Category Archives: California

Bringing ‘Andes-Step’ to the USA

An Interview with Nicola Cruz

Nicola Cruz is an eclectic international producer born in France of South American descent.  He has established himself as an underground icon of South America’s electronic music movement. By bridging local soundscapes from the mountains and jungles with deep latin flavored rhythms and bass heavy beats, Nicola Cruz is bringing the Andean soundscape to dance floors worldwide.

This summer Nicola performed at several popular West Coast musical festivals, including Beloved Festival in Oregon and Symbiosis Gathering in California. We were fortunate enough to meet with Nicola before his set at Symbiosis.  We delved right into his thoughts on why the South American sound has caught our attention in the U.S. and abroad.

He thinks that the “American music scene has lots of different crowds but [he] feels the response has been nice. The American listeners always show [him] a lot of love at shows, which always feels good.” His music “lacks talking but emphasizes unique samples and rhythms from [his] South American roots,” which he believes is becoming more popular in the US.

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Nicola Cruz’s music offers a beautiful balance of sounds, drawing from a verity of sources that reflect his passion for Andean culture and the landscapes, rituals and rhythms that raised him.  His vibrant mix of organic samples and deep rhythms, topped with smooth seamless melodies creates a soundscape for listeners to simultaneously journey into and move the body through.

He feels that the sonic qualities of his music is not just deeply reflective of the world he comes from, but also a personal practice of self-expression.  Thus his music is an example of his own personality, the greater identity of Andean culture and South America at large.

Ultimately, his sound and practice “came natural for [him] while living in Quito. Living there, you are really exposed to music from the mountains (Andes), the coast and the jungle. The mix of environments in Ecuador creates an interesting contrast of sub-cultures and through their soundscapes takes listeners on a whole trip from the jungle to the coast to the mountains.”

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He explained, “I really like to take music from around the country that I find through parties I attend or on vinyl records as well as natural environments, etc. Whatever I can sample from really, At the same time however, I love to record live instruments to create more sounds that I compose organically.”

We wondered if any traditional Andean Music or indigenous instruments inspired his music, but he responded, “not really, only some percussion“. Furthermore, “for me, studying the folklore and folk music is kind of a new thing. When I say that I mean in last 5 years but still I find it to be a new addition in my production. “

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The defining theme for us at Breaking Borders during our Symbiosis coverage was whether festival culture functions as a was to ‘break down borders,’ by bringing people together as one, regardless of cultural differences.  His response was simply, “yeah, well, several years I’ve been playing festivals world-wide so that’s integration right there.”  He symbolizes a new wave of artists who are breaking borders and defying cultural boxes and is the perfect example of an artist who does not fit into a single genre and is difficult to label.

He continued, “I’m known for playing everywhere from large disco clubs to smaller spaces that are more rustic and traditional, there are no limits.” This resonated with us and validated our understanding that the music of Nicola Cruz is an essential reflection of himself and his culture. A reflection which should be heard as personal musical expression, one that blurs genre lines, and returns the focus to the celebration of diversity without judgement of difference.

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We were curious what the future holds for Nicola Cruz and if any new tours, projects or any collabs are on the horizon. He replied, “I will continue to be active internationally with shows coming up in Mexico, Brazil and then back to the U.S for New Years in Los Angeles.” Additionally, “there will also be new compositions since if I don’t have that, I don’t have anything. As for upcoming  collaborations, they are secret right now but I can tell you that I am always working with others.”

As a final question, we asked Nicola if he recommended any global festivals in South America that are similar to Symbiosis. He told us that “Nomad festival in Chile is a good one coming up next year. It contains a strong global fusion element and is always looking to collaborate with people from around the world through volunteering, performance, etc.

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Breaking Borders With The Brooklyn Gypsies

Interview with Brooklyn Gypsies

After discovering the Brooklyn Gypsies earlier this year at Ozora Festival in Hungary, we were thrilled to see them perform again at Symbiosis Gathering right here in California. This unique global fusion group caught our attention with their incredible, multicultural stage performances and powerful message of “sin fronteras” (without borders) which resonates strongly with our mission here at Breaking Borders. The New York based Brooklyn Gypsies are an emerging collaboration project consisting of six urban nomads each deriving from an international origin with their own ancestral roots in gypsy music. The fusion of their individual styles and performances is apparent as soon as the group hits the stage, creating a syncretic new sound of “future roots” live- tronic music.

We are grateful to conduct an interview with Troy Simms, a founding member of the Brooklyn Gypsies who plays alto and soprano saxophone. He spoke on behalf of the group, sharing with us how they began and the collective intention behind their sound. Troy also offers meaningful reflections on world fusion music today and how it’s becoming stronger through global festival culture. Have a listen and let the sounds of the Brooklyn Gypsies take you back to your nomadic roots while at the same time attract your modern ears while get the body moving with their  live-tronic instrumentation and bassy beats.

“As a multicultural global fusion band we draw from our rich ancestral roots and end up discovering how much more alike we are then different”

 

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Breaking Borders: Brooklyn Gypsies are a collaboration of diverse musicians representing different musical and cultural backgrounds. How did you form as a group? What inspired you to start performing together?

Brooklyn Gypsies: The formation of Brooklyn Gypsies was inspired by our collective interest in fusing various genres of gypsy music (Balkan, Middle Eastern, Flamenco) with that of Hip Hop, Reggae Dub Dancehall and Electronic music.  I had been producing under the name Mobius Collective in NYC since 2002 and later released a single entitled “Gypsy Cab” in 2012 featuring Carmen Estevez. Gypsy Cab was the first incarnation of what would soon develop into Brooklyn Gypsies as it fuses an Ethiopian inspired horn melody with Carmen’s Flamenco cajon and vocals.

We soon assembled a band to perform this new brand of fusion and released our first single “Fafisa” recorded and produced by Takuya Nakamura at the former Studio BPM in Williamsburg BK. Zeb aka The Spy From Cairo was a producer whom I’d wanted to collaborate with especially since he’s been such a major influence within the genre over the years with various releases to his name. So when the choice came to pick a producer to remix our first single he was our first choice.  Soon after he would join the group on the ancient Arabic stringed instrument The Oud adding another ancestral dimension to our sound.  Our drummer Brandon Lewis aka B-Riddimz is a major contributor on the drums as well as beat production.  Fatima Gozlan is our most recent member on Arabic percussionist and Ney flute joining us after our Ozora Festival debut last year in Hungary. BK Gypsies currently represents 5 different countries including U.S.A, Spain, Japan, Italy & Hungary.  The diverse cultural backgrounds of the members inevitably comes through in our productions and performances.

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Your album concept “sin fronteras” is a very important message that is reflected in your music. It also resonates with our mission of cross cultural connection and exploration. Can you tell us about it’s significance and origin?

img_6983Sin Fronteras means “without borders” in Spanish and is a message we strongly believe in especially considering the current times we are living in.  This is the title track on our album in which Carmen wrote the lyrics and Zeb composed the music.  The recent political rhetoric of building walls and alienating people based on where they were born and their religious beliefs is precisely why this message needs to be spread.  As a multicultural global fusion band we draw from our rich ancestral roots and end up discovering how much more alike we are then different.

You’re an emerging global fusion group that’s become popular in the global festival scene. What do you feel has been the driving force behind your success?

The release of our album last year on Wonderwheel Recordings put us on global festivals radar such as Ozora festival in Hungary which we had the honor of playing the last two years and Symbiosis Gathering this past September in Oakdale, California.  This project has an incredible resiliency as the setup has had to change many times, yet the ability to deliver a strong stage show has become increasingly consistent.  As a result we have discovered new musical combinations and concepts within the group that in turn keep the project new and evolving.  I also feel we are bridging a gap in the global fusion genre that connects the bellydancers and dancehall queens. We are still just scratching the surface, but audiences have been responding with a real sense of appreciation.  It’s future roots for music.

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Photo by Carolina Iwanow

What’s your opinion on the independent music and art scene today, specifically within global festival culture?

There seems to be a growing appreciation for independent music and art, especially within the global festival scenes that we’ve participated in recently, most notably Ozora Festival’s Dragon Nest stage and Symbiosis Silk Road Stage, which curate their programs with a focus on folk and global fusion.  These festivals allow for audiences to discover up and coming artis, and in turn give independent artist a world class platform to make an impact and gain a wider fan base.

Do you see festival culture functioning in a way that challenges to “break down” social norms? And if so, in what way?

The sense of community and brotherhood we’ve experienced at various festivals is amazing, from the organizers and fellow artist to the festival goers.  We’ve lost cell phones and wallets and gotten them all back in the course of a festival, which gave me a glimpse of how a multicultural mash up of strangers can live and party in harmony.  Everyone is there for that ultimate frequency that dissolves societies boundaries and awakens the power of a sense of unity.

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Symbiosis is a unique global gathering, what makes it special to you and how does it stand out among other similar events?

Symbiosis was Brooklyn Gypsies first festival debut on the west coast where we were blessed to be included amongst the premier projects of global fusion and world music.  The response was overwhelmingly positive during and after our set.  We have toured more outside the states then within so performing at Symbiosis opened up a whole new market we are looking forward to tapping into.

Any new projects or tours to look forward to?

This year on our tour we visited the homeland of each of the members which included Spain, Hungary & Italy.  Next year we are looking to return to Europe as well as our gypsy brother Takuya’s hometown in Japan!  Southeast Asia and India has been calling our attention as well with the likes of Bali and Goa. As far as new music, we have a upcoming EP to be released early next year 2017.  All tour dates and release info will be posted on our website:  brooklyngypsies.com

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Celebrating Life Through Organic Electronic Vibrations

We are pleased to share our second edition of our international artist interview series for Symbiosis Gathering.  We have been fortunate to catch up with Australian bass producer Bumble who travels globally offering his unique earth-bass soundscapes. Max has performed at Symbiosis Gathering for consecutive years (2015-2016) and continues to impress festival audiences world-wide through is funky dance floor flavor. His intention for reconnecting to nature and all life on earth is beautifully reflected in his music production. We are grateful to have had a chance to ask some questions about his musical process and his experience as a cross-cultural performer. Enjoy!

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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?

Bumble: Festival culture across the planet is thriving and the communities that inhabit these environments are engaged in everything that is on offer. Amongst the thousands of festivals I have participated in, last year’s Symbiosis Gathering was my peak experience not only from an artist’s perspective, but from a festival participant perspective. Last year I caught amazing workshops, witnessed Saul Williams do spoken word, caught a plethora of musical genres that moved me on elaborate stage design. I was dazzled by epic large artwork. and surrounded by the most colorful friendly people. Unlike some other events where FOMO (fear of missing out) on what’s happening over there in another area sometime guides my movements, at Symbiosis I always felt in the right spot at the right time. It was magic.

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Your music has become quite popular in the USA (primarily on the west coast). What’s your opinion on that? Why do you think the Australian bass scene has become so attractive here?

Sitting in my studio set deep into a national park north of Sydney, it never dawns on me in the moment that the audio ripples that are created there would fan out across the planet. But it does. I am blown away by the reality that people dig my music and the great platform that creates for the stories I want to tell. Generally speaking there are some truly talented folks in Australia making bass music and they deserve all the attention they get, and some that you have not yet heard of that will be gracing your ears soon. Aside from the talent, I think Australia and the USA have been aligned for decades and the flow back and forth of culture has been fluid during this period.

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What is the significance of your chosen artist name “Bumble”? You seem to feel strongly about the consciousness surrounding bees? How did that come about?

The alias Bumble was gifted to me by some friends during a late evening/early morning 10 years ago. It has shifted from its previous intention which defined me as a busy bee, into a platform to express my feelings about this amazing world that we live in. My respect for this planet and all its organisms, including birds, bees, humans, plants, trees and fungi’s is profound and I actively engage a positive relationship with her. Through all my projects including my bush regeneration business in Australia to the tree planting festivals we produce and the stories I tell in my music I like to help others connect with the amazing world we live together with.

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Your music contains a lot of organic instrumentation and vocals, how does it feel to fuse acoustic sounds into your intricate electronic production?

I love working with organic instruments. My musical journey saw me first playing in Punk, Hardcore and Ska bands and my first instrument that I played (although badly), the Trumpet. I went on to play a lot of guitar in a string of bands that would occasionally tour Australia. There is so much grit and form in organic instruments and I love recording and manipulating these to compliment my electronic creations. I have always written/co-written all the vocal content for the concept albums, that my good friend and actor Steven Kennedy helps mouth to tell the stories on my full length albums. These interludes form a storyline that I love sharing. I will continue to do so, stay tuned for a full length release prior to the Symbiosis Eclipse 2017.

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What’s you opinion on the independent music and art scene today, specifically within global festival culture? Do you see festival culture functioning in a way that challenges to “break down” social norms?

Independent music within the bass festival scene, is show heavy. Meaning that living from your music is dependent on playing shows often. This is great for some, not for others, and can change over time. It is how it is. And for me I cherish the opportunity that this facilitates. I love to travel and share stories and I have met many inspiring people over the years. I am impressed by the solid arts culture that has evolved on the west coast. It is unlike the rest of the world and you should be proud of the flourishing new renaissance.

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Festival culture has become very conscious of itself and is providing new stepping stones for change in the real world. Through combining arts and music with workshops and other world improving culture the festival scene has become a starting point for the change we want to see in the world. I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that the movement stops there. Our events need to surpass “leave no trace” into “leave a trace”, beyond personal development into the real world at the festival sites and at home. Festivals that put more back into the sites they inhabit and involving the participants of the festival in this improvement empowers them to take that home into their own communities at home.

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Many of your tracks and albums contain deep concepts surrounding nature consciousness. How much does the natural environment influence you and your music? What has inspired you to blend biology into a your productions?

I have always been of the bush. Spent all my time in the forest. At some point post my active direct activism era, I completed a environmental science degree, did a year conservation work in Ecuador, and since then have started my own bush regeneration business, growing this to work with 20 of my friends to deliver healthy ecosystems for the benefit of flora and fauna in national parks and council bushland around Sydney, Australia. Beyond that the positive action tree planting music festival that I co-direct, “Regrowth Festival” (www.re-gen.org.au) has grown to connect youth culture with the environment through enticing youth out through great music and entertainment and give them the opportunity to be part of a positive successful environmental project. It is amazing how the empowerment of being part of a positive project can flow on into people’s lives and can create a wave. I am of nature and therefore it feeds through into my music. I can’t help it.

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What is one “life changing” moment or realization you have had in the world since becoming an international musician?

That we are all dancing around the world in these super tight knit strong communities, and that if we choose to harness this energy locally and globally, we can change the world.

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Any new projects, tours, concepts to look forward to you?

After the North America tour finishes in Hawaii, I will follow on through into the Australian Summer. Some solid time in the studio with the new album out prior to July 2017, before Symbiosis “Eclipse Festival”. And then be looking to build a solid tour up for the 2017 in North America and beyond.

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Globalizing Soundscapes Through Live-tronic Experiences

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