Jeff Gunn: Sharing the Joy of Music

Jeff Gunn  is Juno Award nominated guitarist, songwriter and producer for his work on Emmanuel Jal's The Key (Gatwitch/Universal). He is the author of the Hidden Sounds: Discover Your Own Method on Guitar (Mayfair Music Publications) and a regular guitar tips contributor in print and film with Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Guitar World, Canadian Musician, Overdrive (Thailand), The Guitar Mag (Thailand), and he is a contributor with National Geographic History Magazine. He co-wrote the song "Scars" with Jal and Nelly Furtado for the film The Good Lie (Warner Brothers) soundtrack. Jeff has performed at the United Nations, Glastonbury, Dalai Lama One World Concert, SXSW, John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Jimmy Kimmels Annual Italian Festival, Juno Awards Songwriters Circle, and the Grammy Museum concert series in honour of Bob Marley. In Fall 2017, Jeff released his debut solo guitar album All The Roads We Take. All The Roads We Take is a collection of sonic stories base Springsteen fs world travels as a musician, writer and backpacker to more than 100 countries. He aims to capture the emotion and wonder of these journeys while exploring the creative sonic possibilities of the guitar. Recently,  he did Hidden Sounds Guitar Workshop and performed  songs from All The Roads We Take at the Alliance Française du Bengale organised by the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society.  

How has your relationship with music evolved over time?

Music is a huge part of my life. It has allowed me to travel the world and connect with people from a range of cultures and all walks of life that I otherwise could not image happening. Music changed my life at the age of 14. I had always loved music as and would often play beats and rhythms on my Grandmothers pots and pans as a 3 year old kid. I still remember my Dad coming home after work and presenting me with my birthday gift which also my first record, Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA album. I knew the lyrics for every song and would spend hours singing along and dancing as if I were on stage when I played the record. I loved music but it was not until I was 13 or 14 and spent a summer listening to all of my Dads records like Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Beatles and The Doors that I was called to play the guitar. I immediately devoted all of my free time to playing guitar, learning guitar and writing songs.  I started my first band at 14 years old only knowing 3 or 4 chords. I knew then that I wanted to be a musician as it brought the most joy and happiness I had ever experienced.  I went to York University for the Music Program and studied Jazz guitar. I also earned my Bed in Music. However, I did not take the teacher route following graduation. From 24 years old until now, I have made either my entire living or a significant part from live performances, songwriting, delivering workshops and writing for guitar magazines. I have found a lot of joy in having a number of musical outlets, playing a live show, teaching, publishing a guitar tips article with Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Guitar World, Canadian Musician, or scoring an animation or songwriting with an artist. All of these outlets offer a way of sharing music. I love them all. Music has been and will always be a huge part of my life. I never take it for granted and make a promise to give 110% every performance or event I do whether on solo guitar or with a band. One thing that has never changed since I began playing guitar is that I still get excited like a kid running in the ocean when I perform on guitar.  Performing for me is the highest state. Its about service and being a vessel for the audience. For their happiness. Overall, music has been a huge source of joy in my life and I am grateful for every opportunity.

Pic courtesy - Darrin Davis
What would you say was the most cherished moment in your professional career?

Its hard to break it down to one moment. So, Ill give you two. One was opening with Emmanuel Jal for Peter Gabriel at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. I grew up listing to Peter Gabriel and watching his Secret World Live Tour DVD probably one thousand times. I had always been inspired by his collaboration with musicians from a variety of global backgrounds. I remember arriving for our sound check at the Roseland Ballroom and as I entered I heard In Your Eyes and on stage was Peter Gabriel and his band doing their sound check. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I was consumed by the beauty and power of that song.  It was a surreal moment only topped by talking with Peter backstage following our set and he told me something I will never forget; he told me I was a great guitar player. This meant so much to me. The second moment that sticks out was playing the Dalai Lama One World Concert at the Syracuse Dome in NY. It is to date the largest concert I have played, which had a crowd of 26,000. I remember during out soundcheck just looking out at the huge space and thinking how lucky I was to play for all those people that night. After our soundcheck, Dave Matthews came on and did his soundcheck. It was only myself and author Roxana Saberi in the front row seats as I recall and Dave playing his songs on solo guitar. It was very special. That evening I walked onto the stage with Jal and our featured guest Swizz Beatz (Alicia Keys husband) and performed our songs to a huge crowd. I remember the immense joy and love I felt and a connection with the audience. A oneness that was so powerful. I also remember I almost cried I was so happy. Its the level you work for your whole career as a musician and it felt so good to play at that level.

You've collaborated on projects with a number of musicians over the years. What do you look for when you are collaborating with any musician?

Overall, I try to work with artists who have something to say and whose music makes the world a better place. I find that many collaborations just happen. Sometimes I get invited to record with an artist, while at other times I reach out and pitch an idea. There is no saying which is the best way. In terms of recording collaborations, I have landed songs I co-wrote on two Hollywood soundtracks including The Good Lie (Warner Brothers 2014) and The Black Prince: Music Inspired by the Motion Picture (Rukus Avenue 2017) and both of these were the result of a spontaneous collaboration with Emmanuel Jal and Nelly Furtado. I played guitars, co-wrote and co-produced 5 songs on Emmanuel Jals Juno-nominated album The Key (Gatwitch/Universal 2014), which was such an incredible experience contributing to the album, which also featured Nile Rodgers, Peter Gabriel, DMC, and Nelly Furtado.  Other times, I have reached out to artists and it works sometimes while others for a number of reasons beyond your control not so. Still other times, I have been invited to co-write and contribute guitars on a number of albums including my co-arrangement of Annie Lennoxs Why on Dwayne Brittons self-titled album (LML Music 2009), contribute guitars on Rayzaks Water, which was produced by Brian West. I am also involved in a collaborative project with multimedia artist Terrence Jon in which music and art come together in an interactive multi-media performance and experience.  Regardless of who I am working with, I am always mindful thatfrom every experience you learn and develop your craft further.

Pic courtesy - Stephanie Kretzschmer
You tour the globe as lead guitarist with singer/activist Emmanuel Jal .What is it about Jal as a person or musician that makes it so easy for you to musically gel or get along with him?

Let me say that over the past 8 years, Jal has become family to me. I have been lucky to perform with him in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia.  Even after 8 years, I am inspired by the power and sincerity of his performance.  Ive seen a lot of powerhouse performers, and Id put Jal up there with the best of them. Whether playing to 100 or 26,000, Jal has the ability to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. Its a rare gift.  Night after night, he gives 110% of his energy and he inspired me to do the same.  Musically, my own performance style has been inspired by everything from Reggae to Rock and Malian guitar music. The cool thing is that Jal writes in a number of musical styles and this is exactly where I feel comfortable playing. One song we rock out and the other is an African inspired ballad. My strength as a guitarist is my versatility and ability to perform and write original music in a number of genres.I think we click on stage musically because we both understand that we are involved in service. We are here for the crowd and are giving everything to the crowd to make sure they have the best time they can. Its our job. Beyond the stage, Jal is one of the most generous individuals I have ever met. He always speaks the truth without fear and I look forward to a lifetime of friendship with him. He will always be a dear friend to me. 

Can you describe how a concept of song of yours is born?

As I have gotten older I have become more self-aware. That is to say, I am open to musical ideas all of the time whether is walking down the street or when I am sitting with the guitar on my couch. I find myself inspired to write music most of the time. Often, an idea will just come to me; a melody, a progression on guitar, ukulele or piano/keys.  I will record it and keep coming back to it until it is ready. Travel is a huge influence on my writing. After going to West Africa I wrote Starlight; after going to a festival on the Mekong in Thailand, I wrote Candle Lanterns and after hanging with Antoine Dufour in his studio I wrote Everything You Ever Wanted, the first two of which appear on my debut fingerstyle album All The Roads We Take (2017). I write instrumental and songs with lyrics. There have been times when I have sat with a singer and we had a few hours to come up with something. There is more pressure here especially if you are in a studio. But it is fun and usually something good comes out of it. I like to write the music and come with a melody and then present it to a singer. However, I had also had the experience of a singer coming to me with a melody and having to come up with the music for it. Both ways are enjoyable and present their own challenges.  One of the coolest experiences where a song was jammed into existence was when I performed with Jal at the Warchild Concert 2014 in London, UK. I was working on a riff and Jal went on drums and played a beat. Suddenly, Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons (we were opening the night for Marcus, Ellie Goulding and Emeli Sande) walked in our room sat at the piano and improvised a solo on our new creation. It was spontaneous and an experience I will not forget.

             calcutta classical guitar society

Do you teach or act as a musical mentor? If so, what areas do you emphasize with your students? 
I like to be a facilitator. I will show students the basic building blocks of music in order to get a strong foundation but I am careful to not tread on their creativity and force them into a mold.  When I teach, I want to inspire my students to find their own creative voice and feel the joy of expressing themselves musically. That is the goal of my Hidden Sounds Guitar Series (Mayfair Music Publications, 2012), to offer guitarists some interesting techniques and approaches that have enriched my own performance in the hope that they will be inspired to make their own discoveries and share them.

As someone who has toured far and wide, which places have resonated with you the most and why?

Let me start by saying that I am thankful for all of the crowds I have had the privilege of performing to everywhere.  As a solo guitarist, the crowds on my latest Hidden Sounds Tour in Asia including here in India have been very receptive and inspiring.  In terms of playing with Jal, I enjoyed opening with Jal for Xavier Rudd to huge crowds in Australia. The crowds were really engaged with the music. There are so many great festivals worldwide and I enjoy playing the festival circuit because besides the main set there is usually an interactive set with other musicians in which you play for one hour together. Playing an interactive set with Billy Bragg, Arrested Development and a Gospel set with Serena Ryder have been some festival highlights. The crowds at these sets are so focused on the performance, which usually has some kind of a theme binding the artists together.


Swimming to new shores

Emilio Arroyo is a  3 times Champion of C.Valenciana (Open water) ,Silver medallist  of C.Valenciana (Open water) and 10th of Spain (Open water) . He is Champion of Spain (Triathlon), 2 time finisher of 63k ultra trail (Running) and Finisher of 21k open water race. Recently he participated in the 81km world's longest open water swimming competition 2018 on Ganga river.

What sparked your interest to participate in the 81km swimming competition?

It all started during my conversation  with my friend Jose Luis. We were talking about competitions and he asked me if I would be interested in trying the 81km in Ganges. Initially , I thought it was crazy but eventually I started to concerntrate about the competition and prepare myself.

Also   I want say, big thanks to my sponsor: rosa mediterranean houses, @fnptrainer77, barberia pepe donoso, boquerones team. Without them, I wouldn’t be here!

How did your actual experience compare to what you imagined it would be like? 
I had this idea that people In India don’t follow swimming that much but I was surprised when I landed in berhampore. Lot of people were waiting for us , wanting to click a pic or even simply talk . I never imagine that would  happen and it was absolutely an amazing experience.

What motivates you as you train and compete?

My friend Jose Luis has been a constant motivation.  He encouraged me to go to the swimming pool or sea, almost every day and I want tell him a big THANKS. He is the reason that I started taking swimming professionally and passionately. My family and friends had supported me too.

Where do you think Indian swimmers stand when you look at the world’s top swimmers?

I  think they’re very good swimmers, but unfortunatley many people don’t recognise that.


Sami Shalom Chetrit: A life of reflection and action, literary production for social change

Prof. Sami Shalom Chetrit  is a teacher, poet, writer and filmmaker. He was born in Morocco, raised in Israel and have lived there since. He also lived in New York City for many years where he studied (Columbia university) and taught at CUNY. He has been writing and publishing poetry for thirty years. Chetrit was a leading social activist in Israel for many years. He was among the founders of the alternative school Kedma in the southern neighborhood HaTikva in Tel Aviv. Chetrit has also produced and directed three documentary films-  “The Black Panthers (in Israel) Speak”, Az’i Ayima (Come Mother), and recently  “Shattered Rhymes: the Life and poetry of Erez Bitton”. Recently, Prof. Sami Shalom Chetrit and Rani Blair representatives of Israel’s largest public educational institution, Sapir College, hold a series of lectures, workshops and presentations organised by The Embassy of Isarel in India, Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute & Culture Monks.

You were born in Morocco, raised in Israel. How do you feel your early childhood experiences and memories play into your work?

My childhood played a significant role in my life as an artist. It was a childhood of immigrants family and community into a country that we considered the promised land, but we found much hostility from our European Jewish brothers whom we followed to the land. My culture and identity which at home we celebrated and were proud of, was considered backward and was therefore absent from the classroom and textbooks. We were erased. I grew up wanting to become European, which was complicating my identity. Much later in my early twenties I’ve learned to embrace my history and culture and became an activist for that cause.

What inspired you to do The Black Panthers (in Israel) Speak?If you could let our readers know  the issues which are unique to the Mizrahi Jews?

As a child I was watching the reports about the black panthers demonstrations in our family living room, and my father will be commenting saying things like: “they are so courageous! I salut them.” Then later that year of 1971 he himself organized a demonstration in our town Ashdod for the improvement of our community living conditions. Those pictures stayed with me for long. Much later as a student in Jerusalem — the hometown of the panthers — I’ve learned them from close. Visited them and started writing about them. So the film came as I was writing the chapter about the panthers in my PHD dissertation and my friend Eli Hamo, a filmmaker and an activist told me after listening to recorded interviews I made with the panthers, that this should be a documentary that will reach thousands around the world, while a dissertation will remain a reader for few. I finished my dissertation and it came out as a book in Hebrew, Arabic and English. And of course with Eli we made the film that have reached thousands around the world and Israel. My friend Eli past away six years ago and every screening of the panthers since is dedicated to him.

Do you believe Mizrahi Jews  can act as a bridge, forging a path of peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis?

Yes I believe so. But my generation had better chance to do so. The young generation is now ultra patriotic and is distant from the culture and mentality of mizrahim in their communities in the Aran and Muslim homelands. Of course the European hegemony has been discouraging mizrahim from being such bridge, by recruiting them to serve in intelligence, shin beit, mosad and anti-Arab special unites, abusing their Arab looks and Arabic language. Now openly the leaders of Israel incite the young mizrahim against the Palestinians using methods of politics of fear. So it’s possible for mizrahim to build a bridge but becoming more and more difficult.

As an artist in both worlds, how do cinema and poetry compare to each other?

That’s a question I ask myself from time to time when I have a good story: should I write a poem or a story, or should I make a documentary? The qualities of a poem and a story are known to us for thousands of years. They prove to be stable and effective. Yet, the temptation to tell it all on screen so direct and creative in one hour reaching thousands of people is always there. I do both. Like the example of the black panthers. Or the film about the poet Erez Bitton.

What would be your advice to  future generations of filmmakers who want to engage with what’s happening in the world?

In our interviews of new candidates for the film and television school, we ask the candidate to tell us about the latest in the news as he or she read in the papers or watched on TV or heard on the radio. We want to see that they are engaged in what’s going on around them in the world, in country in their community. That is the context we are making art within. Also I always recommend New comers and graduates to stay away from cynicism. It’s a poison for every artist to be aware of. And don’t confuse that with irony. Irony comes with a smile, an insight, I little laughter. So my advice be engaged in your community, inform yourself, and safeguard your innocence. We need innocence to tell a fresh story.


Composition is the soul of music

Marco de Tilla deepens his musical studies under the guidance of numerous teachers, including Rino Zurzolo, Ermanno Calzolari, Furio Di Castri, Piero Leveratto, Dario Deidda. He teaches jazz double bass for many years at the Conservatories of Naples and Potenza and works as a teacher with Ismez (National Institute for Musical Development in Southern Italy). He takes part to several workshops and master classes with internationally renowned musicians such as Dave Holland, Larry Grenadier, Bruno Tommaso, Paul Jeffrey, Scott Colley, Dick Oatts, Antonio Sanchez, Danilo Rea, Franco D'Andrea, Paolo Fresu, Maurizio Giammarco etc. He usually plays in different bands, from the trio to the big band, also collaborating with well-known musicians including Antonio Faraò, Norma Winstone, Paolo Fresu, Sarah Jane Morris, Chuck Findley, Javier Girotto, Emanuele Cisi, David Alan Gross, Andrea Pozza, Roberto Gatto, Adam Rudolph, Gabriele Mirabassi, Don Moye, Nico Gori, Maurizio Giammarco, John Arnold, Flavio Boltro. He recorded about forty jazz albums as sideman and three of his own: "A Little Present", "By the Waves" and "Suoni Italiani". His name is often present in exhibitions and festivals in Italy and abroad. He plays for example in New York (USA), Damascus and Aleppo (SYRIA), Berlin (GERMANY), Calcutta, New Delhi and Bangalore (INDIA), Prishtina (KOSSOVO), Marseilles (FRANCE) and lots of italian cities. Recently he performed at the ICCR, Kolkata as a part of the Giuliana Soscia Indo Jazz Project.

When did you start playing your instrument and what or who were your early passions or influences?

I started to play piano at age of 8. At 16, I started to play electric bass and to play rock with some school friends. When I was 18, music became the most important thing in my life: together with my teacher Rino Zurzolo (bassist of the great Neapolitan singer Pino Daniele) we decide to let me try the double bass, and I fell in love with the instrument..

Which project or moment was the turning point in your professional life?

My professional life has been always full of many different bands and musicians. I rpredominantly played Jazz from the beginning of my career. I used to play every day with somebody and to know more musicians as possible...and after so many years its still the same for me.

            Royal Thai Consulate General, Kolkata
What do improvisation and composition mean to you?

Composition is the soul of music. A good composition makes everything wonderful...and it can also change the life of a person. A composition is like a landscape and it can be breathless. The improvisation is what you do in front of that landscape. So it can means good things if you, for example, loving a woman in that time. Or means bad things if you are left behind by her. So the improvisation is what do you do with a composition, what it means for you.

What do you think of the current jazz music scenario?

I love the actual New York jazz scene. All the musicians like Gerald Clayton, Ambrose Akinmusire, Gretchen Parlato (just to name a few) are continuing to evolve that music. I think jazz is still now live more than ever and are growing up strong in the new generations.

What would your advice be for double bass students in approaching a new classical piece? 

My advice is to look and study to the "less important" things: to work well on every breath, on every single note. The key is to be patients and constants, without being in a hurry to become somebody. Another advice is to find your way to love the study in a musical way, instead to study scales and exercise without sense.

Can you tell us about future projects you are currently working on?

There is a project with my wife, a very good singer, in which we play Italian and Neapolitan songs in a jazz-soul way. Her name is Virginia Sorrentino. You can listen something here:


Seeing the world on 2 wheels

27 year old Simon from London, taught geography for 4 years before setting out to cycle from London to the Philippines. He has cycled 9,000km through 17 countries, pedaling from London to Istanbul before flying on to Mumbai to continue the ride. In 6 weeks he has cycled from Mumbai, to Goa, Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Visakapatham, up through Orissa and into Kolkotta where he met Abhijit for an interview during a week off whilst being visited by a friend from home. Back home in London he goes to church and runs marathons. Both of these interests have shaped aspects of his cycling tour.

What made you decide to see the world from a bicycle seat?

Aged 19 ,I was inspired by a book I read called ‘Cycling home from Siberia. A British man quit his job and spent 3 years snaking around the globe experiencing amazing beauty in people and nature. 12 months ago I was teaching geography in the suburbs of London aged 27 and realized that if I didn’t make the decision to do it now then I never would, and I would live to regret it!

Can you tell us about an unforgettable travel moment?

From camping in the forests of Europe, climbing snowy mountain passes and experiencing celebrity status as a white man in India there are so many stories to choose from! From the 17 countries I’ve cycled through the memories that stick out the most are the ones of love and hospitality from complete strangers. I was 80km south of Zagreb, the Croatian capital and rain was falling hard! My clothes were heavy and my body cold. I took shelter under a well on some farmland as it was the only dry place to eat. A shouting man approached me across the field and seemed angry.. 1 hour later I was sat in his house sipping a warm mug of coffee, tucking into oven fresh homemade cake having being given new dry comfy clothes to change into. The couple, Stephen and Minka, insisted that I should stay the night before making a pulse raising offer! ‘Tonight we will go hunting!’ We quietly walked into the forest, out into a dark field and Stephen, armed with a gun as tall as me, crouched down. BOOM! We ran up to see a squealing, 120kg pig! Back to the farm it was skinned, chopped, cooked and feasted on! The next morning, with a belly full of pig, I said goodbye to this couple who had shown me, a stranger now an adopted son, such love. There was tears in each of our eyes.

What is the biggest difficulty or hurdle that you have encountered while traveling and how did you get around it?

In the Czech Republic the front rack on my bike smashed into pieces as I rode over a rather large hole in the road. I was around 20km from the town I was aiming for. I used some rope I had to attach my bags to the back of the bike and very slowly made the distance. It was the weekend so on Monday morning I visited all of the 7 bike shops in town before finding a suitable new rack to fit to my bike. We say in the UK, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Desire will overcome difficulties.

Did you ever feel like giving up, if so why? And what kept you going?

Yes! Being away from home at Christmas was tough. In the UK everyone gets together with their family to exchange gifts, eat great food and play games together. When I have doubts and feel home sick I return to the purpose of my trip. I’ve realized that If you engage with your purpose you will be far more motivated at what you do. For me it is to visit, learn from and encourage churches along the route. So far I have done just that every Sunday in the 20+ weeks of the journey. I’m also raising awareness for a charity back home which keeps me motivated!

What’s more difficult running a marathon or cycling?

I’ve ran the marathon distance of 42km 6 times in the past 4 years! For me the enjoyment is different. In running I’m competitive and run for time, coming 200th out of 40,000 competitors in the London marathon one year in a a PR of 2:38. In cycling it’s more about enjoying the people and places I see and meet along the way. Even after some days of 8 hours in the saddle on this trp I have to say the final km’s at the end of a marathon hurt a lot more!

What life lessons did you learn while travelling?

1. Family and friends are so important for a healthy life! Regular contact home and meeting the beautiful families of India in the past 6 weeks has been an amazing source of motivation, love and encouragement.

2. Give people your time. Listen and ask more questions than you answer! So many opportunities have come up when I haven’t rushed on from one place to the next but instead taken the time to talk.

3. Any Brit wanting to be a celebrity should come on a 2 week trial cycling through India to see if they can survive the crowds, the attention and the seflies!

The single best starter trip for a budding cyclist?

This weekend go on a ride! Visit a friend in a nearby town. In the past 7 years there are few places I haven’t pedaled through in the UK and most of these trips were only 2-3 days in length. Start small today and tomorrow you’ll be cycling from London to the Philippines!


Hungarian Rhapsody

Norbert Kael internationally renowned concert pianist, is one of the most influential artists of “crossover” style. His concerts represent an intriguing combination of the two musical styles. His captivating passion, style and colorful repertoire, are widely popular among audiences around the world. Norbert has already performed “sold out” evenings in Madrid, Rome,Copenhagen, Bukarest, Moscow, Delhi, Cairo, USA, and Cancun, Mexico. Mr. Kael received his first degree at the prestigious Ferenc Liszt academy of Music in Budapest. After graduation Norbert received the highest scholarship to Berklee College of Music, in Boston,
USA, where he had the opportunity to study jazz with such great artists as Laszlo Gardony and Joe Lovano. Boston audience could hear Norbert's playing in such places as Regatta bar, Berklee Performance Center among other concert venues throughout the USA. After moving to New York, Mr. Kael diversified his musical skills by learning from such masters as Seymour Lipkin and Matti Raekallio on the classical side as well as Kenny Barron, and Wynton Marsalis on the jazz side. Norbert has been pursuing the idea of combining classical and jazz styles since his early musical studies. Norbert approaches the selected classical pieces with creativity, taste, and respect, that way he keeps the original melody and character, but yet he puts it into a new dimension. Recently he performed at the The Calcutta School of Music. The event was organized  by the Embassy of Hungary and Balassi Institute, Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre, New Delhi and The Calcutta School of Music.

How did you get started in playing piano?

I started playing the piano at 7 my parents enrolled me to music school. Interestingly I didn’t like it until I was about 12. Then I discovered Keith Jarret, the American pianist, I just loved his music.

Who have been some of your greatest influences in shaping your identity as a pianist?

Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, on the jazz side, and Andras Schiff, Arthur Rubinstein, Radu Lupu, Evgeny Kissin on the classical side.

Where do you turn now when you’re looking for artistic inspiration? Which composer do you feel the deepest connection with?

Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt Bartok, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin.  Actually Bach, Chopin, and Bartok

How important to you is it that improvisation figures in the music that you’re making?

Really important. All my compositions have optional improvisational section. If someone doesn’t want to do it, it’s possible  just playing the written part, but less fun.

What has been the most memorable performance of your career so far?

Hard to tell, all of my performances are very memorable, I’m blessed with great audiences

You had the opportunity to study jazz with great artists such as Laszlo Gardony and Joe Lovano. Is there anything that you retain from your student days at the Berklee College of Music, any particular piece of advice or wisdom that has stayed with you?”

Yes Seymour Lipkin told me at Juilliard, to really believe my playing and just go ahead.I really liked it.

Do you have any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’d like to share?

I’m setting up a recording with my trio. This is going to be our 2nd cd, also I’m creating a project with a Hungarian folk singer who won Grammy. We are going to do a fusion of jazz and Hungarian folk music in a new way.


Adventures in Traveling: Party of Two

Jess and Tim grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand. They first met while studying at Otago University where they became good friends. After graduating, Tim combined his love of the outdoors and his career as a Land Surveyor by working in remote parts of Western Australia. Jess fulfilled her dream of living and working in London, England. It wasn’t until a few years later when Tim was travelling to Europe that he stayed with Jess in London and they became a couple. Since then Jess and Tim have travelled to many places, gotten married and moved to Australia. 

How does travelling as a couple compare to solo travel?

They are very different. There are the same differences as being single or married when not travelling. Travelling together has both advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is the need to compromise on the many aspects of travel including where you go and what you do there. 

Tim travelled for an extended period of years ago while he was single. He was free to do whatever he wanted, whether it be hike all day, every day for weeks in Nepal or bicycling around Wales free camping on the side of the road as he went.

Now that we are travelling together we need to compromise on how we travel, where we stay and the activities that we do. On our current trip we have both had to make compromises on the type of restaurants we eat at, the places we sleep and even the countries we’ve chosen to visit. Where we cannot compromise. For example, when Tim hiked for months through the Himalayas. Jess spent time in other places in Nepal that suited her more.

We think that while we compromise where we can, sometimes when one of us really wants to do something that the other doesn't, the other person either has to just tolerate doing something that they don’t like or do something else instead. There are always going to be times when we don’t want to do the same thing so we think it’s fine and sometimes even nice to spend some time doing our own thing. 
Apart from the usual support and companionship of a partner the main benefit of travelling together is that we are able to share the tasks involved in organizing our travels. Throughout our trip Jess has researched all the VISAs and train bookings that we have required and Tim has booked our accommodation and planned our trip route. There can often seem like an overwhelming amount of planning and organizing when traveling around multiple countries so having two people to ‘divide and conquer’ can be very nice.

How important is cooperation from the family when you undertake such a trip? Was there any skepticism or fear or was it full-on support?

We are 32 and 33 years old so we had moved out of our family homes and became self reliant long ago. Because of this, our families are used to us being away and making our own decisions and therefore they were not worried and were supportive of our plan to go travelling overseas. 

Despite our independence it is very nice to have this support and the knowledge that if we somehow got into troubles overseas, our family would be there to help us out.
If you were much younger than us and less financially independent, it would be much more important to have the support and cooperation of your family. Having someone more mature to talk to and someone able to get you home in the case of an emergency would be very important. 

Tell us about the best moment so far. When have you stood in awe and through, “this is my moment forever”?

One of Jess’s most memorable moments was walking through Dhakmar in Nepal’s Mustang District. Dhakmar is a beautiful traditional village set amongst tall and strikingly red cliffs, dotted with the ruins of ancient cave dwellings and far away from western civilisation. After recovering from a period of sickness and feeling good about her fitness, Jess felt how special it was to visit a place so remote and see something so beautiful. The fact that you can’t easily take a plane or a vehicle to this place means you are one of a ‘small number’ of people to hear the silence and see the untouched beauty. It made Jess feel happy to have been hiking for so many days and lucky to be there.

Tims most memorable moment was when he was walking the Great Himalaya Trail through the Himalayas of Nepal. At this time, he and his father were completing a section of remote trail, crossing the tops of a forested ridge line. Their day had dragged on and they were looking for a place to camp next to a source of water. In their search, they found a small shelter where a girl was standing nearby so they asked for some water and in turn were offered to stay with the family on the floor of their small home. During their stay they were fed and entertained and given a valuable insight into the lives of these Nepalese people. 

Beyond seeing tourist sights and National Parks we always try to meet the local people from the places we visit and to get as good an understanding of how these people live. You usually can’t book and pay to have these genuine experiences, so Tim was very happy and honoured to have been given this experience by such generous and kind people. 

Was there any unique experience you’ve ‘accidentally’ stumbled upon while travelling?

When we travelled to Mongolia we booked the cheapest hostel at the last minute and ended up staying at a place called ‘The Garage’ run by a young entrepreneur called Bagi. This was our first stroke of luck as Bagi was a really nice guy and was very helpful in helping us organise a horse trek on a budget. We loved staying at his hostel with likeminded guests, travelling in a similar way to us. 

On returning from our horse trek, Bagi offered us the opportunity to stay with his nomadic uncle out in the middle of the Steppes of Mongolia. We couldn’t say yes to this offer fast enough and a few days later we were off on a bus to the middle of nowhere with a huge bag filled with vegetables as a thank you gift. 
Over the course of the next week, we helped the nomadic family heard sheep, milk horses and collect dried cow poo and immersed ourselves in their day to day lives. The nomadic life is as far from our usual life as is possible and we loved learning about how the family work, entertain and survive in this inhospitable place. After our week on the 
Steppe we were very sad to leave our host family and would love to stay in contact or see them again if possible in the future. This lucky and impromptu experience is something that we often talk about and which we will remember for the rest of our lives.

If you could become a local in one of the places you’ve traveled, which place would it be?

We have loved travelling through France in the past and love the people, culture, food, landscape and weather. Also, in a practical sense, France would allow us to continue our careers, providing we spoke French, and therefore maintain our current standard of living that we are used to.

If you ignored careers and income, then we would love to live the simple life in a place like on the coast of Greece where there is a slower pace of life, a lot of emphasis on family and socialising, enjoying good food and enjoying yourself. It would be nice to live in a country where the cost of living isn’t so high that your day revolves around making money, keeping your job, rushing around and stressing about our chaotic lives. We can easily imagine growing our own food, trading produce at the local market, socialising with friends at a small restaurant and swimming everyday in the tranquil sea. Its sounds pretty good and we would be less stressed and healthier than we are back in our normal lives.

Do you believe that travel teaches lessons about the world, about mankind that we wouldn’t have learned otherwise? Can you tell us what your most valuable lesson has been.

Yes. Every time we visit a new place, we are positively surprised by the people that we meet. We are constantly rediscovering that almost all people are inherently good. We have even found that the people from poorer places are often genuinely nicer and more generous than those who have more to give. We travelled to Turkey a few years ago and were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the people. In one rural town we found it impossible to pay for anything we tried to purchase. It was clear that with our nice clothes and modern van, we could afford to pay our way but the locals all insisted on showing us what their town had to offer, free of charge. Since then we have been lucky enough to travel to many other countries and over and over again people have been so good to us and really proved that almost everyone is good. 

This is such an important thing to learn and remember in a world that often seems a little out of control and where the media only presents the bad and shocking. A lot of people who can’t or don’t travel overseas, only get to see the world through the lens of the media and therefore, for example, don’t like Muslims and are weary of Africans. Anyone who has traveled and actually met a Muslim or an African will quickly learn that none of the negative stereotypes are true. Despite having travelled a lot before reaching India, we still have learnt that so much of what the media has told us about this country, is simply not true because every person that we have met during our trip here so far has been nice, helpful and friendly. We shouldn’t have been surprised! 

What advice can you offer to couples who may be thinking of embarking on their own long-term journey?

If you aren't married yet, wait until after you have travelled together for a significant period of time. You will find out so much about each other in the process, as travel can be difficult and stressful so your true self will be exposed and both you and your partner will see who each other really are. 

While you are travelling, you will have to deal with many challenges and make hard decisions out of your comfort zone and away from your usual support network. You will also have to spend a lot of time together, often just the two of you and without the usual life distractions of work, sport and chores to allow you to hide any tension in your relationship. You will fight and blame each other when you get stuck in the middle of nowhere, in a country where you don’t speak the language and you don’t have a mobile phone. You will have to sort out your issues very quickly and you will soon work out if the person you are travelling with is good for you. 
If you have’t yet travelled with your partner then you may already know if this is a good idea or not. For some couples, they may know that despite loving each other, travelling together for a long period of time is just not a good idea. We have met couples who are happy to travel by themselves for the greater good of their relationship.

REALISM on canvas

Yasunori Sakakibara studied at the Tama University of Arts five years of visual arts (oil painting) and has received numerous awards. Since 1994 he has done regular solo and group exhibitions, participated at art fairs participation and works in public and private collections at Japan and Guam.

What is the major thing you look for when selecting a subject for your artwork?   

I am basically a realism painter. I try to describe the details of our world by traditional oil and egg tempera painting technique which is very important for me.Yes,"details of the world "! I am Japanese. I am not sure that is reason, but I feel myself I have a sense of view of the world with a kind of "Animism"

So I tend to make choice my motif from real fieldwork by traveling foreign countries. Of course I think that for art, imagination and philosophy, stable view of the world, universality is important. And we have to find them on everywhere, in everything.

Why do I look for motifs in traveling? Traveling means "escaping" from ordinary world, ordinary habits to think, act and communicate. I think that we can become free and fight against our problems in our life by escaping sometime from our community or regular habits. I release every objects of the world from their own location, system of meanimgs.This is "simplify”. This process is important for myself.

On the other hand, I do not forget to experience and enjoy every local characteristics, and historical culture.

What do you consider your greatest artistic challenge? 

All earthly things pass away. But artworks can preserve and hand down to the next generation that "emotion" "sense" "thinking" "impression”. Creating artworks goes against the current of the time. But great act of human. Secondly, we can know many different cultures and communicate worldwide. Creating artworks has great power for discovery; each other .We can expand our view of the world and find our own friends beyond the age and location.

You have been to India nearly eight times. How does this feels like to be in India?

My first trip to India started from Kolkata in the month of March in the year 2005.The most important purpose of repetitive traveling to India is getting rid of a difference of experience between Japan and India. In Japan, death and other deep human activity are hidden from ordinary space. Major Japanese tend to demand to act, think, be member of his community each other indirectly. Showing one’s personality is not welcomed. Old town and buildings are easily demolished. We Japanese lost direct reality of life instead of clean city space, convenient life.

In India everything is vivid, massive, strong texture, visible many different religion and philosophies and of course artworks and architectures. Through my India experience, I want to discover myself.

One memorable experience you could never forget about?

I was looking for good location for sketching all day. The place was a seaside on the edge of "Izu" peninsula, a big cliff. When it was almost sunset time and thought I wouldn’t find a good motif. But I did not give up. I went down to the cliff; finally I found brilliant big view of cliff. Beyond religions I felt "The Creator".

What is your take on contemporary art scene?

Maybe I do not concern deeply after WW American contemporary art history. But of course we artists living this age should refer those adventure of Western Modern art history. Consistently "How can I complete painting work based on realism update"  I do not want to limit my artwork in Japanese art market.

In the world there are various types of concept, style. To say "what is the most major  art style now?" does not have strong effect now, I think. With thinking university, I think every artist should pursue their own critical mind.

What advice would you give to the new generation artists?

I hope new generation artists are not too obedient to critics and customers and public decency. People say too much "It is impossible. You can't do it(like us)". But you have to know that our critical ability is usually above than real creative ability. So we should be modest and confident in about our ability in a true meaning.


The Kolkata Experience

With its intriguing cultures, diversity and history, India has been a captivating land for many. It's not just a destination but an experience! Aida Melo from Philippines who works as a caretaker in a power company has been reading a lot and watching videos about Kolkata. Finally, she decided to explore the unique and fascinating city of Kolkata. It was Aida’s first travel outside The Philippines. First things are always memorable in life as they are thrilling and interesting.  When asked -You have been dreaming to come to Kolkata for over a year. When you first landed in Kolkata how was your initial feelings? Aida replies "It was a mixed feeling. I was excited and happy. Though I was a little afraid since it was unknown city, but I knew God was with me. I knew He would guide me."

Kolkata - the city of joy has a fascinating history that highlights its rich culture and literary flavor. When Aida visited the Victoria memorial she was literally in tears. She couldn’t believe she was present there. She was moved by this white marbled beauty, which can rightly be called the epitome of grace and elegance. Aida says "It was a wonderful experience. Everyone was so nice and friendly. Most people are very kind and nice and very welcoming and helpful. I was fortunate to have my friend Koustav Chatterjee whom I met on Facebook to show me around the city. What I liked most about the city was that the people respected the tourists and welcomed them wholeheartedly"

Talking about her favorite culinary experience in the city, Aida says, " It had to be the mutton Biryani! When a plate of Kolkata Biryani appears on a table, it evokes myriad sensations. People visiting the city should try the Kolkata Biryani. I also cherish the ginger tea made by Koustav’s mother. It was very special for me!"

The biggest concern for travelling solo as a female is safety. How did she get over that fear? Aida feels," I knew from the beginning of this trip, it was a gift from God. I knew God will guide me through the journey. The fear has been there since its an unknown place. But my pastor and his wife told me that it's normal to get afraid when you are travelling to an unknown destination. Fear makes you stronger!"

Aida volunteers for Jesus Our Abundant Life Church, Batangas City, Philippines. Talking about her volunteering experiences she says, "My church is my life! I love volunteering. I want to thank God for every blessing he has given us. He died on the cross to save us from our sins."

It is said Kolkata takes documentary street photography to another level; as a photographer, you can become overwhelmed by the intensity of the daily life that you see as you walk around. Aida being a passionate photographer says, "Whether you casually walk down the busy streets of Kolkata or hop into the car to travel around the city, there is an undeniable charm that the city emits. You will find a lot of action! The MAA flyover is so beautiful in the evenings! I took a selfie with the chai seller. I have taken two earthen cups to carry it to Philippines as a souvenir."

They say if you have ever stayed in Kolkata, a part of it always stays with you. Here's what makes this city special, and what you can never forget, no matter how far away you are!


A magician's moments

Zacharie Miri is a 22 years old, living in Paris is a nurse by profession. He is also a professional magician. He does private and public close up shows, and even contested in France's got talent.

When did your love of magic first start?

I started pretty late compared to most magicians! I started when I was around 17 years old.

My family and I were going down to the south of France, but since we live In Paris (which is around the north),we had to stop midway, in Lyon.There, we went to a restaurant in a little place. Our table was outside, and my little brother (who was 12 years old), saw a magician busking in the other end of the place. Enthusiastically, he asked my mother to see him after eating. My mother said yes, and he just ate his food as fast as possible to see him.

While me being a teenager, acted like I didn't care. But there is something entertaining about magic which makes people glued to it, so I thought to visit and bring my brother back. When I reached the magician's stand, Noé (my brother) asked: "Sir, can you do your best magic trick to my brother before we leave?”

So he performed to me one trick( a trick when the spectator has a spongeball in his hands, and the magician makes another ball to teleport in my hand, so now I have two), and I was amazed and fooled so badly at the same time, that I kept on watching one trick after the other  until my father finally came to bring the both of us back !  While returning back, I was thinking that it would have been so great to learn how to perform magic. It was just a only a thought then.

Then we arrived at our destination. There was 1 room for each other, and my room was a furnitured attic. And among the various stuffs in the room, I found an old magic kit! I told to myself "Well I have no excuses to not start!”. I started to learn some tricks, including the spongeball trick! And when I performed tricks to my family (and friends who were joining us later) tiny miracles, they enjoyed so much that it made me feel so good, like I never was !

Later, back home, I ordered my own magic kit, less "chilidish" and started to learn as much as possible. Among all the kind of magic in the kit (ropes, coin,etc.), I oriented myself with cards, which became my specialization (like a lot of beginners), because of his unlimited possibilities of tricks, and it is ease to carry out various tricks.

Meanwhile, I was studying to be a nurse, but the more I learned and performed, the more people wanted to hire me for some events. And even if I love to be a nurse, I feel so happy when, for a moment, I make someone forget everything and make them enjoy the moment and see a world where everything is possible.

It is because I want to share the feeling that that magician gave me, just like your first firework, or when everyone sings for your birthday.. It is when I realized that that I saw my hobby turning into a real passion!

Do you think magic is something that anyone can learn or do you have to have a certain aptitude or mindset?

Everyone thinks that being able to "fool" people is a gift; some may even think that it requires real powers. But in fact, everybody can learn the conjuring art. I didn't even know how to properly shuffle a deck of cards before starting to learn! Depending on the category of magic you want to learn, there might be some difficulties, but there is 3 inherent things that you will need to be better at this art:

Time: because you'll spend hours and hours to understand a technique, timing, the presentation some tricks requires weeks, months, or even a lifetime to master!

Money: because time is money haha!  No really, the business of secret is well kept, and the more you'll get specialized, the more hidden secret will be expensive. Of course, you can pay also a mentor to teach you, but I learned by myself, because having a mentor is also expensive. Plus, sometimes, you have to buy some material to build/refill tricks. Doesn’t mean that you can't do good magic for cheap though, a good deck of cards and you can entertain people for hours if you know your tricks!

Motivation: the most important thing to have, because it is your motivation that will make you willing to spend time and money to be better. Your motivation is often having a hard time, whether you met bad spectators or you struggle to learn something,etc . But as long as you know your true motivation, and it is strong enough, you can be one of the best!This is how I managed to reach the "professional level" while starting way later: I worked hard to succeed, thanks to my true motivation!

What’s your favorites magic trick?

Well first of all, as a close-up magician, I like to involve the spectators as much as possible. As I said earlier, I want them to imagine a world of unlimited possibilities, not to show me and my "magic powers". It creates a win/lose situation, which I don't like.

So the less I do things, the better it is, and it is even better if THEY do it. I have a lot of tricks like that, but if I had to choose one, it would be the trick where a spectators choose any card he/she likes, place it back in the deck wherever he/she wants, and keeps the deck the whole time. Then he/she would imagine burning his own card (which I don't know). A few seconds later, the spectators feel a bit of heat. He/she spreads the deck, to find one card with a big burnt hole: it is their card!This trick is so strong, and simple to follow, that you can even do it without speaking, I love the reactions I get from people with this trick so much that I do it all the time !

What has been the most memorable moment for you?

When you do magic, you meet a lot of different people, from different cultures, countries. So you have a lot of memorable moments created by the meeting of people you wouldn't even talk to without this special event. It is very hard to pick just one. Let me share couple of these special moments. Firstly, it was last year, the day after Christmas. There was an activity center who was keeping kids for parents who had to work on that day. Sad for the kids when you can't play with your presents! But the director hired me to do a 2 hr long show. When you do magic, you enjoy creating amazement and laughs to people, and see it on their face. But from all reactions I could have  in my "career", those from these 40 children were so pure and strong, that even now I can't talk about it without having a big smile and telling myself that is the best job ever!

Another experience was in India. My friend and I planned our trip two months ago, so we can be sure to have every guesthouse, every train ticket on the right time and we wouldn't have to worry about it. Our last night train was from Varanasi to Kolkata. But even two months before, we were the 4th and 5th on the waiting list. On the departure day, we took the night train. The first 45min of the trip was on sleeper class, with the tickets granted. But for the next 12 hours on AC2... still on waiting list! We had to sit on the floor, between to wagons, next to the toilets in the cold with people who wakes you up to cross or to go off the train. It was going to be the worst night of my life. But around 23pm, the Ticket Checker told us to go to the sleeper class. So we went, and there we met another two Indians in the same trouble as us.We talked a bit waiting for him, and when I told them what my job was, they naturally asked to show some tricks. So, I did around 30min of magic tricks, and they enjoyed it so much! That is one of the reasons I love Indian people, they love magic as much as I do! But still, we were without seat, the four of us. The ticket checker came again. So my “new friend” negotiated with the Ticket Checker and got us a seat by paying bribe. The whole negotiation process took 4 hrs!.When I wanted to give my new friend the money, he told me "Don't worry my friend, it is my way to thank you for all the good magic you showed us "On that day I've learnt how people can be generous and kind, and that without magic I would have spent the night on the floor!

Advances in technology have created even more possibilities in the art of illusion. What are your views?

A couple of centuries ago, people tend to call "magic" anything people would do that was beyond the understanding. Nowadays we know that magic is not real (as far as we know, but the feeling of living something magical is real, it is what we try to create !). People are getting smarter and smarter, and that is when technology has a role in it.

Today you can order a taxi, know the weather for 2 weeks in advance quite precisely, and talk to someone at the other end of the world! So we can use sometimes some subtle devices to do some parts of the trick that we wouldn't be able to with our bare hands, but I think some technologies are too obvious. That is the case with magic applications on Smartphone. If you think about it, if a magician brings out his own phone to do some miracles, people will think that it is just an app. And they are right most of the time!

People are not stupid, they are getting clever as fast as the technology evolves, and one day everyone will know about almost everything about it. So, I think we are in a technological era of magic, with a lot of magicians performing with tablets, Smartphone. But slowly, we are entering in a new era of magic, which involves the biggest computer ever: the brain. There is a psychological subtlety that absolutely no one knows, and there is no magic app for that. What if I told you that for a moment, I could take back your ability to read? Well, it is possible... and with nothing more than words on a cardboard.

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