Category Archives: Music

Production Designer Andrea Leigh essential to award-winning video for Thugli’s “Sic Em”

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Production Designer Andrea Leigh

Andrea Leigh is not just a production designer. She is an artist. She is a creator. She produces a specific world, completely designed with the goal of portraying a message, or developing a character, or evoking a feeling in an audience member that no human being on the screen saying their lines could. Being able to do that through her work gives meaning to every job she works on, and she is outstanding at it.

Working on several award-winning and celebrated projects, such as the film Friends Like Us and the web series Whatever Linda, audiences and critics at the world’s most prestigious film festivals have appreciated Leigh’s work. She also has worked on many celebrated commercials, including the award-winning Prickly for Scotts Weed B Gone, the viral E.L.F. Play Beautifully advertisement, and the insanely popular 2015 Teleflora Mother’s Day campaign that received international media attention and 11 million YouTube hits. However, Leigh’s success does not end there. She has also worked on some captivating music videos, including Downtown for the Juno award-winning rock band The Sheepdogs, as well at the Thugli music video Sic Em.

“The guys of Thugli were great. They loved the director Amos LeBlanc’s vision and loved how we brought all their ideas to life,” said Leigh.

Amos LeBlanc has directed a controversial video that was widely successful, and he had won “Best Video of the Year” the previous Much Music Video Awards (MMVA). The tone of the Sic Em video was dark and thoughtful, and this made Leigh want to work on it.

“It was great working with the director Amos Leblanc, he had a very clear aesthetic image that he wanted to portray, clean, modern, dramatic skyline, lots of smoke and special effects. He was always interested in hearing what kind of changes I thought we could make art direction wise. It’s nice to have your creative vision valued when shooting something so specific and thoughtful,” said Leigh.

Music videos are usually long days packed with many shots and not enough time, but this was a two-day shoot that Leigh used to her full advantage, and had the time to do exactly what she wanted. That also meant they had that magic hour lighting two days in a row, something she describes as quite spectacular.

“That’s one of my favorite shots in the video, where the guys are all standing in single file formation with the magic hour sky behind them,” Leigh described. “The cast was a blast to work with. It was a night shoot so naturally things can get a little silly when everyone’s trying their best to stay awake. Lots of jokes, lots of laughs. It always helps on a long shoot when the cast and crew hit it off.”

With the help of Leigh’s eye for production design, the video went on to win the Much Music Video Award for “Best Dance Video.” The music video also earned over 75,000 views on YouTube, sparking widespread popularity among fans and critics. Leigh says she feels like they really accomplished something with the video, and the producer Geoff MacLean says it wouldn’t have been possible without her help. MacLean is a very respected and accomplished Executive Producer. Vision productions is an iconic production company that has produced work for several internationally renowned artists, such as Prince, Rihanna, Drake, The Weeknd, Calvin Harris and countless more.

“The music video is, thanks to Andrea, a fascinating visual production which instantly captures the attention of the viewer. She coordinated closely with the director, the choreographer, and other experienced creatives on set to determine the placement of the props, and the organization of the set. While the entire production is a visual achievement thanks to Andrea, specifically her work arranging the set for the dancers, as well as the props and décor for that segment gave the music video its down to earth and ‘back to the basics’ feel, which was the goal of the client. I credit a great deal of the video’s success to Andrea’s leading role, and attribute her with much of the music video’s all around commercial success and critical acclaim,” said Geoff MacLean.

“Andrea’s achievements throughout her career are reflective of top performing production designers and art directors in her field. The success of her productions is indicative of this fact, to be sure,” MacLean added.

Watch the Thugli Sic Em music video here.

Meet Lil’ Lyss, One Female Producer Making her Mark in Modern Music

Music Producer Diana D. aka Lil' Lyss
Music Producer Diana D. aka Lil’ Lyss

Drawing influences from super producers from the early 2000s such as Scott Storch (Beyoncé, Tupac Shakur, 50 cent, Nas, Lil Wayne), Timbaland (Jay Z, Drake, Rick Ross) and Dr. Dre (Eminem, Snoop Dogg, The D.O.C., Xzibit), Bay Area based music producer Diana D., a.k.a. Lil’ Lyss, has become a driving force of innovation and style in the modern music scene.

A Bulgarian native, Lil’ Lyss has been creating dope beats and producing music for other artists for nearly a decade now. She first rose to the upper ranks of the rap and hip-hop scene when she was invited to come in as a producer on rapper Ca$his’ album The County Hound 2. Sharing producer credits on the album with major rap staples such as 15-time Grammy Award winner  Eminem (one of the world’s best-selling artists), Rikanatti, Cin-A-Matik, The Punisher, R&D, 1Down, Steve E and Ca$his, who served as executive producer, Lil’ Lyss joined the all-star team as a producer on the album’s hit single “Imma Hustla” featuring Crooked I (from Slaughterhouse) and Sullee J. She also produced the track “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix]” featuring Crooked I, Mistah F.A.B., Roccett and Goldie Gold. Lil’ Lyss clearly nailed the mark as both tracks were instant hits that were featured all over the internet, creating quite a buzz of anticipation for the full album’s release.

Shortly after The County Hound 2 was released, Lil’ Lyss was asked to come back as a producer on Ca$his’ album The County Hound 3, this time as a producer on the album single “A-Rod” featuring Emilio Rojas. From the zig-zagging synth melody, to the fast tapping open hats and rhythmic snaps, the music Lil’ Lyss came up with for the track creates the perfect hype and energy to drive Ca$his’ lyrics.

I usually prefer minors and syncopated drum patterns. Different sections and interesting arrangements. Every beat should stand out on its own and be complemented with creative lyrics, that makes a hit song that lasts for decades,” explains Lil’ Lyss about what makes a hot beat.

“Today they say this style of production is ‘too busy’ but that’s only because today’s ‘rappers’ have no talent, so they can’t handle a musical beat with changing drum patterns. And this is why I’m here to change that. I want to take hip hop forward and hopefully in the future create opportunities for the real talents out there. Most beats today are super boring, same 4 on the floor rhythm, same 3 chords, same 808s, I’m not a fan of that.”

Anyone who’s heard the tracks she’s produced knows that Lil’ Lyss’ work is the polar opposite of boring, she definitely knows how to craft music that supports the artist’s sound and keeps listeners engaged. Aside from her chameleonic style and inimitable skill, one of the factors that has set Lil’ Lyss apart from the pack and propelled her career forward is her drive to find new artists and never stop producing. After coming across Texas rapper Nique’s music on the internet Lil’ Lyss took the initiative to reach out and see if the two could collaborate.

“I heard his music on SoundCloud and I really liked his flow, so I contacted him right away and offered to work with him,” explains Lil’ Lyss. “He liked what I sent him and it happened pretty quickly. He told me what he wanted and we did it. He wanted a fun, simple hip hop track. In this case it worked perfectly because his style is very versatile and his flow alone could be a song on its own.”

In 2014 she produced Nique’s bangin’ track “Hold Something.” Referred to by many as an instant party starter, the upbeat track is one that, thanks to the combination of Lil’ Lyss’ brilliantly crafted beats and overall production, and Nique’s catchy lyrical flow, immediately draws listeners in and makes them want to move.  

 

While Lil’ Lyss has earned quite a reputation for herself as a gifted music producer for other artists, her solo work is nothing to be ignored. Earlier this year she was selected out of hundreds of producers from around the world to perform at the iStandard Producers Showcase in Los Angeles where her unique musical stylings caught the attention of both the crowd and the judges.

While most music producers remain the unsung heroes behind the scenes with the artist they create those stellar tracks for gaining all of the attention in the mainstream, the iStandard Producers Showcase gives the best producers in the business the opportunity to step outside the studio and put their talent on display for audiences across the states. The high-profile competition takes place in more than 30 cities across North America and partners with major festivals and music conferences such as SXSW, ASCAP EXPO, A3C Festival and others.

One of the five original tracks Lil’ Lyss played for the crowd was her new high-energy instrumental trap track “Beast Race,” which has been gaining traction with fans across the internet since its release.

Swiff D, one of the judges of the competition, said, “First, your automation game is crazy and second I don’t know what you’re using but I’ve haven’t heard such sounds in my whole career.”

A testament to the unyielding ardor of her drive, Lil’ Lyss is completely self-taught when it comes to the software she uses, which is rather surprising considering her unparalleled skill. While the internet has definitely made it easier for people to learn how to use software, producing quality music requires a whole lot more than simply knowing how to push buttons.

She says, “Everyone can learn how to use a certain tool but what are you going to make out of it? My strength is definitely the unique melodies even if they are simple, and the interesting drum patterns.”

One of the many reasons artists around the world are vying to work with Lil’ Lyss as their music producer is her innovative approach to creating music that not only fits their style and is strong enough to reach audiences in the mainstream, but also pushes the boundaries of the mainstream.

Up next for Lil’ Lyss is a collaboration with renowned Brazilian R & B star Angel B, who is known for the hit songs Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet ft. Marley Waters,” “Don’t Touch It ft Lorena Simpson,” “I Gotchu,” “Money” and others. Lil’ Lyss is slated to begin producing Angel B.’s next album later this year.  

About working with Angel B., Lil’ Lyss explains, “She wants something different for her next project that doesn’t sound like everything else on the radio, that’s why she decided to work with me. She knows that when it comes to creativity I’m the right person.”

 

DAHOV AND JEREMIH BRING MUSIC FANS TOGETHER

 

The Arts are often the key to a universal experience and language among all people of the planet. While the accent of different paintings, cinema, and music may reveal their point of origin, the ability of these mediums to convey emotion and a connection with others is often beyond the words and language they might contain. It has often been said that the work of an artist is that of bringing all peoples together by conveying the emotions we all share, regardless of our background. As technology brings the world closer, the assimilation of different cultures and their artistic contributions is clearly evident and results in a decrease of noticing the differences and an increase in the appreciation of what these differences offer to the collective global experience. The Canadian percussionist/drummer/entertainer knowns simply as Dahov performed at a concert with American artist Jeremih (Jeremih Felton) exciting the crowd at the Olympia Theatre in Montreal. Jeremih is a Chicago native whose multiple high charting hits like “Birthday Sex” and “All About You” broke into the top five on the Billboard charts. His legions of fans are based in the R&B/Hip Hop world while Dahov is a solo artist known for House, EDM, and various other musical forms with which he infuses Latin and Middle Eastern rhythmic ideas. While both artists share a love of percussion from their early teens, each of them has cultivated and evolved into their own style and brand of musical entertainment. Their performance together at the Olympia Theater shows how these artists brought their fan bases together for a night of thrilling entertainment, proving that we can appreciate the differences we have while recognizing a common thread.

For his appearance in Montreal, Jeremih and his management were seeking out a Canadian artist who would both be familiar to the crowd as well as be exciting enough to create a feverish tone for the concert. Patrick Farah (owner of Sky Entertainz) was consulted and he immediately suggested Dahov. Patrick and Dahov have worked together on numerous large scale entertainment events in Canada. Farah declares, “Dahov’s unique style and looks are definitely a selling point. With such passion in what he does, he sets the bar at a complete different level from others in this business! He is also such a wonderful person and he reflects his personality in his work ethic. He is the type of musician and entertainer who creates a special bond with his audience. Rather than setting himself above the audience, Dahov has an amazing ability to pull everyone in and making them feel as if they are in an intimate party, relaxed and able to have fun.”

STUDIO11 taken by ARA SASSOUNIAN (well known artistphotographer)

(Photo courtesy of Ara Sassounian)

This event featuring Jeremih and Dahov is a template for how different artists can create an experience for an audience that is eclectic and yet relative. While Jeremih is a singer/rapper, Dahov is a percussionist who does not sing. Both artists perform with DJ’s and/or tracks and, at least in this situation, both had dancers joining them onstage. Very similar production styles but very different content. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Dahov’s ability is that he is able to entertain the audience by playing a hand percussion instrument know as a Darbuka. This middle eastern “goblet drum” is the core and essence of his one-man band (supplemented by tracks). It is truly amazing to see how this talented artist can drive a crowd (in this case, the 700-member audience that packed out the Olympia) to a literal feverish pitch. His technique and musicality is mesmerizing while his ability to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand and create the excitement equal to any outdoor EDM festival is…well, jaw dropping. The synergy between the artists’ performance was a great success but was not necessarily intuitive. At a meeting prior to the performance that night, Jeremih and Dahov discussed how to approach the differences in their musical styles in order to insure a cohesive quality for the crowd. While much of Jermih’s music is more relaxed in tempo (sometimes even romantic), Dahov is known for his upbeat party vibe style. Dahov explains his approach to manifesting the appropriate vibe for the evening, “We wanted to do something different than the usual upbeat show, so I used Arabic oriental techniques. This style usually calls for you to play for belly dancers and, even though there are faster beats, we performed the slower beats using the derbake percussion because it allows for very intricate and interesting rhythmic ideas. It was a perfect match to afterwards fade with Jeremih’s first song.” Dahov readily admits that, just as the crowd was exposed to different musical influences at this performance, the percussionist/entertainer himself also gained an even greater appreciation for his fellow entertainer. He notes, “Jeremih is truly an amazing talent. It’s always educational for me to see how another artist relates to the crowd, how they design the rhythm of their show, and how the crowd reacts to what they do. Anyone who has seen Jeremih perform has seen the evidence first hand of how great he is. I knew his music but seeing him live gives me a deeper understanding of his talent. I like Hip Hop and Rap but I am more into a club house, EDM, Latin kind of music. I love the feel of the beat, the melodies, especially when I perform to these kinds of music it feels like I am actually inside the music…producing it! I like Bachata, in particular Romeo Santos. Bachata is such a relaxing type of music. I enjoy listening to it whenever and wherever. It makes me feel like I’m somewhere down south sitting on the beach and watching the ocean! Another type of Latin music that I like is reggaetón. Reggaetón is all about the party; the positive mood and tropical paradise! EDM and house artists like Calvin Harris and Tiesto are my favorites. I have seen them both perform in Las Vegas and their music is on another level! Their collaborations with other artists are perfect! The melodies and sound samples they integrate enter your ears and gets your emotions jumping. I’m hoping to come to the US and pursue my own version of the path that these artists have forged. I have proven to myself and the people of Canada that a drummer can perform by himself and command the attention of sold out crowds. Performing and communicating with American artists like Jeremih has only made my desire to become a part of the great American music and entertainment industry even more attractive…and seem more possible.”

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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!”

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.

Supakuma: The Japanese Music Producer Who Needs to be on your Radar

Record Producer Ikuma Matsuda
Record Producer Ikuma Matsuda aka Supakuma shot by Karlena Bucknor

Over the last few years music producer Ikuma Matsuda, known widely as ‘Supakuma,’ has blown onto the music radar with incredible force establishing a strong reputation for himself as a dynamic and diversely talented producer– especially in the rap and electronic scene.

One of Supakuma’s most recent stunners is the rap-driven club banger “Ram it Up” from LA-based artist Andre Xcellence. Engineered and produced by Supakuma, you can definitely feel the energy emanating from “Ram it Up,” it’s one that will pick you up off the couch and get you moving your way over to the club.

Despite Andre Xcellence’s Caribbean background, and the fact that reggae music is definitely in high demand in terms of current radio trends, the producer suggested they sidestep the mainstream market and go in a different direction.

“I thought it would be interesting to bring back the feel of early 2000s iconic sounds such as Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott and some of recent sound such as Nicki Minaj instead of following the current radio sound,” explained Supakuma. “The artist and his promotion team really liked the style.”

Though it was only released a month ago, “Ram it Up” has already drummed up some pretty impressive praise, with Boomshots saying: He had us from the moment he flipped Super Cat’s “Don Dada” hook over a frenetic Supakuma-produced track that sounds something like Diwali on steroids.”

The booty-shaking hip-hop dance beats created by Supakuma and Xcellence’s strong and often comical lyrics prove that these two have clearly formed a fruitful relationship. About working with Xcellence, Supakuma says,“He has great honesty to music. He always catches the concept of the music immediately and builds a strong vision of the story of the song when the music is talking to him. When the music is not talking to him, he never hesitates to speak up and say his opinion to everyone. That way I can show my idea and he shows his thoughts, which makes good chemistry. “

The music video for Andre Xcellence’s song “Ram It Up” is set to go into production shortly and is being handled by Richard Jackson, creative director of Haus of Gaga, the creative team that handles most of the clothing, props, stage sets and other visual aspects for Lady Gaga’s music videos and tours, such as the famous ‘egg vessel’ Lady Gaga arrived in at the 53rd Grammy Awards. The video is expected to be released before Coachella.

Aside from “Ram it Up,” Supakuma is currently producing and engineering Andre Xcellence’s EP, which is expected to be finished by the end of 2017.

About why he enjoys working with Supakuma, Andre Xcellence says, “Most of all I would say his spirit. He is a true student of the game. Supakuma’s  attention to detail and the way he goes about his craft of  producing a record is refreshing. To have someone who knows exactly where music is at in it’s current state and how best to release music to seamlessly integrate is priceless.”

Last year Interscope Records hired Supakuma to produce the beats, as well as record and audio engineer Reem Riches ft. Osbe Chill song “Everyday.” Osbe Chill got a huge boost in the industry in 2016 when he was co-signed by hip-hop veteran The Game, who helped spur seven-time Grammy Award winner Kendrick Lamar’s career when he took him on tour and featured him on “The R.E.D. Album”– and we all know how well that turned out.

Like all of Supakuma’s work to date, the results of Reem Riches song “Everyday” featuring Osbe Chill are flawless, it’s no wonder so many artists are vying to work with him. His beats bring a dark, chilling element to the song, which drives the vibe, but never overshadows the rapper’s vocals.

Originally from Japan, Supakuma has become known across genres for his work as the producer and engineer of Paramore Entertainment artists Calista Quinn’s pop single “Slumber Party,” which premiered exclusively on Radio Disney in 2016, and Maxso’s “Pressure.” He also engineered the song “If Only You Knew” by J.O Jetson, which hit no.17 on the U.S. National Radio Ranking charts in November, and Brian Justin Crum’s cover of “Creep,” which Crum sang on season 11 of NBC’s Primetime Emmy Award nominated series “America’s Got Talent.”

What’s so interesting about Supakuma’s work as a whole is the diversity of the projects he’s produced. However, considering the powerful set of qualifications, and range of influences that he brings to the table, it’s not surprising that he’s managed to produce and engineer hit songs for such a genre-diverse group of artists. Aside from producing and recording, he also plays guitar, bass, piano and drums.

About his musical progression over the years, Supakuma explains, “I started playing the guitar and was listening to rock and heavy metal, then I started to play classical music… I studied composition jazz and big band in college and now I produce a lot of pop music but honestly I fancy producing future dance music. I love the process of a very constructive and detailed way of approaching things.”

So how’d Ikuma Matsuda get the nickname Supakuma? Anyone who’s worked with the multi-talented producer and engineer can probably guess.

He explains, “An A&R from Interscope records saw how I was producing and I was playing almost all instruments and mixing very quick so he started Supakuma.”

From producing and engineering artists from some of the most popular record labels in the world such as Interscope Records and Sony Music’s The Orchard, as well as well-known independent labels like Andre Xcellence’s American Commission / Pink Money Records, Supakuma is clearly being sought out to take huge music productions from an idea in the artist’s mind and turn them into a fully realized listening experience. In addition to producing Andre Xcellence’s forthcoming EP, Supakuma is also currently working on an upcoming collab with Grammy Award winner Shafiq Husayn from Sa-Ra creative partners.

 

Anton Engel is living the dream with The Dreamboys

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Anton Engel photo by Daniel Jaems

When Anton Engel was a young boy, he would watch music videos, dreaming that one day he would somehow be a part of them. He was like most children, watching TV, wanting to be on the screen one day too. But it was this initial spark that led to his interest in dance, and now Engel is a celebrated dancer all over the world.

Initially starting as a competitive break dancer at just 13, Engel began studying and mastering all types of dance, wanting to be able to do whatever he felt was best for the performance. This led to performing with chart-topping pop group Fifth Harmony at Heaven in London earlier this year, as well as his appearance in the opening for the BBC Music Awards with almost five million people watching on television. He danced on the famous Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular for two consecutive years, and once performed for none other than the royal family as part of the Royal Variety. Most recently, however, he lived his childhood dream quite literally, dancing with The Dreamboys in their tour of the United Kingdom.

“It was great to have the opportunity to dance and travel at the same time,” said Engel. “The Dreamboys have extremely good dancers who are a part of it and I wanted to prove to myself that I was at the same level.”

And prove himself he did. The Dreamboys are one of the world’s biggest glamor shows, and the most successful and celebrated in UK history. Engel not only excelled at his role, but stepped into the shoes of other’s when they were absent, which is called swinging people, ensuring the audience had the same experience at each tour location.

“This wasn’t easy since sometimes we only had an hour before the show would start. I would usually find a quiet room and go through every number to make sure there wasn’t anything I was missing. I always found a way to make it work,” said Engel.

This determination and professionalism was not missed by his counterparts. Not only did Engel work alongside a few celebrities from reality shows like Scotty T and Gaz Beadle from Geordie Shore, and Rogan O’Connor and Joss Mooney from Ex on the Beach, he worked closely with had well-known dancer and choreographer Jordan Darrell. Darrell describes working with Engel as an absolute delight.

“We have had so many ups and downs and Anton has always been ready to help. His professionalism and dedication to his work is outstanding,” said Darrell. “Anton dealt with rehearsals very well and the pressure of learning the choreography one-on-one with me in a studio, and there was a short time frame of which he had to learn a lot of choreography and spacing. Not once did he falter or waver his responsibilities, and he remained calm and professional throughout, soaking up the pressure with a smile.”

“Throughout the run of the show Anton has never backed down from a challenge such as a quick re-block or even a track change, which he then covered,” Darrell continued. “Anton has never deviated from the content or feel of a number, which I set as choreographer, and the audience response has always been one of the strongest towards him. He is talented, a hard worker and a pleasure to work with. In my experience this combination is one that can be added to any team, in any work environment, and will always be an asset.”

The audience attention that Engel received did not go to his head, but was actually a humbling experience for the young dancer. Touring for months on end three to four times a week, he saw the letters, messages, presents, t-shirts, and flowers he constantly received from the audience as support.

“It was so much fun to get the opportunity to dance for such big audiences. The feeling on stage is incredible. After the show, we gave out autographs, which was a really fun experience. It makes me happy knowing that when people watch me dance they leave with a smile on their face,” said Engel.

Despite the challenges that can come from touring, like never being able to have the comfort of your own bed, and having to adapt to a different stage with each show, the travelling was a highlight of the experience for Engel, and being on a tour bus is a unique way of doing it.

“It was amazing to see so many different parts of the UK. I had never been outside of London before I joined The Dreamboys, and now I have been in every major city and a lot of lovely small places that I never heard about,” said Engel. “I met so many different people and it’s such a pleasure to see that I have so many fans not only in London but all over the country.”

The Dreamboys experience is one that Engel will never forget, and helped him prepare for his upcoming show in Las Vegas, with Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live.

“Being on tour with The Dreamboys taught me a lot and helped me improve in every dance style. By switching dance styles from number to number it really let me use my full capacity, and I really enjoyed it,” concluded Engel.