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Interview with Kaya Project: Globalizing Soundscapes Through Live-tronic Experiences

Interview by Rourke Healey & Forrest Neumann

As part of our preview coverage for Symbiosis Gathering 2016, we are delighted to offer our international artist interview series. Our aim is to bring a personalized addition to our visual coverage by asking questions that align with Breaking Borders’ focus on uncovering untold stories and examining cross cultural exploration in music.

The first interview in our series is with UK world-electronica producer Kaya Project! Seb Taylor, the master behind Kaya Project, has been active for over a decade with 8 released albums. He is known for his collaboration with a wide range of musicians and vocalists from various ethnic backgrounds. He has created an iconic “Live” experience where many of his collaborators play with him on stage fusing live acoustic soundscapes with his beautiful electronic production. This year at Symbiosis, Seb Taylor will be playing a electronic DJ set on Friday night and then join Kaya Project for a very special “Live” set on Saturday morning.
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Breaking Borders: Symbiosis is a unique global gathering, what makes it special to you and how does it stand out among other similar events?

Kaya Project: Well, I guess the most special thing for me is that this is actually my first ever Symbiosis! Having heard so many good things from my musician friends I’m finally going to be able to experience it first hand. Pretty excited I have to say. I’ve also been told it is affectionately known as ‘Swimbiosis’ due to the current location, So I’m glad to have an opportunity to splash around this year (I love swimming) before it moves to a different location next time around. Perhaps you will need to ask me this question after I’ve actually been there, ha ha… then I’ll have a better personal perspective on the true nature of the festival. But suffice to say, I’m expecting some special moments for sure.

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We are very excited for your “live” performance of Kaya Project, do you have anything special in store us?

Coming fresh from a European leg of the tour, I’ve had the great pleasure of Performing alongside some of my favorite musicians, & this California show will be the first time Kaya Project has performed within the home territory of the lead vocalist, Irina Mikhailova (as most of you know) is the Kazakhstani Singer who has been part of the project since it’s inception. She has spent many years living in San Francisco, with frequent annual trips over to Europe, but this will be the debut Kaya Project gig in her own backyard so to speak. So from that point of view I consider it a pretty special show. We shall also be joined by Montreal based Guitarist Israel Galipeau who most recently played with us at BOOM festival (Portugal) & Whirl-Y-Fayre (U.K.) Also, in keeping with the California Vibe, We have prepared a couple of exclusive reworkings of Remixes that I did for David Starfire, looking forward to playing those ones out.

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You are a artist who travels the world and creates a “world soundscape” through music production. What drew you to this work, and what inspires you to keep going?

From a musical perspective I could say that hearing the album “Songs From The Victorious City’ by Jaz Coleman & Anne Dudley was a huge inspirational moment for me. Back in 1991 & I hadn’t really started to produce music properly. I remember experiencing major goosebumps & thinking how amazing it was, this fusion of Moroccan music with Western Electronic production. Who can really say what inspires an artist to keep going, I just know that as long as I feel the music inside of me I hope I’ll always have an opportunity to be making it!

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https://sebtaylor.bandcamp.com/album/walking-through

4. We’ve seen you collaborate both on records and on stage with talented musicians from around the world like Randolph Matthews and Irina Mikhailova. What’s your favourite part about working with such diverse talent, representing different cultural and music backgrounds?

Its an honour to work with Irina & Randolph, & I still vividly recall the exact moment I heard both of their voices for the first time. Strangely enough both times were during Soundchecks for events I was also booked to perform at. Irina was singing for Medicine Drum in Mexico (close to the pyramids of Teotihuacan) & Randolph in the slightly less mystical setting of the legendary Turnmills Bar in east London., ha ha! But the effect on me in both instances was identical, I was transported. One of the Joys of working on Kaya Project material is the ability to fuse as many different cultures as sonically reasonable. As long as they sound harmonious & part of a coherent greater sonic picture to me then that is the sole requirement. Besides the amazing Randolph & Irina, I have to mention Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Shahin Badar, Natasha Chamberlain, Flo Comment, Deepak Pandit & numerous other incredible international players I’ve had the great fortune to collaborate with.

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https://sebtaylor.bandcamp.com/album/sema-yaka

Your album …& So It Goes is primarily a world acoustic album, where as most of your projects contain an electronic element, hence the recent remix album of …&  So it Goes. Tell us about your experience with both sonic hemispheres and why you like to fuze global acoustic sounds with electronic music?

Yes indeed, “..& So It Goes” was the first entirely acoustic album from Kaya Project. It was a conscious decision for me to remove all electronic sounds from the project, & focus primarily on Live instrumentation. In a way this has made Kaya Project stand out from many other acts in the scene I guess, (the lack of electronic sounds I mean). It has also been a very useful in making the music more ‘timeless’ so to speak. The latest album “So It Was” is indeed fully electronic, I enlisted all my favorite producers to rework & remix the original tracks, people like Desert Dwellers, Gaudi, Bwoy De Bhajan, Kukan Dub Lagan, David Starfire & many others, all contributed to making a great & wide ranging electronic remix album. In fact I do love to have the two opposite sonic hemispheres of Kaya Project represented and in a way compartmentalized away from each other, The Organic original albums (& associated Live show), compared to the electronic remixes (& associated DJ sets).
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https://sebtaylor.bandcamp.com/album/so-it-was-so-it-goes-remixed

What’s your opinion on music production today, specifically the global festival culture becoming a strong global community and a means to “break down borders”? (cultural difference, societal norms, creative expression, etc.) What is the best part about being a key player in this artistic revolution?

Well, more than anything you could say the Internet has been the greatest means of breaking down cultural & geographic borders over the last ten years, although I do like to think music has had a strong part to play as well! I see my friends playing in places like Beirut & i think back to how I first heard of all those middle eastern places on the news throughout my childhood. Now music is truly bridging east & west in a way that was only dreamt about before. The Internet has made such connections & cultural pathways possible. It’s important to understand that you should be respectful of other people’s beliefs (whether or not you agree with them), & while I tend to steer clear of any direct religious connotations in Kaya Project, there are certain times where it can be a significant indicator of just how similar we all are. The track ‘One God Dub’ on our 2005 Album ‘Elixir’ for example has musicians from many different faiths all performing as one harmonious entity. Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist & Shinto musicians all perform on that one track. That is another reason I’ve always been drawn to instrumental music, free from any lyrical dogma or doctrine, just a direct undeniable musical connection.

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https://sebtaylor.bandcamp.com/album/elixir

Many of your projects are compilations of field recordings you’ve recorded around the world. How much does the natural environment influence you and your music?

Regarding the environment, It’s not something I would say is intentional, however I have spent a lot of time recording in deserts and other strange exotic locations. But for me I have to say the focus is more on the music and musicians than the environment in which they are recorded. Having said that, there’s nothing I find more inspirational than rainfall! You could call me a Pluviophile for sure and I guess that is pretty useful when you live in England. It rains quite a lot of the time there, plenty of inspiration to be had for a rain freak like myself.

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https://sebtaylor.bandcamp.com/album/desert-phase

Any future projects, tours, collabs to look forward to?

Well, collabs are on the back burner as I’ve been on the road so much this year. Happy to say that USA is now on the agenda (having only played over here a handful of times before), So I hope to be performing on these shores quite a few times over the next two or three years. But on the immediate horizon are gigs in Canada (Vancouver & Toronto), Seattle, Israel, Australia, Spain, Guatemala, Mexico…. and a few more far flung places:) With any luck there will be some studio time to get creating some fresh Kaya Project and Hibernation music at some point, (I still have plenty of Inspiration for those particular projects)…. Just a lack of time to actually create the music due to all the traveling. But hey, patience is a virtue. I’m looking forward to seeing where my muse takes me next when the opportunity presents itself 🙂

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SYMBIOSIS SET TIMES:

  1. Seb Taylor (DJ Set) –  6:45-8pm (FRI) @ Family Circus
  2. Kaya Project (Live Set) – 6:30-8am (SAT) @ Silk Road

 

 

 

Symbiosis Gathering 2016: Family Tree Preview

Written by Forrest Neumann & Rourke Healey

Now in it’s 11th year, the Symbiosis community is gathering one last time at Woodward reservoir (outside Oakdale, CA) before finding a new home in Oregon for the 2017 solar eclipse. Here is our preview of what you can’t miss at Symbiosis.

Kalya Scintilla paints sacred soundscapes with world fusion beats at the Spring Stage.

Symbiosis is first and foremost a music festival. And it does an impressive job of satisfying lovers of all kinds of music. The Swimbiosis stage, Symbiosis’ signature stage features a dusty dancefloor that backs up onto the swimmable reservoir. It will kick off Friday with a Desert Hearts takeover followed by a sunset set from Shiba San. Saturday it will be home to a bit more bass and close down with Random Rab’s soothing downtempo in the evening.

Dancing in the dusty light to the soothing sounds of Desert Dwellers.

House heads will be found hanging out at The Grotto, where the Dirtybird crew, led by Justin Martin and Claude von Stroke will hold it down Friday night. Psy Trance fans will be sure to catch European legend Ace Ventura and California’s own Treavor Moontribe here as well. Once this stage gets bumpin’ midday Saturday, it will roll through the night only to slow down Monday morning.

Other stages like Juke Town and Silk Road will feature a bit of everything including some of our favorite international acoustic and live-tronic acts. These will be home to acts like Nicola Cruz from Ecuador, Bumble from Australia, Kaya Project from England and the Brooklyn Gypsies from New York. Beats Antique, a headlining artist, will be having their own takeover of the Silk Road stage on Saturday night, featuring one of the most diverse stage line ups we’ve ever scene:

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Family Circus stage will cater to the global bass heavy artists like Desert Dwellers, Ott and All-Seeing I, Dimond Saints, Dragonfly and UK dubstep pioneer Plastician.

The largest stage will be The Fringe, where headliners like RL Grime and Gramatik will undoubtedly melt faces. These bass heavy sets will be mixed in with female led groups like Rising Appalachia, FKA Twigs and Santigold as well as the wonky musings of Opiou, Ta Ku and Dirtwire.

Dala Bil's creation Juke Town looked like an old west town and featured a little bit of house, psytrance and a lot of bass.

On top of these six stacked stage, Symbiosis prides itself as a home for artists like Android Jones and Performers like the Vau de Vire Society. These creators will take over live painting murals and decorate the stages with fire twirling and dramatic theatrics.

There were interesting workshops and speakers throughout the day in the Alchemy Village. At Nourishment Lab we prepared dandelion pesto and hollyhock dolmas.

Speakers and Luminaries are also a can’t-miss part of this experience. Wade Davis will be among them. He is known for his work with indigenous cultures and reminding us why ancient wisdom matters today. The long-time Native American activist Winona Laduke will also be speaking on the importance of diversity in democracy.

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The vibe of Symbiosis Gathering is intentionally designed to get you out of your comfort zone and into a new temporary community. A creative melting pot of cultures who come together through music, art and love. Symbiosis prides itself on being innovative and novel. This year they have brought back all six stages from last year including a few new renditions. As there is a slight rearrangement of the festival ground, the organizers are showing what it means to be prolific and inspirational but also new and ever more exciting. In doing this they provide participants with the opportunity to get out of their own skin, creating just the right conditions for artists and dancers alike to have transformational experiences.

Justin Martin played a magnificent sunset set at the Swimbiosis stage.

In sticking with our mission, Breaking Borders will be focusing on the incredible amount of internationally based and internationally minded artists at Symbiosis. From bass heavy producers in Australia to English DJ’s inspired by middle eastern sounds, we will be sure to catch a diverse mix of music.

We also have several interviews in the works. Look for our conversations with artists here before and after the gathering!

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Symbiosis Gathering Announces Performance Artist Line Up

Symbiosis Gathering 2016: Family Tree is returning for a final time to Woodward Reservoir this September. The Breaking Borders team is excited to announce we will be returning to cover this transformative experience now in it’s 11th  year.

One of the most impressive attractions of Symbiosis Gathering 2015 was its performance art. With only a month left until the next Gathering, Symbiosis producers have announced their most outstanding performance artist line up yet.

Attendees will find circus and dance troupes like Vau de Vire Society, Wanderlust Circus and Flynn Creek Circus performing near the stages this year. Performing in conjunction with the music, they are known for their acrobatics, wild tumbling and costumed theatrics. The fire twirling antics of these and other performing acts are bound to amaze onlooking attendees.

Wandering Symbiosis attendees will also be able to find a number of musical performances involving comedy, poetry, spoken word and open mics as well. The beatboxing Fungineers and the high flying Rose-City Acro Devils are an act we don’t want to miss.

Lastly, we look forward to the mind-bending live painting and installation art. Headlined by Android Jones, the live painting and mobile galleries are sure to have participants staring for hours.

More on the performances can be found here.

Symbiosis also just announced its Elemental Alchemy line up here.

Look forward to our upcoming music preview next month!

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Enchanted Forest Gathering: Menodino’s Hidden Gem

Last month, the Breaking Borders team ventured deep into the heart of Mendocino county to get the full Northern California transformational music festival experience at Enchanted Forest Gathering.

Now in its 6th year, Enchanted Forest Gathering has perfected the art of creating an environment for healing and expression. Enchanted Forest impressively maintains a family-style community while bringing in countless world class performers and state of the art production quality.

Ethos

Enchanted Forest is its very own brand of transformational music festival. Tucked away in a hidden valley, this festival encapsulated the spirit of the Nor Cal region. Kind and inviting, there was a focus on getting weird without judgment.

Colorful patterns abound, organic food stands dotted the forested river valley, while small temples were scattered throughout the campground designed for yoga and workshops. The scent of palo santo and redwood soaked the air. And vibrations of ground-shaking bass could be felt throughout camp. All senses were engaged for this gathering.

Microenvironments

To become an enchanted forest, Black Oak Ranch was filled with not just a couple stages, but dozens of microenvironements.

Small tented areas like the pillow-filled Nectar Temple offered an occasional break from the action. The bass-infused Saucy Spa served as communal showers by day and hosted after-hour DJ sets deep into the night.

Kidslandia provided a safe space for the little ones and encouraged a family atmosphere. The Branches Art Gallery was a home base for dozens of psychedelic artists. Kombucha stations instead of bars encouraged revitalization instead of intoxication. And on site marijuana dispensaries supported an environment for herbal healing.

Yoga was also a staple of Enchanted Forest. The wildly popular Yoga of Bass class even incorporated the main stage’s booming Function One speakers into it’s upbeat yoga routine!

Music

The long hot days were spent chilling by the Swimmin’ Hole stage. Most participants lounged in the small river next to the stage, taking in the liquid bass tunes of SOOHAN, SaQi, Autograf and others. Around nightfall, the crowd would add layers and wander over to the Mighty Oak Stage.

The Oak stage, Enchanted Forest’s centerpiece, had arguably the most impressive stage production we’ve even seen. Audiowaska’s creation combined carved wood and projection mapped visuals with artistic metal work and live flowers. The complimentary glow of twirling fire and mesmerizing lasers glued antendees to it late into the night.

Friday night featured variations of psychedelic trap thanks to PantryRaid and Clozee. Day two saw the stage lit up again with the earthy bass of Love and Light and Nominus, and the genreless headliners, Shpongle and The Polish Ambassador.

With just a few thousand participants, Enchanted Forest felt like a hidden gem – a secret festival specifically designed for the Mendocino community. Rarely is a festival able to combine such world class production with such an intimate and natural environment. Because of this, Enchanted Forest hardly felt like a world renowned festival, but more so a small gathering of old friends getting together to dance.

 

Lightning in a Bottle

Intro by Rourke Healey. Photos by Nick Neumann.


Over Memorial Day Weekend the Breaking Borders team kicked off the festival season by trekking down to Bradly, CA to experience Lightning in A Bottle. Taking place on the shores of a dry lakebed half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, LIB is one of California’s premiere transformational music festivals.

This year marks Breaking Borders 4th LIB, giving us the chance to reflect on how far LIB has come and how it has kept the magic that makes it special.

For the uninitiated LIB blends the musical attractions of Coachella with the DIY spirit of Burning Man. Veteran burners with U-hauls and sprawling encampments party next weathered hippies and bros camping in their pick up trucks. Yoga enthusiasts wake up early to attend crowded classes, while house heads stumble back to camp after long nights of dancing. More than anything LIB is filled with good-looking weird people that enjoy being themselves.

At LIB there isn’t one party. For those that need to dance, the music goes all night. For the early birds that wake at sunrise for yoga, it is there. And for some, they can do it all. Yogis acknowledge their hungover participants on Saturday morning, but withhold judgment. An unconscious cloud of acceptance surrounds the entire experience.

This was LIB’s third gathering at Lake San Antonio and its largest edition since it started 16 years ago in Los Angeles. With more people came larger crowds and more traffic, but somehow the energy and feeling of a small community remained. It seems LIB has learned how to sell out without selling out.

As it grows, the spirit of LIB evolves and spreads with it. LIB effortlessly teaches newcomers how to join the vibe as it overwhelms them, consuming each with positivity, and gently forcing them to participate. The bridges were a constant chain of high fives, the campsites a breeding grounds for sharing, and the inviting nature of strangers everpresent.

The DO LaB has a knack for bringing in music you didn’t know you loved. Each stage has a distinct sound and energy – the Woogie is a house lover’s heaven; the Thunder stage is LIB’s home of bass. Watching the crowd glow to Lee Burridge’s sunset set at the Woogie on Sunday you could feel the DO LaB’s dedication to finding artists that fit each stages personality.

Highlights from the Thunder stage included the Desert Dwellers extravagant live experience, Tokimosta’s genre-less remixes and The Polish Ambassadors liquid grooves. The Lightning stage hosted many of the live ‘headliners’ this year, from Grimes to Chet Faker’s closing set. It was a hotspot for late afternoon tunes as well with Marian Hill and Lafa Taylor getting the crowd into it. And of course, the Woogie kept on doing its thing, even with a few edits to the fabled treehouse. Each day the Woogie got started early with the help of Dirtybird’s own Sascha Robotti and Justin Jay. The booty-shaking bass didn’t slow down much all weekend thanks to andhim, Four Tet and Guy Gerber’s closing late Sunday.

The LIB ethos encourages all to reflect, rejuvenate, and celebrate (and dance). By Sunday evening it seems those who got lost have been found, those experiencing LIB with love ones have grown closer and those entering alone have found a family.

Unlike other festivals you won’t find people pouring over set times or rushing to stages. Instead people wander about, popping into a particularly lively cooking lesson, pausing at the subtly profound live painting, popping into the Favela Bar for a dance party or slowing down to walk with a new friend they’ve made.

For half a century California has made itself home to conscientious hedonism. Now, in this new age of festivals, LIB sets itself apart as a worthwhile pilgrimage. Filling the golden hills with beautiful sounds and an inclusive spirit, LIB will remind you of the power of human creativity and your own self worth.

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