet, why can’t we live in harmony.
Are there any sounds we should listen out for?
I think any sound can be music ! I sampled the rain in ‘GV’ to add a feeling of sadness and melancholy into this track, or in ‘Eagles’, I sampled the scream of an eagle when I went to the USA. If you are talking about music in my album, I think you should listen to them all! Hahaha!
Why the title ‘Polytone’?
I created this word for two reasons. First, it means the plurality of the tons, which reflects the message of my album pretty well. And then, by opposition of monotony (monotone in French), because I didn’t want to make a repetitive album with only one ‘colour’ of music.
How do you hope the album will influence others?
I hope the audience will start to understand the different cultures from other countries when they are listening to different sounds and instruments from all over the world and then, accept them. I think Electronic Music is good for this because without lyrics in it, it’s already universal in a way.
What do you think we can do as individuals to encourage understanding and acceptance?
I don’t think we have to do anything actually except talk about it. If we try to force people to accept and understand, or fight against intolerant people, it won’t work and that’s how dictators do things, right ? Talking about it and saying ‘we are different, ok, so what?’ is the best thing to do in my opinion.
Have you any plans to further spread your message?
Not really, I wanted to share this message of peace and harmony in the album, and as I said, the best way to succeed, is to let people understand by themselves that we live all together on this world, so maybe the best for everyone is to live in peace.
Listen to Teho’s ‘Polytone’ LP below –