Recreating The World
by Steve Mekoudja
Sometimes it starts with a melody. A melody that lands in my ears at 3am. And I would suddenly wake up as if answering a call from the universe, pick up my phone to sing that melody and record it. A few years earlier, when this happened to me, I didn’t pay attention, I would try to keep sleeping and when I woke up in the morning, it was all gone. I couldn’t remember the melody. I was angry with myself. I felt like I had failed in my mission, the one I had come to accomplish on earth. I had the feeling that I had not been attentive to the call of the universe, of my ancestors, that I did not deserve to carry this mission.
Then, the melody will embalm my spirit during several days. I will hear, sing only that. In fact, the melody will take control of my thoughts. And I would begin to imagine the instruments. I would sing the sound of each instrument and record it into my phone. At some point, the lyrics will start coming in. Sometimes one after another, sometimes all at once. And if I’m at work, I’ll duck into the bathroom to write everything down. If I’m outside, I’ll sit down to write down all the words.
Sometimes it starts with a word. A word or a phrase heard on the street, on the bus, on the phone with a friend. And I’ll smile because when I hear that beautiful word or phrase, something inside me starts to vibrate as if to confirm that this word is going to be the beginning or the title of a poem of a song. Most of the time I don’t know exactly what that word will become. What I do know is that I will reflect on this word, question it, mix it with other words. These words will form a poem or a short story or a song or…
Sometimes it starts with a scent… My imagination associates to everything a visual image and a scent. For example, to create my song Song of Freedom, I was inspired by the smell of dust during the May 20th parades (Cameroon’s national holiday) in Nkongsamba where I grew up. The May 20th parades are moments where we meet in the street, marching and singing our love and pride of being Cameroonian. The music, the trumpets, the balafons, the dust mark this event. It was the smell of the dust that awakened this melody in me and a few months later I was able to create Song Of Freedom. The important moments, happy or sad, are marked in my memory by a sound, an image and often also scents. A scent to move me to tears because it reminds me of a sad memory or a sorrow. Sorrow…
Sometimes it starts with a sorrow. I would find myself at the bottom of my bed sad, hurt, angry. An energy I can’t name is running through my body. Over the years, I have learned that writing or singing helps me to expel this negative energy, to face it. Most of the texts written in these moments will never be published because they are so violent. But sometimes, beautiful things come out that I want to share with the world. My poem “Melanine” is one of those poems written in anger to respond to racism against black people, to celebrate our beauty, our journey. It started out sad and angry but has become one of my most read and listened to poems. That’s not to say I’m going to put myself in a state of sadness on purpose just because I want to create. Oh no. Creating is not always a painful moment. It is also a moment of extreme joy. In fact, for me, when I finish working on a song or a text, I feel very bad because it marks the end of the creative process. It’s funny but I have more pleasure in cooking than in eating…
Sometimes it starts with a search. The search for a taste. And I’ll start mixing ingredients whose flavors, marry, clash. Over and over again. In fact, my creative process is a sequence of construction and deconstruction. I write a poem like I create a sauce. I try. Again and again. I start over if I fail. Sometimes after a while, I give up. Sometimes I like the result and share it. Construction-Deconstruction-Reconstruction. Now that I think about it, that best describes my process. And one might ask, how can the same person create poems, songs, recipes, movies? How is the same brain capable of doing things that are not at first glance similar? The truth is that for me it is the same thing. I am absolutely the same person when I write, when I sing, when I make a film. I don’t need to change. No. It’s exactly at these moments that I am myself and I think that to know myself better (to know any artist better), you have to look at their art. Their art, whether they like it or not, is full of their truths.
My creativity begins and ends with my senses. All the senses. In fact I believe that creativity is an expression of how our senses perceive the world around us. Anything can be turned into a piece of art. A rejection, a goodbye, a thank you, a forgiveness, an anger, jealousy, time, a smile, a tear… Creating has become for me a weapon to protect myself from the cruelty of our world, a tool to recreate the world.
Software Engineer, Musician, Poet
Academy Fellow 2021