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Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

Creativity, a need or an addiction for artists? 5 things I do to stay focused on my art!


June is around the corner. And it’s almost the end of the school year which for us means the end of our job contracts in high schools/ secondary schools. And it means also look behind and realise that despite of all going on in our lives, and we’ve definitely had our share this year, we have still been quite creative since January. 

Yann has done some deep sound work in the studio, and rethought the all way we organise our music set. I’ve done some small videos (some are even published on Youtube here), learned new editing tricks, taken pictures, done small drawings. Nothing physically released that’s for sure, no new recording, although we’ve tried hard on that.

I guess like for most artists, creating is a need, can I even say a basic need? One that if it isn’t met messes up all of our lives even where all could go well? Or maybe it could rather be an addiction. Something we got so much used to that we feel we need and to want to experience it again and again?

As the years pass by I’m coming to the conclusion that it isn’t just about “being creative”. It’s also about “staying” and “feeling creative” no matter what. No matter the turmoil of life, no matter if our art doesn’t generate enough revenue to make a living and get us back to side-tiring-non exciting-jobs.

1 Recognise what can’t be done right now

Sometimes it’s just not the time and recognising and accepting it seems to make it easier to navigate through. I’ve seen too many times what denial could do to us. Denying that we aren’t getting the expected gigs/sales/views/streams. Denying that it makes us feel sad and worthless. And fooling ourselves pretending it’s about not giving up. Getting revenue to sustain our living and ensure we’ll be able to live decently, afford healthy food, replace expensive violin strings, do some unavoidable repairs in the house or on the car, all this certainly isn’t about giving up on our creativity.

2 See instead what you can do & start creating something small

We all hear about “dream big”, and keep on seeing this quote shared by anyone on facebook “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” (which btw is by Norman Vincent Peale, author of the Power of Positive Thinking which worth a read ). I feel it’s ok to do so…. when it makes me feel good! When it doesn’t, because let’s be honest when my tour agenda is almost empty the gap is too big for my mind to deal with, I can’t fool myself on that one.

I realised I hadn’t created many videos in years, although it made me extremely happy, and I just thought this was extremely sad. I used to vlog for Astrakan Project. To shoot little sequences just because they had interest for my eyes and because I wanted to see them come to life. There are many reasons for why I was doing less of these. On one hand it’s true that the small equipment I’m lucky to own has its limitations. A lot of limitations for sure, and the truth is also, when I hear our music, I have visions of glorious landscapes and skies that I can’t capture. And I imagine scripts (I wrote a few of them, some even with a storyboard!) that can’t be done with me alone so far.

What was then my cure? Go back to step 1! I acknowledged I couldn’t do these projects right now, and started thinking about what was doable right now. Doable technically. Doable schedule-wise too. I realised I was aiming at creating a full music video, with our tracks being almost all more than 5 min long, that’s a tremendous amount of work, and just the thought was pulling me back from doing anything.at.all! And guess what? It made me so happy to imagine, shot and edit this small sequence with my son!

In a way, I try to change my perspective. Instead of staying stuck into “want I want to do”, I gently try to push myself to also see “what I can easily do” and that makes me (quite as) happy too.

I’m preparing a few more, you can subscribe to our Youtube channel here if you haven’t done so.   http://www.youtube.com/astrakanproject/?sub_confirmation=1.

3 Reduce social media

And I’m serious on that one! More than often I can be more than happy about friends having gigs, tours, exhibitions, and I’m happy to listen to new music people share, discover new videos. But again, if the gap is too big with what I’m experiencing right now, I just see how it makes me feel sad to hear/see their own achievements, and then it builds up to resentment, to feeling like a victim, and I deeply believe feeling like a victim doesn’t really pair with being a thriving artist! My feeling again, everyone is different, some people may get motivated by some sort of competition or revenge, but it’s not my case at all, I need to be centered and at peace to create.

the ghost of me - Simone Alves - Astrakan Project
The Ghost of Me.

Since a reduced my scrolling time, I noticed how I had more clarity, more ideas, and more focus for sure to deepen the ideas I have, and actually create them (I also noticed I could remember vibrant dreams, is that related?). I feel that even “nice”, “inspiring”, “classes”, “how to” content is an excuse for not being creating myself. There’s so much waiting to be done! I have a long way to go, but I’m taking responsibility for trying it out.

4 Read (or listen) to inspiring books instead!

My bible will forever be The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. I don’t know if there’s anyone around that hasn’t heard about her book, but if it’s your case, know that it’s been a companion for a decade, and it’s more than a usual inspirational book. It has concrete steps and exercises to get back on creativity. I could even award it as best-value-book-ever!

My second go to book is Big Magic, Creative Living beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listen to it actually rather than I read it, but I love it and it has changed my perspective on the expectations I had towards my art. I realised I was putting a lot of pressure on what I was creating. It had to please me, to make me happy, to get me revenue (oh! That’s a big one!), to get me to travel, to get me to meet new people. I realised I needed to accept (remember step 1 😉 ) that if it was really cool when it would happen, I should relax, step back, and re-focus on the process of creating, not on the out-come. To be honest, that’s way easier said than done and experienced!

The author has also a very unique take on inspiration and ideas. For Elizabeth Guilbert, ideas have an existence on their own, like they are floating around waiting for someone to grab them and materialise them into the physical world. A very profound book that I feel like… listening to again as soon as I press the publish button on this post!

I’m personally a big fan of audiobooks, especially for non-fiction books, books about creativity, motivational books. When I discovered about it, I was in awe with all the possibilities. I already loved long drives, but that definitely make them even more exciting! Same goes for cooking sessions!

(This link should give you 1 month for free, which means one book credit for free)

That’s all for today folks, if you have any advice or thought to share with me, please to in the comments below, if that was useful too 🙂

Wishing you a lovely, peaceful and creative week!

A galon / with heart, Simone

PS: Links may be affiliated for some of them (on Amazon for instance). As a friend of Astrakan Project, you allow us to earn a small commission if you make a purchase through our affiliate/referral links. This doesn’t affect you in any way in the checkout process. Thank you for supporting our creative journey!

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Blog, Musicians' Diary

List of Breton music essentials you’ve been waiting for!


Have you ever dream of a list of Breton music to listen to? Essentials that you could be introduced to ? Fascinated by breton fest-noz music and not knowing where to start from?

We’ve had the request quite often, and since we’re catching-up on all we postponed during Inês album recording and release, here it is: a WIP list of breton music that we like and that has influenced us. You can find the list on this section of tour web-site that we plan on up-dating regularly, as well as books recommended for artists, online ressources and links to the gear we use for music and video. But, without further due, let’s get in to the world of fest-noz and breton music: 

Fest-noz & modern breton music

From late XXc – 80’s and 90’s power!

From 00’s on

  • Karma – fest-noz, fest-noz by the Diwan generation.
  • Plantec – a band around two brothers, and in the beginning quite influenced by Ar Re Yaouank, then experimented also with some live electro.

Experimental, world, cross-over, others

  • Bugel Koar – Ar solier, with the singer Marthe Vassalo. A very interesting project, with a lot of gwerz (breton type of lament) from Trégor (and we love gwerz from Trégor!). N’ebaon the second album by the duet is also really good. (and more likely to be available)
  • Any album by/with Erik Marchand worth it! His collaboration with the french oud player Thierry Titi Robin in the 80’s: chants du centre Bretagne and An Tri Breur deeply and profoundly inspired and nourished our musical experiences. He’s also famous for his fusion world music with musicians from the Balkans. Our favorite ever is Pruna (although Unu, daou, tri easily available or Dor are totally worth it). Another favorite of ours is his collab with the french indie musician Rodolphe Burger which resulted in the unexpected album Before Bach.
  • Norkst and Kreiz Breizh Akademi. It sounds weird to add an album in which we personally performed, but when it was released in 2005, it was quite a unique project, both artistic and pedagogic, upon an idea from Erik Marchand. The project still goes on with several albums released by different KBA bands, but Norkst being the very first one, it certainly would be the one to listen to as it opened the road to all the later ones. (let us know if you’d like us to elaborate on the project!)
  • Au Café Breton by Rolland Becker and Regis Huiban. A project around breton music as played in the 20’s 30’s and influenced by Parisian accordion musette style (it has influenced a few fest-noz bands like Le Bour / Bodros )
  • Jacques Pellen – Celtic Procession. A project that started in the 90’s, with loads of versions, guests, etc, but generally with a jazz flavour.

Gwerz, kan ha diskan and a-capella albums

  • Tradition Chantée En Bretagne – Les Sources Du Barzaz Breiz Aujourd’Hui . More specialised, this is a collection of gatherings from the XXth century from songs that were previously to be found on the XIXc book “Barzaz Breizh”. Raw a-capella singing, but a treasure if you fancy authentic traditional style. The booklet is quite thick and very useful and contains all the lyrics with french translations.
  • Kan ha Diskan by Loeiz Roparz. A collection of kan ha diskan with several singers and Loeiz Roparz, known to be the “inventor” of fest-noz in its actual form.
  • Kan ha Diskan – Yann-Fañch Kemener. Kan ha diskan from Yann-Fañch Kemener with most of big names from the breton kan ha diskan scene, both old and new scene: Erik Marchand, Annie Ebrel, Patrick Marie, Valentine Colleter, Claudine Flohic, Marcel Guilloux, Ifig Troadeg. A must have!
  • Fest-Noz en Poher. Not very often available, but pay close attention to the name and picture, so far there isn’t any re-edit, but if it at some point would show up on the second hand market, be quick! Simone has practically learned all the basics from Kan ha Diskan with this excellent very traditional album. Features gavotte from Annie Ebrel with Noluen Le Buhez (excellent and brilliant energy!), from Fustec/Le Corre and Les Frères Dilasser – both huge favorites and role models for kan ha diskan when Yann was a child (and also probably the only recording available from the Dilasser Brothers).

Enjoy, and let us know in the comment section if you have any request or suggestion!

Links are amazon affiliated, if you decide to buy any of these based on our recommendations, please, do use our links, you will pay the exact same price, but we’ll receive a little percentage that can help us producing more music and share more useful links.

Also, this list is based on our personal musical journey, on what made a difference to us, and also on our personal tastes! This ain’t meant to be a chart, or any “ultimate” listing! Get inspired, enjoy our story sharing, but create your own story and connection with breton music.

Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

On the (music) road. A long (emotional) road.


We’ve arrived in Greece after 2 weeks travel across the Balkan region (mostly Serbia and North Macedonia) that we miss so much. It had been 2 years since we hadn’t been around, and it really feels like we’re reunited with an ambiance that is deeply part of who we are – or rather have become.

 

We are very happy we had the plan to travel once the album would be released. We did some little promo before our departure, and thanks to the Internet (and easy cheap sim cards!), we can easily manage the rest of it for when we’ll be back to France early November.

Our happiness comes also from a more relaxed way from our behalf to deal with the album release. It’s a true fact that with the experience, we get better at it. And I’m not necessarily referring to the contacts, or the sequence of what needs to be done. That’s the easiest part in a way.

I’m here rather referring to the emotional part of the release, how having a limited audience in a niche style affects what we can do at release time. Basically, despite of the nice support we got during the crowdfunding campaign, we didn’t have huge crowds waiting for Inês album. Also, we got amazing feedback from some media, but also plenty of no replies from radios we’ve worked with previously. From people too. Some sales in the first week, though nothing exceptional.

Honestly, it can be an artist’heart’s killer! But as I said, we now plan for it, and planning for what we most love in the world *travelling* certainly smooths all the mixed feelings we experience. And don’t get us wrong! We do enjoy every bit of this amazing project, all is part of the game, it’s just music after-all, isn’t it? And as years pass by we do improve at staying motivated and grateful no matter what.

http://www.astrakanproject.bandcamp.com/album/in-s

§ Simone.

 

 

 

Musicians' Diary

What we’ve been up to… ?


We moved back to Brittany, basically we’ll be away from Middle-east/East of Europe for some very long months, we don’t know when we can have a base there again, and after 7 years travelling back and forward, it feels weird, really!

But fall has been blessing us with a wonderful and warm sun and light… and we’re enjoying it before next tour (yep, we’re going to the UK again soon!)

Musicians' Diary

Ideas in the night… hunting artists!


 

We can’t tell enough how bad both of us have slept recently! It always gets back to the same: since we are (unfortunately!) not touring this month, we started to work on a couple of side projects. We generally can’t stay long without trying out new things, but also we can’t just go from all the huge amount of work we did to release the album to just “being relaxing” – we need some kind of a transition. 

But as it always happens, the more we work, the more we get inspired, and the more ideas we get… until they start hunting us in the night.

Ideas in the Night - Artist Life - cartoon

 

It requires a bit of organisation here: always have a notepad by your bed-side! Side trouble is: the day after we’re tired of sleep deprivation, and don’t really get much done…

One part of the cure will probably be next gigs we’ll have in a month in France and UK! Finally some action!

§ Simone.

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Some work in progress art work for next album


Last Astrakan Project album (2012) was the first album ever I used my art work for. With the exception of Yann’s portrait, I did not specifically create the paintings for the album, but once they were finished (they were created between March and June 2012 whilst the album was to be released in September), there was absolutely no doubt in our minds they belonged to the album.

For our upcoming album, I had no idea so far. Absolutely zero! I even hadn’t been drawing much lately because I kind of wanted to get first an idea of what to paint… for the album!

Ha ha ha! Inspiration just doesn’t seem to work for me that way! Last week-end I started to doodle inspired by Shamanistic Sami drums from northern Scandinavia, like this one:

sami shaman drum blue
Prob. 17-18th C. Norwegian Sami People Drum. During rituals a ring was moved around on the drum membrane. Predictions and conclusions were made based on rune itself and the path that the ring took in selecting it.

I loved the very stylish way animals and people get depicted, but above all the way they depict a world, they tell a story that you can follow. And I kind of got inspired… So inspired that

While composing music we often get into the same inspiration process, if we try to pull it too hard, nothing really happens, when we let go off the pressure about “this needs to be done”, then only ideas start to flow.

Truth is, most brilliant ideas aren’t really ours…

…best ideas come to us – if we allow them to.

Back to painting!

§ Simone

Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

Albanian { wild again ! } sound


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We both love Albanian music (with a slight crush for music from Kosovo !), and we were really happy to hear some live a couple of days ago here in Greece !

The sound is indeed terrific, it’s recorded live for sure, and with all the usual ambiance going around in this kind of concert : discussions (if you pay attention you may hear both Greek and Albanian language around us), laughs, dances, phones ringing, glasses and bottles noises… well, basically the only ambiance in which we have ever heard Albanian music !

Recorded on May the 1st 2014, Tsigas, Nea Peramos, Greece
(http://www.tsigas-hotel.gr)

Let’s see how it will influence our music!

Musicians' Diary

Bringing music to Life


A new album is emerging within us. We know the process will take some time, months at least. But we are now opened to the possibility of creating a new album.

Another aspect of our music. Another us. The first album was like an “emergency” call. We needed to release it, we needed to bring something to the real world. We needed it because it was blocking us from creating new sounds & songs, from imagining new ambiances for live shows. Then we made a lot of choices, shortened some improvisation parts, to make it fit (obviously just a little bit 🙂 ) into some standard formats & length. It is thus very tense, full, packed maybe too…

Home music studio - Astrakan Project - diy album again
The Music studio is already working at full potential!

We knew moving to Greece would bring that sense of “emergency to create” again, because, well… because being in a totally new environment is very powerful, everything is new, everything requests attention, and probably stimulates unknown parts of our musician brains… We just didn’t expect to be already digging into it!

We already have a feeling about how our next album will be… More of us. More freedom. More wildness. More fearless creativity… And it’s really joyful to be back into that feeling again!

.

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Musicians' Diary

How to fit a music studio AND an art studio in a car?


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Dear followers, if you’re used to read our diary between the lines, we have given a couple of clues already about our next destination.

It’s official! [first breaking new will start here]

We are moving very soon to Northern Greece, next to Kavala. This is the amazing place we are moving to :

Aegean see, inspiring place, Athrion, Nea Peramos, Greece
Athrion, Nea Peramos, Greece

This is one of the view that will inspire our upcoming projects and sounds, and actually we already composed/discussed/wrote many things from that particular place (if you want to share the feeling with us, you can check here on Google maps). Expect loads of pictures from Greece in next months!

So, how do we fit an art studio + a music studio above the usual staff in a car? Well… we don’t really know yet!

art and music studio in a car - special discound on astrakan project album
How to fit an art studio and a music studio in a car?

Because yes, we are moving with our car, Kavala is only about 450 km from Istanbul.

But for sure, it will help if we can sell some extra albums before we leave, it would kind of help…

Astrakan Project - celtic fusion world music - albums
Yes, we still have some of them…

So, [2nd breaking new starts here] we’ll offer until next Monday (December the 2nd, 2013) a special & ridiculously cheap price for our album, shipping included: 10.00€ which is about 13.50$ – just a little click on the link bellow and you’ll land on our on-line shop…

Help us with this campaign, share around with your friends and family, within your communities, by any way you prefer (over-use the social links bellow!) ! Only valid for one week! Then, we’ll come back to that later, we’ll have anyway to raise prices anyway, international shipping is much more expensive from Greece than from Turkey.

Musicians' Diary

Balkan effect


music-kosovo-albania-tallava-ahmeti-duraj-osmani
music music music…

We’re currently working on new songs, a couple of them should be based upon songs taken out of these few CD’s…

§ Yann

Edit from Simone : I’m not sure I’ll get inspired by the covers for our next visuals…