SONGWRITER DARCY CALLUS PROFESSES THAT LA IS STILL THE MELTING POT OF THE ARTS

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Sometimes the most valuable things are right in front of you and go unnoticed, or at the very least underappreciated. America constantly produces musical artists who are lauded and respected all over the world. Yet these artists often go through many years of struggle as they mature into the icons they aspire to become. The US public doesn’t often stop to consider the fact that this training ground in which we live is a shining star to artists of the world. This has always been obvious to Australian Darcy Callus. This artist has long dreamed of being a part of the musical community which he believes to be the home of the elite, Los Angeles. While there are numerous locations in the world with talented artists, Callus readily admits that the concentration of world class artists per capita in LA is unlike any other place on the planet. As an award-winning jazz pianist turned pop artist (he was one of the finalists on Australia’s X Factor), Darcy has a deep understanding of the difference between being a “one hit wonder” who got lucky and being an artist who cultivates a long career with depth. He is also not afraid to, as he puts it, “Follow his nose where it leads” him. When the opportunity to work with LA based singer/songwriter Rotana Tarabzouni presented itself to him, Darcy was eager to work with such a talented artist and spend some time in the city he considers to be the center of the industry.

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While Darcy has been associated with such music industry luminaries as Dave Stroud (known for his work with Prince, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, and Michael Jackson), multi-platinum producer Bryan Todd, and others; writing with Rotana gave him the opportunity to work with a brand new artist in the States who shares an international view of the US as he does. Tarabzouni grew up in Dhahran, on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. To state that her experience as an artist in her homeland was not encouraged is a drastic understatement. Women are not exactly groomed to seek out fame as a popstar in her homeland. On a family vacation in Boston, she spontaneously went to an audition and received massive encouragement. That was enough to convince Rotana that she needed to pursue her dream in America. Callus received no persecution in his native home of Australia and was even a sensation on Australia’s X Factor. Still, he also understood the potential of the US music community and opportunities which the industry’s infrastructure afforded the talented and hard working. The two met at an artists get together and recognized the musical counterpoint in each other’s talent. Darcy states, “We definitely clicked immediately in terms of wanting to create music that was original and personal, not derivative and following what was popular at the moment. Even more importantly, I understood where she was coming from as a songwriter and what she was trying to express.” Describing the process, he continues, “Rotana is truly gifted when it comes to melodies. She comes up with them quite quickly and they are very strong. All of my training in music allowed me to quickly understand what she was looking for and find the harmony to her melodies on piano. There was a specific color tone that propelled the emotion she wanted to communicate. If you can understand an artist both musically and professionally, you can help them as well as excite them about their own music.”

The US is a country which prides itself on so many aspects that are prominent in the working relationship between Darcy and Rotana. A country which accepts those from other lands, in pursuit of their dreams, with the ability to express themselves freely…it’s as representative of the American Dream as the Westward Expansion. Callus comments, “There’s no doubt that both of us feel fortunate to be here in LA among the greats. You literally can walk into a club, restaurant, coffee shop, whatever, and run into an artist you have listened to your whole life. Of course what we’re really here to do is work. It’s amazing that I can meet an artist like Rotana and immediately begin creating music with an almost unspoken approach. I’m sure that this is all because of the group of artists who are known everywhere in the world…in places like Australia, Saudi Arabia, and almost every other place on the planet. As an artist and musician, you feel like you are in the center of the universe when you are here…and that inspires you even more.”

Success in never guaranteed but is already evident in the work that Callus and Tarabzouni have done. Rotana’s debut single “Daddy” was co-written and arranged by Darcy. The single was playlisted on Apple’s “Hot Pop Tracks” for weeks as well as Spotify’s US VIRAL 50. Some of the music Callus wrote with Rotana was debuted at The 2017 Sundance Film Festival “A Celebration of Music and Film Concert”. At this concert, Rotana shared the stage with Common, Andra Day, Jim James, Hunter Hayes, Peter Dinklage, Ava DuVernay, and more. Early indicators like these give presumptions that the music which Callus and Rotana created together is going to have every bit of the impact that had hoped to achieve. Darcy smiles as he communicates, “I have quite a history of working with extremely talented female vocalists. It’s interesting that in this situation the vocalist is a woman and her femininity is celebrated while she is in control. As a man, I’m in the supportive role (playing piano). They are exhibiting strength as well as a softer side. I love that about music. It allows these situations that you won’t find in all walks of life. Artists are celebrated and encouraged to express what is unique about themselves.”

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When questioned about his experience thus far in LA, Darcy confirms, “I am Australian and I love Australia but I feel that the US audience is much more willing to have an open mind. American audiences want to give you a chance. Many artists have said that you have to become famous and accepted somewhere else and then come back home to be recognized. There’s a little truth in that. If you go anywhere else and say you are an LA musician, you are instantly seen in a different light. People assume that you are great and…to be honest, to be a successful LA artist…you have to be great!”

Alejandra Sierra shows her connection with photography in personal exhibition “Metalmorphosis”

For Alejandra Sierra, life is looking through the lens of a camera. Photography was her first true passion, and that passion easily translates to beauty in her work. While capturing natural images full of light, she spends every day doing what she truly loves. There is no doubt as to why she is considered one of the best photographers in her home country of Mexico.

Throughout her successful career, Sierra’s versatility as a photographer has impressed all those who have had the opportunity to see her work. She has shot for many national companies, such as De La Rosa, La Tequila, Le Garraf, Marisa Pasteleria, and more. She has worked with a variety of publications, such as the magazine Cream, to shoot famous personalities and celebrities, and she uses her art to help make positive changes in the world shooting for social cause organizations. And through Instagram Sierra’s popularity went from Mexico to worldwide, allowing her work to be seen by tens of thousands of followers.

“Every photo shoot I do reminds me of how photography makes me feel alive. Every single time I shoot people, food, products I’m reminded by my camera, how passionate I am about this. It motivates me to do it daily and try to be better each time,” she said.

The true highlight of Sierra’s photography career came from her individual exhibition “Metalmorphosis”, a photographic project taken in New York, and exposed in Brooklyn with Spazio Labó, and in her hometown of Guadalajara, in the leading contemporary art museum, MURA (Museo de Arte Raúl Anguiano). It was curated by art historian and director of museums and galleries, Patricia Mendoza.

“The series reflected a process I was living at the time, a reconstruction, a recovery and the thought of finding oneself in everything. Finding myself in photography. Leaving a part of my soul in every photograph,” said Sierra.

The project began as an assignment for a photo workshop Sierra was taking in New York. At first she couldn´t come up with a theme for the workshop project, and then Metalmorphosis, a combination of metal and metamorphosis materialized itself.

“I was passing through a rough patch in life, re-building myself. Without realizing it, the whole series involves metal and women. I found the metal to be a support, the strength I needed to be ‘me’ again and the women were all the strong women I know and me, in different roles. That’s why it’s Metalmorphosis, the metal and the changing,” described Sierra. “The project is a series of photographs shot in NYC. The strength of women in our society. The important role we play and how we’re the support of families, jobs and the society as a whole.”

Sierra knew what she had made was special, so she entered the series into a contest that was looking for the best photographers in Jalisco, the state her hometown of Guadalajara is in. Thousands of people sent their work and only 40 photographers won and were showcased, and she was among them.

“It feels great to know the series was so well-received. I loved how it felt to leave a little bit of my soul in every picture. Besides all of the introspection and deep work, it was really fun doing it. It makes me feel really proud. Being so successful in Guadalajara was amazing, when I realized the success my photography business had in my hometown,” she said. “It was amazing even working on it. I learned so much about myself and the connection I have with photography. It was when I first started to feel the camera as an extension of myself.”

All those that saw “Metalmorphosis” were both impressed and moved. Daniela Altamirano, the General Manager at Hitch Brand and Media Consultants, has become one of the most respected individuals in her profession. She has worked alongside countless photographers, and is familiar with what it takes to become a successful photographer. She has worked with Sierra before, and she knows why Sierra is considered to be one of the top in her industry.

“I am positive that the tremendous achievements for both Alejandra and her work are demonstrative of the fact that she is at the top of her field, and consistently outperforms many of her peers, establishing herself as one of the most accomplished photographers in her talent pool,” said Altamirano.

Even with all of the accolades and success, Sierra remains humble. For her, working and doing what she loves is the reward, and everything that comes after that is less important.

“I plan to keep on studying, keep on preparing myself to be the best photographer I can be and keep on shooting,” she concluded.

And with Sierra’s reputation as already being one of the best in her field, we can’t wait to see what comes next.

Cinematographer Ian Holliday talks award-winning music video “The World Ender”

Success is no stranger to Ian Holliday. Throughout his career as a cinematographer, he has worked on countless celebrated and award-winning projects. However, it is getting to live his dream that is the greatest reward of all.

As a child in in Vancouver, Canada, Holliday loved filmmaking. This passion persisted as he grew, and turned into a career. Last year, he filmed the award-winning film Icebox, which was screened at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. He previously worked on the decorated film Tele, and the viral video Harry Potter in 60 Seconds, where in addition to cinematographer, he also was the director, editor, and lead actor. But taking a small side step away from films, Holliday has many achievements working on music videos. This includes the video The World Ender for the band Lord Huron, from their album Strange Trails.

“I had worked on a few videos for Lord Huron before this one, and always loved the experience. The band is very interested in building a consistent and cohesive world with their music, videos, and any promotional art they release. They are very focused on building a visually and narratively cohesive world in which their work exists, so participating in the creation and visualization of that world is a lot of fun,” said Holliday.

The World Ender tells the story of a man who comes back from the dead to seek vengeance on the people who took his life. The band had previously collaborated with a writer and illustrator to produce a comic book, exploring this story in more depth, which gave Holliday a bit of a narrative jumping-off point. Using the general narrative of the comic for reference, the video tells the story of Cobb Avery, an upstanding citizen with a loving wife and child, whose house is burned down by the corrupt “Winthrop Corp.” He comes back from the dead and works his way up the Winthrop Corp chain, ultimately cornering Winthrop himself and exacting his vengeance.

“I think you can really see the comic book influence on the story, which is intentionally exaggerated and trope-y,” said Holliday. “It’s always fun to work in such a stylized visual world, and to reference such cultural staples as the films of Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. We struck a balance of being quite exaggerated in the grit and comic-book tone of the piece, while keeping it grounded enough for the violence and narrative to feel realistic, gritty, and shocking.”

The video went on to be an enormous success for both the band and Holliday. After premiering at the 2016 Austin Music Video Festival, it was an official selection at twelve more festivals, including the 2016 Orlando Film Festival where it took the top prize of “Best Music Video.” The video was also a Vimeo staff pick, which got the piece a lot of viewership.

“It’s always satisfying to see people comment on the specific techniques you used and references you were drawing from, and it was very satisfying to know we achieved that tone so well,” said Holliday.

While filming the video, Holliday and the director, Ariel Vida, decided to film in the style of 70s and 80s cinema. Referencing primarily the action and thriller films of the 70s, they chose a 2.40 aspect ratio for the imagery, and favoured extreme compositions within that frames, placing subjects on the extreme left or rights, or dead centre when appropriate. They welcomed dutch-angle shots with extreme lines of force within frame where possible. The teamwork between Holliday and Vida was pivotal for the video’s success.

“Ian is the most dedicated cinematographer I have worked with in my career in the film industry, which spans nearly two hundred film and video projects in positions from art department to producer and director. He has acute technical expertise and an unmatched passion for the craft, as well as the ability to communicate that knowledge in order to fully realize a creative vision,” said Vida. “His experience and instincts allow him to work with a variety of directors to bring to life and enhance their vision – whether it be a subtle and emotional work, or effects and spectacle-based – while also leading his crew with confidence and precision.  He is extremely clear and communicative to those working under him, as well as those who hire him. His drive, energy, and passion for his craft is infectious on every set I have shared with him. He imbues each job with an interminable enthusiasm that motivates a crew to rise to their full potential while regularly delivering a final product that not only meets, but exceeds a director and client’s expectations.”

Even with all of the success the video had, for Holliday, it was just about how much fun it was filming. For a cinematographer to have to opportunity to honor their filmmaking idols, while still capturing their own style, is truly once in a lifetime.

Check out The World Ender here.

Joy Sun shows her creativity with website and logo design for Bruber Media Partners

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Joy Sun is from Tainan City, Taiwan.

For Joy Sun, being a graphic designer is more than just a job. She is an artist, and she is passionate about what she does. Every day is the chance to create something extraordinary, and that is exactly what she is known for.

While having a successful career in graphic design, Sun has been able to work on both inspiring and award-winning projects. She designed the business cards for Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, a transgender advocate who was greatly impressed with Sun’s work. Using her naturally artistic capabilities, she is also a storyboard artist, and her work on the film Blake Chandler: Psychic Investigator went on to be recognized at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. As a graphic designer, she has worked with multinational companies, including Bruber Media Partners. Just last year, Sun was the chief designer of Bruber’s logo, their Chinese website, a 25-page investment presentation book (from designing and printing) and the PowerPoint.

“Designing the website and logo was absolutely exciting, it challenged me in ways that I had not been before,” said Sun. “If you think about a logo, it has to be timeless as it has to represent the company for a very long time. It is the first impression of the company to others. For the website, it was very fun and a fresh experience. It does not only include what the company does but also has to have what the company has to offer to the investors.”

Bruber is a company that is the very backbone of the film industry, dealing in investment and distribution. Sun had full creative control over the projects, and her work ultimately led to the overall success of the logo and website. She says that her upbringing in Taiwan ended up helping her with the final product.

“I had to shift my thoughts to a more business approach, and coming from a business oriented family I felt I had the tools and mindset to create something that would be intuitive, elegant and creative, and would exceed the expectations of my client,” said Sun.

When coming up with an idea for the logo, Sun wanted to highlight that it was not just an investment company, but an investment company in film. She began by starting with old film stock. She had open artistic license for the logo, which was not only used on the business card but on the website and all other media regarding the overall business image and branding.

“Bruber wanted something obvious but not cheesy so I designed different versions of the logos with the consultations I got and researched what the difference between 35mm and 16mm film stocks. That was very fun,” said Sun. “It all meant a great deal to me because my design will be seen and recognized in any business ventures Bruber Media Partners might undertake.”

While designing the website, Sun wanted to find a way to make it timeless. She wanted something that could tie in the elegance of old media with the style and seamlessness of contemporary graphic design. Not many graphic designers could have achieved such a task, as Sun describes designing in Mandarin as having a totally different mindset compared to designing in English, saying the spacing and the weight of the characters are enormously different.

“It was a huge challenge to research because there are not a lot of modern websites in Chinese for investment, which are based on information. When I was designing it, I had to play with English graphic design factors to create a good-looking website. Using a lot of shapes built by the paragraphs instead of sentences, I finally found a good balance between new and the knowledge I have for the graphic design that I am used to.”

Sun managed to find that perfect balance. Bruber has had immense success with both their logo and Chinese website, and Sun’s work can be directly attributed to that. Beryl Huang, the Chairman of Bruber Media Partner and Bruno Cavelier, Consultant of the Motion Picture Group, who both worked closely with Sun on the project, agree that Sun was extremely vital to the overall success of Bruber Media Partners, saying her work was a highly crucial factor in the development of the company since it focuses on establishing business relationships with China and the United States.

“One of Joy’s greatest strengths is her ability to elevate a project through her role, no matter what the size. She has performed many key roles in various productions that always seem to be of the highest praise which is why I have hired her in the past and will continue to bring her on to future projects,” said Cavelier. “ Joy represents the highest caliber of a graphic designer and storyboard artist in the industry. Her accomplishments and achievements prove time and time again that she can take on a leading role and go above and beyond what is expected, which in my experience, is a quality that separates the exceptional from the average.”

With such an impressive skill set, it is no doubt why Sun is regarded as one of the best.

Editor Rudy Vermorel Nails the Mark on the Campaign for Award-Winning Video Game Clash Royale

Often referred to as the ‘invisible art’ that takes place behind the scenes of a film, commercial and other visual media projects of the like, the work of an editor is critical to setting the tone, style, and structure of a project. While their work requires extensive skill and often long, laborious hours in order to sew hundred of hours of footage together into something that unfolds seamlessly on screen, editors rarely receive their due credit in the press; but that’s just the nature of the game, the mark of the best editors means their work goes unnoticed. One editor who deserves quite a bit of attention for his extraordinary talent though is Frenchman Rudy Vermorel.

Vermorel began his career nearly a decade ago, and what he’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. With a keen eye for the perfect shots and the ability to create a seamless flow on every project he lends his magic editor’s wand to, Vermorel has become known for his distinct skill through his work as the editor of commercials for auto industry leader Ford, the video game Homefront: The Revolution, and countless music videos for artists including Demi Lovato, Party Favor, Av DiVinci, Alexx Mack.

Last year Vermorel signed on as an editor at Eyestorm Productions, an LA-based creative agency whose well-known clients include Hasbro, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, video games such as Tom Clancy’s Endwar, Call of Juarez the Cartel, Rocksmith and Zombiu, and many more. Eyestorm Productions also did the TV Spots, behind the scenes and featurettes for “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith,” and most recently the ad campaign for the video game Clash Royale.  

As the lead editor on all of the trailers and commercials for Clash Royale, Vermorel’s work for the game has been hugely successful on an international scale with the collection of ads garnering over 120 million combined views on Youtube, and other social media platforms.

“Last year Rudy came on board as the editor of the Clash Royale campaign, one of Eyestorm Productions latest projects. The series of commercials he edited for Clash Royale really drove home the intense competition and modern vibe of the game in a way that seamlessly represented the product to users and made them want to start playing Clash Royale. He nailed the project in every aspect,” explains Eyestorm Productions owner Michael Klima.

Released on March 2, 2016 Clash Royale was developed and published by popular mobile gaming company Supercell. Referred to as the ‘King of Gaming’ by Forbes in 2013, Supercell gained worldwide attention when its first two games, Hay Day and Clash of Clans, began pulling in $2.4 million per day.

Clash Royale is a real-time multiplayer mobile strategy game starring the Royales from the popular Clash of Clans game. Mixing together elements of a collectible card game, tower defense, and multiplayer online battle arena, Clash Royale allows users to form their own Clan and share cards to build their very own battle community. Available on Android and IOS platforms, Clash Royale quickly became No. 1 in the U.S. on the top downloads chart, as well as the top-grossing list on the iOS App Store game upon release. Last year Clash Royale also earned the coveted Google Play Award for Best Game of the Year, an award emphasizing app quality and innovation over the previous 12 months selected by a panel of experts on the Google Play team.

Over the past year Vermorel used his extraordinary editing skills to cut a plethora of commercials and In App ads for Clash Royale, including the incredibly popular “Clash Royale: Settle it with a Duel (Doctor v Doctor),” “Clash Royale: Settle Your Check With A DUEL!,” which has earned over 20 million views since it’s release last month, “Clash Royale Settle it with a Duel (Santa v. Dad)” and “Clash Royale: DEFUSE the Situation with a DUEL!” commercials.

“Clash Royale: Settle it with a Duel (Doctor v Doctor)” has earned a whopping 14 million views on Youtube since it’s debut on the Clash Royale Channel in January. The highly cinematic commercial is full of intensity and bright colors, which heightens the energy as two doctors battle it out over what treatment to give their patient– the perfect parallel to the intense competition users feel when playing Clash Royale.

Any user who sees the commercials edited by Vermorel would be hard pressed not to be pulled in by the cinematic effects, precise cuts and building energy set by the EDM music playing in the background– it’s no wonder that millions of users around the world have signed in and begun playing Clash Royale!

Vermorel says, “I love the game, and I love the company! They have a very modern way of working, each project is different, and there is always a new story.”

Rudy also edited a series of hilarious and visually modern character spots for the campaign, such as “I Am The Knight,” “The Log,” “Princess Got It,” “It’s A Goblin Barrel!,” and several more, all of which have gained incredible traction with viewers around the world garnering over a million views each on Youtube.

“I wanted to showcase the funny side of the characters and design the ads in a way that made them endearing, then I opted for a modern, dynamic editing approach in order to attract the interest of a large audience,” says Vermorel about his inspiration as the editor of the campaign.  

Aside from editing the Clash Royale campaign, Vermorel also edited a plethora of successful ads for Supercell’s Clash of Clans game. From the way he’s edited the commercials for each campaign, endowing the videos with an energetic and engaging vibe that is relevant to modern gamers, one might assume that Vermorel is a gamer himself, but ironically he is not! The fact that he is not a gamer, but has managed to edit the campaigns for both Clash Royale and Clash of Clans in a way that struck an obvious chord with users says quite a lot about his creative talent as an editor.

Klima says, “Rudy’s unique creativity and extensive knowledge as an editor are what have made him so successful. From our experience working together I can easily say he is the best at what he does and that is why we’ve hired him to continue on as the editor of future campaigns for Clash Royale.”

 

Justine Gera and the Stars That Guide Her Path in Dance

Dancing side by side with your mentors every day while fine-tuning your dance skills and perfecting your ability to absorb new choreography quickly — sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? It has been for dancer Justine Gera.

“I have met so many amazing people — choreographers I look up to,” explains Gera. “I’ve learned a lot about their career paths and knowing that they are supportive of my career and want me to succeed is the greatest feeling.”

For six years, Gera has taken the stage next to world-renowned dancemakers Tyce Diorio, Napoleon & Tabitha D’umo, Sean Cheesman, Luther Brown, ShoTyme, Megan Lawson, Jillian Meyers, Tina Landon and others as an assistant with Triple Threat Dance Conventions. It’s her job to demonstrate and lead the movement given to students by whichever top choreographer(s) she is assisting that day.

Dancer, Justine Gera

Versatility is key. It’s not uncommon to be performing contemporary dance in one session and transition to a completely different style in the next. Gera must also absorb the choreography as quickly as a thirsty sponge and immediately execute it flawlessly to provide students with a clear model of technique and of the quality of movement and style each choreographer desires.

Though the job demands a machine-like accuracy when it comes to mastering new dances, Gera’s dancing is far from robotic.

“Justine has a flare and character in her dance that is unique to her and is rarely seen,” says Triple Threat director Carolina Lancaster-Castellino. “She truly is one of the most exquisite and extraordinary dancers we have seen over our 18 years traveling across Canada.”

It is these qualities that have helped this stand-out make her mark outside the convention circuit as well. Gera has performed with Canadian pop artist Victoria Duffield and in music videos featuring Amanda Blush and Tristan Thompson. She’s also enjoyed time at sea as a dancer with Royal Caribbean cruise lines and appears as a dancer in Disney’s Descendants 2 movie.

A personal and professional highlight for Gera was performing “Rhythm Nation” with the legendary Janet Jackson during her Unbreakable World Tour. After a brief but intense audition process, performing with the superstar was exhilarating.

“The whole performance was a complete rush of adrenaline and I got a bit teary eyed when we finished,” recalls Gera.

Kelly Konno, who has worked with international music stars like Janet and Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Prince, Pink, and*NSYNC and is director and co-owner of Triple Threat, has witnessed Gera’s development as a professional first-hand.

“Justine is one of the most hungry, driven, passionate and talented dancers that I’ve seen in a long time,” she observes. “She is the perfect representation of the next generation of professional dancers in Canada and the U.S..”

Justine at convention

It’s clear her dedication and talent are why Gera has been hired again and again by the convention to assist.

“We look for dancers who are not only at the top of their craft, but who are committed to all of the behind the scenes work as well,” says Triple Threat president and co-owner Dorie Konno. “Justine has been one of Triple Threat’s greatest assistants. Her passion for dance and the entertainment industry shines through.”

Despite the long hours and minimal sleep a dancer gets while working in this role, Gera is happy to go back for more each year.

“The best part is that it is just like a family reunion. Sometimes I don’t see a lot of these people until we reconnect at conventions and they are like my family,” she explains.

Gera’s dance family and her biological family encourage her to follow her dreams despite the obstacles that are part of a life in dance. Physical toll and the risk of injury are ever-present challenges but dance is often an emotional journey for performers as well.

“There have been many times in my career when I have thought that I wasn’t good enough or talented enough to ‘make it’ and reach my goals,” says Gera.

In those inevitable moments when her confidence is shaken, Gera recalls the advice of her supporters to never give up and channels her feelings into her dancing. Given her success in the dance industry, it’s a method that has clearly served Gera well.

Though she will continue to explore new heights, Gera is humble and thankful for the continued opportunity to develop professionally as a choreography and teaching assistant at conventions under the watchful eyes of the star choreographers who have been her mentors.

“It’s just a really good feeling to be relied upon. Certain choreographers have watched me grow up [at conventions] and having their support has made me believe that I am on the right career path.”

The dance world never doubted it.

REGGAE BY WAY OF NEPAL WITH JOINT FAMILY INTERNATIONAL’S MAGNETIC DRUMMER

One of the most effective way to influence a culture is through the Arts. For example, when the music of one region permeates the world on a global scale, it’s doubtless that this region “has arrived” as a worldwide focus. Reggae has brought attention to parts of the world which might have been overlooked, giving voice to the sounds and moods of its originators with great positive effect. Kathmandu is a long way from Trench Town in Jamaica but the Nepali band Joint Family International (JFI) heard the call of reggae and took up the mantle, to great success and acclaim. In addition to their domestic and international touring, JFI won three Hits FM Music Awards (Nepal’s equivalent of the Grammy) for: Best New Artist, Best Performance by Group or Duo with Vocals, and Best Pop Composition for their debut release One Good Thing. Perhaps the most intrinsic facet of reggae is its rhythm which is so unlike the European or American ones found in Jazz, Rock, R&B, and so many other modern musical forms. Sanjay Shreshta (JFI’s founder, bandleader, and guitarist) needed the most adept drummer possible to give JFI’s rhythm section authenticity. Sanjay knows quite a bit about drummers as he is also the drummer for the famous 1974 AD band. Sanjay’s enlisted Nepali session drumming ace/instructor at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory Kismat Shreshta. Sanjay proclaims, “Kismat is charisma personified when it comes to playing on the stage in front of an audience who wishes for an unforgettable musical experience. I’ve never seen anyone who has a better command of groove and blends so well with the music and Bass lines. Kismat has such a deep understanding and sensitivity of what the music needs…and when he solos, it’s a treat for his bandmates as much as the audience. I knew that having him behind the drums in JFI would be the spark that would propel JFI to greatness.”

Kismat has toured and recorded with a variety of successful groups including: Albatross (Band of the Year award winner- Radio Kantipur), Urjazz (playing to crowds of thousands at the World Village Festival held in Helsinki) and various others. As the only Nepali drummer to ever have been awarded a professional endorsement from an American company (Vater sticks and percussion), Kismat is more than a respected drummer in his homeland; he has become a drum hero. While the respect and praise of others might be the icing on the cake, this drummer is always focused on the music. JFI presented Shrestha with an opportunity to dig deep into reggae. As a longtime fan of the genre, it was a welcome challenge for him. He comments, “The general idea most people have about reggae drumming is that it is easy and that’s exactly what the great drummers of reggae want you to think. They want you to feel the lightness of the music and lyrics, without noticing how amazing they are as musicians. The more I researched and studied Reggae, the more I learnt about its specifics and differences, meaning that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I listened to the best reggae drummers and taught myself about reggae music. During JFI rehearsals, Sanjay would show us a certain grove and feel of the music, which we then took home and internalized. I also researched more on the different styles of playing to allow myself to play this kind of music as authentically as possible. There are still parts of who we are all as players that crept in to the music, it’s inevitable. I have spent my life performing jazz and rock music. I think there will always be some of that in my playing.” The song “Netaji” from JFI’s debut recording is an example of this. “Netaji” spent 3 months as the number one single atop the Nepali charts. While the song exhibits the authentic reggae sound and hopeful attitude, the linear hi hat, snare, bass drum “licks” that Kismat subtlety weaves into his drum part give a hint that his proficiency is always slightly restrained to serve the groove.

 

JFI received international accolades and garnered fans in addition to those of their homeland. The group appeared at the 2014 Kolkata Peace Festival which took place in Calcutta, India. Invited by an organization named Bangla Natak which hosted this annual music festival in association with the US embassy, JFI performed to an estimated 5,000 concert attendees. In 2015, the band travelled to Thailand as part of the Global Battle of the Bands as well as the Kathmandu Jazz Festival in 2013. JFI has been the headliner band for the Sundance Festival (in Kathmandu) from 2010-2012.

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Kismat and his bandmates began JFI as a way to celebrate Bob Marley and also challenge themselves. The overwhelming acceptance of this band from Kathmandu playing music born of Jamaica has surprised them more than anyone. Kismat confirms, “Honesty, these awards came as a huge surprise for us all as we had never imagined a reggae band such as ours to receive awards and acceptance of this magnitude. The recognition we got through media and the like for winning these awards made all our efforts seem worthwhile. While we had started the band for fun’s sake, winning these awards made us even more inspired to move on.” One Good Thing is available on iTunes and multiple digital music formats.