NICOLA SERRA, ritualistic gatherings and curating in the expanded field
Nicola Serra, born in Sardinia Island, is a London-based musician, aka IlSantoBevitore, who besides his music practice curates Dronica festival (famous for its peculiar location at the Old Church in Stoke Newington, North London). At the core of Nicola’s music practice are drums and percussion, as well as electronic devices. His two latest EPs
The records by IlSantoBevitore, are like modern Mediterranean mantras, featuring drum beats, guitar echoing, synthesised reverberations and also voice, whose whispering heightens the shamanic feel. With repetitive vibrations Nicola hypnotises or even puts his listeners into trance. Listening to his music is like immersing in a mental journey through sculptural sonic landscapes of high and low pitches. Not only, do the records capture the dizzying topography of Sardinia Island, but also, they are saturated with ancient themes of the island’s history. In one album, for example, the artist refers to ‘berbos’, the Sardinian magic prayers, which express the necessity to protect the livelihood of a community.
Stemming from his thorough ethnomusicological research,
Nicola achieves these mesmerising moments, by uniting all kinds of music genres’ followers of all ages in this London’s only surviving Elizabethan church. The audience
Words by Agata Kik
Could you tell us a little bit about your background as an artist and how Dronica Festival came about?
I grew up playing the drums and
Obviously, when Dronica started, it was quite different from how it looks now. Not quite different stylistically but definitely it was a simpler format. I remember the first edition was more intimate, an experiment overall. As we all know, London is a unique and
How do you program the festival as its only curator? How does it all connect and how different editions respond to each other?
I reckon every festival/event reflects the curator’s vision. The program reflects obviously my vision, what I like and maybe I dislike too. I carefully select the artists I would like to host. Every edition we try to implement new stuff and to use the space potential as much as we can. We do not just hire the space, we use the space, always trying to get the best we can. However, in respects of the sacred place, the Old Church. Edition by edition we are trying to challenge ourselves, implementing something new, changing the format. Trying to take the audience by surprise. ‘Oh, this time it was a little bit different, I did not expect that’. By making things more interesting, challenging yourself, I think, you will also see, what works and what does not. Experimenting. Improving.
Regarding the artistic collaborations through your art practice as a musician, do you create just on your own or do you have any collaborations?
I am a music producer under the moniker of IlSantoBevitore. In my works I have released so far, there have always been some other musicians involved. These collaborations give it some fresh inputs. Even though it is a one-man project, it is like the festival again. You curate something and then you ask someone to collaborate, to help, to be involved, without necessarily changing the nature you want the project/festival to be. But then obviously they put some fresh input in it, some energy, some input that you did not even think about. That is very important.
What about the context of the church and the relationship between man, technology and spirituality. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I come from a Mediterranean country, where religion is very much into our society. Back home it would be almost impossible to do what we did with Dronica in a church as it will probably look quite blasphemous. There is a connection between modern technology and electronics, and man-spirituality that is for sure. The way I see technology is as a great tool of expression which it can help to interpret and enhance our ancestral background.
And Dronica as a medium of music and art, like a ritualistic meeting, you know, where people go to, experience something, share emotions and the community grows up.
With this context, in the role of a curator, you influence the artworks, the music, the sound that artists would never be able to experience or play in this way otherwise. It is the potential for them to experiment with this kind of environment.
Sound-wise the church is very unique with a nice natural reverb. I had the pleasure to play there actually last November for another event. It was for the label that released my latest EPs, actually. It was the second time I played at the Old Church. I can tell that frequency-wise it is unique. It is magic. Musicians love to play there, because they know that it is going special.
What has been the response to Dronica? Could you tell something about the audience and who you direct this
to and how it changes throughout the festival?
Since Dronica started, the festival has changed quite a lot. I think the first two editions were more intimate, and the audience were
Let’s talk about the future, as we have just experienced the last edition for this year. Do you have any plans for 2019?
Yes, I do. I think there will be two or three editions. Maybe a twist on the format. There might be some surprises, who knows? Work in progress! We are planning some collaboration as a side project too, for the following two years.
What would be your biggest curating extravaganza?
Dronica is a good example of an extravaganza, I guess. At least as some people perceived it. The program is quite vast and so eclectic. I would love to have the chance to curate an event in
What you do within the space/to
What is your chief enemy of creativity?
Time and budget.
You couldn’t live without…