Category Archives: Music

72 Hours at LIB

Thursday

As the first night approached on Thursday, we gathered around the Sacred Fire right outside the Beacon for the opening ceremony celebration. Here we commenced the start of the festival with an indigenous invocation to honor the land and pay respect to the ancestors of the space we stood. The acknowledgment of LIB as more than party was felt and the emphasis of a transformational experience was central. The elders who guided the ceremony spoke upon the importance of what the gathering was really all about in reflection of our ancient future where the spirit, magic and healing was to be felt deeper in essence beneath all the outward entertainment. It was apparent from the opening ceremony that this year was intended to be more than just about principles, but about creating a container for engagement and change.

The leaders strongly expressed how LIB should be internalized as a catalyst for helping to heal ourselves and the planet during these critical times. From the talks and workshops to the incredible art and music presented with a strong message of intention; intention to take the full spectrum of magic, love and consciousness experienced at LIB outside of the festival grounds and spread it throughout our communities. This celebration of life was paramount and awareness heightened as the weekend commenced.

As the sun set, the first musical experience began with mystical folktronic group Yaima performing at the Beacon stage. When the opening ceremony finished and gatherers filtered into the Beacon to hear the majestic sounds played by male member Masaru Hegasa and the heart piercing vocals of Pepper Proud, it was not long before the transcendental seduction was induced. The beautiful smiling faces and barefoot sensation of dancing on carpeted ground brought forth a deep heart opening, leaving us in feelings of exuberance and uplifted by the powerful undistorted vibrations. The Beacon space offered a intimate experience with close knit sound while still spacious and open with a high canopy as air flowed through from all directions. The freedom to expand, breathe and let go was essential to the Compass point as the interior was filled with many additions including cushions, plants, and an elixir bar. The decorative colors of green and blue were soothing and to immerse in and felt pleasantly natural. As Yaima’s set came to a close and the sun was over the horizon, a blissful atmosphere was flowing and the transformation had begun.

Later that night,  Saqi’s first set of the weekend cultivated a spirit of good vibes within the cozy Community Lodge stage. Saqi’s unique blend of old world acoustic instrumentation and and earthy beats infused the Craft with life on Thursday night. Accompanied by his brother and KR3TURE who offered an exceptional live flavor, Saqi played off his debut album, Quest’s End as well as unreleased material he’s made in recent months. Moving live vocal performances by Sasha Rose added some feminine medicine and were beautifully interspersed with upbeat remixes of Autograph and Biggie Smalls.

Friday

Friday kicked off with a full day of workshops, talks, music and exploration of the creative spaces that were spread out over the large site. In the morning, we started our flow heading to the Landing point of the Compass and attending the workshop at the Grid space titled “The Creative Process” with David Satori (of Beats Antique/Dirtwire). This was an incredibly inspiring offering for all artists, musicians and creators of some medium.  To listen, view and understand the process of doing creative work from someone highly recognized like David Satori who has years of experience was inspiring and eye opening. He broke down 7 key elements to the creative process and elebroted on from a professional stand point. He also displayed his personal music production process that he’s found success in and wats to get out of blocks when things aren’t flowing. After the workshop, many attendees were engaging with questions and felt a boost of confidence to get there own creative juices out in the world based off this informative lesson.

As the winds carried us onward with inspiration, the next stop on Friday was attending two talks within the realms of plant medicine as well as our introduction to the Craft area of the Compass. This interactive space was the home of earth alchemy, which included the Botanical Studies, Paleo Arts, the Witch’s Hut apothecary and the Community Lodge tree shaded stage. The first talk we attended was titled Becoming An Herbalist and taught by Special Blackthorn, who has long worked in plant alchemy with the organization, Potionarium. Her flowering spirit and delightful demeanor offered a sweet sensation to all who graced her presence. She spoke upon some of her favorite herbs as well as spread a plethora of knowledge surrounding plant medicine of all kinds. She was also the host of the natural healing space called the Witch’s Hut where she was nested all weekend, offering her herbal potions and tinctures to all who came in for a visit. She created a truly nourishing space to be and one where you could feel pure. It was here that she set up her own apothecary with mason jars filled with macerating medicine and fresh herbs from wall to wall.

As this opened us up to the healing magic that was abundant in the Craft point this year, we transitioned over the Community Lodge area where renown permaculture activist and long time herbalist Penny Livingston engaged attendees in her outdoor talk titled “Regenerative Herbalism”.  Her ethos and direction was geared around the methods and mindset needed maintain awareness in the face of the pharmaceutical and environmental destruction. Being a permaculture herbalist, she holds a strong message of healing the earth. Penny expressed points that emphasized regeneration, such as working with plant cycles to continue them, growing and foraging medicine as well as working to transform land by creating medicinal gardens in their place. She also focused on the magical qualities of herbs and stated how just sitting with them for a while to gain the energetic understanding is as impotent as the physical effects. Towards the end of the worship, we are all basked in the sunlight of the day and at ease from the refreshing breeze and shady space. Now that afternoon was approaching on our first full day of LIB, we were feeling down to earth and ready to embrace some music. Highlights from the first full night of music were the dusty sunset dance parties hosted by Armin Miran at the Favela Bar and Ecuadorean electronica artist Nicola Cruz at the Lightning Stage.

Saturday

Saturday brought us lots of music experiences that we’re memorable and diverse including the psychedelic bass extravaganza at the Thunder Stage with incredibly potent sets by Spacegaisha, Plantrae,  Kayla Scintilla and Hedflux. A  tribal take over and Crossroads including 4 hour ethnic-dance journey by Sabo and to top it off, the exceptional late night world fusion performances at the Beacon with Stallamara followed by Dirtwire at the Grand Artique.

One outstanding offering was Porangui’s multi-instrumental live shamanic sound journey that captivated attendees into a vibrational trance induced by a strong intensional power. Channeling through on the spot voice and instrumental abilities, the midday performance from this one-man orchestra began as a moving meditation on the power of music and ended as a vibrant cross-cultural dance party. Speaking from the heart, in English and Spanish, Porangui performed songs by looping his voice with hand drums, guitar, didgeridoo and a dozen other percussion instruments. Playing for the Water and earth spirits, his explanation of how sound can heal and breathe life into world was incredibly moving and medicine for the body, mind and spirit.

Sunday

The last day of the gathering was essential for leaving us in a state of empowering bliss to be inspired as we returned back to our homes and communities the following day. In the morning we visited the Learning Kitchen to indulge in some delicious nourishment as well as learned some informative knowledge into health, food and diet. We sat in for a workshop titled “Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet”, with Magda Freedom Rod who explained some key insights surrounding nutrition, superfoods and vitamin rich ingredients to implement into your daily diet. As always, she also demonstrated a few simple recipes for us to try at home.

After our uplifting and health boosting time at the Learning Kitchen, we carried on to the Beacon for a panel discussion and talk that truly impacted our lives in positive way. The panel titled “A Legacy of Empowerment:  Monitoring the Movement” consisted of four established earth activists and highly influential speakers, including Penny Livingston, Starhawk, Paul Stamets and James Stark. Hosted by Ayana Young, for over 1 hour they took turn answering questions and speaking upon some of the most pressing questions today in regards to how to become active, empowered and get involved to help heal the earth.

A couple questions discussed were on subjects such as “How to take the first step?” and “what are some essential ways that they find important to become actively empowered?” Penny’s responses raised awareness around finding mentorship in your community and how it first take’s a foremost desire to help others before the transformative work can flow through. Starhwalk stressed the importance of leadership and how a selfless attitude to be of service is key. James and Paul brought up the rebuilding the village model as well as the need for a revolution in the ecology of consciousness. Over all, the responses and input from each member brought to attention a deep insight on the great shift that is occurring right now on this planet and offered incredible ideas and working methods to take to heart so the all attendees can start to incorporate them. The push for empowerment, leadership and social action is needed more than ever before and after this inspiring panel, we felt that we had an abundance of methods to take the plunge.

 

A Call to Action with Rising Appalachia

Rising Appalachia Interview and Special Feature

We are incredibly excited to offer this very special Thanksgiving artist interview and Breaking Borders feature with the highly acclaimed deeply soulful, southern world-folk duo Rising Appalachia!

The incredible collective voice of sisters Leah Song And Chloe Smith have resonated with us deeply over the last years and continue to inspire us through their passion and spirit for world culture both old and new. By bridging folk tradition with contemporary relevance, their songs speak with intention to reconnect to cultural roots, social justice and harmony as a people. They show a strong commitment to working creatively at a grass roots level keeping them accessible to all. Through the power of sound, story and song Rising Appalachia raises the bar in music today, empowering woman world wide and representing joy, simplicity and meaning in all they have to offer.

We were honored to have the opportunity to connect with the sisters a month ago as they embarked on their current “Resilience Tour” up and down the Western USA. The tour reaches many small towns and every major city on the West Coast including a very a special show in our hometown of San Francisco at The Great American Music Hall on November 26th.  Here is the FB Event and tickets.

They will be joined by their beloved bandmates Biko Casini (percussion) and David Brown (bassist/guitarist) with whom they have been performing, since their last album tour in 2015. The current “Resilience” movement for the band is a powerful response to the current state of the world, acknowledging the challenging times we face today and encouraging personal empowerment for ourselves and local communities to take action from the ground up.

“We are a resilient people in challenging times! And now more than ever we need to be making music.”

For the last five years, the music and ethos put forth by Rising Appalachia has greatly influenced our pursuits for the cross-cultural work we do here at Breaking Borders and has given us meaningful intent to keep our spirits high. In our interview, we ask the two songstresses Leah and Chloe to speak in depth about certain characteristics that make Rising Appalachia unique and truly stand out today as international musicians for change.img_0894

Breaking Borders: How did Rising Appalachia come into being? What was your intention behind the project? What were some of the driving forces that helped form your identity?? 

Leah: Rising Appalachia was born out of our long term immersion into southern roots music. We were raised in a family that kept Duke Ellington vinyl playing, and both our mother and father got very involved in Southern folk music traditions … so our whole childhood was steeped in music. When we decided to record an album we were mostly wanting to document the peculiar and rich soundtrack of our lives. There were so many different influences that created the bedrock of our musical tastes. From Old Appalachian mountain tunes, to the early days of Outkast, the South was our soundtrack. We wanted to create a platform to showcase all those influences, and at that time those genres didn’t historically mix. We wanted to make music that referenced all those sounds as much as they had influenced us. And there was born Rising Appalachia.

Can you describe the connection you both have to the American South? How does your love and admiration of the Southern soul translate into your music and message? What kind of story are you telling about the South that you want to express to the rest of the world?

Chloe: Well, we are sisters so we of course have the birth connection to the south and to our blood family there.  But beyond that, we have the same fluctuating emotions for the south that most people do that are from there.  Its love, its hate, its sort of a moving body of opinions depending on the times and the seasons and your neighbors.  However, the love comes from the cultural heritage of the place… the songs we were brought up singing, our foods and crazy salty rich recipes, the feeling of front porch talks and hot summer breezes, fireflies on the mountain, and the hospitality and sweetness of many southern folk.  Its sweaty and sticky and complicated sort of region.  But we want to express in our music the importance of having a sense of place, of belonging to somewhere or something, and of singing the songs of ones ancestors and family members which we all have access to with a little bit of digging.a4037627462_10

Rising Appalachia’s unique incorporation of international folk tradition seems to reflect an intention of bringing people back to the roots in contemporary time. In your words, what is the significance of folk tradition today? It what ways do indigenous worldviews impact your own lifestyles, music and visions?

Chloe: Folk music and folk practices ( Im thinking specifically of craft work, medicine, cooking and preparing, storytelling, dance, and other forms of expression and gathering) are simple, and that is why we hold on so dearly to them in contemporary times.  That simplicity is peaceful and historic and full of information to pass down.  I was raised in folk music and so I saw first hand the community it sprouted and the relationships it formed and in many ways a lot of young people I know now don’t have those sorts of things to grasp on to.  Nothing passed down from the family necessarily.  Its a great malnourishment of our country and I think people are awakening to that and doing the work to recreate it in their own lives.

What inspired you to start following this path of studying traditional cultures and world wide travel? Do you have a favorite moment(s) of encountering indigenous traditions or culture during your travels?

Chloe: Our father traveled around the world before Leah and I were born, and that gave him a lot of very interesting fodder for our dinner table conversations.  We learned about different cultures and communities through his stories at an early age, and thus the seed was planted.  Additionally, our mother was an international flight attendant for 30 years… so that travel bug was strong in the Smiths.

We knew that music was a glue in our lives, and we both wanted to explore other countries folk traditions pretty soon out of high school so as to broaden that scope.  One of our favorite memories was visiting Bulgaria on a cultural tour that a good friend of ours set up for us years back.  He was Bulgarian and loved our Appalachian styled music and wanted us to experience the rich mountain singing traditions of his country.  We went to the Pirin Mountains together to a small village of mostly women farmers ripe with songs and laughter and shared songs and music and cherry liquor for a few days with very little language exchange, only the music to hold on to.  There were no young people in the village and all the singers we met were 65 and older, so they were thrilled and tickled to have young somewhat weird looking ( tattooed/pierced) foreigners visiting and swooning over their intricate and haunting harmonies.  Its still one of most visceral moments of song catching.

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Rising Appalachia performs at both small local and large festival venues, always spreading messages of unity and creating positive social change through music and action. What inspired you to begin walking this path towards social and environmental justice?

Leah: We walked that path before we began the band, so it has always felt like a natural fusion of interests.

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“We have always wanted to use music literally as a vehicle to connect to people- to place and to culture.”

 

What is your perspective on using music as a tool of activism for creating change in the world? Can you explain this parallel of activism and art in reflection to Rising Appalachia? Do you believe this has driving force for your success? If so, how?

Leah: It is a concept and an intention for us to be touring sustainably, and to be creating music with a purpose. We have always wanted to use music literally as a vehicle to connect to people- to place and to culture. And the music industry itself is such a FAST paced machine. We began to feel really disconnected from the pulse of our work. We started a project this year called the Slow music is a way to remind us to take the time to tour in a way that is sustainable- both physically and environmentally as well as emotionally (which might actually be the most important part). So it means challenging the status quo of touring: physically slowing down and staying in regions for longer amounts of time, staying locally and eating local food from the places where we are making music, taking days off in between shows to get into wild places and learn about the nature of each place, connecting each show to local non-profits that are doing direct action work in their communities so that our impact can create longer relationships than just a few hours at a show, exploring alternative travel options (like train, recycled fuel, sail boat, horse back, eat).
We also bring in local non-profits to each show to allow our audience to have more of a relationship with the place that THEY live and create those connections that last long beyond the show. Each night we hope that there are components of celebration, components of local activism, a dance party, and a place for us to encourage more direct action. Everyones path into activism is different and everyones voice is important. We try and create a place where all walks of life are welcome to come be a part of our experience.

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A more recent conceptual movement of Rising Appalachia is the idea of “Wider Circles” and expanding yourselves to work with more people and musicians as well as reach wider audiences and cultural backgrounds. What was your intention behind this movement and album? Why do you believe it is an important concept today? How has this movement of “Wider Circles” manifested within your recent projects and performances?

Chloe: We have grown so much the past few years and there were so many people on board helping us to do so that we wanted to write a song capturing the value of those  expanding circles.  Rising Appalachia has always been a sort of “all hands on deck” type project with countless supporters behind the scenes and we feel very much that a large amount of our success is due to some of those people.  The song is a sort of thank you to them, as well as a anthem to encourage people to widen their own circles and invite more people in.  We see so much shutting down, separating off, and divisive language in our main stream media these days that can really isolate the human heart into feeling pretty alone and conflicted with “different” people.  Wider Circles is a song about going to the center of those hard conversations and committing to the work that will unify.  Its about showing up at the table.  Its about marching.  Its about walking the path of kindness in that work and being humble in knowing whom has come before you.

“I think that in order to enact change we have to keep showing up at the table over and over again.”

 

A big platform for Rising Appalachia to reach people is through the the global festival culture. What is your stance on festivals being a catalyst for change? Do you see festival culture functioning in a way that “breaks down” social norms? And if so, in what way?

Leah: To be honest we have a lot of critique of the festival culture. We are invited to be a part of a lot of events that boast change-making principles, but they often feel like they are disconnected from some of the action that is needed to create a shift. I think its ok to throw a party, but call a spade a spade. Transformation is a bigger task than just a party. It takes some discomfort, and some hard work, ad reaching people who don’t look, think talk or act like you. Some of the most profound events that we have been a part of are some of the smaller gatherings that are directly working to impact change (and not just a big party with a few workshops and classes on the side) like : Alternate Roots, The South Eastern Women’s Herbalist Conference, Jungle Camp, the Permaculture Action Network events, The Lake Eden Arts Festival, Honor the Earth events, Benefit shows, ect. I think that in order to enact change we have to keep showing up at the table over and over again. I am thankful that the festival culture exists and creates spaces for young people to show up and question the social norms, but i hope that it is only the first step and many people learn how to go much deeper to challenge the status quo.

After performing throughout the summer at many festivals and gatherings across the U.S and Internationally, you have now embarked on a new journey dubbed the Resilience Tour throughout the Western States. The tour is also coinciding with a documentary release shot in New Orleans during Jazz Fest early this year. What is the significance of both the tour and documentary being done at the same time? In your opinion, what is the concept of ‘resilience” responding to in this time period? What is your intention behind this movement?

Chloe: We felt like the word Resiliency is perfect for this season because in its essence it evokes a sense of toughness, levity, and positivity that we all NEED right now.  It has also been a great spark in dialogue about how people are being resilient in their own communities, how people will be resilient after the elections, and how art and community can help in those processes.  We hope to create a container at our concerts for both action as well as release/relief from the constant batter of the daily grind, providing local nonprofit and outreach information that encourages direct involvement as well as singing songs that soothe.

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What does the future look like for Rising Appalachia? What is the next step for you as a band as well as an active force for change in the community? Any new tours, music, collaborations on the horizon?

Chloe: We can only ever guess about the future, as planning it too tightly can constrict the spontaneity of growth.  However, we are of course writing, learning new songs with teachers, planning action days and furthering our ideas of “The Slow Music Movement”, refining our voices and meditating what we want to be saying out there, collaborating with mentors, and generally keeping one foot at home and one eye out on the horizon… hoping to strike that perfect balance of pushing ourselves while remaining rooted.  2017 will put us abroad much more, which we are very very excited about after touring all over the States for the past few years.  We hope to do some horse-tours as well as a Seed to Sail tour raising awareness about Permaculture.  All sorts of good things coming… 😉

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In conjunction with their show in SF on 11/26, the band will be hosting a very special Bay Area Permaculture Action Day on Sunday 11/27 with City of Dreams, a local non-profit dedicated to youth leadership for low-income residence. The Action Day will be held at the non-profit’s youth-run community garden at the Oakdale Community Center in San Francisco. The one-day festival will be an active family-friendly outing which will include a variety of hands-on permaculture projects, live-music and artistic activities as well as a garden fresh community pot-luck!

FB Event – San Francisco Concert on 11/26  and Tickets

FB Event – Bay Area Action Day on 11/27

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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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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