In the video Best by Petite Noir, featured here in our Summer Camp Issue, viewers dive into a highly textured futuristic African folk tale, a landscape that seems akin to something that has a place in history but it's too bold to have already existed. The video is meant to be set in Africa, the birthplace of human race. We are shown this through four different tribes throughout the video. Each tribe is shown with its own colors, textures, and element. Throughout the video we hear echoes of the "...just go back home. Which is exactly what the protagonist is running to. It's an actual 'race' of the human race.
The video is captured in a way that would make Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell) proud: rich detailed cultures that may or may not have existed, painted with a highly textured and saturated brush. It's hard to tell if this video is set in the past or the future.
We got a chance to talk with the video's director, Trayvs Owen, and creative director, Rochelle Nembhard, about the inspiration and process behind their newest video.
The setting and tone for the video are so distinctive and rich. Were you inspired by any other music videos or features or even paintings in terms of visual style?
Rochelle Nembhard: When the concept of the video came to me one day on a trip back home to South Africa, I saw this vision in my head that bolted through my minds eye almost like lightening. I had to get it down on paper immediately. It was almost spiritual and definitely divine-given. I saw the beauty of the continent, the richness in her landscapes, the beauty in her culture, the immense diversity of her tribes and the natural beauty and style of her people. Portraying this in a futuristic modern way but keeping the core traditional aspects of what Africa is was the aesthetic I wanted to create. Merging these two concepts are at the core of what Noirwave is (paying tribute to the old whilst carving out a new more powerful and dynamic direction), which is why it works so well for this video and more importantly the song. Personally I was not inspired by any video paintings or visual style. I was directly inspired by the beauty and diversity of The African Continent, and Travys the director went over and beyond in translating the vision and putting his own unique spin on it.
There are images of water, earth, fire, and air (when one of the women dressed in white blows out a blue jet from her mouth) in the video. Was there a conscious effort to capture all the elemental forces? Was there a special connection between the song and elemental forces?
Trayvs Owen: We wanted to make 4 distinct ‘tribes’ of people in the video. This allowed us to create the visual journey that Yannick aka Petite Noir is on, running through all these different landscapes. It also allowed us to create these rich scenes which were so different from each other. The four main elements were Fire; Malachite/earth/rock; Water/Wind; and Gold.
The video is about Yannick’s journey though all these landscapes meeting all these different tribes.
Yannick is shown to be a shapeshifting being able to turn into any of these people to fit into their tribe.
There is seemingly some use of religious imagery in the video, especially in that final scene with Petite Noir’s ascension and his standing in the flames. Was there a conscious effort to evoke religious imagery there?
Rochelle Nembhard: We are spiritual beings, so in all my work I gravitate towards the spiritual naturally as I feel it deeply resonates with everyone. Whether positive or negative, the goal is to make people feel. The image of Yannick ascending was in fact taken from Yannicks album artwork done by dear friend and artist Lina Viktor, who we have been working closely with throughout the year. Making sure there is continuity in all the artwork is important to me. I do not see the imagery as religious but rather a state of mind. How you interpret it is a reflection of your own state of mind.
There are quite a few close-up shots of the human body, muscles in movement. Was there something about the human body that you wanted to capture in connection to the video’s narrative or the song’s lyrics?
Trayvs Owen: I have always been fascinated with the human body and movement. Closeups of the muscles were used purely to create tension in an aesthetic way in things like the fight/sparring scenes. I used skin details purely aesthetically to add to the textures used in the landscapes and create contrast.