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“This crisis is indicative of a sick society”

“This crisis is indicative of a sick society”
Text by Nina Müller; video by Cyril Bondi, edited by Nina Müller
Today, in the context of our “Music for Tomorrow” project, we are introducing Swiss jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi, and his piece “We Need to Change”. In a written interview, Cyril tells us why he believes that politics and not the virus are responsible for the current crisis.

Cyril Bondi, age 40, describes himself as an experimentalist who loves working with others. Jazz and free jazz are the preferred domains of the Geneva-born musician. He describes improvisation as the backbone to his music. “Improvisation has allowed me to play in different contexts and to feel as much at ease in a jazz trio (Plaistow) as in experimental/traditional music (La Tène), in a pop/rock duo (cyril Cyril), or working collaboratively on a multitude of projects with “d’incise””, he tells SUISA in a written interview. Cyril’s music regularly oversteps the musical boundaries that society has erected over the years. “I have always tried to develop new things, new concepts, to play my instrument differently, to deconstruct it, reinvent it, seek new sounds, new textures”, Cyril says, explaining his musical evolution.

Bondi composed the piece “We Need to Change” exclusively for “Music for Tomorrow”. Before the lockdown, he was occupied with writing several pieces for his next solo album. He had to interrupt his projects because of the coronavirus. When he received the invitation to “Music for Tomorrow”, he realised how much he was aching for a change. Working on the piece was an intense experience. “Intense because I saw it as an opportunity to express a feeling related to what we are experiencing, this curious blend between the clear evidence of a collapsing society and the denial thereof”, Bondi explains. ”I feel this tension deeply and the creative space I plunged myself into enabled me to express it my way”. Moreover, because he normally works with a band or an orchestra, it was unusual for him to work alone.

Cyril Bondi, what are your workdays like during the corona pandemic?
Cyril Bondi: My workdays are generally organised around my family. I have three children at home, so I constantly have to look after them, help them with their homework and keep them occupied. If I want to get some work done, I have to get up early or devote the evening to work on my various projects. There’s no denying it, the pandemic has hit cultural circles with full force, and musicians even more so, underscoring the precariousness in which they have been living for years. I therefore spend much of my time handling concert cancellations and re-schedulings and checking the different aids and grants available. I am also a member of the FGMC, the Geneva federation of creation music, which brings together professional musicians of all genres, from hip hop to contemporary music, and which is trying to put forward common claims for an industry devastated by the pandemic. As a result, I don’t have much time left for my artistic work; at a certain point, I needed to get back to composing; I plunged into new pieces without knowing who I was writing for or why, apart from the need to delve back into creation. I’m also trying to get ahead with recording the Cyril Cyril (pop/rock) album and my own solo album (experimental).

What does this crisis mean for you personally?
This crisis is indicative of a sick society. We are in this situation not because of a spreading virus but because of the political choices our societies have made. Public services and hospitals are being dismantled, forests destroyed, we are exploiting, plundering, and consuming. Personally, I try to read, keep informed, have discussions with others, listen to music. These dark times make me realise just how much we need culture, the arts, and artists to inspire us, to make us dream, help us escape and make us think. We have never needed them as much as we do now.

How can the public help you at the present time?
People must be aware of the state of emergency impacting the cultural industry and stop thinking that they are contributing any aid whatsoever from behind their computers or smartphones. They must buy records, support the live artists they like, listen to the musicians living around them, and above all support the concert halls, theatres, and festivals as soon as they are allowed to re-open; because my greatest fear is yet to come. People are afraid to meet each other, touch each other, hug each other, kiss each other, dance with each other… how can we be expected to share a true moment of music?

Would it be helpful if people streamed more music from Spotify and Co.?
I think anybody would say the same: companies like Spotify, Youtube, and Facebook are looking to make as much money as possible by exploiting other people’s resources. I am one of those other people. They will never give me a penny of what you consume.

What positive effects might the current situation have in your opinion?
My hopes lie in the collective experience we are living through. Are we intelligent enough to realise that a world with fewer airplanes and cars, with more nature, a less hectic rhythm, more time spent with the family, and greater solidarity is a world where hope can be born again? This capitalist society is leading us to our downfall – we must take the opportunity to invent, create, and conceive a new world. This may be naive, but I believe that everyone today can understand this message.

Do you have a message for your fans?
Listen, sing, dance, and go out!

“Music for Tomorrow”
The Covid-19 crisis has hit SUISA’s members particularly hard. The main source of income for many composers and publishers has completely been lost: Performances of any kind have been prohibited by the Federal Government until further notice. In the coming weeks, we will be posting portraits of some of our members on the SUISAblog. They will tell us what moves them during the Covid-19 crisis, what their challenges are and what their working day currently looks like. The musicians also performed and filmed their own composition for the SUISAblog at home or in their studio. SUISA pays the musicians a fee for this campaign.

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