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Pone: the paralysed producer making music with his eyes

Interviewing an artist who can’t speak is an unusual, almost meditative experience. I am in a small town outside Toulouse in south-western France to meet Pone, a beatmaker who helped shape the sound of French hip-hop in the 1990s. As part of Marseille’s seminal group Fonky Family, he produced hits such as Art De Rue, Sans Rémission and the hair-raising Mystère et Suspense, as well as 113’s hypnotic single Hold Up. But we are here to discuss Kate Me, an instrumental beat album created as an ode to Kate Bush, and the first album in history to be entirely produced through an eye-tracking device.

The silence in Pone’s bedroom is punctuated by the amplified sound of a breathing machine, his torso slowly moving up and down under a blanket, and the playful mewing of his daughters downstairs. Every so often, his wife, Wahiba, stands up from the couch at the sound of her husband’s computerised voice. “Eyes, please,” is a request to soothe his eyes with sterilised pads.

Pone, whose real name is Guilhem Gallart, is living with motor neurone disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the devastating and incurable illness that disrupts the control of all the body’s muscles. Pone is irreversibly paralysed, confined to bed and unable to move anything but his eyes, his link to others only made possible through technology. But his mind, trapped inside his unresponsive body, functions as it always used to: bursting with ideas. His situation evokes that of Jean Dominique-Bauby, the fashion editor who lived with locked-in syndrome following a major stroke and

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