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Confluences Contours East Africa Music

“Rolex” by Brian Bamanya & Manuel Oberholzer [Fribourg]

This project is supported through the Confluences open call, aimed at supporting a shared space for collaboration, creation, and documentation of new work between musicians who have an existing creative relationship.

“Rolex” is a new project by Ugandan modular synth builder and musician Brian Bamanya (Afrorack) and Swiss composer, musician and installation artist Manuel Oberholzer (Feldermelder). The artists met and began toying with the idea of developing a collaboration together during Brian’s research trip at the Swiss Museum for Electronic Music Instruments (SMEM) in July 2022. 

Manuel was Brian’s host at SMEM and they frequently spent time together in Manuel’s nearby studio. Their conversations often revolved around the different realities of life in Switzerland and Uganda, and the Ugandan saying, “We don’t wear Rolex, we eat them” (referring to the popular cheap street food of that name made of fried eggs rolled inside chapatis) became the starting point for their collaboration. As musicians coming from different backgrounds and cultures, “Rolex” – with its starkly different association in each of their contexts – seemed an apt title for their project.

The artists’ experimental and open-ended project is a musical conceptualisation of how the same acoustic sound that is heard can have different meanings in different cultures and therefore reflect different realities. Their aim in this project is to unite and experiment with sounds and acoustic signals and how these elicit different interpretations from different people.

Brian’s skills in building hardware musical instruments of all kinds from the ground up to the project and Manuel’s skills building software serve as a starting point of the musical endeavour. “We want to use sounds out of context and strip them from their meaning and replace and reuse/misuse them,” the artists explain. The outcome of the project, whose format will take shape through the process, will be released as a collaboration by each of their labels – OUS in Switzerland and Afrorack in Uganda.

The first phase of the project will begin with a work session together based in Manuel’s studio in Fribourg, Switzerland from 3-15 February 2023.


Brian Bamanya is an experimental multidisciplinary artist and DIY synth maker from Uganda. He has done projects in sound art, electronic music, experimental visuals, renewable energy and kinetic sculptures. Some of his work has gained attention from major international companies like Korg, Behringer and Arturia among others who have invited him to collaborate on projects. Brian has appeared at several local and international festivals which include Atlas Electronic in Morocco, Nyege Nyege in Uganda, CTM Festival in Germany and Dakar Art Biennale in Senegal. He has also appeared as a speaker at several international conferences like Africa Synthesized 2020 organized by African Institute of Music and Innovation and Bowed Electronics organized by the University of Cape Town. His work has also appeared in international media and publications like Shado Magazine, Arte tracks, Pan African Music and Radio France International (RFI). In May 2022, Brian released his debut self-titled album “The Afrorack” on Hakuna Kulala, one of the music labels under the Nyege Nyege festival where he explores modular synthesis on his homebuilt contraptions.

Manuel Oberholzer is a Swiss composer, musician, sound designer and installation artist. He delivers a wide array of performances i.e. the light synched show Erratic and hypnotic live multi speaker performances in different configurations. Besides this, he can be seen on stages in duos with Julian Sartorius, Sara Oswald and the new project with Noémi Büchi ‘Musique Infinie’. Manuel is the co-founder of Encor.Studio and the Zürich-based label OUS Records.

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The application portal myprohelvetia will be updated from 1.1.-7.1.2024. Due to these changes, open applications must be finalized and submitted via the current online portal (myprohelvetia.ch) by the latest 23:59 on 31 December 2023. Until this date, the deadlines and criteria outlined in the current guidelines and calls for applications apply. New applications can be created and submitted in the application portal as of 8 January 2024.