4Rain is a Cape Verdean DJ and Record Producer who was born and raised in France. His life is filled with adventures towards discovering new sounds having traveled across Arabian, African, American and European countries. Some months ago, 4Rain bumped into a sound he had never heard before. His experience of this new pattern of drumbeats has spurred an unquenchable thirst in him, and somehow, the sound attached instantly to his genes. His discovery was Afro House. Discovering Afro-House led 4Rain to retrace his steps towards finding his country of origin, a wanton thirst for the water of his roots.
Earlier this year, 4Rain took initiative into kickstarting his first African tour. Cape Verde, his country of origin being one of the places he visited in his new found quest of finding more people who are attracted to the sound, and creating timeless bonds with them. The other African countries in his bucket list being Nigeria and South Africa.
On February 24th 2023, in a set played against the backdrop of the Cidade de Velha, 4Rain, unveiled his afro house mix. But just before then, I met with him and we talked about some of 4Rain’s experiences which include how he got his name, the future of Afro-House and the benefits and perils of its cross-cultural exchange with European countries.
Sidenote, this conversation happened on February 22nd, 2023.
Can you tell me about yourself? For someone who is just getting to meet you for the first time, how would you describe yourself and your art?
I’m a DJ from Cape Verde Island. I’ve been producing since I was fifteen years old. It’s a big process. So, yeah. I would describe myself as a DJ, producer from France. I’m currently focused on producing Afro House Music.
That’s interesting. I’d like to ask why Afro House, but I know this conversation will still lead us right there. From the things I have read about you and all that I have observed from the conversations I had with Maeva who introduced us, you have been putting out a lot of your mixes for quite a long time now, and you have a new one that you are going to be putting out really soon…
Yes, on Friday the 24th of this month.
Okay, Friday. Can you describe the process for me, how it has been for you, growing up in France and working on this project and how you got into working on Afro House as well? Can you walk me through your journey into being a DJ and stumbling upon your gold mine which is Afro House?
Of course. Everything came in bits and pieces. I had been working on and producing a lot of dance music, electronic music for like two or three years. I did not come to [discover] Afro directly. For years I was traveling around, playing the kind of music I was exposed to in places like Dubai, Morocco, I was in Germany and Italia. Somehow, I ended up in my country, Cape Verde Island. Where we shot the Ceda de Velha video.
So, the thing is, I haven’t been in my country for close to forty years, so we wanted to come back to do something really special in the country. We were there, myself with my team and we had a meeting to see what we can do that can really really impact the whole black community. The whole community. So, we came across with the idea for Cidade de Velha, but I wasn’t aware that Cidade De Velha was the place where every black slave was shipped from Africa to other parts of the world. Cidade De Velha Island was like the spot where the white people were picking up slaves from and taking them to other countries, you know. It was a major port that connected other parts of the world to Africa. That was where the team decided that we would make the video for my Afro House mix launch.
So, this is a really really really big story behind this video as well. The man that they say discovered America, Christopher Columbus. He was in this Island, Cape Verde Island as well. He learned the way to go to America from here. Only people from this Island knew the way to go there, you know. So, it is like we made the story to teach a bit of history to the black community as well. For what happened from the slavery point of view, this was like a hugely notable place to know, you know. So, for other people that did not know the way America was discovered.
So, we had the idea to make a one hour mix for Afro House. And yeah, to come back to the question of how I got to Afro House, I was playing a bit of Afro House, but not as much as to come up with this African tour. I had a deeper approach to the music. And I felt like this is the genre I want to explore more since I discovered it, and this is the way I want to go. Because I never felt like this on stage with any other genre that I played. So it was so special that I had a lot of friends like Team Distant, Temba as well, Pedro, Lemon and Herb. We were friends already. And it was like I already had so many people in this space. So I was speaking to them to direct me to produce and this is how Out Of Time, my Afro House Mix came about. And yeah. I think I will cover all your questions. But if you need more specific things?
No. No no. I am satisfied with your answer. I really appreciate the fact that you are
treating history with your sound as well as trying to inform people with what you are doing. That is really really interesting. And that is one of the reasons I decided to speak with you about what you’re doing. Because I really appreciate when black people try to teach other black people their history or history of things that they did not know before.
So, from what I have also observed. I know that you are having a quick tour with your sound. You will be in Cape Verde in February and March, you will be in South Africa as well as in Nigeria. What do you expect from this tour? Why did you choose these countries? And what do you think that people who would be attending can expect from you in relation to how you would relate with their culture and how your sound is also bringing out some part of your own culture?
Yeah. So, the thing is, I was born in France. So, black in Europe and America, I think it’s not the same as black people from Africa. I thought since I am doing Afro House and I had made the decision to go on a tour, I felt like I needed to dig way way deeper into my culture. So that is why I have chosen these countries. I am really happy to go there and have a deep connection, because everyone is talking about Africa. I have heard of it, but I need to feel it like now. So, for me it’s going to be so special. And I don’t really know what people will expect from me but maybe they would expect for me to bring something new, I don’t know. Something different. I don’t know. Maybe it’s gonna be like a mix of me from Europe and a mix of me from Africa, you know.
So, I’m trying to get this mix. Like, I don’t know. I really don’t know what they would expect from me but I’ll do my best to be myself and play the music that I really love. And of course music that they love too. I really hope that they enjoy that mix and it’s going to inspire a lot of DJs that are from there. Because I know that in Africa they play a lot of music from there as well. So, I hope to bring them like a big big big entrance.
I’m also going to try to help other people there discover more. Because you know that in Afro House, there are mixes of a lot of genres too. There are a lot of entrances that come into music. So, I hope that I will translate the right message for them, you know.
That is like mixing cultures and having like, you know one culture discovering the sound of another culture. I really really enjoy what you’ve just described. As a DJ, I know that you know a lot of artists. You’d know a lot of sounds from different genres. You’ve been working with African sounds as well. What African artists have you heard and you’re like ‘Oh, this is a really beautiful sound!’. If you have a run down of artists who have really influenced your craft, or artists that you have discovered that are in Africa and you would like to, you know, shed more light on… could you mention a few?
So, African music is mostly built in duets. The music is incredible. You know, in Europe and in dance music, hip-hop music, pop music as well, they use lots and lots of synthesizers. But for African music, the thing is, I’m still learning the way that they make it sound because they use a lot of real instruments. So, it’s like a big discovery for me. And it’s like everyday I’m listening to Afro House, more African music – for me, this is the real real music. When you listen to them, something is happening to you, you know. It’s like yeah, I’m listening to some musicians, Black Coffee, Lady Zama, you know. I’m discovering new artists everyday.
It is hard to explain because I feel it more than I can explain it. It’s like everything is magical and so different and inspiring for me. If I could as well, they have a unique voice you know. It’s like today it’s going to Africa to try to get that song, that unique and bring it to Europe because you know, I’m in Europe and I’m traveling a lot. And I’m about to know and see and hear where the sounds come from. And I can tell you that everybody is going to take sound from Africa and bring it to the world. That’s why everywhere you can see the phrase ‘Africa to the world’, and I’m really really happy because I found my place. My happy place. It’s like a deep deep deep place of emotion you know…
I feel like you are all about soaking in the culture from different places and expressing. I know you know what a sponge is, when the sponge takes in water and you squeeze out what is inside. That is what I perceive you to be… Like you are going into cultures to feel as much as you can so you can also have it expressed. And that is really what you artists do. And I’m really encouraged by your art. And I also like the fact that you are trying to explore as much as you can.
Thank you sir.
You have the experience of Europe and you are about to have the experience of Africa. And you are in between. Because I mean, you are African and Black, but you have experienced European culture and music and sound. You are also about to experience Afro House which is African culture. Now as a person, how do you think that all of these cultures come together? And in what ways can exerting cultures between Africa and Europe benefit both Africans and Europeans? What can they take out of this cultural exchange?
You know, it’s really really hard. It’s like, you know, today I was speaking with a director of The Emperor that Africa has something spiritual and music may be the one thing that makes the African culture go worldwide and make people more interested. Like what happened there.
When I’m doing music today, even in Europe, I’m trying a lot today to use African instruments, you know. Because when people are going to discover these instruments they are going to want to find out what instruments they are. They are going to get curious and will eventually find out where these instruments come from. Maybe even learn the stories behind these instruments. Obviously it’s going to bring them to the story behind the country. And from there I think it can help people discover Africa.
From Europe, it’s like… I don’t really know how to explain the whole benefit both cultures can have. Because you know, there is a lot of magic stuff here too, in Europe. Because in Europe the sounds we use come from all over the world. But I think it’s way different from Africa because Africa has its own thing, you know. We can go get inspired from anywhere and anything, you know. That’s how everybody does it. But in Europe I don’t think it’s the same. That’s why I feel like Africa has more to offer than Europe, you know?
I get that. I get that.
Because I was born here and for me everything in here is normal. But when I’m discovering things from Africa it’s like magic and I’m like ‘Wow! I never felt like this before’. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m discovering something unique. But for me, Africa has more unique things than maybe Europe and maybe the United States has. Because in France and in Europe they’re doing a lot of music, video clips but the image and the sounds come from Africa. You know what I mean. Because in Africa, they don’t really take something from abroad to make it sound like they own it. That’s not the case in European and American countries. They take sound from Africa and they act like they own it. You know what I mean. So, for me Africa is offering more magic than other parts of the world. You know.
Yes. That is interesting. I like that. Because people fail to realize that we here are the source. It’s kind of interesting to see that the more that African culture gets outside, the more people are like ‘Oh my God! This is really new’. And this is really interesting. But even as all of that is happening, there are still new sounds coming out. Have you heard of Amapiano before?
Of course. The past few years, it’s been coming really really out. We were like ’This is a new type of music’ when we first experienced it. I don’t really know how long this music was, like this genre. I don’t know if it’s like this for a long time. But now it’s like worldwide.
Exactly. So we have Amapiano, we have Afrobeats, we have Afro House to mention a few. We have a lot of African sounds that are just so original. We have Highlife, you know. All of these sounds are really really original to Africa and the more that people even export African sounds, the more that new sounds are being born. It’s just the way it is. And I feel like you are right when you said Africa has more to offer to Europe than Europe has to offer to Africa.
I have one final question for you. I always ask everybody that I have conversations with this particular question. It’s really simple but it’s also difficult if you think about it very well. As a human being, what matters to you the most and why?
It’s easy. For me what matters the most is to be happy and when you’re happy it’s like everybody around you is happy too. Like if we just can spread happiness, the world would be really really magical. Life for me is simple. But it’s simple because I discover what matters for me and it’s happiness. And I’m trying to teach this to everyone around me because every time someone is around me they are happy just because I’m happy. And I feel, I show them that happiness is really simple. You know what I mean?
Yes. I understand you perfectly.
Yeah. So, for me it’s simple. Happiness is what matters first. Because when you’re happy you can do anything. You can create nice music. I don’t know. When I’m happy it’s just then I’m making the magic. So, just be happy and that’s it. If you’re happy the world is better. And you see it from another angle.
Okay. I just want to ask this question. You know I said that was my last question. I just want to ask you this question out of the blue. I’d love to know why you chose the name 4Rain as your moniker. It just sounds interesting and I’m curious…
Yeah. It’s a little story. I was in Miami and I had a friend over there. And when I met him, he wasn’t able to say my name, Stefan, with the right French pronunciation. So, he just called me ‘Foreign’ like ‘Hey Foreign’ ‘How are you Foreign?’. He would just play with the name and I kept it because it’s a story of mine. Because when I arrived in Miami, I was twenty-one years old. I wasn’t able to speak English. And he helped me improve it. So, he was a part of my name and my experience as well. So, yeah, it’s like that. This is a short story and we kept the name, and the story makes me laugh. So, we are just Foreign, like strangers. And we changed it to write it as 4rain.
I love that story. Err, you were a foreigner in a new place. And I feel like you were there because you like to have new experiences. And that really informed the kind of person you are. Also, I really just want to know, out of the places that you’ve visited as a foreigner, which places have held good importance to you? That when you remember you just say ‘Oh, I’m happy I experienced this place!’
For me, it’s going to my country last summer, and the experience I had because till now it still feels like I wasn’t really there. It’s why I have decided to return.
I was really really young the first time I was there. So, you know when you go on vacation with your parents, it’s not the same as you cannot go outside to enjoy and discover the country. Now I have discovered my country. I was there for ten days. It was really.. Because we had a lot of stuff to do. But it was so peaceful. It’s a beautiful Island. And it was there that my Afro House really came deeply. I want to do that, I will never change because the way I feel today, I want to feel it for my whole life. I never want to change.
And you know what happened when I played the set, the emotions were so so so so so high. I’m gonna be honest, I cried. It was a great experience. I mostly remember a man that came to see me after I played my set. It was a man that worked and fought for the Independence of the country. He came to meet me. He is a really big man. You can type his name on Google. He’s Jose Brito. He was like a foreign affairs minister. He shared a wholesome story with me of how it was in the country before and how it is today. The story was really really deep because he was there to fight. And that’s why I cried. Like the real story. And I was like ‘Wow! I came here and I got to learn the whole story of my country from someone who could give me the accounts from first hand experience’. I didn’t know that the whole of Africa was on this Island. People from various African countries met in this one place while being shipped off to foreign lands. This was the point my life changed and that’s why I’m really really big on African creations. I was, but not like today. I needed to know my roots. I still need to.
That’s really profound.
I really really really appreciate your time Stefan. This conversation is important to me and it’s opening some parts of me that I really want to find out about where you’re from and you know, just try out a lot of things. And I really appreciate that you had this time to have this conversation with me. And I hope that we will chat again soon.