Siraj Huda : Accidental Actor,Natural Talent

Pic courtesy - Vick Krishna 

Born in Orissa, India, Siraj Huda considers himself an accidental actor. He took an unconventional path to his acting career, milking cows in Nepal and teaching ice skating in Dubai on the way. After immigrating to the United States to pursue an MBA, Siraj moved to New York City where he has worked in publishing and as a software engineer. When the recession hit in 2008, Siraj discovered acting and never looked back. His varied life experiences contributed to his ability to get under the skin of the characters he portrays.

Pic courtesy -
 Vick Krishna
You grew up in a rural village in Odisha. How did that influence you as an actor today? 
I did not entirely grew up in the village but did spend chunk of my life there. I had a had childhood because of my dyslexia which I didn’t know until I was fourth and had moved to America. But growing up in a rural setting got me to find myself and my center. Who I am and what are my strengths and weaknesses. I guess that helped me a lot later in life to become an actor.
With all your diverse roles in your credit, which role did you find challenging as an actor? 
Being an older brown actor I usually end up playing typical roles as cab driver or a convenient store clerk. But I have also played door man, a hedge fund manager, NYPD cop, stock broker, doctor or nurse etc. but I usually end up playing father. The most difficult role was playing a Muslim father for a famous long running popular reality show called ‘what would you do’. But it was a show where you are acting but everyone around you are real life regular people and they are reacting to your acting not knowing that you are acting. It was a hidden camera show. We also wear ear pieces where the director is also telling you what to say or do. Really nerve wrecking.
What is an advantage (and/or disadvantage) you have as a “brown actor” in the industry?  
Luckily brown actors are much in demand lately. Also thanks to technology like internet and streaming services there is a lot more demand for new contents and they need more actors. Also it’s easier to produce contents and upload it so a lot more people are producing. My advantage is my age. Since I am an older trained actor I have a lot less competition. I have also started to write and produce short films.

Which do you find harder to do: acting or producing?

I would say acting. Because it needs a lot of training and mental discipline.
Pic courtesy -
Vick Krishna
Please tell us about your upcoming short film?

My second film I have written, produced and acted in is called FREAK. It’s about a desi widowed father and his grown up daughter. And how their relationship is tested when the daughter reveals that is is dating a girl. I have used few techniques like breaking the 4th wall and using voice over which is usually not used in short films. Do I am excited to see the audiences reaction.

It takes a lot of courage, passion and determination to choose acting as a career. Any message that you would like to pass on to the young struggling actors over there?

I am an accidental actor. Glad you asked me this question. I do life coaching for actors. Because no school or teacher teaches them how to keep their ‘sanity’ as actors. Acting is a mind game. So learn to discipline your mind. Things like how to handle rejection, how to pay your bills, how to handle jealously and envy, how to motivate yourself, how to be joyful and positive being an actor, how to know the business of acting and know the big picture, how to handle success, how to define your definition of success, how to manage expectations,how to help others in the industry, how to push your self to find other options in the industry you might be good at ... etc.


Winning hearts with strings

Rebecca Raimondi, born in 1996, is now attending a Baroque Master with MechthildKarkow at the Musikhochschule of Frankfurt am Main. In 2018 she completed the Fellowship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Jacqueline Ross, where she also obtained the Master (CRD) with David Takeno and studied baroque violin with PavloBeznosiuk . She previously studied with Salvatore Accardo (Accademia W. Stauffer of Cremona, Accademia Chigiana) and Marco Fiorini (Music School of Fiesole) and with Roberto Gonzalez-Monjas (Accademia Praeneste). She graduated at the Conservatorio "O. Respighi" in Latina, under the guidance of Antonio De Secondi and obtaining the highest degreecum laude and honors . She has partecipated in masterclasses with: Dora Schwarzberg, Sergey Girshenko, George Mönch, Harald Herzl and Lorenzo Fabiani.As a soloist she has performed Brahms Concerto with the International Orchestra of Rome, Mozart Concerto no. 4 with the Symphonic Orchestra of Latina, BachBrandenburg Concerto No.4 with the Guildhall Baroque Ensemble in Milton Court Concert Hall in London and the Double Concerto with "I SolistiAquilani" and the violinist Gaia Trionfera under the baton of Amaury Du Closel. In 2016 she performed as a soloist "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi with Rest Ensemble in London and in Rome on period instruments.She has founded the Ardorè Duo, devoted toContemporary Music succesfully performing at the Accademia Chigiana of Siena, the Museo del violino in Cremona - playing on theNicolò Amati ex-Collin 1669 -, the Macro Museum in Rome and the Milton Court Concert Hall in London.She is also member of the Avant Piano Trio(Urska Horvat, cello and Alessandro Viale, piano), which is specialized in Romantic and Contemporary repertoire, successfully performing in UK and Italy.She won many National and International competitions such as Anemos, Clivis, Città di Giussano, Marco Dall'Aquila and Riviera Etrusca. She has been awarded the "Excellentissimus" Prize, released by appointment of the President of the Italian Republic, the "Monte deiPaschi di Siena"Scholarship for the best students of Salvatore Accardo's class of the Chigiana International Summer Academy, and the "Scuola di Musica di Fiesole" Scholarship. In 2016 she has been selected for "Chamber Music Festival 2016", and in the same year she has been awarded a Scholarship by the "Guildhall School of Music and Drama". In 2018 she has been invited to take part in the East Neuk Festival retreat. With duo Ardorè she won in 2017 the Scotese festival, as best young ensemble of Nuova Consonanza Festival. She has been selected for Lucerne Festival Academy 2018. Abhijit Ganguly speaks with Rebecca Raimondi.

What was your earliest exposure to music? What interested you towards playing the violin?

Since I was very little, my parents have always exposed me to classical music: at home, my father used to listen to Symphonies and Concertos every evening on a good (and very loud!) Hi-Fi Stereo, and from time to time we used to go to the Opera House in Rome to watch ballets. From the age of three I started receiving propedeutic music lessons, and at three and a half I had my first violin lesson.

My mother told me that one day she asked me which instrument I would have liked to play, and I just answered: "The violin"! I must have listened to very good violinists at that time, to be so convinced for such a choice...

Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?

Georg Moench, my second violin teacher, who taught me the majority of pieces from the main repertoire, represents the beginning of my passion for music, and I really enjoy going back with my mind to that moment of life. After, I had teachers who inspired me under many differen aspects, such as Antonio De Secondi, Lorenzo Fabiani, Salvatore Accardo, David Takeno and Jacqueline Ross. Last but not least, my partner, Alessandro, with whom I share and create the majority of my projects and concerts, and who especially developed in me the passion for Contemporary music.

You founded the Ardorè Duo,. Please tell us more about it.

Ardorè Duo was born five years ago, as an ensemble committed to Modern and Contemporary Classical music. Today, we have more than ten pieces dedicated and written for us, and we commission at least one piece every year. 
In the past two years, I started to specialize in the Baroque repertoire - now being enrolled at the Master with Prof. Mechthild Karkow at the Musikhochschule of Frankfurt am Main - and in the last months, thanks to Prof. Jacqueline Ross, me and Alessandro developed, as a duo, a filological approach also to Classical and Romantic music. Since then, our repertoire has expanded with no exceptions. This is why I can say that the Duo's purpose is always that to achieve a musical and natural performance style, simultaneously free from dogma - through research on sources such as letters, old recordings, treatises, testimoniances - yet also rigorous, and with a passionate commitment.

In 2017 we recorded a monographic CD of David Collins' Violin sonatas for Sheva Contemporary ( receiving excellent reviews on many magazines, among which Gramophone (March 2018), a CD for Cremona Records with sonatas by Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven, and, in February, we will record a monographic CD with the music composed by Marco Quagliarini, for Stradivarius.The name? We chose it on one eveing, while walking on the beach in my hometown... you can read it as A(Alessandro) R(Reecca) DO (the note C in Italian) and RE' (the note D in Italian), but also - more simply! - as the word "ardore", which in Italian means "somthing which burns of passion, enthusiasm, impetus".

Is there any concert that you feel was a breakthrough for you in more recent times?

For me it certainly was the one when I performed Brahms violin concerto, in 2014, and my final recital in Lonodon in 2017. In both circumstances I had a very strong energy, whcih I always try to recreate in every concert. Every concert I do has its own positive aspects, which will always change, depending on the period of life, people I play with, the venue where I perform, etc... Therefore, if I think about past recent concerts, I will find that each one of them helped me to make a step forward.

How was your experience to be a part of the Ananta Makhal Tribute concert?

To perform for the Ananta Makhal Tribute Concert, and alongise his former students, was a great honor for me. Already before coming to India I heard so many good things and stories about Ananta as a teacher, and when I met people who knew him, I could really feel a strong respect and love towards him. Moreover, the project that Michael Makhal and Alessandro Viale led this year, and in which me, Urska, and many Indian musicians took part, has been, in a way, a continuation of what Ananta did for almost his entire life. We gave masterclasses in three different places (Hyderabad, Bangalore Greenwood International and Vio Voi music school), we involved the students in the final concert of the Autumn International Music Fest in Hyderabad, we shared our knowledge and insights about western Classical music with the musicians from Calcutta's Oxford Mission Orphanage. And being Ananta a violin player... I felt particularly attached to the stories of those musicians who I performed with in Calcutta, and a particular responsibility as well.
What kind of projects are you currently working on?

At the moment I am living in Frankfurt, where I just started a Master in Baroque performance. I really wanted to specialise in this repertoire, from which European classical-musical tradition starts, and I am happy to have had the chance to take this path.
Alongside this, I am devoting myself to the performance of the Contemporary Classical repertoire, commissioning and performing premieres of new pieces, both in duo with Alessandro, in trio with Urska, and for solo violin. Moreover, this year I also have a couple of "virtuosistic" projects, in which I will perform the six "sonate a quattro" by Rossini, Bottesini "Gran Duo" for violin and double bass, and some Paganini. I have got two recordig projects for the upcoming year, one with the music for violin solo and violin and piano by Maro Quagliarini, for Stradivarius, and the second for Brilliant, with the chamber and solo music by Riccardo Malipiero. I am really excited to follow a road that I am building from my own choices. The most important thing I learnd from the modest amount of experience I have, is that it does not exist only one way of doing things and pursuing aims - although the world seems to want us accept the opposite as right, but there are many that can and will succeed, provided that you really believe in them.


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.

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