A sound archive

Europe’s immigrant roots

The web project “Black Med” is a diverse sound archive of the Mediterranean region. It shows how European culture has been influenced by Africa and Asia for thousands of years
The screenshot shows a black background with a gray wavy pattern. At the top of the page is a short biography of the 8th century artist Abul-Hasan Alí Ibn Nafi in white letters, accompanied by an image from a historical atlas showing the territory of Andalusia in southern Spain.

Screenshot of the online archive „Black Med“ by artist duo Invernomuto


Interview by Ruben Donsbach

Mr Bertuzzi,  Mr Trabucchi, what was your intention in creating the digital space Black Med?

blackmed.invernomuto.info came from a wider project called Black Med, which we started for the Manifesta12 in Palermo in 2018. Black Med is a living archive containing music and sound from the Mediterranean region.

The digital space is based on an algorithm able to play with the tracks and to broadcast an endless stream, you can listen to it as a web radio, or follow its contents through texts and visual media which appear as pop-ups. 

 What sort of content do you feature?

One particular song is a good example of Black Med and that is Caravan II Baghdad by Hamid Baroudi, 1994. Baroudi is a musician and singer born in Tiaret (Algeria). The video clip was shot in the desert of Almeria in Andalusia, in the southeast of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea.

Parts of Andalusia were ruled by the so-called Moors for almost eight centuries, leaving an outstanding cultural legacy. This video reflects these memories. 

“We wanted to create a living archive for music and sound in the Mediterranean region”

What audience was this music targeting and how does that relate to “Black Med”?

Curiously, Caravan II Baghdad was also one of the biggest musical hits to be blasted in the Adriatic Riviera in eastern Italy in the early 1990s. It was played in infamous clubs such as the Melodj Mecca. In an interview (published in Black Med, Humboldt Books, 2022) with DJ Pery – resident DJ of the club for twenty years – he recalls playing this song over and over.

In the Riviera in the 80s and 90s, people used to say that they would go to dance “Afro”. Pery, along with Daniele Baldelli, Dj Meo and Mozart, was one of the main protagonist of this spontaneous scene.

They weren’t necessarily playing music from Africa, but an eclectic mix of Fela Kuti, Brasilian bossa nova, sitar music from India, disco and funk. To quote Pery’s words: “the term ‘Afro’ doesn’t strictly relate to African music but suggests an idea of the global.”

This song is a good metaphor for Black Med:  it was produced on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, its music clip was shot on the Iberian peninsula and finally it became a hit on the Adriatic Sea – where tourists from around the world spend their summer vacations.

How does the increasing hostility towards cultural exchange among Mediterranean states and the rising nationalistic discourse across Europe affect your work and approach? 

 In the recent past a number of listening sessions took place, like chapters of the project. The last one, chapter VIII ,was created in 2022 at OGR in Turin and it is a sound journey that crosses different borders, thwarting narratives based on the impermeability of European borders.

“Back then in the Rivera people said they went to dance ‘afro’ which meant a global electronic mix”

Landlines, oceans, and borders armed by European Union states are plowed through to pick holes in the idea of a Europe that shuns its transnational and migratory roots.

How do you relate to Paul Gilroy and the Black Atlantic, the 1993 book about a black Atlantic culture fusing elements of African, American, British, and Caribbean cultures?

Black Med takes its title from the notion of Mediterraneo Nero/Black Mediterranean, developed by scholar Alessandra Di Maio, who teaches English and African Literature and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Palermo, Italy. Our project was designed on Di Maio’s theoretical premises but of course her concept of the Black Mediterranean is based on Gilroy’s Black Atlantic.

Paul Gilroy also provided a selection of songs for the Black Med archive, these are the words accompanying his mix: “I wanted people to hear how Mediterranean, and wider European musical cultures, had been re-shaped by their extensive, fertile contact with distant and travelling traditions.” We think this explains everything.