By Mariam Ben Slama
It all started in front of a door at 85 rue du Barbâtre on a cold Tuesday night. I had been waiting for this moment since the beginning of the day and the curiosity was eating me alive. The door was open but we rang the bell anyways, someone buzzed us in and like the door of Narnia’s wardrobe, a smaller one opened and the head of a guy appeared. He looked at us, waiting for us to introduce ourselves. “We’re here for the interview” I mumbled. He smiled and welcomed us in. We were inside a small room with six other people; One of them was trying out the piano while the others were getting their instruments ready for their second rehearsal. In front of me, were the members of Elefunk, the Euraf band at the campus of Reims.
When asked when Elefunk first came to life, D’Johé Kouadio, Euraf 2A, was the first to answer, responding that “The first one appeared on the Paris Campus, since the Euro-African program started there before coming to Reims, but their name wasn’t Elefunk. The one on campus only started three years ago.”
Constance Dérouin, Euraf 2A, the pianist and singer of the band, added that “it has obviously changed since. We have recently won 5,000 euros after winning a contest that allowed us to buy new instruments and therefore to change our style with percussions, a new piano and a drum set. It allowed us to diversify the sounds that we use and to evolve every year.”
As the interview continued, more and more people came in to get their instruments. The group went from eight to 14 people very quickly. With such a large group, I couldn’t help but wonder aloud how all of the members could agree on the same things when it came to music. Florian Bobin, Euraf 2A, answered that “this year is going to be complicated to all agree on the same thing but it is definitely way more fluid and simpler than last year. It also depends on the complementarity of the members and how they perceive music. We just wish to win the Minicrit this year!”
The Minicrit is an end-of-year competition between Sciences Po’s seven campuses in various athletic and artistic fields. Elefunk won last year’s competition. All of the members started smiling and laughing while recalling some memories of their victory.
“It was wonderful!” noted one member, “it was great to see that all our work finally paid off. It wasn’t just rehearsing for two hours and then participating and winning. It took a lot of time and arrangements and instruments. When we represent the Eurafs, there is this desire to stand out and show our strength since we are a bit looked down on sometimes.”
According to Maelyss Laval, Euraf 2A, a new member of Elefunk, their music “is all about having fun and hanging out with friends while having a good time.”
Samuel Kyabuntu Mpyana, Euraf 2A, added that “…music is for expressing yourself about yourself. Sometimes it is hard to speak so music can do that for you. It is also expressing your culture and explain your [sic] interest while conveying a message.”
What is the message that Elefunk is trying to convey through their art? They all agree that “Elefunk is about the diversity of the Euro-African program and we try to have that in our band as well with diverse origins and backgrounds”
When asked about the number of nationalities that are in the band, Nils Bourdin, Euraf 1A, said “our only nationality is music.” Everyone applauded his comment with a pinch of irony, truly knowing that the link that reunited them all was their passion for music and Africa. This resulted in a discussion about the presence of both the Euram and Euraf programs on campus and the lack of representation of the later due to their small number.
After trying to get everyone back on track after many jokes, celebrity impersonations, and accent imitations, Kouadio responded, saying that “we are a huge campus with a big Euro-American program. We see ourselves as a small community inside that same campus. We have more to prove and we have to impose ourselves in order to be represented and noticed. There is also the fact that we don’t use the same instruments as the other bands. We are more diverse when it comes to sonorities, as each member brings a piece of where they come from to stick it with the melodies. We also enjoy ourselves on stage and are just there to have a good time with a group of friends. ”
In the wake of their impending departure, the second year members commented on what the band as taught them. While there were a variety of different answers, everyone agreed with Antoine Gondret, Euraf 2A, who said that “Elefunk has taught us that despite the difficulties that we can face while writing together, we all add something to the band that reinforces its authenticity. It makes us happy despite the hardships and brings this collectivity that stimulates us to do better.”
Dérouin then laughed and added “it has also taught us some Swahili which is cool!”
Photo: Elefunk Facebook Page