Interview: Briga on "Femme," Cultural Appropriation, and More

This past Wednesday, April 5th, Le Divan Orange hosted the launch of Femme, the fourth album by musician Brigitte Dajczer, better known as Briga. For the time of a night, the small Plateau venue was taken on a travel around the world, from the streets of Istanbul to the vast lands of Europe's Eastern countries. CJLO spoke with the artist herself on the inspiration behind Femme, cultural appropriation and its confusing concept, and more.

"Femme was born from the idea that as I was touring a lot, last year, I realized that very often, I was playing in projects with men," Briga said. "I know there's many female musicians and singers out there. We're all out there. But I asked myself the question, why is it that in the circles I choose to collaborate in, why are they all male dominated? What's going on here?"

It was after discussing with other fellow musicians—who, on the other hand, had only collaborated with women—that she decided to put forward an album that would do just that: feature women in the music industry in its songs. "While I was composing the music, I would think about that specific person I would invite to collaborate on the song," she shared. "I would write the song, talking to them about it." She also mentioned she wanted to make sure to bring out "their musicianship, their vast knowledge and talent. [...] That's why it's called Femme."

When listening to the album, it's obvious that various influences have made up its originally Balkan instrumentalization—for example, the first track "Ibrahim" features Didem Başar on the kanun (or qanun), an instrument often present in Middle-Eastern, Maghreb, and Southeastern European music, while the catchy "420 Elfassi" brings together a violin melody and hip-hop beats. With such a variety in sounds from all around the world also comes a certain fear: veering from cultural appreciation to cultural appropriation.

"I'm constantly asking myself that question, especially in the line of work that I do," Briga shared. "If you're entering more of a collaborative spirit with people, and you're open to cultural exchanges, learning, integrating yourself into communities, and there's a contextualization of what you're doing and learning from people of another culture, I find that... you're exchanging, in a more ethical way." It's not about owning a culture, she also mentioned, but about sharing experiences and knowledge. 

"I think, if I were to sum up cultural appropriation... it's like, you discovered something cool, and it's from somewhere else, so you like the 'exoticness' of it, and you're not really gonna go further than that." Especially in a 'colonialist mindset,' cultural appropriation would fall under taking something from elsewhere, without looking further into it, she said. "You're gonna say, 'I like that, that's mine,' without asking yourself, 'Where does this come from? What is this? Maybe I could ask around about it? [...] What does it mean? What does it symbolize?'"

When listening to Femme, Briga's thoughtful insight comes through, in a way. Each song shows a lot of work behind it, from the collaborators picked to each of the songs' distinct sound—and most importantly, the lyrics. It was one of the reasons why Briga wanted to put out the album so soon. "We started recording the album on February 5th, and then six weeks later, it was at the manufacturer, being printed," she explained. "That's an abnormally fast amount of time."

But why the rush? "All my writing was about current events!" she exclaimed. "It just seems that, in the past few years, there's been an acceleration of crises in the world... While I was writing the album, I didn't really realize that; I just felt this relentless sense of urgency to get stuff out. I had this urgency to speak, I had this urgency to write."

Overall, Femme manages to bring out the best of Briga's talent—at the violin, with her vocals, but also as a songwriter—as well as portray the artist's insight on all sorts of things about life. When asked about what she wants her audience to retain from the album, she gave two words.

"Beauty and the sublime," she said. "And how beauty and the sublime are born from a complicated mix of things. It's through the collision of worlds, and cultures, and music, that beautiful things happen, and beautiful things can also be terrifying."

"I want people to feel, when they listen to the album, that's it's sublime, and that something that's sublime can be as terrifying as [it can be] relaxing and gorgeous, all at the same time," she concluded with a smile.

Check out Briga's brand new album Femme on Bandcamp below!

All photos by Sarah Boumedda.