More than boom from a box

The La Jacqueline collective takes back public spaces in the city and connects communities through music

Many a song has been written about the power of music (think Music Was My First Love, Piano Man, Thank You For The Music, Radio Ga Ga). Jean-Louis D’Hondt — also known as Loois — and Yago Debén Bravo, part of the team behind La Jacqueline, are living its power and are active in bringing freedom through music to Brussels. The two music lovers who were introduced with the words “You two should talk!” by a mutual friend met at Brussels’ OpenFab fab lab. Following this first encounter, DJ and entrepreneur Loois and sound engineer Yago together with other friends and family members are now bringing forward what is today’s La Jacqueline collective.

Boombox on a bike

La Jacqueline, in the words of Loois and Yago, is a collective that brings together music lovers, artists, makers and cyclists in Brussels to make durable mobile sound systems to facilitate the distribution of music in the city. “For us music is life and if we amplify music, we amplify life” Loois says.

“For us music is life and if we amplify music, we amplify life” Loois says.

“Freeing or facilitating people, artists or associations to express themselves through music for us is a way to reclaim the city and weave the social bond. In addition to the passion for music, we have developed a passion for manufacturing, recycling, DIY, cooperation and collaboration, that we want to transmit. We fight against obsolescence and promote ecology, recycling and upcycling, and the circular economy”, as they explain.

The La Jacqueline mobile sound system at community space La Serre (all pictures by La Jaqueline)

When I met Jean-Louis and Yago at La Serre near Flagey — a community space managed by Communa asbl that is home to a solidarity restaurant, arts, crafts and bike workshops, as well as a co-working space — they were taking a break from setting up their stall at their first ‘Repair Café — Audio’ where anyone is welcome to get their tech repaired for free. Both are excited to take part and tell me that repairing even one sound system or radio will be a success.

Reappropriating public spaces through the power of music

At the Repair Café in between breaks, Yago explains a couple of the items they brought along to show their work. There is, of course at the heart, the La Jacqueline sound system mounted to a bicycle trailer that lends the name to the collective. In addition, Yago has brought along a couple of the ‘boom boxes’ that he builds.

La Jaqueline and some of the boom boxes that Yago builds

The boom boxes that the La Jacqueline collective builds and sells are self-build speakers in old suitcases that connect via bluetooth to play music from your phone. I take one and learn that they are not just incredibly easy to handle thanks to the suitcase format, but also look extremely cool in their upcycled design interspersed with pops of colourful fabric.

La Jacqueline is driven by the “fight against obsolescence”, as Yago puts it, and the promotion of “freedom” (Loois) and promotes repairing, reusing and recuperation. It is through the reuse of sound equipment that may be faulty but can easily be repaired and their shared passion for music, that the two are promoting their value of freedom. They want to “reappropriate public spaces”, as Loois says, through the power of music. It is the fact that La Jacqueline is mobile that allows its users to play music wherever and whenever they want. The idea of La Jacqueline evolved over years, he continues explaining to me, and started off first when he and his brothers and friends wanted to hold impromptu picnics and parties at Bois de la Cambre. Longing for music in the summer outdoors, they first hooked up a self-build sound system to car batteries with the help of Loois’ father Jacques. Each car battery lasting three to four hours, a minimum of two were easily necessary for a day of lounging in the sun. In addition, they had to lug around speakers and so evolving over the course of six years, the mobile La Jacqueline music box came into being.

Today, La Jacqueline is a mobile sound system that can easily be mounted to a bicycle to diffuse music wherever anyone wants. The collective, for example, takes part in the Critical Mass cycle rides around town providing fun and making a statement. And La Jacqueline, which came to be named after Loois’ parents Jacques and Micheline, became more than boom from a box: it evolved into a community of music lovers that professionalise more and more — Loois and Yago decided to dedicated “more time to music” in 2017 and are now working towards making La Jacqueline their part-time venture.

Activities in Brussels

To date, La Jacqueline as a collective offers free monthly repair cafés — which will move to their central workshop at La Serre, can be hired for private events to bring either the sound system or also DJs to your events, and works on offering workshops such as how to build a boombox or how to DJ. The team behind La Jacqueline are doing their work free or on a free price format whereby the customer pays what they consider appropriate.

For the future, the team wants to build their brand further into also supplying the music for larger events such as outdoor festivals — and not just the hardware. Loois’ DJ sets comprising Electro Swing, Electro Jazz and Electro Balkan but also Hip Hop and other genres are available online and his playlists can be found on Spotify. The two are also exploring ways to disseminate their music by “becoming a radio station”, Yago says, which is something they will be focussing on this year.

La Jaqueline and the team can be hired for events to provide the entertainment

Everyone is welcome

Growing their venture beyond their current small team, La Jacqueline is always welcoming those who want to share their knowledge and skills, be it bike mechanics, sound engineers and tinkerers, music lovers and DJs or anyone else. They tell me: “Anyone who wants to help us to generate more positive social and environmental impact in Brussels and its community, can support us in various ways.”

“Anyone who wants to help us to generate more positive social and environmental impact in Brussels and its community, can support us in various ways.”

“We organise or power outdoor musical events around Brussels by providing good quality mobile sound systems with our music crew. We look for contributors to the design and making of mobile sound systems, music-lovers and makers, bike-enthusiasts who might be interested by contributing to the project or backers who can help us buy materials needed to make prototypes and products or to pay our workshop rent. Anyone can easily become a backer via our Open Collective website”.

Learn more about La Jacqueline: http://lajacqueline.be/

Contact La Jaqueline at hello@lajacqueline.be

Join or contribute to La Jaqueline’s open collective: https://opencollective.com/lajacqueline

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