Original Cultures is a non-profit project that connects culture through modern performing arts, including music and visual arts.
What do we do?
We organise unique events, cultural laboratories and a record label. Through our work we seek to create a platform that fosters artistic potential and growth for the artists involved while also promoting cultural exchange between artists and the public. Since 2008 we’ve worked with renowned musicians and visual artists from Italy, England, Japan, France and America.
Our events include workshops, seminars, live showcases, exhibitions and more. Each event we have produced has had a different concept and dimension to it, though our key focus is running cultural laboratories where artists can learn, exchange and grow. Alongside this we also focus on organising live showcases where the spaces used are re-appropriated and changed from their original purpose. We’ve transformed a modern theater and a centuries old courtyard in Bologna, a wine bar in London, and a cultural center in Essaouira among other things.
Our record label releases music from artists whom we have worked with in the past or intend to work with in some capacity in the future, be it on a live show or larger project.
Who are we?
Original Cultures was founded and is currently run by four people: Laurent Fintoni, Cristian Adamo, Alessandro Micheli and Yassin Hanat. We are based in London, UK and Bologna, Italy with outposts and friends throughout the world.
As individuals we each bring something different to the project and look after different areas. We each have more than a decade’s experience in various complimentary areas such as event management, graphic design, label and artist management, promotion, journalism, and stage management. This is what makes Original Cultures a diverse and strong project.
Over the years Original Cultures has worked with a variety of individuals, from photographers to video crew, journalists to press officers, stage hands to catering crews, who have contributed to the project’s growth and history as well as the unique experience everyone has taken from it. There are too many to name but you know who you are and we thank you for being a part of it.
The story so far…
The idea for the project came to Laurent Fintoni shortly before leaving Japan in June 2008, following discussions with Hiroki Sakaida (POP GROUP label) and Japanese artist Goth Trad. The idea was to create something that could link together underground scenes and artists in Europe and Japan and facilitate artistic exchanges between the two. Upon his return to Europe in September that year he put the wheels in motion to turn the idea into reality and create a non-profit project that would allow cultural exchange between Japan, Italy and the UK through modern performing arts, starting with music and visual arts. Seeking help of people to better understand what was needed he reached to an old Italian friend, Cristian Adamo based in Bologna, for his advice on how to run events. In turn Cristian brought on board two close associates of his, Yassin Hannat and Alessandro Micheli also based in Bologna. Together the four of them decided to take a chance and the Original Cultures project was ‘born’ in November 2008 with a base in Bologna, and as of January 2009 one in London where Laurent had returned to live.
After six months of preparation in June 2009 Original Cultures held its pilot event in Bologna. The week-long event featured the artistic talents of Om Unit, Tayone and tatsuki* for the musical side alongside Ericailcane, Will Barras and DEM for the visual side. Together these artists worked over five days in workshops and seminars. which took place in an old nunnery and a local bookshop, to create music and visual arts as well as share the experience with the public. At the end of the week we put together a unique live show open to the public inside a modern theater that was transformed for the night into a performance space never before seen. This event was followed by a month-long exhibition at the Bologna Museum of Music featuring audio, video and photos from the event.
In July 2009 we held the first of two London showcases at LIFE bar in Old Street. We took over the second room of the venue showcasing the work done in Bologna via video and photo projections with live music from Om Unit and tatsuki* alongside Original Cultures DJ.
In November 2009 we held a second, small and intimate showcase at the Vibe Bar in London featuring the first (and still only) Om Unit live show alongside a live show from EAN and DJ sets from Mr Beatnick and Open Sauce DJs. The showcase also featured live art from Will Barras and RUN, including live drawing.
2009 sponsors and media partners:
City of Bologna, Quartiere San Vitale, Bologna Museum of Music, Radio Citta del Cappo, Modo Infoshop, Design Radar, Shook Magazine, Samurai FM, Rhythm Incursions, Vinilificio, 56, Arena Orfeonica, Scolopendra, Spazio Si, Superfly Magazine, The Slow Breakfast.
In March 2010 the second part of the pilot was held in London. Once more the six artists from the pilot came together, with the addition of Japanese visual artist Hiraki Sawa, for a week-long series of workshops culminating in a live showcase. The workshops were held in Dalston and North London while the showcase took place in Corbet Place, Brick Lane. For the occasion we transformed what is normally a wine bar into an audio-visual installation featuring live music and visuals from the artists created during the week. Concurrent to this we also organised an exhibition of visual works by Ericailcane, Will Barras and DEM at the Stolen Space gallery in Brick Lane which ran throughout the month of February and March. Lastly the London edition of Original Cultures was also a part of the Discover Young Hackney 2010 festival, with Original Cultures organising a radio and music workshop for young kids featuring Om Unit and tatsuki*.
In July 2010 we returned to Bologna with a brand new production. Moving away from the original focus of cultural and artistic exchange between Japan and Europe we put together the ‘From Inner Space’ show. Using the same week-long workshop and live showcase format, we worked with Italian hip hop legend Deda under his new alias, Katzuma. We offered him the chance to recreate one of his funk, disco and house DJ sets with a full live band, taking the concept of producers sampling musicians and flipping upside down and getting musicians to play ‘produced’ music live. We put together a live band – nicknamed the Expanding Disco Machine – culled from local Bologna session players to work with Katzuma. Together they spent five days preparing the show, with Katzuma directing proceedings – and providing the rhythmic backbone. The band featured bass, keys, congas, percussion and flute. Alongside them we invited Bologna video artists Opificio Ciclope to create a unique visual show based around the concept of ‘From Inner Space’. The result was them taking stills and videos of iconic and modern Bologna landmarks and transforming them with space imagery and graphics – barnyards adorned with Nasa logos alongside churches sporting Russian space programs details. The final showcase took place in a courtyard where the visuals were projected in a slot machine style above the musicians on stage.
Following this project, Katzuma has been working with the Expanding Disco Machine band on more live shows as well as a studio album.
2010 sponsors and media partners:
City of Bologna, Bologna Estate, Quartiere San Vitale, Zooo, Discover Young Hackney festival, London Borough of Hackney, Corbet Place, Stolen Space, Radio Citta del Cappo, Design Radar, Samurai FM, Rhythm Incursions, Vinilificio, 56, Scolopendra, Duse, Undervilla Productions, Error Broadcast, Bonsai TV.
In May 2011 we brought Katzuma and the Expanding Disco Machine to Manchester, UK for the Eurocultured Festival where they performed the same set from the original production, minus the visuals. The small, intimate showcase was a success with the locals and the festival.
In June 2011 we put together our third production in Bologna, The Formula. Building on the lessons from previous years The Formula took as a starting point a unique short story, Corporal Fluidity, written exclusively for us by famed local writer Valerio Evangelisti. Taking this story as a starting point we once more invited musicians and visual artists together to create a show inspired by the story. These included Bioshi aka B Kun, Hed, Mannaman, Danilo Mineo and UK dubmaster Architeq as musicians alongside video artist David Loom and typographers MEAT Collective from Bologna. In addition we also asked Pietro Babina to join the project as director, for the first time having someone to actually mastermind the entire live showcase. Again the artists came together over the course of a week, working together in workshops to create a one hour audio visual show like never before combining live music, dubbing, video manipulation and theater. The showcase was held in a centuries-old courtyard in the Quartiere San Vitale of Bologna, once more transformed for the occasion into a unique performance space. The Formula was by far our most ambitious project, and the culmination of the previous three years’ lessons.
Following this, in November 2011 Original Cultures Records was born. Having achieved a lot of what we set out to do with the live events we decided to take a step back for the coming year and focus on putting out art, both music and visual art, born from the project’s experiences and connections so far. The first release was by tatsuki*, one of the first artists we worked with, and featured music he’d written during the first two pilot events.
2011 sponsors and media partners:
City of Bologna, Bologna Estate, Quartiere San Vitale, Zooo, Mesmer Productions, Arena Orfeonica, Radio Citta del Cappo, Design Radar, Rhythm Incursions, Vinilificio, 56, Scolopendra, Eurocultured Festival.
With the record label under way, we decided to use 2012 as a year of change and growth. In June our first vinyl release came out. Written and produced by Beat Inc. a duo formed of Bioshi and Hed born during our 2011 production, the EP was titled The Formula in homage to its roots. It also featured Om Unit, alongside Daisuke Tanabe and Squeaky Lobster, on remix duties bringing us back full circle to our beginnings.
In June 2012 we held two smaller live showcases, called Beat One and Two. The first was the official release party for The Formula EP featuring live shows from Beat Inc. and Squeaky Lobster, all the way from Brussels, Belgium. Alongside this the show also featured the A Boom Bap Continuum talk from Original Cultures founder Laurent Fintoni, an ongoing project exploring and mapping the evolution of instrumental hip hop in the 2000s. A Boom Bap Continuum will be turned into a book in the coming year, which will be made available via the label. The second showcase was a hip hop show like Bologna hadn’t seen in years featuring Florence’s finest producer Digi G’Alessio alongside Italian hip hop legend Kaos. It was road block.
In July 2012 we released our second EP, Trashdub by Blackjob. An alias of Mannaman, who was also involved in the 2011 production The Formula, Trashdub is modern day dub and features the vocal talents of Suz and Soul Boy alongside Tayone, Tony Toilet and Luca Scarrone – who have all been involved in previous Original Cultures projects officially or behind the scenes. This EP will be followed by a remix EP in the second half of the year.
In November 2012 Original Cultures returns to its roots once more by presenting the Kidsuke and Guests European tour. With support from The Japan Foundation and the city of Bologna, alongside RBMA, Project Mooncircle and Elastic Artists, we are bringing to Europe Japanese producers Daisuke Tanabe and Jealousguy to present Daisuke and UK producer Kidkanevil’s brand new project Kidsuke. The tour is currently being finalised but will stop in various European cities including Bologna, Berlin and London. Each stop will feature live shows from Kidsuke, Jealousguy and local guests as well as q&a sessions and more.
To coincide with the tour Original Cultures will also be launching its collaborative 7″ series produced in association with Zooo Print & Press and entitled Zoooriginals. The series will feature musicians and visual artists coming together for a limited edition double-sided picture 7″, each of which will be a unique, physical piece of art never to be reproduced again. The first in the series features Daisuke Tanabe, Jealousguy and Ericailcane.
2012 sponsors and media partners:
City of Bologna, Bologna Estate, The Japan Foundation, Radio Citta del Cappo, Design Radar, Rhythm Incursions, Vinilificio, Vlek Data, Locomotiv Club, 56, Scoloprenda.
Following a year of change, we further built towards new directions in 2013. The year was primarily split between the label, which continued to grow with 8 releases, and a new live project that will take us from Europe to Africa over the course of two years.
Over at the label we released the remix EP for Blackjob on 12″, featuring a host of dubwise international artists including the first appearance by Bristol’s Sam Binga (whose remix received support from the legendary Doc Scott), the cassette debut from Almighty Sion, the second 7″ in our Zoooriginals series inspired by the 2010 ‘From Inner Space’ production with music from Katzuma and French duo Souleance, and five digital EPs from Lewis James, EAN and Sleepin Giant covering everything from remixes of classic 90s hip hop to scratch posse cuts and dancefloor jams.
Most of 2013 was also spent preparing for the official vinyl release of Sleepin Giant, in early 2014, a process that has been much more laborious and intensive than with any other release – but considering the result we think it’s been worth it. Every artist we’ve worked with on the label so far has grown in some way, which is really why we’re doing this in the first place.
In spring 2013 we also had a hand in the Japanese leg of the Kidsuke and Guests tour, with 3 dates in Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo with Kidkanevil, Daisuke Tanabe, Jealousguy and Laurent from Original Cultures.
In Italy we also teamed up with N3XT in Bologna for their first events bringing over Om Unit and Moresounds for a memorable party in February.
In the autumn of 2013 we launched Road To Essaouira, our new live project. The idea for it started with the crew in Bologna and their discussions with local experimental jazz outfit Fawda Trio. From there it germinated into a full blown international live music project with multiple angles: our first non-European excursion, a series of live shows in Italy and abroad, and the recording of the first album for Original Cultures.
Alongside Fawda Trio we brought in SwamiMillion, the new project from London producers LV (Hyperdub, Keysound Recordings). We gave the two outfits one week in Bologna in the autumn of 2013 – following similar cultural laboratory formats as we had before – to find out if they had the right chemistry to undertake the project. Thankfully the outcome was positive with Fawda Trio and SwamiMillion performing together a live show that will form the basis for the rest of the project. The show took place inside the legendary Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna and proved a resounding success.
From this Road To Essaouira continues throughout 2014 with multiple steps including a trip to Essaouira, Morocco in the autumn to record what will in effect be Fawda Trio and SwamiMillion’s collaborative album, and a debut for each, before returning to Europe to postproduce and release it via the label arm of Original Cultures. In addition to the usual documentation that will take place during this trip, the groups will be performing live together again in various festivals across Europe and we’ll be releasing a beat tape by SwamiMillion ahead of the album, made entirely of samples of Fawda Trio recorded during the rehearsals of the first show.
In order to get there we put together a crowd funding campaign to raise funds, with an introductory video for the whole project you can see below.
You can stay updated with the Road To Essaouira project by visiting our dedicated page.
2013 sponsors and media partners:
City of Bologna, Bologna Estate, N3XT, Radio Citta del Cappo, Design Radar, Rhythm Incursions, Vinilificio, Locomotiv Club, 56, Scoloprenda, Perfect Touch.
The project’s sixth year was split between work on the Sleepin Giant debut, Purple, and the Road to Essaouira project.
Purple was released in the spring with a 12″ inspired by legendary funk covers such as those of The Ohio Players. The five tracks on the EP feature vocals from NYC’s Aja Monet, Amsterdam’s Ruben Hein, and Bristol’s Romaine Smith.
Following the release of the EP we commissioned a set of four remixes from Tokyo’s Sauce 81, Lewis James, Bristol’s Typesun, and EAN.
In July 2014 we hosted French musician Debruit and Sudanese singer Alsarah for a live show in the Parco del Cavaticcio in Bologna.
We spent the winter and spring of 2014 raising funds for the Road To Essaouira project and in late September we headed to Essaouira to record the album with Fawda Trio and LV aka SwamiMillion. On our return we released a beat tape by SwamiMillion created from recordings of the rehearsals of their first show together in 2013.
The year 2015 was a quiet one for us, spent mostly working on finalising the Road To Essaouira album with post-production in London and Bologna.
In October 2015 we released a 12″ from Parisian producer Moresounds, a long time friend of the label. Titled The Outer Spaces, the record compiled six downtempo productions from his archives alongside two remixes from Fracture and Clap! Clap!. It featured artwork from Paper Resistance with a limited vinyl run of silk printed covers made in Bologna.
Three years after it began, our journey on the Road to Essaouira reached its end with the release of the album in October 2016.
Featuring over 10 musicians, Road to Essaouira is Original Culture’s first album as well as the debut of Fawda Trio. Produced by SwamiMillion the album received support from Lefto, Gilles Peterson, Dublab, and NTS.
A short documentary filmed and edited by Massimilliano Bartolini accompanies the vinyl release.
The future is still being written… join us for the ride.