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E.T Le Créateur is out of this world
An interview with Congolese-Australian artist, E.T Le Créateur.
Etima Lokondo is pacing the room of a studio apartment overlooking Sydney’s Darling Harbour, as the sun dips below the horizon on a Saturday afternoon. His laptop, splayed open on a couch an arm’s length away, displays an assortment of looped melodies and basslines that play in the background as we speak. Occasionally, he pauses, often in the middle of a sentence — he appears captivated by a sound that’s struck his ear. “This drum kick”, he tells me, “It’s common in the Congo. Lingala dance music is known for it”, referring to a popular Congolese modern dance genre. The track we’re listening to is a soon-to-be-released single from his upcoming EP, Lucid Dreaming.
Growing up in the Congo and moving to Australia
What was your experience like in the Congo, growing up in Kinshasa?
My experience in Kinshasa… I would say, I had the best childhood ever. My Dad’s family and my Mum’s family lived on the same street, just 5 or 6 houses down from each other. From when I was two years old, I would run from my Dad’s family to my Mum’s — everyone on that street knew me and would watch over me. Everybody loved me. Also, most people don’t realise, but my Dad’s family name is Lokondo, and my Mum’s is Etima, so I actually inherited both of my parents’ family names. People used to tell me, “This kid, he’ll go far. This kid has such amazing soul!” I think those things have followed me all the way to Australia.
What brought you to Sydney, and what has your experience been like living here so far?
My Dad’s family has been involved in politics for a long time. My Dad was actually a leader of a political party in the Congo. There was a power struggle back in the late 90’s, and my Dad decided to move us all the way to Australia. In terms of my experience here in Sydney, the perception of people about the Congo is funny. A lot of people assume being born in Africa means that you must be poor, you must not have electricity, you must not have food. People will ask things like, “How did you escape?” It’s nothing like people think! I went to a performing arts school in Kinshasa before coming here, and yes… we had food and electricity.
Also, I think Sydney has much less of a sense of community than Kinshasa. Most people are out for themselves here. Personally, I really love people and I want to improve peoples’ lives, make people happy. We’re all in this life together, so we have to support each other. And that’s why I love techno. The techno music culture in Sydney is like one big family. Most other genres aren’t like that. Everybody shows you love and has a good time. Those are my type of people.
Personal identity and cultural influences
Whenever I see you, you have your face painted with patterns of white dots. Can you tell me more about the story behind that?
So, the dot facial art tradition has origins in Ethiopia and the Congo, as far as I know. The Karo people of Ethiopia have been doing it for centuries, as well as the Mbuti people in the North of the Congo.
For me personally, the dots represent constellations of the Universe. I do it just to remind people that we’re on Earth to search and ask the hard questions: Where are we from? What are we here for? Is this reality? Maybe we’re just lucid dreaming.
Through what I wear, I’m also sending the message that you should never live your life based on what other people expect of you. I don’t know if it’s just how my parents raised me, but my self-esteem is bulletproof. People are always commenting on my face paint, and I tell them “You can do it too!” Be a good person, and just do the things that make you happy. By extension, you’ll be good to other people. When you love yourself, that vibe is going to be transmitted to everybody.
Your stage name is E.T Le Créateur. What’s the meaning behind the moniker?
Well, E.T Le Créateur translates to ‘E.T The Creator’. With my name, I’m letting people know that you are the creator of everything, so you can do anything. Through your voice and your actions, you can bring into existence anything that you would like to see in this world. ‘I am’ because ‘you are’ because ‘we all are’ the creators of everything we see around us.
Vision for the Congo
Do you plan to return to the Congo?
Sooner or later, I want to go home. I’m always talking about it! My vision is to have my own film and record production company there. We need to shift to a more positive, uplifting culture, and that starts with what people watch and listen to. Across Africa, when you look at what people watch right now, they’re taught to subconsciously worship anything that’s white, in a land that’s full of black people. If we want Africa to prosper, we have to uproot all of that negative stuff and cultivate a culture of positivity. A culture where to be black is to be beautiful.
What are your thoughts on the political climate in the Congo right now?
I don’t speak about politics or the war very much. I’ll say that people in power, if they can sense that this guy is going to be a big threat, they’re going to fight you. My Dad [Bosona Lokondo] has written some really influential books about the path the Congo should take, and he has a lot more to say.
Editor’s note: Etima’s father, Basona Lokondo, is a founding member of the Mouvement National Communiste, a revolutionary Congolese political party. He was a vocal critic of the Kabila Government during the 1997 Civil War.
Creative process and upcoming EP
What are the biggest sources of inspiration behind your music?
The inspiration behind a lot of my music is the techno community and Congolese culture. I think it comes down to the energy and vibrations. Most of techno music doesn’t really have vocals or lyrics. Just melody and base. You catch the frequency, the vibe. I think this reflects how humans actually communicate — it’s much more through body language and vibe. See, when we open our mouths we often choose our words carefully, because we do it consciously. But you can’t consciously control your body language, the way you move in a scene, the energy, the frequency you give off. It is, what it is. And it’s revealing. That’s what I love about it.
Tell me about the creative process for your upcoming EP? What does the creation of a new track look like?
The creative process… often I just feel like I need to capture a moment, a feeling, and transform that into a song. I always have my phone with me, so when I feel that, I start recording a demo on my phone on the spot. Then when I’m home, on my laptop, I listen to it and try to remember how beautiful that moment was. Also, my producer is like my second brain, so I give him all of my unfinished projects to give me feedback and creative input. You need people around you. Nobody is ever self-made.
With my music, I’m trying to travel back in time and transcend that moment, that energy, through every track.