Creative polymaths putting Sardinia on the map
“The abstract substance of our dreams” is the perfect description of OTHERWHERE, a spellbinding universe born out of a Big Bang collision between Sardinian-born powerhouses – musical virtuoso BLUEM and storytelling masterminds NARÈNTE . Captivating the viewer from the first second, the audiovisual project is a testament to the island’s enthralling heritage and exciting future. Adele, BLUEM’s latest single, integrates Italian folkloric singing techniques with contemporary electronic production, and hauntingly breathes through NARÈNTE’s hypnotic visuals spotlighting Sardinian character with depth and sophistication. Walking on the outlines of time, OTHERWHERE teleports us to a new entrancing ground, both surreal and familiar, – all while expanding our perceptions of Italy way beyond what White Lotus gave us. In light of the release, we caught up with the artists to learn more about the film, their creative drivers and Sardinian scene.
Hey, great to be in touch! Congratulations on the recent release – the project looks absolutely stunning. Tell me about what drew you to each other’s work?
BLUEM: Hi there! I’ve been obsessed by Lucio and Franco’s work for a long time before we started speaking about this project. I actually sent a message to my label precisely one year before starting to work with them, showing a stunning video NARÈNTE had made for another one of their projects, and saying “in one year I’m going to be working on a visual project with them”. And that’s exactly what happened. Sardinian witch psychic powers.
Haha, talk about manifesting!
NARÈNTE: We are so happy about the final outcome and the response we are getting on OTHERWHERE. We have been following BLUEM’s project for a while and we fell in love with her musical universe as well as her references. We immediately thought it could be a great match. We saw her live last summer and after that, we said to each other “okay, our next project has to be connected with her and her sound”.
BLUEM, the motif from Adele is taken from a traditional form of folk singing called ‘Cantu a tenore’ – what is the story behind it that inspired your take on it?
‘Cantu a tenore’ is a key example of traditional polyphonic folk singing from our island. Probably one of the sounds that represent it better and attract so many foreigners to our musical history. I think it truly sounds magical, it just draws the listener into another dimension thousands of years old. The sample I have used was a recording used in an original composition by Adele Madau, an amazing violinist and composer from Sardinia who allowed me to use her work on my track. I think she treated the cantu a tenore singing in a wonderful way because she made it sound so contemporary, which was something that I failed to do many times when I tried. I guess I was just too scared of betraying the tradition by modifying its sound, instead she just went for it and she nailed it.
NARÈNTE, what were your first thoughts when you heard Adele?
By mixing together two very different worlds (traditional and folk music and club sound), Adele caught our attention from the very first notes. We thought not only would it be the perfect song to soundtrack our visual project ‘OTHERWHERE’, but that in a sense it felt like a musical transposition of our purer visual poetry.
The synchrony of your visions is definitely felt throughout. Talk me through the process of collaboration between you both on this project!
BLUEM: Lucio and Franco came to me during the summer saying they wanted to collaborate, which I was obviously very excited about. I was still in the early stages of working on my new music, but I sent them the first draft of Adele and we clicked. When they showed me what they had in mind for the video, I was instantly inspired to move to a precise direction with the production of the song. In the end, I really think it feels like they were made for each other, although they started/came from different minds.
NARÈNTE: As soon as we listened to the draft and BLUEM went through our video script, the three of us kinda started to think collectively to the outcome we wanted to achieve. Somehow, Adele influenced a lot OTHERWHERE and, probably, viceversa.
NARÈNTE, tell me more about the inspirations and symbolism in the visual narrative?
For the indoor scenes, we wanted to create a combination of time and space that had to be representative of everyone’s identity. In a space / no-space, all the characters move following their own paths, until they find themselves and their individual freedom(s) in the disco scene, where they experience the most authentic union. The outdoor locations and characters are – for us – symbols of four specific archetypes that bring us back to our roots: land, sea, stone and the seed of future.
BLUEM, I love the combination of folklore motifs and electronic club beats in your work. What are some of the influences on such a unique sound, and how are they reflected in your approach to music-making?
I am very much influenced by Sardinian traditional music, sometimes in my singing and sometimes in my production. I moved to the UK when I was eighteen, and after a while I started becoming very nostalgic – that’s when I began to include traditional elements in my work. One of the things that goes to my advantage is that I have been away from Sardinia for so long that the way I recall its sound is indeed nostalgic, but also not always very attached to the tradition. It’s more like a distant memory. In my eight years in London, I’ve listened to a lot of different kinds of music and I am now very much into electronic and UK club music. I am also very much obsessed with Latin music and I always love a project that has a strong connection to the roots of the artist. I listen to a lot of Sevdaliza and Rosalìa, for example.
I also love the styling choices in the film! Could you tell me about the role of fashion in communicating your message?
NARÈNTE: Fashion is always a fundamental part of our work, it completes and emphasises the message we want to convey. For OTHERWHERE, together with the Milan-based Sardinian stylist Giorgia Melis, we studied a specific look for each and every character, trying to enhance/underline their personality. For the outdoor characters, the more “abstract” ones, we wanted them to look more distant and, somehow, ethereal.
BLUEM: I was very happy to take part in a project where fashion was a key element because I’ve always been very much into it when it comes to creative expression, and I have curated a lot of the fashion for both for my visual projects in the past and for my live shows. NARÈNTE did an amazing job together with Giorgia Melis to represent the individuals with the clothes they chose, and I really love the fact that they used fashion to contribute to the contemporary perspective on Sardinian based projects.
Speaking of which, can you tell me a bit about Sardinian creative scene at the moment – what is the most special aspect of it for you? Any names we should familiarise ourselves with?
NARÈNTE: Each and every talent who worked in this project is, for us, not only interesting, but deeply connected with Sardinian roots. Having the island as your first base isn’t the easiest thing when it comes to connections with the outside world. Translating our heritage in something that can be seen and understood everywhere is what we have in common with the people we work with.
BLUEM: I think the most special aspect of it for me is that if you encounter a Sardinian creative, most of the time they will be proudly including their roots in their work. It feels to me like we all want really badly to show that we are here, that we come from a place that is so rich in terms of beauty and history and so many people are not aware of it yet if they haven’t experienced it directly. We give them a chance to experience it through our work. Valeria Cherchi (photographer), GianMarco Porru (visual artist), Iosonouncane (musician), Alek Hidell (musician), Francesca Floris and Fabrizio di Palma (film & animation), these are just some names you can check out.
What is the bigger goal of this project?
BLUEM: To enhance an amazing visual project, to hopefully contribute to the evolution of Sardinian contemporary art and the way it is perceived from the outside, to grow, to raise the voice of a new generation of creatives.
NARÈNTE: our goal, especially with our latest projects, is always to spread our vision further and, possibly, to constantly evolve.
The final result is such a striking exploration of how the past informs the future. Where do you see yourselves in your future?
BLUEM: I don’t like thinking about it too much, instead I hope I will be constantly surprised and use whatever comes to me to grow as a human being and a creative. I am very excited for the future of Sardinian artists and, being one of them, I’ll make sure I will stay genuine and wise when telling my story.
NARÈNTE: We’ve lived in a lot of places, first Milan and Bologna, then Berlin. We will be in Paris for a while in the next few months. We like to have our first base on the island – bringing our vision elsewhere, and be influenced by those places as well as possibly influence other people with our stories. Therefore we haven’t a specific place in mind for our future, it’s more like an imaginary place that could be everywhere ..or the otherwhere…