A Nataal exclusive: Kae Sun
and Emeka Alams debut their
new short film and EP
Oceans Apart is a new short film and EP by Accra-born Toronto-based Ghanaian musician Kae Sun and Seattle-dwelling Nigerian designer Emeka Alams. A collaboration between them has felt inevitable since the pair met back in 2009. Emeka was drawn to Kae’s “golden lyrics” and folksy take on afro-electronica that has resulted in two critically acclaimed albums to date plus live performances with the likes of Janelle Monáe and Just A Band. Meanwhile Kae appreciated “the depth and broad appeal” of Emeka’s upscale streetwear brand Gold Coast Trading Co, which features retro futurist graphics inspired by West African storytelling. Having previously worked with Nas, Damian Marley, Major Lazer and M.I.A., Emeka’s no stranger to music-driven projects like this one.
The pair have volleyed ideas around since their friendship began, finally joining forces in Germany this summer to make a film inspired by Kae’s two EP songs, An Eclipse and Our Sea. The piece explores universal ideas of alienation, exile and home while addressing the plight of illegal immigration to Europe today. “It’s an important issue that is largely being ignored and coming from immigrant families ourselves, we wanted to touch on it,” explains Emeka, who has himself survived civil war while travelling through Côte d'Ivoire a decade ago – an experience that fuelled the spirit of Gold Coast Trading Co in the first place.
"The songs aren’t overtly about migration. They’re about attraction, what draws people to each other no matter the circumstance or what other motives and pressures may exist"
Co-directing with filmmaker Simon Rittmeier, they shot Oceans Apart in Bayreuth where Emeka was exhibiting at African art museum Iwalewa Haus. “It’s a Bavarian Oktoberfest kind of town famous for being where one of Hitler's heroes, Richard Wagner established his opera house festival. So it was interesting to contrast its anti Semitic history with the current reality of Germany’s huge refugee population.” They shot in the asylum centre where they were warmly welcomed by its residents. “The hospitality they showed was amazing. It was sobering listening to stories of escape from ISIS and the war in Syria and Kae played music with them. We also did some covert casting and found these cool guys from Somalia to help us,” says Emeka.
Instead of making a heavy socio-political statement, the grainy, lo-fi film – shot on a VHS camera – shows a relationship blossom between a displaced person (played by Kae) and a local girl (Belgian artist An-Josefien Falelavaki). They party, they caress and they goof around in the park, just like any young lovers. This intimate, fragile narrative is interspersed with snapshots of Côte d'Ivoire and a fatherly voice praying for his son’s safe passage.
“The songs aren’t overtly about migration. They’re about attraction, what draws people to each other no matter the circumstance or what other motives and pressures may exist,” says Kae. “The film is filled with different moments of love and loss that come together to shape the music and the mood. It's also examining this notion of belonging and essentially trying to evoke empathy because we all in some sense have felt like we don't quite belong.”
Nataal has the media exclusive of the film, which Kae will tour to Canada, Germany and Ghana through to December. Watch it now:
Kae Sun’s Oceans Apart EP is released 20 November.