Category Archives: Musicians

Violinist Hui Cao brings joy of music to Zhuhai Jinwan while leading the Chamber Orchestra

From the time Hui Cao was just a baby, he would listen to his mother sing. As he grew, he began to sing with her, and his innate musical talents were evident even then. He could easily identify each note, and without any lessons, he effortlessly would carry a tune. The same occurred when he first lifted a violin; it felt like he was meant to play the instrument and has been doing so since he was a child. Now, he is one of China’s most prolific violinists.

With an impressive resume both playing and teaching, Cao’s career as a violinist has been extraordinary. He aims to share musical culture with both his admirers and his students. In 2013, he began teaching violin classes at Pooi To Middle School in Macau, a city on China’s South Coast. The popularity of the instrument rose dramatically when he was there, having such a celebrated musician teaching. He is currently practicing for the 2018 Music String Festival in Zhuhai Jinwan, a large festival in China. Not only will Cao be a soloist at the event, but he is also responsible for inviting other violinists to partake in a masterclass that he will then conduct.

“I feel like I can’t live without music. I like to play the violin to audiences and enjoy every moment,” he said.

Cao’s influence in Zhuhai Jinwan began in 2015 when he started playing in the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra. Founded only the year beforehand, Cao was instrumental to making it the success it is today. He was hired as the music director and concertmaster, in charge of every musician in the orchestra. During the three years that Cao has been leading the orchestra, they have played over 30 charity concerts and educated over 60,000 people in music.

We love to perform right in the community, whether that be in schools or small businesses. It brings lots of fun and music to the local people, and playing for charity is always a good thing. I think, as a musician, you play music that will hopefully help some people in this world. That is a wonderful thing, which is why I think performing for charity is so very important,” said Cao.

When Cao was invited to take part in the orchestra, it was still very new. He was immediately interested, wanting to help spread the joy of music whenever possible, and he felt Zhuhai Jinwan was the ideal location to do so. It is a relatively new city, and therefore music and the arts were not as developed as many other cities in the region. The local government wanted to change this, and therefore created the orchestra as a non-profit organization.

“People who lived in Zhuhai Jinwan did not have the opportunity to experience good, classical music the way that so many others do in the larger Chinese cities. I wanted to be the person to help change that,” said Cao.

After getting in touch with the sponsors, Cao began working immediately. He started with finding musicians for the orchestra and followed by choosing the perfect music. He wanted to select pieces that would excite the locals and allow them to appreciate classical music. When recruiting players for the orchestra, he reached out to the residents of the city, allowing them to get excited at the prospect of the first chamber orchestra in Zhuhai Jinwan.

“We are very honored to have Hui as our music director for the chamber orchestra. He is a talented musician and gives us a lot of support. The first day we met Hui we knew he could help us build this chamber group to a great success,” said Mok Ian Ian, Director of Zhuhai Jinwan Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Once Cao filled every spot on the orchestra, they started rehearsing twice a week. He helped the players practice, teaching them how to perform and offering insight from his many professional experiences. Most of the musicians were not trained, and it was Cao’s responsibility to do so. Under his direction, the entire orchestra went from many individual musicians to one entity, playing seamlessly. He also supported the guest conductor during rehearsals while still planning the music for each performance.

“I really admire the local musicians and their love of music. It was my job to help them become better players and make sure they improved, but you can’t teach passion. Directing these musicians was easy because of how much they enjoyed what they were doing,” said Cao. “I am also very thankful to the government and all the support we received from them. It was the people I worked with that made this such a special project. Everyone wanted to bring music to the community.”

Cao and the orchestra held their opening concert at the Zhuhai City Hall in 2015. It was extremely successful, and from there, they have continued to be recognized and praised by all sectors of society. Now, just a couple of years later, the orchestra is seen as a prestigious group of musicians.

“After three years of work, I saw the Zhuhai Jinwan chamber orchestra get more popular and professional. I am very happy, it has been like watching my kids grow up. I put lots of my time and energy into the group, and the results more than paid off,” he said.

Evidently, Cao is an incredible musician and director. What he accomplished with the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra is just one example of what this talented violinist is capable of. He truly loves what he does, and for those looking to follow in his footsteps, he says that is of the most vital importance.

“As a musician, I have only one piece of advice to those who are looking to pursue a career in music, and that is to love the music and enjoy the music. Music is always a great and interesting hobby, but if someone wants to become a professional musician, the path is very difficult. You have to persist and practice and remain focused on your goal every step of the way. That is why passion is key. If you do not have this, you will never be a true musician,” he concluded.

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Sound Engineer Josué Catalán Discusses Hit Singles and What Can Be Expected in 2018

To this day, somewhere just over 1,250 micro-genres of popular music have been named. They’ve played a huge role in helping to describe and classify different albums and songs, and in doing so, have allowed both listeners and musicians to easily identify and categorize their preferred musical styles.

Renowned sound engineer, Josué Catalán, has experience with mixing and mastering music from a multitude of genres. This versatile experience has aided in Catalán’s growth as an artist, which in recent years has contributed to the success of two major hit singles: Pegadito a Mi Piel and Cuando La Historia Cambie, both released in 2017. Furthermore, due to his vast practice, Catalán’s been able to isolate a few of his favorite genres to work within, too.

“I have two favorite genres of music,” Catalán informed, “POP and Jazz. I love how each one represents a world on its own, and I learn a lot every time I get to work on a POP or Jazz production.”

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Josué Catalán recording at Studio 57 Pro

The song Pegadito a Mi Piel, which Catalán mixed and mastered, is a song that falls within one of the sound engineer’s two favored genres: POP. Sung by Chilean POP artist Dani Ilabel and produced by Max Donoso and Manuel Burgos, Pegadito a Mi Piel translates to “Close to my skin,” and is a song of romance. It took Catalán a total of just three days to have the final product complete and ready to be delivered to TVN (Televisión Nacional de Chile) Records, the well-known label the single was signed by.

“The main challenge while mixing and mastering this particular song was finding a certain attitude to give the sound that could make it stand out from the typical romantic ballad,” Catalán explained. “I tried to impart some character by adding subtle distortion and delivered nuances that made the sound be forward and dynamic.”

Part of what makes Catalán so uniquely brilliant when it comes to his work is his fearlessness when it comes to taking risks with sound. Anyone can learn how to engineer, but it takes a truly exceptional kind of person, one who’s willing to gamble the possibility of failure, to obtain the attention-seeking type of success Catalán has proved himself more than capable of attaining. Producer Donoso supported this thought, stating, “Josué’s the person you go to because you know he’ll make your music sound better. Not only is he the kind of engineer that knows how to translate engineering into music, which makes him so easy to work with, but he’s also not afraid of taking musical/engineering risks. His mixes tend to bring an edge to projects that helps them to stand out among the ever-crowded universe of music productions.”

Such success also goes hand in hand with working amongst a team of talented individuals, who also happen to deeply care about professionalism and camaraderie within the workplace. Not only have Catalán, Donoso, and Ilabel worked as a unit on Pegadito a Mi Piel, but they’ve also collaborated on several tracks and albums together. “When you work with talented people who also care about teamwork, work ethics, and human relationships, it’s hard not to learn and see yourself grow. Working with Max has showed me that big challenges must be taken step by step and that nothing is impossible in terms of dreams and vision. He taught me to value simple things in music; an honest song will resonate better with the audience, and actually, that’s something one can even relate to life,” Catalán elaborated.

While Pegadito a Mi Piel was the first of songs that Catalán mixed and mastered to be aired on national television, it certainly wasn’t the last. In fact, some of the most notorious tracks the trio has worked on together have been featured on multiple shows of the main Chilean TV channel, TVN. It was, however, Pegadito a Mi Piel’s great success which opened new doors for young singer Ilabel. Not only was the single used as the main soundtrack for the 2017 soap opera La Colombiana starring Felipe Braun, Elizabeth Minotta, and María José Illanes, but it was also named one of the 50 most viral songs in Chile on Spotify for two weeks, ultimately reaching second place on the list.

In simple terms, as Catalán puts it, “A successful song can position an artist so that he or she can spark interest of the label or producers that are managing the artist.” And, this is exactly what the finished product Pegadito a Mi Piel did.

Currently, there is another Ilabel single that will also be mixed and mastered by Catalán in the works. While an official release date is still to be determined, one can remain on the lookout for the song as it is set to be titled Cuenta Conmigo (Count on Me). Ilabel’s latest single that was mixed and mastered by Catalán, Eres Mi Otra Mitad (You Are My Better Half), was released quite recently, and has been airing on TV for about three months now.

Branching out some from the familiar and favorited territory of the POP music genre, Catalán contributed to yet another hit single this past year: The Country-Rock single Cuando La Historia Cambie sung by the famed Jano Letelier.

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Josué Catalán recording Jano Letelier’s single Cuando La Historia Cambie

Cuando La Historia Cambie is a powerful song that speaks of the injustice and wracked government system in Chile. Elaborating on the subject he’s quite familiar with, Catalán explained, “Chile, because of the military dictatorship in the 70-80s, is one of the most “Neoliberal” countries in the world. Everything is private and the system encourages social and economic inequality. People have to wait six months to get an appointment with a doctor in the public system. Meanwhile, the private hospitals are like luxury hotels and are very expensive. Also, people are retiring with pensions not greater than 10% of their former income, and this is a system managed by private companies. And these are just a few examples of what is going on within the country.”

The compelling and fresh production of Cuando La Historia Cambie was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Catalán, and has been transmitted by several online radio stations, including as the Todos Junto Radio, as well as FM radios such as Radio Futuro, one of the largest Rock and Blues radio stations in all of Chile.

“The first time I heard Cuando LA Historia Cambie on Radio Futuro, I felt so proud and excited and was full of adrenaline. I am proud of having worked on delivering the powerful message of the song to tons of people through one of the biggest radio stations in the country,” Catalán reminisced.

Contributing to the overall production of the single was drummer Arturo Salinas, bass player Sebastian Cordova, and studio assistant Nicolas Moris.

Prior to entering the recording studio, the team had prepared the songs and all ideas, resulting in a smooth process of production.  The band was recorded live with all musicians playing at the same time, and the final mix of the song was listened to repeatedly until Catalán and Letelier were certain they’d achieved a flawless sound.

“Josue’s preparation, responsibility, good hearing, and good will to work makes him very good at what he does,” Letelier commented. Catalán’s great ear for sound quality and comprehensive talent for engineering was also noticed by several radio listeners; After Cuando La Historia Cambie first aired on a radio show, Catalán instantly received praising comments comparing the sound quality of Letelier’s song to various others of the same style that were aired among his on the station that day. Adding to her previous words, Letelier concluded, “When working with him, you can see that he is happy doing what he loves and puts his positive energy into the projects.”

Presently, Catalán has mixed two additional Jano Letelier singles that are set to be released in early 2018, along with an entire album that should see the light by mid 2018. “The new album is a fresh view of Chilean music based mainly on blues and rock. It serves as an example of the talent that we have in Chile and will bring many different topics to the table in a very honest and powerful way,” Catalán shared. “Jano’s vision of Chilean music is very unique yet very representative of the national scene. The whole process of working with him has been very educative.”

 

For more information on Josué Catalán, please visit: www.josuecatalan.com
To listen to Pegadito a Mi Piel, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-SzcAHUHek
To listen to Cuando La Historia Cambie, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6E3mIjDZBw

Kurt Szul blows away City of Los Angeles for Italian Heritage Day

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Kurt Szul

Kurt Szul is a firm believer that in this life, “you get back what you put in.” Working in a field as cutthroat and unpredictable as the music industry, he understands the reality of this motto better than most. Not only does he know the level of dedication and hard work required to stay on top of his competition, he makes it look effortless. His success is largely based on his unprecedented drive; however, it is perhaps his versatility that has earned him a profound reputation amongst some of the best artists in the world.

Szul’s background in jazz music allowed him to master other genres with ease; however, his talents extend far beyond his natural affinity for composing and playing music. He is also a seasoned businessman with a wide range of experience managing and promoting bands. He has an aptitude for preparing music, organizing musicians, rehearsing bands, creating concepts for projects, and ensuring that any band he manages are well prepared to exceed their goals. Beyond managing bands, Szul can be credited with inventing, pioneering, and co-building one of the first and only Nine String Guitars at the young age of 18.

In 2015, Szul shared his talents with Los Angeles’ Italian community when he performed at Los Angeles City Hall Chambers Ceremony for their Italian Heritage Day. The city’s primary contact when looking for an artist, Janet DeMay, was tasked with securing a band to play at the event. Given her prominence in the Italian community, she was determined to acquire a seasoned professional to ensure that Italian Heritage Day was equipped with the highest quality performance possible. DeMay was already aware of Szul’s reputation in the industry and knew that he would be the perfect addition to the event. When she approached him about the possibility of having him perform for the city of Los Angeles, Szul couldn’t resist saying yes.

Szul, who has ample experience performing for high calibre events, knew of the hard work that would need to go into preparing Italian Heritage Day and took careful consideration to guarantee that the session would be a hit. For Szul, opportunities like performing at the Los Angeles City Hall Chambers Ceremony are what motivated him to become an artist and a band manager in the first place. He was both honored and humbled by the experience and eager to make sure that the city would be left speechless when the band were finished.

“Before the performance, I felt excited that I was bringing session musicians that I handpicked, prepared, and organized for such a prestigious event. I felt confident that the band would flawlessly perform the music that I had prepared and that it would be appreciated for this special day. I helped the band prepare in such a way that when we talked over the music and set up, we were able to play exactly as planned and it was very satisfying seeing the crowd enjoy it as much as they did. People loved it and kept moving closer to watch us play. After we finished playing, people kept approaching us to express what our music meant to them and to offer us future work,” said Szul.

Szul’s successes at Italian Heritage Day continued to grow even after the band’s performance. In addition to the verbal feedback that the band received, DeMay went on to receive a Certificate of Recognition honouring the band’s contribution to the event. The entire Los Angeles City Council, including the Honorable Mayor Eric Garcetti and councilman Joe Buscaino of the 15th district, who were also impressed by the quality of the performance. Naturally, DeMay was ecstatic by the event’s reception and knows that its success is a reflection of Szul’s artistry.

“I hand-picked Kurt to perform at the Los Angeles City Hall Chambers Ceremony kicking off Italian Heritage Month because of his ability to perform authentic Italian Jazz music from Native Italian Composers, an ability that is not found among musicians in the Los Angeles area. Because of his early classical piano training and his years of experience playing a variety of Jazz music, he is able to meld two disciplines and traditions into one seamlessly. He has a unique ability that suited our needs perfectly and he is a valuable member of the extended Italian community,” told DeMay.

Szul prides himself on the feedback he receives from any project he completes and continues to labor his efforts toward creating new opportunities to do what he loves wherever and whenever he can. When his competition is fierce, he stays grounded by the knowledge that he is willing to persevere where many other artists would give up. Quitting isn’t an option for Szul and his vast amount of experience has allowed him to find stability in what he does. He puts one hundred per cent of himself behind every project that he works on and in return, he receives one hundred per cent satisfaction from his achievements.

Drummer Ivan Copelli remains humble in his rise to fame

When hard rock musician, Ivan Copelli, began drumming as a young child, he had no idea of the impact it would have on the rest of his life. For the Brazilian-native, it was all about tending to the passion inside him and exploring himself through his music. The now wildly successful artist is used to other aspiring professional musicians asking him for the secrets to his success, but for Copelli, it is simple. He understands that regardless of whether or not you can be classed as a “good” musician or a “bad” one, you owe it to yourself to just keep playing.

As he earned success in his career, after playing with the hit Brazilian band Motores, he learned the true value of remaining true to yourself and to your original sound. He has mastered the ability to market himself effectively and ensure that he doesn’t allow major companies or record labels to take advantage of his purity as an artist. His art is his business and he works tirelessly to grow it wherever possible. He also recognizes that today, with the power of the internet, it is easier than ever before to educate yourself and keep yourself busy. There is no excuse to give up on what you love to do most.

After achieving a series of accomplishments with Motores, including winning MTV Rally’s fierce competition in 2007, Copelli was approached by another up-and-coming Brazilian band, Kiara Rocks. He was familiar with the band’s sound and had attended their shows on several occasions. The band’s lead singer, Cadu Pelegrini, was eager to work with Copelli when he heard that he had left Motores. He wanted a drummer that would attract the attention of a larger audience and to boost the band’s visibility in the industry. Fortunately, Copelli’s work with Motores positioned him well above other drummers of his kind and Pelegrini knew that his contributions to Kiara Rocks would be invaluable. Copelli jumped at the opportunity to lend his talents to the band and it was the beginning of something new and exciting for his already esteemed career.

What Copelli ended up enjoying most about playing with Kiara Rocks, however, was touring around the world and being able to share the band’s music to new audiences in new areas on a daily basis. “For the three years that I played with them, we spent most of our weekends on tour, playing in different cities and states, making new friends, and growing our fan base. We were very close as a band. We didn’t even need to look at each other when we were on stage to know what everyone was doing. We were so connected,” said Copelli.

Copelli’s ability to not only adapt himself to the style of the band he is playing with, but to enhance their sound is what makes him such a highly sought after addition to every project he is asked to work on. After Kiara Rocks appeared on the successful Brazilian web series, Showlivre.com, producer Clemente Nascimento realized just how intangible Copelli’s skills are.

“Across his time with the group, he provided expertise as a top tier drummer. He also appeared in a number of the band’s virally popular music videos. Specifically, in his role as the drummer for the band, he kept the rhythm solid and consistent and while his work does not overshadow the tones of his fellow musicians, anyone who listens to their music notices the harmonious coordination between his drumming and the bass to create a tight rhythm section. He is absolutely vital to any band he collaborates with, more so than most drummers in his field. His contributions Kiara Rocks highlight both his prowess as a drummer, as well as the impact his music had on the band’s incomparable success,” recalled Nascimento.

With Copelli’s rising success, came unexplored territory. When his first single with Kiara Rocks received over 300,000 views on YouTube, he started to see the impact that his music had on the band’s presence in a new light. He could see the difference they were making in the field of rock music on an unfamiliar scale and he was humbled by the recognition they were receiving. All of a sudden, he found himself encountering excited fans in the street, screaming at him and honking their horns. He still gets shivers down his spine when he thinks about it and he credits this success as being the to motivator driving him to create new sounds and bring even more high-quality music to the shelves for his followers.

In fact, it was during his time playing with Kiara Rocks that Copelli experienced one of the major highlights of his career. Being a die-hard rock music fan, Copelli had the distinct pleasure of working with Guns n’ Roses’ drummer, Matt Sorum. Sorum produced what Copelli considers to be one of the most important albums for the Brazilian rock music scene in years. Copelli played his heart out and to little surprise, the band’s fans were immediately addicted. Seeing his work come to life for his fans is just one of the many reasons he continues to play and produce music for a living.

So what does Copelli have in store for hard rock music fans around the world? He has a few projects in the works. Ultimately, however, he hopes to re-connect with some of the artists he has worked with in the past, as well as with new artists, in order to create unique new sounds and albums that his fans will thank him for.

Keyboardist Jose Roman talks Daphne’s Roots’ debut album ‘Enter the Voyage’

Jose Roman is a true musician. He doesn’t just enjoy music, he lives it. He breathes it. He feels it. When his fingers touch the keys of a piano, he is alive, and when one listens to his music, they are alive as well.

Despite working on many successful projects and working alongside many artists, Roman’s claim to fame is with the progressive/alternative rock band Daphne’s Roots. Besides playing the keyboard, Roman writes songs and arranges high quality keyboard parts to the musical ideas of the other band mates. Once these ideas are polished, and the songs are completed, he is an outstanding studio musician, bringing his ideas to life. He always consistently delivers versatility and a wide range of musical abilities.

“Working with Jose is an amazing experience. He is so full of energy and creativity that makes you feel good and motivated. He is a top-notch player which makes him extremely reliable. He has an extensive musical knowledge which is very useful. For instance, we wrote together some percussion arrangements and he always surprised me with his creativity and talent,” said Felipe Restrepo, drummer of Daphne’s Roots.

In 2012, Daphne’s Roots released their first album titled Enter the Voyage. Being the founder and main songwriter for the band, it was Roman’s idea to start working on the ambitious project. For a long time, he had the concept of the album in his head. It is the first part of an epic story, told through different songs. The album was the breakthrough for the band, and to this day, one of the most exciting experiences of Roman’s esteemed career.

“It was extremely exciting and thrilling to work on this project all the way through. From the writing process to the studio time, the motivation to deliver an amazing album was always there. The atmosphere on the studio was always electric and inspiring. I would write new songs and then show them to the guys and then we would work on them all together. It was an unforgettable experience and we are very proud of the result we accomplished,” said Roman.

As the founder and leader of my band Daphne’s Roots, Roman motivated my band mates to start working on this project. They had a repertoire of songs that they played together, and together they choose the best songs and wrote even more in order to develop the album. Roman’s role, in addition to playing the keyboard on every track, was to write the remaining songs in order to complete the first part of this concept album.

“Writing all the keyboard parts was a lot of fun for this project. I used many of my different keyboard influences to enhance as much as possible the songs. Once at the studio, the recording process of the keyboard parts was very exhilarating. It was very cool to experiment with different layers of keyboards that we could put in the recording. At the end, I was very satisfied with all the keyboard parts on all of the songs,” he said.

The album ended up being a large success. Not only did fans love it, but upon its release, Enter the Voyage was awarded “Best Album of the Month” by the popular radio show La Zona del Metal.

“We were very gladly surprised and honoured to know our album did so well. It is always gratifying to know we connect with many fans as possible with each project we release. We are very grateful to be recognized by this prestigious radio show that we admire very much,” said Roman.

None of this could have been possible without Roman’s contributions. Daphne’s Roots is a very keyboard driven band, and it was very important to get that part of the album right. There are a lot moments on multiple songs where sometimes the keyboard is all by itself, responsible to evoke a very emotional part. Without the presence of the keyboards on this album, the structure and sensitivity of the songs would not have worked.

“Still to this day, I hear a lot from fans that the keyboard parts are their favorite parts of the songs and that is very rewarding,” he said.

The best part for Roman, however, about working on Enter the Voyage, was not the awards or the fan reaction, it was getting to work alongside his friends, doing what he loves.

“One of the most gratifying experiences about working on this album was writing a couple of the songs with my good friend and band mate Manuel Sambour, who is the main singer and lead guitar player. The way we complemented each other was rich and creative. This is true not only with Sambour, but with the rest of the band as well. The chemistry in this band is very powerful and I believe that is the main key element responsible for this project success,” he concluded.

Peter Lam’s musical genius wins Best Score Award for film ‘Lovebites’

When Peter Lam was a child, he, like most other children, loved movies. He would sneak into his parents’ movie collection, eager at any opportunity to experience a new film. However, unlike most children, who would be enthralled by what they saw on the screen, Lam was captivated by what he heard through the speakers.

Now, Lam is an internationally sought-after film composer. He has worked on countless successful projects, including the award-winning films The Ballerina, The Shoemaker, & His Apprentice, and (le) Rebound. He recently worked on the score for the TV movie Menendez: Blood Brothers, which premiered on Lifetime earlier this month, with over a million people tuning in to hear what he is capable of. However, what is perhaps the most celebrated film of his career is Lovebites, a 2015 animated film that catapulted Lam to the top of his field, being recognized as one of the best film composers to come out of Hong Kong in recent memory.

“I am always excited to work on animations. It’s a very imaginative genre and music often plays a big part in shaping the ‘sound world’ of the animated world. A composer often doesn’t come on board on a live-action film until the film has been shot. But in animation, I often start composing while the animation is still being developed or rendered alongside. The whole creative process feels very organic, hence it’s always fun to work on animations,” Lam described.

Lovebites is about the praying mantis Cecil, and tells the story of his first date. Lam’s music is vital for Lovebites, as the story is essentially told through music. It is an animated film with no dialogue and minimal sound effects, and the score runs continuously through the film from start to finish. Lam’s ability to capture the emotions of the two mantises is what makes the film so engaging.

“We bounced back and forth about musical ideas and the storyline, and when I started working on the project, I was presented with the initial character sketches and concept art. I scored the entire film based on the animatics (pre-rendered animation). In a way, the material I was working with then was not as detailed or delicate as the final product, but on the other hand, it offered me a bit more freedom for imagination, and encouraged me to be creative,” he described.

Stuck Truck Studios, the production company of Lovebites, had total trust in Lam’s creative decisions. Knowing they needed the best for a film that relies so heavily on the score, the team quickly invited Lam to be a part of the project after hearing samples of his work. Lam decided to create a score that only featured percussion and plucked instruments to create the quirky world of insects.

“Stuck Truck Studio encouraged me to think outside the box in order to create a colorful and quirky palette for this cute animation. It’s always fun to break away from conventions and experiment with new sounds,” said Lam. “I think the approach I used for the music gave the film a unique character, and I had a lot of fun experimenting with wild percussion sounds that, if not for this film, I would never have thought of using.”

This musical approach proved fruitful. After its premiere at the Original Narrative Festival in Dubai in February 2015, the film went on to see enormous success at film festivals around the world. That same year, it was an Official Selection at BFI Future Film Festival, Chile Monos International Animation Festival 2015, Athens Animfest, Tiltshift Festvial, 9th River Film Festival, Original Narrative Dubai, Reel Teal Film Festival, MICE Valencia, and the Vancouver International Film Festival. It went on to win the Audience Choice Award at the Melbourne International Animation Festival, and the Character Animation Award at the ANIMEX International Festival of Animation and Computer Games. Lam was personally recognized at the Short Sharp Film Festival Australia that year, winning the award for Best Score.

“Given that this was one of my first experiences in working with animations, I was very delighted to know that the film did so well in so many film festivals. Lovebites has been screened around the world and has set foot on almost every continent. I guess winning the Audience Choice Award at the Melbourne International Animation Festival and Best Score in Short Sharp Film Festival in Australia shows how effective my music can be,” said Lam.

After its success at so many film festivals, the film was later featured in the acclaimed animation website and channel CG Bros. It has amassed more than 4.2 million views (on YouTube since that time), making it a viral animation. None of this success would have been possible without Lam’s creative ear for the score, knowing its importance in telling the story. Agaki Bautista, the Art Director for Lovebites, believes Lam is one of the best film composers he has ever worked with.

Peter was always punctual in responding and we always felt comfortable having a dialogue with him. Communication was clear across all fronts. Peter is super receptive towards creative collaboration. We started off by sharing references and bouncing off ideas with each other and he was open throughout the process. It is rare to have the level of creative cooperation that we had with Peter,” said Bautista.

Lam’s talent is evident in everything he does. His work on Lovebites shows the world that his creative instincts are spot on, and he is exceptionally versatile. Be sure to check out his work in the upcoming animation film Slippages – Grace in IMAX later this year.

In the meantime, watch Lovebites here and let your eyes, and ears, capture the essence of the story with Lam’s work.

Bassist Yasutaka Nomura talks Smokey Lenses’ new highly-anticipated album

Yastuaka Nomura is lucky enough to love what he does. There is no “back to work grind” that so many face on a Sunday night for him, or dull days filled with no real feeling of accomplishment. His job gives him joy, a sense of purpose, and adrenaline rushes. That is the life of a professional musician.

Having worked with several bands, such as Mammoth, Squanky Kong, and Voodoo Kungfu, Nomura has worked on a wide variety of genres for a professional musician. He enjoys this, not wanting to pigeon-hole himself into one specific type of music. The guitarist and bassist is recognized for his undeniable versatility and talent, which is why when the Indie Rock/Alternative band Smokey Lenses was looking for a bassist, he knew he had to be a part of it.

“I wanted to work with Smokey Lenses because I liked the songs, but also because the music they play is something I usually don’t get to play, even though I always liked listening to that kind of music and I always wanted to play it with a band with original material. I was very excited when they asked me to play in the band,” said Nomura. “I usually don’t get to play the kind of music that Smokes Lenses plays so I was inspired to do a completely different musical approach than I usually do in my other projects. I was definitely a new challenge for me.”

Initially, Nomura had heard the band was looking for a new bass player for their album recording through his friend Aliyar Kinik, the drummer of Nomura’s band Mammoth. The band’s drummer needed a substitute and Kinik was filling in. He mentioned to the band that he new a good bassist, and after hearing Nomura, they knew they had to have him.

“Recording the album was great. We recorded total of 12 songs and I’m happy with all of them. The songs were already great before arranging but I think the work of the band is making the songs sound even better. I can’t wait for the album to be released and to listen to it,” said Nomura.

When recording the album, they did all the basic tracks live at once, with everyone in the same room. This is not a common way of recording. Because of using this style, the tracks have a lot of energy and organic feeling, according to Nomura. Recording like this allows there to be more energy, with better dynamics and conversation between each band member, just like a live show.

“It was awesome. I barely knew the band members at first but we got along very quickly. Everyone in the band was very easy to work with and fun people. We always had a great time at the recording sessions. I cannot wait to work with them again,” said Nomura.

The album is expected to be released later this summer, which is highly-anticipated due to the release of the first single Candle Glow, which was released May of last year. The single received positive reviews and was featured by popular music blogs like Speak Into My Good Eye, That New Jam, and Revolution Tunes.

Candle Glow is definitely one of my favorite songs from this album. It has a nice catchy melody and lyrics. I’m really happy with the recording too,” said Nomura. “The success it has seen since being released is great. We started off the album recording with this song. It was the first time I could even play with the band since our schedule didn’t match before the first recording session, but I think we were already locked in at the first session.”

As a guitarist and bassist, Nomura typically plays progressive rock, metal, funk, R&B, jazz, and fusion. He says progressive rock and metal require a lot of technique, with the sense of odd meters and solid timing. Funk and R&B require a nice 16th note time feel and a good sense of call. Jazz and Fusion require great skill with improvisation, nice swing, 16th note feel, pocket and of course sophisticated technique. The music that Smokey Lenses plays is far different from these genres. It doesn’t require either an amazing technique or the skill of improvisation but a good time feel/pocket on mostly 8th note beat, importantly the skill to stay on the groove and not overplay, technically speaking. Many musicians so familiar with other genres would have found themselves overplaying and not staying on the groove, which would interfere with the vocal melody. This was not the case for Nomura. He even tried to sing on everything he played on bass. His adaptability was appreciated by the band, who may not have been able to make the album or see the success that they say with Candle Glow without Nomura.

“Yasutaka is very professional and easy to work with. The work process went smoothly and he produced exceptional results. Yasutaka is a professional musician, so he understands the importance of being excellent at his craft and has a dense knowledge of music theory. He is respectful, focused, observant and learns extremely quickly,” said Singer and Guitarist Adam Oberst.

With talent like this, there is no doubt Nomura will continue to come through our speakers for years to come. Listen to Nomura’s work and Smokey Lenses’ song Candle Glow here.

Check out Nomura’s YouTube, Instagram, and Soundcloud to hear more.

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.