Love Ssega

Love Ssega is a musician and artist. He is currently Artist in Residence for Philharmonia Orchestra and his work as the original frontman and founding songwriter for Clean Bandit landed in the UK charts and has also been performed globally. The multi-arts 2021 commission ‘Airs of the South Circular’, highlights the impact of air on the Black community in South London, and reached 100,000 of his local London Borough of Lewisham’s 300,000 residents.

His Live + Breathe campaign in saw Love Ssega collaborate with local community groups in Southwark and Lambeth and record a new piece ‘Capes For Blue Skies’ with the Philharmonia Orchestra. As a result of his work and advocacy, he was invited to speak at United Nations COP26 in Glasgow. Love Ssega is currently a Trustee of Shadwell Opera, Brian Eno-led music climate initiative EarthPercent and was also awarded the Arts Foundation Music For Change Fellowship in 2022. (Photo credits: Ben Millar Cole and Sophie Harbinson)

Describe the nature around you at the moment

The nature around me is limited at the moment in London. Fortunately, the primary school on my street decided to push to get more trees planted at a time when other local governments were cutting trees down, which was a great local community campaign.

How does nature inform your practice?

I am an African man before anything else. In Africa people do not draw such distinctions between humans and nature. I think that is the biggest neoliberal con to position nature as the enemy, to make exploitation and extraction palatable and, to put it bluntly, incentivised. Right now, I think my biggest challenge is to use my music and art to get this message across that we should be at one with nature again and not be the age that killed it for future generations.

What message do you hope to share through 'Where Are We Now...?'?

I wanted to show the beauty and diversity of creative climate action and how Black artists can pose questions such as the need for sustainable social housing in a space such as the National Gallery in London. The cast of Krystal S. Lowe, Solomon O.B., Paris Crossley and Kieron Rennie all brought their personal thoughts, words, choreography and added it to my original music and direction for this public performance on Earth Day. I was able to work with incredible cinematographer Darius Shu to make it into this short film. We should remember that racial justice and equality is necessary when we talk about environmental justice, so I hope that with this video we show that people of colour are here and ready to engage with topics like reducing household emissions in the most creative, accessible and engaging way as possible.

Name a place where you feel most at ease.

When I get to visit rural parts of Uganda. There’s a lot of Bantu ancestral knowledge to capture just by being there. It’s a peaceful feeling and there are places untouched by colonialist and their missionaries. Bantu knowledge runs deep and far, it is too valuable to those who steward it.

How can music help us connect to the natural world?

Music and art is about frequencies and connections, which we get from nature. We should keep that child-like excitement we get from hearing certain insects and birds in the morning, or swimming in freshwater streams along a current. Not everybody has the luxury of being so close to nature, so it’s my role as a musician and artist to transport people there through sounds, both captured and created.

What inspires you every day?

Memes. At a time when social media has generated such misinformation, division and misdirection, the power of a good meme reminds me that people still have a very strong collective sense of humour. British humour is particularly understated and underrated. Although I try and make my music and art as accessible as possible, a lot of the research I do can be quite heavy-going and existential in tone.

Which song, book or poem nurtured your relationship with nature?

The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir, also known as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices) remind me of the purity of the human voice. We’ve invented all these instruments to mimic elements of nature, however, the voice itself can sometimes be enough. In nature, a lot of things are done collaboratively or in groups, be it bird migration, or a nest of bees. Hearing a choir of voice together reminds me that things are better when done together, and better still when done harmoniously - which is quite a learning for a solo artist.

Which rituals do you practice to keep you grounded?

I don’t have particular rituals. Instead I try to learn more about my own culture, that of the Baganda people. Oral history is very important in a number of Indigenous cultures, therefore if there was one thing I try to do it is to speak to as many elders as possible. I have found that empowering and humbling when hearing from elders of different indigenous cultures, after all, we are all humans on the same planet.

How do you connect to nature in winter? A lot of people find winter difficult and I always want to hear new ways to connect people to the outdoors during the winter season - to keep the spirits up! (question from #TheNatureKind interview with Talia Chain)

I take my cue from other species that hibernate. I take winter as a period of rest, regeneration and self-care. Slowing down should be seen as a good thing. Humans spend summers running around fields, be it walking or music festivals, therefore I see winter as a time for the fields to have a rest from us!

What question would you like to ask the next person on #TNK?

What do you grow at home? Or if you don’t grow anything, what would you love to learn to grow?

And could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind

Angela Camacho

You can find out more about Love Ssega here.

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