Traduccion al Espanol

(2012) - This project is about how music is an international language that transcends boundaries and allows people of different cultures to connect and share. It is inspired by my travels in South America where I have made great friends and gotten to know people often without being able to communicate fully with traditional language.

In the long run, I hope to bring musicians together and inspire them to travel with this project. For this first part of the project, I'll post interviews with musicians from different backgrounds and/or countries. Each submission will include an audio or video interview with them in their native language (usually Spanish) or English and an example of their music. Enjoy!

7/28 - Tenth post...

Heike Kagler - Beijing, China (Berlin, Germany)

"I think I'm lucky that for me improvisation was never a problem. A lot of classical musicians are really trained to read music and play exactly what is written and try to interpret that in a certain way and are somehow very blocked. If they don't have the score to look at they don't know what to do. For me I think because I also sing it has never been a problem to just improvise."

An example of Heike's music (acappella)

Heike on cello with Su Zixu

The interview audio

Hello. Welcome to another Language of Music Project interview. This is Clarke and I'm here with... do you want to say your name?

Hi, I'm Heike Kagler from Berlin Germany, and living and playing music in Beijing, China.

How long have you been in Beijing?

I'm going on 16 years now. So in August it'll be 16.

And you've lived here constantly that whole time?

Yes. I go back home to Berlin at least once if not twice a year, definitely for Christmas and then usually around summer or autumn time.

Why did you why did you choose to come to Beijing in the first place?

I studied sinology which is like China studies back in Berlin. And then I got a scholarship to come study in Beijing and the original plan was to come study and better my Chinese and go live and see the country that I'd chosen of interest. And then I just never went back. So the original plan was one year to come study in Beijing.

So one year turned into 16?

Yes. I just never went back. The first year just went by so quickly and time passed so quickly and I wasn't happy with my Chinese yet. And so I reapplied for the scholarship and got an extension. So then I paid for the second year and then things fell into place in a weird way that I ended up just staying here.

So what instruments do you play?

My main instrument is cello, which I started playing from the age of eight. So coming from a strong classical background of course I play a bit of very mediocre piano and I strum the guitar a bit and I sing. But really my main instrument is cello.

The piano here in your house, is that yours? Are you the one that plays that?

Yes that's my piano. I really missed having a piano here for a long time and then I found this second hand piano from some Japanese people who moved back home. So I got a good deal on it and I was so happy to finally have a piano even though I don't play it well. But I enjoy playing and just for myself basically. At my parents place, I grew up having a piano in the living room and I would always be p laying. So I really missed that for a few years.

So you said you're classically trained. Did you study classical music for a long time when you were younger?

Yes. The cello is a classical instrument so I took lessons when I was eight and all the way until 19. And during my teenage years I got very busy and very involved playing in various youth orchestras in Berlin mainly and also some semiprofessional ensembles, stuff like that. And then since my plan was to come to Beijing only for one year I didn't bring my cello for that year. But then when I decided to stay for another year, I thought, OK I cannot not have my cello or not be playing for two years. So then I brought my cello over and ended up staying here. So I've always had my cello with me then. The only problem was then I couldn't find a symphony orchestra to participate in because in China, it's not the same environment really as in Germany. You don't have high level amateur orchestras or semi-professional orchestras, youth orchestras at a very high level, something that you can simply participate in for the fun of it. So either you are inscribed [enrolled] in some university that happens to have like a western style Symphony Orchestra and not a Chinese one. So basically I just never got back into big orchestra playing. And so I started doing more like chamber music with some friends.

So you haven't really been able to find any Orchestras to play with here?

No, it just doesn't really exist. It's also then coming from the foreigners who discovered that there is no such landscape in China. So there is actually. A semi-professional, amateur, for-the-fun-of-it kind of Orchestra, that was founded by a Russian here. And so I participated in that for a while but then I got too busy and sometimes I still help out because usually it's like 'oh, we don't have enough cellos.'

What other styles of music have you played in your life?

Now it's all turned into various different styles and projects which is very cool. I think I'm lucky that for me improvisation was never a problem. A lot of classical musicians are really trained to read music and play exactly what is written and try to interpret that in a certain way and are somehow are very blocked. If they don't have the score to look at they don't know what to do. For me I think because I also sing it has never been a problem to just improvise. So initially I started playing with Dan Taylor who is a guy from Yorkshire so we do this kind of what we call it Celtic rock folk.

This is here in Beijing?

This is here in Beijing. So that's maybe like three years ago actually we started playing together and then it was just kind of like a small explosion of sorts because after shows people approached me, "oh that's so great so wonderful or something and also I have a band actually and cello would be so fantastic on it." You know so like basically it just kind of went from this one project where I also finally step out of my living room because I mean I was always you know musician at heart let's say that or you know classical ensembles small stuff mostly, also for corporate gigs like corporate events and such.

So you've been hired to play for corporate events?

Yes. So that's something that you know little music scene or you know the people your friends and so I'd never get to see you play or you don't even know about. So you know and if I sing or play piano or just play by myself in my living room nobody would know. So in that sense I'm very lucky to have met Dan because I don't know if like I would have ever by myself taken that step outside. I never thought, well, I have some of my own songs, but to take that step outside of your own living room and play like I'm going to go present this to the world or something. I don't know if I would have done that by myself. I think I would have. Always just played by myself for myself. Yeah, and this has changed a lot. You know so we do this Baroque-folk thing so it still has very classical like elements.

Do you sing in that group?

No. So Dan plays guitar and sings and I play cello. And then I play with a Chinese guy from Inner Mongolia. It's a somewhat similar setup so he sings on the guitar, I play cello but I also do a bit of vocal harmonies here and there. And as of late we have also added a tabla player so it's really interesting. It's also folk music, like indie folk.

This is Su? Right yeah ok, I saw that show.

Ok, at Yue Space, ah yeah. Ok so with him I've also played for maybe two and a half years now. And it used to be, until last year early this year it used to be the two of us. And then Hadi(?) on the tabla was kind of added a few months ago. But Su, for example I met directly through Dan because they were friends. And then for a while we also had a Finnish folk musician in Beijing who unfortunately left. So we were just kind of for friends. We also played some shows together just like the four of us and doing some of Su's Songs, some of Hanna's songs, some of Dan's songs. But then Hanna left unfortunately. Yeah then I've done, with The Hutong Yellow Weasels, who still exist but most members moved to Dali and to Shanghai and so on. So in that sense it fell apart last year or the year before. They invited me also to sing and play cello. So they do like the old time stuff, like put on barn dances.

Like old time kind of like swing or dixieland?

No old time like fiddle stuff, really old vintage gospel and vintage, very folksy and cool. And then the more you're out there I guess the more people you meet. So somehow I ended up playing with various people doing lots of blues. And there was a lot of good feedback from different sides really, where everybody was surprised how well the cello works with blues because it's not the natural combination not the typical. But with all these groups I also got to sing more. And now I also did actually have some of my solo shows so I do have my own songs. And it's quite funny because on my own songs I rarely even use the cello. I loop a lot. I do mostly kind of blues gospel Motown kind of stuff and I loop a lot, pluck the guitar a bit

Do you play with a band for that?

No, for the most part I'm just doing me and my loop station basically, yeah, very simple but some of the songs I've played with other people also you know just kind of helping each other out or know maybe it's like two solo artists and we kind of mix it together in one show, and she will play on my song and I will play on her song or something like that. There's more! So a few months ago we started this group Just Chillin. That's three girls and three cellos, two songwriters and everybody sings, and a little bit of piano a little bit of guitar but always at least two cellos if not three cellos playing and singing together. So that's two American friends. And Joy she writes her own songs so we do a lot of her songs. We do some of my songs and we also pick some really fun covers. Such as "All about that bass, bout that bass..." So we stand up for that and pluck it, pluck the cello. So that's really fun actually.

And that group plays in venues?

Yes, also the same, live venues around town. We also just recently, like two weeks ago maybe, got offered like a full weekly gig at basically a hotel bar. Yeah those are the main ones. Then there's another group called Ad Libitum. But it's not as original as I would like, yet. We do a lot of covers, pop music that I usually wouldn't be into but the main guy on guitar likes those songs a lot. I just go along with it. And then we throw in a few originals.

Let me ask you a related question, the music scene here, what's it like? Does it seem does seem like a lot of people have to play covers to get work? is there a lot of original music? Do people go to each other's shows?

I mean I think it's very intertwined, kind of small in the way. Like after a while you really know a lot of people, maybe not all of them but most. Also with WeChat and applications like this there are various groups, also for second-hand gear, people exchanging gear or they're you know trying to sell their stuff. And there are musicians in Beijing groups and various music-related groups so it's very kind of open. I think that's why also you find people like me for example playing with different bands here and there. There's an overlap of people and there's a lot of original music. That's what happens at live venues and so on, which is why with that one group that I just mentioned I'm not so much into playing live venues because I feel like we do too many covers. Like my idea would be, ok we go play it DDC [Dusk Dawn Club] for example and it should really be original music. And then there's this whole other world of professional musicians who specifically go for long term projects or you know their weekly engagements. So that's mostly cover stuff that you know in the hotels, at corporate events and so on. And those overlap in certain venues a little bit because some venues are maybe called venues because they have a stage and so on and they put on a lot of music. But they're more a bar than a venue, than a music thing. So then you also get a lot of covers. They're like very danceable music, like a Samba band and a swing band and that kind of stuff. So there's these three types of places.

Can you think of like a favorite musical moment in your time playing music?

It's always a really good moment if you can enjoy yourself and you can feel that you're doing a good job, like something is working out very well when you're on stage. And then of course also if you get a really good reaction from audience. Those moments are always great enough to see it's working, that people actually really enjoy your stuff or you get a lot of nice comments afterwards and stuff. And for me, with Su it has also reached a similar level for me, but mainly with Dan who I played with first. We really have very good chemistry and communication, like music wise. Somehow it really just works so well. And with him. We often have these kind of moments or shows even where afterwards we're just like, ecstatic with joy or like, this was like magic today. It's just really good music making so that of course, those are highlights.

Ok, these are the deep questions. Why is music important to you? Yeah I'll leave it at that. I can give you more direction if you want.

Well that's a very difficult question. I think music is just very important to life. I can't imagine a life without music. Whether or not I personally play an instrument or make music. Then I will enjoy listening to music. Or even if you enjoy dancing you will also listen to music. And anyway then maybe a broader question would be; what is music? So going into all sorts of sounds and stuff. I mean if you look at the really modern music, whether it's the compositions or electronic bands, or people who experiment with sounds Basically everything and anything can be music right or musical, rhythmical, melodical. And for me I grew up with music from my childhood. I grew up in a big family of six kids and we all were allowed to choose a pet and an instrument. And also like my mom played the piano and recorder and guitar and so on. Until this day every time I go back to Berlin there will always be classical music playing in the kitchen because that's where my mom does her magic and. So I think even before I was born I already listened to music all the time. So I can't escape it.

Cool. OK here one more. Well I guess two more. Do you think that your national background has influenced the music that you do now? You play classical music. I guess I always go places and people are always like "oh American, do play jazz?" you know people always want to play jazz. How is that for you?

I don't think the music I make has much to do with my German background. Yeah, classical I think, whether it's in the States or in Germany or Wherever. It depends maybe more on your social surroundings, like your parents. So that would be my cultural upbringing. But as far as German music goes there is some cool stuff. But if I think about German folk music, that is something that I'd rather not listen to, I'm embarrassed to say. Maybe I should be a bit more patriotic something.

What do you think of folk music that you do now? Is it more influenced by folk music from other countries?

Yes. When I think of German folk music or traditional music, ou have this typical 'rum ta ta, rum ta ta.' [What I do now] is more classical English, Finnish American, wWhat not. And also the German music that I do like is influenced by American pop culture. So there are some good indie folk and indie rock German bands as well. But then to be honest, where did that come from, that style? It definitely just swept over from the states. So that's not really indigenous German music. So it's hard to say.

Yeah, I understand. I guess that's all I've got. That was great thank you. Any other final comments you want to say?

Well, It's nice that music really is an international language. I'm not saying that, but I actually really believe it. And here's a small anecdote; I used to also work for the German embassy, the cultural section, and I was responsible for arts and music. So I put on exhibitions and also concerts at the ambassador's residence. So for example we had a German pianist who came over from Hamburg that played together with a Chinese guy on the Ruan, a very old traditional Chinese instrument. And the Chinese guy didn't speak a word of English. And of course the German guy didn't speak a word of Chinese. And the organization, like what's the time frame and blah blah, all these were of course translated. But then musically, it's all about listening and communicating. You know you listen and you answer and so on and they put on a great concert. That had played together like once before or something, and surely communicating through the music. And they were like really good friends in the end you know but they could not, with language, they could not communicate at all. They could say like, 'hi!' and maybe their names, or 'my good friend' or something like that, and that was it. So it was all just the music.

So music is a universal language. Yes that's our final point. I like it.

Yes.

Jose Luis Ballesteros Galindo - Pozoblanco, Spain

Video by Carolina Reid - La Musica de Carnaval en Andalucia - La Panacea

"My group, 'La Panacea,' does Carnival music, which has the format of a theatrical show. Carnival shows include four different basic arts: Acting, lyrics and poetry, music, and finally, the costumes. We have to have everything set up in the thirty minutes before the curtain goes up so that people see a Medieval marketplace when the show starts."

Another example of a Comparsa group in Cadiz, Spain in 2013.

The official interview audio

First off, where are you from and where do you live now?

I'm from the town of Pozoblanco, Cordoba.

What instruments do you play?

I basically just play guitar, the instrument I've been playing for my whole life.

And do you sing?

We do what we can. I don't have an amazing voice or anything. But to put together songs and stuff, I have to sing a lot. Personally I don't really like to sing a lot, but I accompany the others.

And you write things too right?

Yes.

Have you studied music formally?

No, I'm self-taught. Everything I've learned has been by ear. When I was little, my father gave me a guitar and I started listening and playing and it seemed like a really fun hobby. Now that I'm older I've realized I didn't really do it right, that I should have studied. In fact I'm starting to do that now; it's never too late to start building a formal knowledge of music.

What types of music do you play or have you played before?

Well, because I'm self-taught, I can't really say the specific styles and rhythms that well, but basically what I do is flamenco, many different styles of flamenco. It's the music that defines Andalucia, so it sort of brings all kinds of music together.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

I like to listen to everything. And my girlfriends have always suffered because at home I'll spent the day listening to all different kinds of music, from classical music, like Samuel Barber, to whatever new group is coming out at the moment, like Antilopez, to different types of ska, reggae. But in the end, even considering all that, what I really listen to most is flamenco. Definitely.

What's the name of your group?

The Comparsa group is going to be called "La Panacea."

And what kind of music does it play?

"La Panacea" does a style of music that comes from Carnival celebrations that has the format of a theatrical show. The first part of the show introduces the group and its work. Then the presentation moves on to some "paso doble" songs, which are used to critique things, for social analysis, in fact social journalism. Then there's the "cuple" which is funnier, more fresh, that's used more for humor, because Carnival also has a lot of humor and laughter. Then the final part is a potpourri or mix of different poetic and musical styles that goes with the theme and gives a sort of final message.

Can you tell us a little more about the history of the music?

Comparsa music has its roots in Medieval times and concepts, in Medieval markets. So what we're going to do is take the ambience of a Medieval market from the 14th or 15th century and make a Medieval market of the 20th or 21st century, with the current state of things. So anyways, the story is there's a merchant that starts working in the family business and discovers that his grandfather found the Panacea. The Panacea in Greek mythology is a a goddess that has the cure for everything bad. So we make this paradox. Even with all this, things are pretty bad in the society we live in today, not just because of the economic crisis, but because of the pills we have, fighting, etc. So we use this metaphor to talk a little bit about society, to cheer people up a bit.

Why are you guys preparing this music right now?

We're taking part in a competition in February that starts on the 15th. So we'll be working in stages up until then. Right now we're putting the music together. In January we'll put together a little more of the show, the theater part of it. So then when the 15th of February comes around we'll be prepared.

What does the presentation include apart from the music?

I would say that carnival shows include four different basic arts. Acting, lyrics and poetry, music, and finally, the costumes. And when these four elements are well put-together and prepared, a united final product comes out. In the theater part of things, we put a lot of effort into the 'tipo' or the costume. Remember that our theme is the marketplace. Then there's the set on the stage. We have to have everything set up in the thirty minutes before the curtain goes up so that people see a Medieval marketplace when the show starts. So behind the curtain we want to set up a whole medieval market scene. The music is what we're working on now early on because it's the hardest part, the lyrics a bit too. Then there's the interpretation and dramatization at the end.

Can you describe the emotion and atmosphere of a rehearsal?

Normally in a rehearsal, we come to do a job like any person that goes to work. We do it as professionally as possible. But we try to do it a little differently because we're in a world that's pretty lousy right now. It allows this kind of messing around we were talking about before, more fun, lighter. Because the more fun we're having practicing and the atmosphere and everything, the better everything will come out.

How many tunes do you guys have? Can you talk a little about how the show starts too.

Our show starts with a presentation of where our theme and name comes from, like I mentioned, from the idea of the merchant family. The grandfather discovered a concoction that a Panacea goddess had thrown into the sea. In this concoction was the cure for everything bad the goddess could cure. Through this story the presentation continues into the 'paso doubles' about the politic situation. Actually, it would be better to say it's our ideal political situation, the political situation that we want, which unfortunately is a fantasy these days. Then there's another 'paso doble' to the famous 'Parot' Doctrine [a law that reduces prison sentences for criminals] that was recently passed, and a 'paso doble' to Pope Frances which will have pretty important lyrics. And then like I said before, the 'paso doble' is used for critique, so it's really good to bring it back out at the end so it's fresher and more poised.

How many tunes do you have?

We still have to figure that out exactly. We have about eight 'paso doubles' and six 'cuples.' Then there's the presentation and the potpourri and that stuff is unchangeable, the same music and the same lyrics. The 'paso doubles' can change a little; the music stays the same but the lyrics can vary to make different criticisms.

Anything else you want to say?

Well, the experience we're having this year has been very pleasant. We're very happy and proud of that.

How many years has the group been around?

This is the first year this group has existed in this formation. The thing is that some of the members have been doing this for almost seventeen years, fifteen, twelve years. Geez, in five or six years I'll be like that too.

Sorry, what were you saying about the group?

The group was created from experienced carnaval performers from other groups. But I think we share a sort of restlessness that was similar, an outlook on carnaval performing. With the personalities of each person there are lots of similarities (affinities) and so we've gone out on a limb and tried to put ourselves together. We thought this could be a cool thing, and the ingredients are coming together well. It could be a pretty spectacular thing. But anyways, we're still in the process, maybe I've spoken too soon.

Marcelino Clode N'Cabna - Bissau, Guinea-Bissau

"Music is very important to me. Religious music brings you into communion with God. That's how we say it in Portuguese Creole. When we play, it's as if we were reading the bible. And that makes music very important to me."

A solo guitar and vocals version of one of Marcelino's songs



The official interview audio

Because this interview was in a mixture of Portuguese and Portuguese Creole, I had some trouble translating it. Words I'm unsure of are indicated by a (?) and there are a couple parts I couldn't understand enough to translate.

A little about your background, where are you from?

I'm from Guinea, [the city of] Bissau, in the Hafia neighborhood, on 'De Continente' street.

What instrument do you play?

I play the guitar, and the Tambor [hand drum] as well. And I sing.

Have you studied music formally?

No, I've never studied music, but I learned some things at church in the choir.

What style of music do you play?

I play Tina(?), Reggae, and Cumbe(?) a little as well. And I play religious music.

Do you play with other people?

Yes. I play Tambor, my friend from church(?) plays piano, and my teacher plays guitar. Sometimes I lead and write the music and the others sing.

What type of music do you listen to?

I like a lot of types of music, slow music, Rap a little. I also like Batira(?) And religious music is what I like most, the music of God.

Why is music important in your life?

I like music. It's very important to me. Religious music for example brings you into communion with God. That's how we say it in Portuguese Creole. When we play, it's as if we were reading the bible. And that makes music very important to me. (friend says something in the background) Yeah, I'd also like to be professional. But here, how would you say it, there aren't conditions for it. We have a group with four members - Me, Marcelo, Jane, and Julihno. But we don't have a way to record. We have, let's see, seven musicians at the church, two official church musicians, and four others that play non-sacred religious music. We've never been able to record, just practice and get together and play. We can't record because there's no money for recording.

What has been the most important musical moment in your life?

(Unfortunately, I didn't understand this well enough to give it a passable translation)

Do you write music?

Yes, I write music we play at church in our group of four. And sometimes other people come, for example this afternoon another guy came to play and then left to go home after.

Why is music important in your country?

Here there isn't really much of a scene or opportunity for music because if you want to record, money is going to come out of your pocket right away. And people don't like to pay money for music here. They pirate a lot of stuff. People mostly just care about sports and things like that. There is very little music.

Are there musicians from here that are known internationally?

Oh yeah, there are a bunch. There are some that are in the United States, Manecas Costas for example. Others(??)

Anything else you'd like to say?

Well, I'd like to record. We want to record our music as a group, but we need help so we can do it.

Miguel Talavera Fargas - Matagalpa, Nicaragua

"I feel like music has been part of me since I was very young. Every music I heard, I wanted to learn how to play. Later music has helped me in other ways. Sometimes it's just a fun thing to do, like a hobby. At other times, I've depended on music to earn a little money, to sustain myself economically. If I could spend the whole day listening to music, I would."

Miguel's music with his band Calle del Sol



The official interview audio

Firstly, where are you from?

I'm from Matagalpa, Nicaragua. I live in 'La Chispa' neighborhood.

What instruments do you play?

I play guitar, a little piano, a little bass, a little bit of drums, a little saxophone, flute, marimba.

Have you studied music formally?

The first person that familiarized me a little with music was my Dad. He's a musician. When I was eight years old, he started teaching me to play piano. Every Saturday we practiced for an hour. Later in high school I had a bit of music class, but it wasn't very formal, just basic stuff. And if we were interested, we could find other more formal classes outside of school.

What styles of music have you played in your life?

Cumbia, Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Alternative Rock, sometimes a bit of jazz jamming, just a little but. But mostly those first couple styles.

Do you have any groups right now?

Yes, currently I play in three different groups. The first is called, 'The Craxtons' which is classic rock. The second is called 'Calle del Sol' which is typical Nicaraguan music with Marimba. And the last one is called 'Omanca' where we play music for dancing, for parties - weddings and birthdays. It's dance music - Salsa, Merengue, Cumbias.

What kinds of music do you prefer to listen to?

The truth is there's a lot of music I like to listen to. There isn't one style that's superior to others. When the music is good and it has nice arrangements, I like it a lot. But I might say I like Salsa and Cumbia a little less because they have less musical complexity. They're not that hard to play. I like to listen to music that's a little harder to play.

Do you write music?

Very little. In fact in my whole life I've only done two songs. They're romantic, for someone that was special in my life. They're romantic ballads.

How's the music scene in your city?

The typical music from my city is Polka, Mazurka, and Amaqueo. It's music that's only accompanied by guitar, violin, and accordion. That's what our grandparents played, the music of the older generation. But with time, all of this is slowly dying. People now mostly listen to newer music. Traditional music doesn't really matter to people anymore. And about the musical atmosphere - There are few places here to perform live music. Actually there are like three or four or five in all of Matagalpa. And usually there's only music on weekends - Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The musical variety is pretty limited in Matagalpa. And most of the musicians know each other. There are a lot of musicians, but everyone knows each other because if you see someone you know somewhere, they'll ask about someone else, like "Hey, do you know my friend?" Or you see someone play somewhere and you meet them.

What are your musician friends like?

Well, everyone studies. Some drink more than others, some less, some not at all. But when we make music, when we jam or practice, we really give the best we've got so that the music sounds good. Because we all have dedication and the feeling of music inside of us, and that's what's important.

What has been the most important musical moment of your life?

One was when I had been studying piano for only about two years. My first year in high school I started learning to play marimba. And with the high school band, we went to a competition with other bands from the area. I got to play marimba in the Matagalpa Stadium in front of thousands of people. And I was only twelve years old. I was super nervous, but it all went really well.

Why is music important in your life?

I feel like music has been part of me since I was very young. Every music I heard, I wanted to learn how to play. Later music has helped me in other ways. Sometimes it's just a fun thing to do, like a hobby. And also at times in my life, I've depended on music to earn a little money, which has helped me sustain myself economically. If I could spend the whole day listening to music, I would.

Why is music important in your country?

There's a kind of music called revolutionary music. It's music that came out after the Sandinista war against the Samosa government. There's a lot of very beautiful music, and it's all the story of what happened during the war - things that happened to Sandino, the foreigners that came to Nicaragua to impose their laws, heroes that fell in battle, people that gave up everything for our country. So music is super important because in music is the whole narrative of our history. And on top of that, music represents us. I really like the variety of music that there is in Nicaragua. The north has Polka, Mazurka, and Amaqueo. The Atlantic region has palamayo and dance music. In the south you find Chichero music, which is like 'banda' music, just wind instruments. And then we have the Occident, which is distinguished by Cumbia, the Cumbia Chinandegana, Leon, etc. So every part of Nicaragua is distinguished by a certain kind of music.

Paulo Kishimoto and Bruno Tarzia - Sao Paulo, Brazil

Paulo's music with his group 'The Forgotten Boys'



The official interview audio

A little bit of your story, where are you guys from?

Me, Paulo, I was born in Santos, but I've spent most of my life in Sao Paulo. I'm from Sao Paulo; I consider myself from Sao Paulo.

Me, Bruno, as well. I'm from Sao Paulo. I was born here and have lived here (??? 0:48)

What instruments do you guys play?

Bruno: I play the drums.

Paulo: I play a bunch of instruments: electric bass, acoustic bass, keyboards, piano, violin, Colombian 'timble,' Cuban 'tres,' button accordion, and a little percussion as well.

Have you studied music formally? Where?

Paulo: I graduated with bachelor's degree in popular music from the University of Campinas, a public university in the state of Sao Paulo, UniCampi.

Bruno: I studied in Los Angeles at the LA Music Academy.

What styles of music have you played in your life?

Paulo: A lot of different styles. All different types of music from Latin America, African-American music, all of Latin America, Rock and Roll since I was little, a little bit of jazz, and that's about it.

Bruno: What I'm playing most now is Brazilian music and Jazz. I've also been preparing for some gigs where I play rock, samba, funk, soul, US stuff (??? 2:42).

Do you have any groups right now? What are they called?

Bruno: I work with a pianist name Fabiano de Castro. I play in a trio with him where we play his compositions.

I'm talking with him on Facebook. He's playing today in Teta Jazz.

Bruno: I also have a show on Wednesday with a trio with Vinicius Duolin (??? 3:27), who played saxophone with Hermeto Pascual. It's going to be a sweet show.

Ah, well I'm leaving tomorrow, what a bummer. And your bands?

Paulo: I play in a rock band from Sao Paulo called the Forgotten Boys. We've been playing for 15 years now.

I saw an interview on youtube with the Forgotten Boys.

Paulo: Yeah, we've played various shows with big bands. In the last show we opened for Guns n' Roses. I play keyboard in that group, keyboard and 'LapSteel.' Then I have a quintet that plays traditional Cuban Son, 'Compay Tumbao.' I have an orchestra with 10 musicians that plays Latin music. It's called 'Orchestra K'. I play in another rock band called Golden Ground where I play guitar. It's a cool group. (Here there's a minute where I confuse the way he says 'ground' with 'grunge.' Good laughs. And what else? Ah, I play with a singer named Glua Hayes (name??? 5:13), Brazilian music, very old-time repertory, music from the 30s and 40s. I also play in a circus theather group called (name??? 5:30), where I play accordion, drums, violin, and guitar.

What kinds of music do you prefer to listen to?

Paulo: At home I always listen to Rock, Jazz, older things, and Latin music in general: Brazilian music, Cuban music, Colombian music, Uruguayan music, Tangos.

Bruno: Music, music, music. I don't really have a specific genre.

But there isn't a specific type of music for one thing and another for another thing, or time of day?

Paulo: Yeah... Uhh... (laughs) When I'm gonna fuck I listen to...

Bruno: Barry White and Marvin Gaye.

(laughs all around)

Do you write music?

Paulo: I compose, yes. I don't have many songs I've written but I have a few, of all type of music. Actually, I composed a lot for an album for a group I didn't mention. And I have another group that's a duo of instrumental music, danceable stuff, sort of Pop in the good sense of the word, danceable, sort of funky. (??? 7:28) I also have some rap stuff and, hip-hop, stuff like that. And in that group I did almost en entire album, a good part of the songs. I also have some songs I still haven't recorded. I want to record some songs with orchestra (??? 7:50).

Bruno: I compose some but I'm just starting. It's more like exercises, distractions, to disconnect, to understand things better (??? 8:15). I plan to compose more, specifically compose for groups.

Paulo: Ah, I also composed two songs on the last 'Forgotten Boys' album. Those two songs have videos. Those are songs with lyrics, in English by the way.

How's the music scene in your city?

Paulo: I think that it's very interesting and diverse. There are places to see all different styles of music. I don't know if all of them are are as recognized as they should be, but I think it's a city that's really open for people to do any type of music.

What are your musician friends like?

Paulo: Drug-addicted, drunk, and pot-bellied (lots of laughing). No, they're my best friends really. A good portion of my friends are musicians actually. And we're always working and playing. A good part of my friends are musicians or work with art in general, movies or theater. But it's not a prerequisite.

What has been the most important musical moment of your life?

Paulo: One really important moment for me was when I was about to graduate from the University and I had the opportunity to go play for a season in Mexico in a luxury resort. That was a really important moment when I was still a student and I wasn't a professional musician yet. I wasn't working very much, hardly at all. And that was like my first job offer, personally. And another important moment... when my rock band won an award from the Sao Paulo Association of Art Critics. We won the award for best brazilian music band. And we played rock and sang in English, so it was a little bizarre that in Brazil a band with such a unique Brazilian culture and different rhythms, would beat all the other bands. We really didn't expect that honestly. And it was at least an acknowledgement from an important organization that's not a business, nothing economic, like a non-profit organization. It's not an award from a TV station. And we thought we'd double our earnings and stuff afterwards and... nothing (laughs).

Bruno: I don't know... the time I had in the United States was pretty cool, a great learning period...

It can also be a small moment...

Bruno: There was a time when I was playing on Wednesdays and Fridays, something like that, en a bar here in Sao Paulo con Fabiano's trio and with invited guests. We played several months with Vinicius Duolin (name??? 13:42) with some great musicians like that. It was a really great time, and the group really worked together well.

How does music affect your personal life? How does it help you in your life?

Bruno: (laughs) It's more like, house does life affect music...

Paulo: I think, the truth is, I need to music to exist (??? 14:40). i think it's the way I best express myself. And it's always a zone of comfort. It can take you to different places. I can remember a lot of times when music helped me (??? 15:08). With any problrems I had in my life, I always had music to comfort me. It's always been there for me.

Bruno: I can't even think about my life without music. If I go a few days without playing music, I go crazy.

Why is music important in your country?

Paulo: I don't know... It might be that our greatest cultural identity is our music. Also included in that is our dance. And Brazil is really a huge country, as if it were all of Europe. It's like a bunch of countries in one. You can see a lot more similarity between a person from Sao Paulo and a person from Buenos Aires than you can between someone from Sao Paulo and someone from the far north of Brazil. Similarly, the south of Brazil is really similar to Uruguay and Argentina. And every region has it's own culture, it's language, it's accent. And some regions have some really increible things. Recife, for example, has some rhythms and styles that are really strongly from there, (??? 17:10) Carnaval in the street. The music of Rio de Janeiro (styles??? 17:19). Every state has it's own particular style, some more strongly than others. It's really difficult to talk about Sao Paulo because, maybe it's a little polemic (??? 17:40), but I think Sao Paulo in the end gets people from all over Brazil and the music here is a reflection of that. What would the tradition music of Sao Paulo be? Well, it has some influences of rural Samba, things like that, but the actual city of Sao Paulo, there's also been a big European influence, like rich people that try to imitate that formal concert culture (??? 18:19). People from Rio Grande do Sur, from the northeast, from Italy, Japan that came in mass, and especially Chinese (??? 18:35). The Samba schools in Rio (??? 18:42), one of the oldest Samba schools in Sao Paulo, the "nene de matilde" who was a (??? 18:47) two years ago, who a master conductor and every year he visits family in Rio Janeiro and brings back all the new Carnaval stuff and 'batucada' to Sao Paulo. It's hard to talk about a face for the music of Sao Paulo. There were some Avante-Garde movements in the city of Sao Paulo at the end of the 80s... asthetically it's difficult to define a style. But I'm getting redundant now, going in circles (laughs).

Thank you. Anything else you want to say?

Paulo: About music in general I guess... In the last century the music industry created a certain status for the image of the musician that it's this great societal achievement and you can be a star and earn millions of dollars and now it seems things are returning to reality, that the musician has always been poor and miserable, which is not good in reality. (??? 20:16) There are some musicians that are earning money but I'm not earning as much these days. (???) We're always trying to differentiate the state of the musician from past times, ??? as if everyone was waiting for something... (???) I mean, Johann Sebastian Bach... (???) died in fugido? without a cent (???) ... his last compostition was a failure in sales. And remember he was someone that was really important in music... (laughs) something different, spiritual in music (???).

Danti Moretti - Valdivia, Chile

"I think we're in a time right now of growth and development in Chile. The conservatory here was closed when Pinochet's government took control because they said all musicians were communists. The regime was kind of a cultural dark age in Chile. It was very difficult to do live music, or find culture spaces for preformances, etc. Then in the nineties things started to improve. Democrary returned, and a culture of music began to be reconstructed slowly. We've had to go back and reweave things, so that there can be people dedicated to art, and that there's no prejudice against art."

Danti's music, solo piano



The official interview audio

Where are you from?

I'm from La Union, Los Rios Region, Chile. And now I live in Valdivia.

What instruments do you play?

Piano. That's what I've studied formally. I also play a little guitar, but just for myself, very basic stuff, chords, etc. And also a little bit of the Venezuelan 'Cuatro,' which I have over there, but very basic stuff, like nothing I could perform or anything.

Have you studied music formally?

Yes. Currently I'm studying in the music conservatory of the University 'Austral' of Chile. I study musical interpretation. And before I studied with a private teacher in LA Union, and then at an academy in Osorno, Chile, and now here at the conservatory.

What styles of music have you played in your life?

Principally classical music. And informally, I've delved a little into other styles like jazz. But like I was telling you earlier, I still don't really get the rhythm of swing. I get the chords and the harmony and stuff, but the feel is really difficult for me. And back in high school in LA Union, we had a music workshop where we played a variety of things, like rock and blues. We put together some pop tunes with a singer, and we also accompanied the school choir.

Are you part of any group right now?

No. But early this year in the conservatory I had a chamber workshop where I played classical duets with a contrabass player. That's all I've done this year in terms of playing with other musicians.

What types of music do you listen to?

Classical music of course, also a lot of jazz, and latin music, latin rhythms. That's what I pay the most attention to and what I like to play most. I listen to a lot of Bach, Mozart, Shumann, Chopin. I try to learn from everything. For my program in the conservatory, whenever I have to play pieces by a new composer, I try to listen to some of their work to get used to their sound and style. And then for Latin music, there's a Chilean group called "Congreso," from Valparaiso. They play a fusion of different styles, not just latin, but also jazz. And also Venzuelan folclor, Argentinean music, different things. I try not to be prejudiced.

What part of music do you like most?

I like to play, I like to listen. For example a new thing I recently discovered is listening to music while jogging. Before, I would go out running and get tired really quickly. And now, listening to music, I'm more relaxed, in a more relaxed zone. It's a new use of music I discovered. I also like to sing. I'm in a choir in the university, which has been great for the relationships it's allowed me to create. People from a lot of different majors join the choir, not necesarily just musicians. So I've met a variety of people, writers for example. I met my girlfriend there too, who's studying to be a veterinarian. The choir is mostly focused on classical music. Every year we prepare an hour of Mozart and present it at the end of the year. It's called, "Youth with Mozart." We perform in Valdivia and some other parts of the region. Sometimes during the year we do concerts, but mostly at the end of the year.

Why is music important in your life?

I like music because it's somehting that excites me; it moves me. And I feel like it's a great gift in life, something people should take advantage of, something I'd like to try to show other people so they can experience it too. It's always helped give meaning to my life, listening to music, trying to learn to play better. It's been a very beneficial thing.

Why is music important in your country?

This is a question that could have a lot of different answers, depending on what group you focus on. For example, in the north, there are some dances, like the 'Tirana' that honor the Virgen Mary. There music has a ritual function for people and they prepare and work for that. And then there's the world of hip-hop music, of young people that participate and make their own music. For them it has a sense of social protest, of personal expression, of recreation too. And there are others that study music and for them it's a profession. And I think all these things are important. The Chilean government has it's own manner of supporting and being involved in music. There's a thing called the Music Foundation, which was created seven years ago. Through the foundation, people can apply to projects that support musicians. It's a part of the Ministry of Culture. And it's been important for promoting music. In the 90s nothing like that existed yet. In my music school now for example, there are some people that have traveled to the US to study, to do fellowships. Some others went to Germany. The foundation also finances projects where group of artists make a recording and then present the album and do a concert.

It seems to me that the government supports music a lot in Chile. What do you think about that?

I think we're in a time right now of growth and development. We're still educating ourselves in the process of music. There aren't many people, for example, that are prepared to pay to go see a concert. So there's little money to pay musicians for playing. We're in the process of socializing music, of building support for music. The music culture was influenced a lot by the military dictatorship. The convervatory here was closed when Pinochet's government took control because they said all musicians were communists. And it took a while to revive the school. So the Pinochet regime was kind of a dark age in Chile. It was very difficult to do live music, or find culture spaces for preformances, meetings, etc, because of fear of communism. Then in the nineties things started to improve. Democrary returned, and a culture of music began to be reconstructed slowly. It was difficult period in out history. And we've had to go back and reweave things, so that there can be people dedicated to art, and that there's no prejudice against art.

Why does music matter in the world?

I think it's similar to what I told you for why music matters in my life. Well, I also studied psycology, that's something I didn't tell you. A while back I interrupted my music studies and went to study psycology in Valparaiso for five years. I didn't play much during that time. It's something I regret a little, not studying music right away. It was pretty difficult to start again, but it wasn't like I had to start over from scratch. Actually, I got a scholarship to study in the university, which is difficult because like 30 people apply and they take 2. And I thought it would be especially hard becuase of my age and everything. It was a bit difficult, but in the end I got a spot. So I'm happy about that, and I'm trying to take advantage of the oppurtunity as much as possible. Anyways, I'm telling you I studied psycology because I learned that music is good for all people. for example, young kids learn to listen, to respect turns. When someone talks, they have to listen, and then they can talk. Music educates spiritually and also psychologically. It music helps young people development in many ways, individually, spiritually and cognitively. And it helps create healthy social relationships, in all aspects of life.

Pablo Ortiz - Valparaiso, Chile

"I'm a music teacher but I've also studied neuroscience. Music generates a lot of dopamine, which makes you happy. So music is something that gives me happiness. It generates well-being and quality of life, and thus general health. And because of that I consider it very important in my life."

Pablo's music with his band 'Manolo Verdejo'



The official interview audio

Where are you from?

I'm from the world, Chile, and the city of San Bernardo. I was born there 38 years ago. I've been living now for 20 years in Valparaiso, the city that formed me as a musician.

What instruments do you play?

I play mainly trumpet. My first instrument was the guitar when I was 12 years old. Then when I studied music, I learned to play a little bit of piano. And for a little while I studied bass.

Have you studied music formally?

Yes, at the Catholic University of Valparaiso.

What styles of music have you played in your life?

I've played Latin folk music, a little jazz, bossa nova, blues, Argentinean music, Cuban music. I've played music of black origin, classical music, many styles.

Do you have a group right now?

Yes, currently I'm playing with a reggae group called 'Manolo Verdejo' that we started six months ago. I play trumpet in the group. I played keyboard for a while, but I think now I'll just be playing trumpet. We're going to look for another keyboard player.

What kind of music do you listen to?

In general the music I like the most, and that I listen to the most, is black music - African music and all music that has roots in African music, like jazz, Afro-Cuban music, Peruvian music, Brazilian music. And on the other hand, in terms of rock, I like things that are a little more stylized and refined, with the folk influences of each country. I like Argentinean rock a lot, for example, which is influenced by samba, chacarera, etc. And then for up stuff, I like a lot of funk and soul. And also more peaceful music, like solo piano, Ryuichi Sakamoto for example. Right now in the background we're listening to Dwele.

What is your favorite part of music?

Of course I like to make music. When I make music, there's this magical connection, communication without words, through the thread of music. It's like a universal language, and I like that a lot. And I like listening. Actually, in this particular time in my life, I like listening more than playing.

Why is music important in your life?

I'm a music teacher but I've studied other things like neuroscience and I'm currently taking a course on Biodanza. Biodanza is a therapy that uses music as an instigator. Biologically it generates hormonal changes that are very important for your organic being. Music generates a lot of dopamine, which makes you happy. So music is something that gives me happiness. It generates well-being and quality of life, and thus general health. And because of that I consider it very important in my life.

Why is music important in your country?

Countries have their music to represent and express their identity. Chile has national music that expresses a part of what we are. But I think, as the country at the most extreme south of Latin America, we're a country with a lot of foreign influence, especially from the US. And compared to other countries, Chile expresses itself very little musically, has less musical identity. It's like a sponge. We take Argentinean music and make it our own. Music from Colombia shows up, and we make our own Cumbia. Same with Brazilian music and Reggaeton. Peru on the other hand, has a notable musical identity. So do Brazil and Argentina. Nevertheless, new original Chilean musicians are emerging with a lot of influence from foreign musicians and singers. And that's important for showing a national identity, for reinforcing kindred bonds.

Why is music important in the world?

Well, I think this is the most important part. It really gets at the origins of what we are as a human species. We are formed together through music and dance. And music unites us as a species. It communicates further than culture. Even though music defines certain cultures, it also transcends them. So I like meeting you and other musicians from other parts of the world. Even though we're not able to communicate many things by talking about them, we're able to play together, which generates a deeper, more human bond. I think this is very important. Music generates well-being, and it connects us spiritually.

Eduardo Barroetabena - Havana, Cuba

"All countries have different cultures. There's nothing more important than preserving the culture of your country. And what could be more effective than music and art for maintaining that culture."

Eduardo's music with his band 'Oddara'



The official interview audio

An outtake from further discussion

Where are you from?

I'm Cuban, from a province called 'Las Tunas.' I was born there. And I'm 26 years old.

What instrument do you play?

My formal background is in classical music. I studied classical popular percussion for ten years. And now what I like to play most is drum set. I also play a little piano, you know, to compose, but the instrument I like the most is the drums.

What styles of music have you played in your life?

I've played a variety of styles of music, including Folk music, popular Cuban dance music, and now Jazz, which is what I do most now in Havana.

Do you have a specific group right now?

Yes. We've been together for five years now. The group is called 'Oddara.'

What does 'Oddara' mean?

Oddara comes from Yoruba [in Africa], and it means that everything is good, that everything is ok.

How does that influence the music of the group?

The music is all about that; it's our mark. It's about how everything flows, and how everything is spiritually right.

What kinds of music do you listen to?

I've listened to all types of music, but right now what I listen to most is jazz, like Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Miles Davis. And more modern stuff, like this Cuban drummer I like a lot, Dafnis Prietos. He has great compositions.

What is your favorite part of music?

Of course I always focus more on the drums when I listen to music, like the rhythm, the beat. But then through playing music, you start noticing and paying attention to more things, you start composing. Not just with your instrument, but with the bass, the piano, the solos of the other instruments.

Why is music important in your life?

Music is the most important thing that I have in my life. It's something I could never leave. It's like an addiction, to something that's a lot bigger than just me, something that can't be controlled. It's really important right now for me; it moves me, it motivates me, it fascinates me.

Are there some things music helps you with?

Yeah, everything. Music influences you spiritually, physically, in everything. If you're depressed you listen to music, or if you want to ?????, you listen to music, or if you're happy, you listen to music.

Why is music important in your country?

Cuba has one of the strongest music cultures in the world. There is so much music, so many different styles. There has been a great fusion of differerent cultures in our country, African music for example. And so music has made Cuba a very rich country culturally.

Why is music important in the world?

I think that, you know, music had its start as a method of communication in the world. Rhythm came out of people. Human beings started to hit the ground with their feet and started making rhythm with their bodies. And this is something that's become a profound part of human beings. So I think that it's important because it's always going to be present in everything.

And that includes your music?

Of Course, as I was telling you, all countries have different cultures, and there's nothing more important than preserving the culture of your country. And what could be more effective than music and art for maintaining that culture.

Anything else you want to say?

I just want to say hello and salute all other people that love music like me. And I hope they come to Cuba to check out the musical richness here.

Talking about electronic music later...

You know, I think that's one thing that Cuba has done well. For material and economic reasons, Cuba has been able to preserve its culture and variety. Yeah Cuba is influenced by popular trends, things that come and go quickly. But it's difficult, the situation with money, stores, instruments, etc. The whole world does computer music, electronics, mixes of various things. Here it's done, but very little. And for me, this is good, because it allows the original culture to be maintained.

How did you learn English?

In school. But also, I'm completely self-taught on the drums. There is no drum school here in Cuba. There are private teachers, but for the average Cuban, that's expensive. If you have a family friend that's a musician, maybe it's easier. But a lot of my self-teaching came from watching videos and stuff, often in English, which reinforced my learning English.

Andres Mansilla - Santiago, Chile

"I like to work with the best, but I think the responsible musician is best. I would always go with the musician that's responsible, that learns his tunes, that arrives on time to practice, before the super talented musician that can do everything, but doesn't respect his fellow musicians and thus doesn't respect the music."

Andres' music with his band, 'De la Barriada'



The interview audio

Hi my name is Andres Mansilla and I'm from La Union in Southern Chile. Currently Im a bass player and a drummer hobbyist. I started playing music when I was about eight years old. I started playing traditional flute, then took various workshops in my school - guitar, choir, etc. I was always involved with musical activities that happened in my school. Then in high school I started doing bands with friends, bands in the school, and groups with people that were a little older than me, which was actually work. After high school I decided to study music pedagogy in Puerto Montt. I met a lot of musicians, a lot of bands, and I played in a lot of bands in different cities. I met a LOT of people. That was when I began to make broader musical contacts and experiment with new musical settings. Over the course of a year and a half I learned a lot but realized that the field of study wasn't appropriate for what I wanted to do. I liked playing a lot and all that, but I wasn't very interested in the classes I was taking about teaching. And 60% of my studies were spent in teaching classes, and only 40% in musical material. I got kind of annoyed and wasn't very motivated, so I dropped out of the university and took a year off. I kept studying electric bass and playing a lot of music. And then I decided to go to Santiago to study electric bass. Right now I'm in a jazz school; this is my first year. I spend my day working with bands in many different styles. I like to have varied musical tastes and I've had opportunities to study different styles. When I was younger, I remember I liked funk a lot and studied funk a lot and it's become a strong base for how I play. Before that it was hardcore, then rock, then Latin Jazz. And now I'm going through a phase where I listen to a lot of jazz and that's what I'm playing too. I think they're all pretty complete styles, but each has its own form of expressing itself. So I can't really define a preferred style right now, because I've done a lot. My tendencies are a little more in line with Latin music, for example Salsa, Latin Jazz, Tumba, Cuban music. So I've always had those tendencies, but these days I can't really pick a preferred style of music. Obviously my musical tastes are evolving and I'm listening to music that's maybe a little more complex. And maybe that's just because of my studies.

I think music is very important in everyone's life. I think everyone lives and shares with music daily. I think music also just has a lot of style. I don't know, without really thinking about it, I just like music a lot. But now that I have a little better notion of what's up, I've realized how important music is in everyone's daily lives. I don't knowÉ it's so strong what music gives you. It can control your state of mind, your mood. Music can put you in a state of relaxation. It can improve your mood. If you're sad, you can listen to sad music, then maybe you'll be worse, I don't know. [laughs] It also has a strong connection with your state of mind. But I think what I like most about music is everything you can discover, all the things you can invent. You study every day and you think, maybe many people have been through this, but there are many things you can learn alone, things you can come up with. And the options are unlimited. That's what a like a lot about music, apart from playing it. Studying it is also really entertaining, but complicated and difficult at times. I prefer to play mostly now. I want to get to the point where I can really play around with all the styles I've come across. I'm studying jazz so right now, I'd like to be able to understand and play around with jazz more. But that has also happened to me with funk, as it happened to me with many styles. I don't dominate them 100 percent, but I kind of assimilate everything a little. I've recently started my music career and there are still a lot of different paths for me to explore. But my objective right now is to be able to dominate the styles I have played, god willing some 70 percent.

The musicians I prefer to work with... I mean obviously people always say, I like to work with the best, but I think the responsible musician is best. I find that the responsible musician is more professional than the musician that knows how to play a lot better. I mean, I would always go with the musician that's responsible, that learns his tunes, that arrives on time to practice, that respects the other musicians, before the super talented musician that can do everything, but doesn't respect his fellow musicians and thus doesn't respect the music. That's what I think about musicians.

My view about music in Chile... I was brought up in a setting where music wasn't given a lot of importance. It was a very minor class in school compared to others, so the content that it taught was little or nothing. So I have a somewhat negative view of the level of music in Chile. I don't know if they feel the same way everywhere, but those from my generation at least do. I know that things have changed some now. Teachers come with a different attitude, another mentality. So at a young age, students start having contact with other things, with the language of music, not with the music you listen to, but with how to write music, and a more theoretical conception of music. That didn't exist in my generation. But I think that in comparison to other countries the general musical level is very very low. We can see that in, for example, for a person to be able to listen to jazz critically, they have to spend many years studying the music. For their taste to get to the musical level of jazz, or to be able to play it, they have to devote a lot of time, at LEAST the experience I have, to get to jazz. I've been through a lot of styles, including a time when I was trying to develop an ear for listening to jazz. And I simply didn't like it much, so I left it. I just let my tastes go naturally by themselves so I went through different phases. I think the closest I got to jazz was Latin jazz. But then recently I've had a strong impulse to get into jazz music. And now I just started studying but I've been listening to jazz seriously for about two years now. And when I started listening to it, that created a sort of small vehicle to get into it. But, I don't know, I think that in other countries there would be a little more contact with other musical styles, maybe more cultural events. Maybe the area where I lived just wasn't the best for that. But all this makes me think it's a culturally poor country in this sense.

Have I played with musicians from other countries? I've had very little experience, I think it's been two. The last experience I had was a strange one because, I don't know, it happened in my home town. In fact it's the person that asked for this interview. [laughs] We heard, were I lived, that there was a musician that played jazz, and that he was from the Unites States. And everyone started putting something together, coordinating things to be able to play. We got to the jam, no one knew each other, and the music quickly generated the bond of friendship, a connection. And after that we kept playing together in various groups and situations for a few months until he had to return home. It's obvious that it was because of the musical connection and the language of music, nothing else, because we couldn't even communicate well with words. And I think all musicians have experienced this, even with people that speak the same language. I mean, in my case I've played in many different cities and I've met an infinite number of people. I have a lot of friends that are musicians, many really good musician friends that I don't even know personally, just through the cyber world. [laughs] But we have a bond of friendship that's come through music. I don't know if in other instances, or other professions the same thing happens, but for me great bonds have been made and they've always been positive.

Anyway, that's my outlook on music and I little about my experience. Cheers

Saba Samakar - Seattle, WA

"When I play music, in spiritual or mental or emotional terms, whatever weight I feel on my shoulders, when I play I try and want to play so loud and play however I want so that I just become empty. So I can empty the pressures of the day through music. I've never been able to do this with someone else. But I'm still trying."

Saba's music - "Vibes"



The interview audio

My parents are from Iran and I was born in Germany. We lived there for about a year before we came to America, but I personally feel like I'm Iranian. It's a little difficult for me, living in America, being half [culturally] American, half Iranian. Sometimes I feel like I'm more Iranian, sometimes I feel like I'm more American. It's hard! This is one of the things that I try to come to a conclusion to daily.

I was born in Germany and I've lived in Seattle, where I live now, and Salt Lake City. They say Salt Lake City is a lot like Tehran (where I've never been), but I don't know… Maybe that's why I liked it so much there, the weather, the mountains, that kinda thing. The sunshine.

I play the drums and the guitar. I've played guitar for I think 10 years and drums for I think 8, but my practice has been more in drumming. I haven't studied music much. I didn't study it in university. I studied a little on my own but you could say I'm not exactly literate in music.

I've played a lot of rock and roll and hip hop and these days I mostly just play for myself. I don't play with others that often, but when I do… I don't know. Electric guitar, distorted sound, dirty, rough sound, that's how I like it. Loud sound. And… that's all. These days I don't play with others that much. I play monthly with some kids but… it's very simple. We never practice together.

Music's important to me because when I was younger everything I saw on TV, in the magazines, on the covers of the records, it had a, I don't know how to say this in Persian but they had some sort of secret thing about them and I wanted to know what it was, and I sought it. And now that I know a little how to play music, now that I've, with various groups, experienced the slightest bit of popularity, now it's… I don't know, it's still important, but it has a different kind of importance now. Now the secret thing that I didn't know, I think I know it. So, I don't know. Now I'm trying to figure out why music is still presently important to me.

The thing that's been the most exciting for me because of music hasn't been playing. It's been the people I've become acquainted with. When I was younger I'd listen to all this music and I just played until I met all the musicians I admired. Like, six years ago I was listening to this band here in Seattle, and nowadays I see them all the time. We talk and we're friends, and this is so interesting to me. It's been so interesting that these people who were so important to me are now a part of my life. I mean, daily I can talk to them and ask their opinion on things and stuff like that. So it hasn't really been playing that's been the most exciting for me, but playing has gotten me to this place.

So this next question is wether I've ever played music with people that don't speak my language… and this is kind of a weird question because I don't really speak Persian daily. I speak English mostly. I only speak Persian with my family. Everyone who I play music with speaks English. I've never played with anyone who doesn't speak English. But I have played with people whose musical language has been different from mine. Like, I play a certain style, they play another style. In whatever culture you grow up in, music can have different meanings. The things I do with music, the way I learned how to play, I see that it's very different from other people. I haven't yet been able to find anyone who plays like me. I don't mean that, like, I play better than everyone else or that nobody's ever played like me before… this isn't what I'm saying. But I haven't found anyone so far who I've been able to play with completely harmoniously… That actually isn't really true, there have been one or two, but for whatever reason, we haven't been able to play together much. Not long term, anyway. But my hope and wish is to find someone or a group of people where we can all have some cool harmony together.

I haven't been able to make relationships with people very well through music. Earlier I did say that because of the music I played, I got to meet some people I really admired. But in the actual playing of music, like, standing on stage and playing with a band, I haven't been able to really feel a camaraderie or, again, a harmony. I haven't been able to find someone where we really play together really well. When I play music, in spiritual or mental or emotional terms, whatever weight I feel on my shoulders, when I play I try and want to play so loud and play however I want so that I just become empty. So I can empty the pressures of the day through music. I don't really know how to explain it. But I've never been able to do this with someone else. LIke, it hasn't happened that I play and someone else plays and we play together and afterwards we both feel cleansed. But I'm still trying. And I'm hoping someday I can, maybe someday, with one person, two people, maybe a group, do it! Other than that… the friendships I've made through listening to music with other people have been a lot better and stronger than the relationships I've made through playing music. So, that's it. Maybe I just need to practice.

The Official Blog (which has basically the same content as this page)