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Oumar Touré Franzen, the discreet hip-hop warrior in Geneva

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In the morning, Oumar Touré Franzen takes his 6-year-old son Ismaël to school. Along the way, he often tells her that he’s unique, that he doesn’t have to keep a low profile to be accepted. “I try to free him from my own anxieties, those of having been a black, fat kid, who made sure to go unnoticed, almost to disappear.” Oumar, a large fellow, 42 years old, son of Guinea and Switzerland, discreet soul of French-speaking hip-hop, tells you this at the end of the conversation, when he mentioned the thousand projects simmering on his fire. How with him, everything is a matter of transformation. At each step, he is inventing himself.

With lifelong friends (Omar Chanan, financier and soul fanatic, and Thibault Eigenmann, one of the heads of the Colors label), he created a new temple of hip-hop culture in Geneva. It’s a showcase, almost an aquarium. From rue du Diorama, a stone’s throw from Plainpalais, inside you can see classic vinyls of funk, soul, rap, hanging on the wall, 2Pac, Michael Jackson, Les McCanns, radio microphones as in Spike’s films. Lee, photographs of black hair, architectural, by photographer Léa Miranda Monteiro. In red neon, the sign “The Spot Podcast Factory” sizzles in the night.

We meet him during the week against racism, he is up to the task, sets up two podcasts in parallel, works on the current exhibition, polishes the release of the new visual EP of one of the figures of the Colors label, Rico Tk. You may have to start with that, if you want to get an idea of ​​the Spot. It’s a kind of long smoky, ocher clip of radiant beauty: musicians adjust bluish chords in the window, a Fender Rhodes, electronic rhythms, and Rico’s voice as if posed in the dense air. The images were produced by the Geneva team of Exit Void. Family.

Organizer emotion

Oumar Touré has been roaming Geneva rap nights for more than twenty-five years. He was a shy kid at the back of the room, there was in his class a future rap DJ, Vincz Lee; during drawing lessons, they listened Power by Ice T, a pouch with a woman in a monokini with a shotgun. Equipped with jeans so wide they sometimes fall off and immaculate Air Force 1s, Oumar frequents the region’s first rap concerts, the neighborhood houses, to the point where he directs the rap programming of the Undertown club for several years – he still works at the Meyrin social development and employment service.

He organized rapper Makala’s first concert in the mid-2010s, the line was so long that it was difficult to get everyone in: “It is undoubtedly the greatest organizer emotion of all my life. To see that the new generation was managing to have a local audience, that the movement had taken hold and that major artists were being born in Geneva. ” Oumar is integrated into the Colors label, which follows the careers of Makala, Di-Meh or Slimka – he takes care in particular of concerts but also serves as personal manager to producer Varnish La Piscine, a genius of sound whose wandering gesture he accompanies. .

Read also:
From Di-Meh to Makala, from Arma Jackson to Danitsa, the rise of the new French-speaking hip-hop scene

Be resilient

Oumar saw this triumph of hip-hop culture as an inestimable reward; comes to him from a time when rap was considered at best as a marginal coquetry, at worst as a disturbance of the social order. It is because Oumar comes from afar. Literally. He was born in Rome, in 1979; his father, minister of the first president of Guinea, Sékou Touré, had been warned of threats weighing on this baby. “He preferred to send me to be born in Europe. I ended up only staying in Conakry for two years. I had serious eye problems and was greeted by family friends, the Franzens. ” Oumar will never return to live in Guinea, a coup d’état brings down the paranoid regime of Sékou Touré – Oumar’s father is imprisoned and then shot by the army: “In the end, I never even lived with my mother. , who went into exile, she preferred to leave me in safety with my Swiss hosts. ”

It is difficult to say how this heckled childhood, the memory of a father with a tragic fate, how the relative absence of a mother made Oumar this resilient being, whose discreet, worried speech almost always seems hampered by prudence. visceral. He finds himself in Switzerland with a white man whom he calls very quickly “daddy”, attends international school but also plays places where he is shouted that his black skin looks like poo. “I was terrified when it came to giving a presentation in class. It was not until I started to be a neighborhood center counselor that I had to learn to come out of my shell. Otherwise I would have been eaten. “

Anchor

For all those who know Oumar, what is striking about him is the infinite gentleness, the joyful kindness, which reveals an indisputable strength. He almost never raises his voice, so an imperceptible inflection is usually enough to make it clear that he is no longer laughing. “I have been a silent observer of people for a very long time. I think I hear what is reflected behind the excessive stress, the reinstatement of violence, I have learned to defuse thorny situations. ” For four years he was the programmer of current music at the Geneva Music Festival, he knew how to receive a musician annoyed by a delay. Oumar, whatever happens, solve the problems.

Read also:
Colors, the label that repaints Swiss rap

This gift, this capacity as a mediator, serves him at the Spot. It is a place that in a way was born from the local awareness of the specific racism that thrives against blacks, after the demonstration of June 9 which brought together more than 10,000 people in Geneva, but also from the need an anchor point for hip-hop culture. Through chiadé podcasts, the Spot gives voice to a former elite athlete like the skater Corinne Djoungong, who evokes a career prevented by her skin color, but also opens up to intergenerational conversations where we go. reckon that young blacks in Switzerland have all known insults, prejudices and limitations.

Oumar Touré Franzen is a bridge man. In his den with transparent walls, in this small space that vibrates, in the scrupulous way he accompanies the words and ambition of others, he opens the horizons of a country and a culture too small for be self-sufficient. “I don’t see anything more important than trying to instill confidence in others, to teach the music business, but also the hip-hop tradition, anything that will help the next generation to live with pride in what it is. ‘she is.”


The place, rue du Diorama 2, Geneva.

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