A Hidden Place: Behind SBTRKT's Masks

A Hidden Place, the anonymous designer behind the in-demand UK electronic producer's SBTRKT mask and album covers.

Okayafrica linked up with A Hidden Place, the anonymous designer and visual art director behind in-demand UK electronic producer SBTRKT's tribal masks and album covers. Find out how the designer makes the SBTRKT Mask.

SBTRKT has described your masks as a "modern version of ceremonial masks from native societies," where did the influence for the design come from?

They're inspired by many native and ancient societies from a global viewpoint. It's been said that they are African perhaps because of the triangles, but when you look into it you’ll find many influences that also stem from India to Central & South America. I do like the 3D masks of the Dogon people and perhaps the triangles you might see on masks from the Congo. I love the use of colour from Aztec art in general, but I'm also really into colourful wildlife too.

It's difficult to say really, after you expose yourself to so many different images they seem to merge and your output becomes an imagined commune of them. It's really the ethereal quality that’s so fascinating with "native societies"... the fact that it all becomes surreal. It is an escapism from the ordinary.

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SBTRKT "Wildfire ft. Yukimi of Little Dragon" music video

The SBTRKT mask has largely helped create SBTRKT's identity as an artist. Did you work closely with him on the designs or was it more of a thing where you took on most of the work?

Yes totally, SBTRKT is very involved in the process, he has ideas and is very visual. He would never wear a mask he doesn’t like. I never set out to set him an image or identity, that’s something that came about more through the idea of his anonymity. The fact of wanting the focus to fall on the music and trying to avoid all the kind of tabloid style music blogging. Ironically, it gave people something to write about and then eventually the identity became even more widely known, just so happens to be a mask instead of a face.

What role do you feel you play in SBTRKT? Your visuals are 100% of his image so, in a way, you could say you're part of the group as well.

Yes that’s true, visually SBTRKT can now sort of leave it to me to design in a way that’s reflective of his tastes and influences. It's great to be able to put something together and you already know that they are going to be into it. It's a constant dialogue we’ve kept going that keeps evolving. It's exciting to be able to work with someone like that.

In a festival last year you guys gave SBTRKT masks to the entire crowd.

Yeah, Bestival is known for the costumes and we thought we’d give something memorable for people to keep of their experience of seeing SBTRKT live. It was surreal for us too. To see 2,000 people wearing those masks! I'm not sure we'd do it again though, one-off memories are the best ones. It's funny, people do keep them, every now and again someone in the audience is wearing one.

What's in the future for A Hidden Place? Any works in progress you got going?

Yes there will be more, I'm experimenting with video and the visual art direction for shows and covers. The "Hold On" single is coming out early March. The vinyl of which will be highly collectable in itself and all the imagery including the video is looking amazing and its not all necessarily 'mask' related. Hope you like it!

Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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