Thoughts

Musicians' Diary

What if music was important?


We take it for granted sometimes that “music is everywhere”, and therefore, music would be something that “doesn’t really matter”.
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This is the message we received yesterday from Menachem Vinegrad, Radio Upper Galilee in Israel, together with his playlist for his  world music program:
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“Our radio station can certainly be heard over the border in Lebanon, and possibly on a clear day in Western Syria. The Syrian civil war drags on, and one exiled Syrian musician has said that there is no more music in Syria. What a dreadful shame. Meanwhile, Israel is treating hundreds of Syrian wounded, in it’s northern hospitals. I hope they hear our radio station.
Our motto is “Peace Through Good Music”
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It brought tears to my eyes and still does. Can we step back for a short moment and realise how lucky we are? How lucky we are to just be able to reach any kind of music we want, for free in most of cases, just with a quick click on a link? Do we realise what it means to have the right and the freedom to basically play and compose any kind of music we want and share it around? Let’s not be in need to be missing it to realise about how much it is part of our lives.
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I wish, I wish with all my heart that very soon music could be heard again in Syria, if music is back then maybe, yes maybe it would be  little sign of some peace coming back to the region.
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Menachem in Radio Upper Galilee
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§ Simone
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Musicians' Diary

Tradition: freedom of evolution vs. Museum gate keepers


While searching my pile of lyrics a couple of days ago, I fund that printed copy:

image

It’s the first version of 1932 I got back in 2004 while I was studying with Erik Marchand.

It’s a messy piece of paper. With notes from various projects I used it for. With rhythm variations. With pronunciation variations.

An time I attended workshops, I always noticed singers had the same kind of messy lyrics. It feels like even when we type them into our text editor, as soon as they get printed, we need to mess them around.

Certainly it has a strong connection with the fear we all have that it would make it “the” ultimate version. For centuries songs have evolved, people would forget about some parts, then re-invent them, or just adapt some parts to the way they would pronounce them, or feel that it would sound even better with some little changes…

Public writer, Italy, ca. 1865

Being able to make mistakes, to forget, admitting that there is never one truth but only individuals, that tradition is not one, but made of many people bringing their own interpretation together, this is also what has made my singing journey so fulfilling and ever-surpriing so far.

§ Simone

 

astrakan breton world music on facebook

Musicians' Diary

Yes, this is the band… yes, the 2 of us…


A couple of days ago, I was digging into “old” paper work from the band, and I found this:

semaine de la francophonie istanbul saint joseph   .

This is the very first program where I and Yann appeared only the 2 of us, and it was in March 2011. When we initiated the project in June 2009 in Istanbul, we recorded a few tunes together, with the purpose of then finding extra musicians to play with in Istanbul. Then from January 2010 on, we started to rehearse and make little shows around Istanbul with one or two percussionists, Ali Dojran (on the right) and Volga Tunca.

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astrakan project live with percussions
2011 – Seyr-î Mesel, Beygolu, Istanbul

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We loved the music we were making together, but none of us being full time musician, which means, all of us having jobs, it was indeed not so easy to organise. We accepted this particular 1st show without knowing none of our percussionists would be available. Then, when we realised it, we really wondered what to do… “how can we play only the two of us? Shall we not cancel?”… but not for too long, we started to practice again the two of us, adapting some songs, making changes so that they’d keep some interest still, working on new ones.

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world music band  .

Our little son was born shortly after, and by the time we started recording, there were two options: either record together at home, either try to record with percussions, which would have meant extra rehearsals, extra-transportation in the city, extra-recording time, all these extras to be translated into time AND money… and we feared that with the limited free time we had it would have taken years. Obviously we chose the first one! But it is rather interesting for us to notice how our music evolved just because we constantly adapted to the conditions we had.

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if the door is closed try the next one.

We still think it could be nice to record a part of our repertoire with loads of different and powerful percussions, it’s a project we still have in mind, but we prefer to wait for the right time and conditions to make it happen.

§ Simone

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Pics on Tour

How was the concert?


How was our last concert in Istanbul? Like many of our concerts in Istanbul… which means: not really busy! I’m not saying that all our concerts in other places are sold out.

Sometimes we know where we failed about advertising and promoting.It happens, and it’s just life.

gitar cafe5

But in Istanbul, even when you have the feeling people are talking about the up-coming show, even when some say they will show up, even if there’s no football game (it happens… sometimes), even when it’s not raining, even when there isn’t too much traffic, even when there isn’t any other big event around the corner, even when the place is really small… even so, you can never be sure. You can never be sure you’ll have enough people getting in, and by enough, we don’t even talk about money, or ticket sales, nope, we’re just talking about having enough audience so that everyone will feel comfortable in the place.

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The-day-after-the-venue-in-istanbul always leaves a strange taste of un-satisfaction. I keep on asking to venues how we can improve our communication/advertisement/promotion… and they seem to say it is not so bad. And it is never so bad, we always met so interesting and dedicated people. But we feel a huge gap between the time/energy we spend on promoting and the “result” in terms of audience.

And still, we know we did a good concert {did you see the video with Lamia Bedioui?}, at least we’re happy from what we did, we played quite well a couple of new songs, we improved the sound of the loops used on stage, we did some changes in our set-list, indeed, we learned a lot, really a lot from our last performance… and we feel ready for Portugal next week!

§ Simone

 
Astrakan world music album on band camp

Musicians' Diary

About Breton language


We get asked quite often WHY we chose to sing Breton songs in the Breton language (indeed, some traditional songs from Brittany are also in French).

Actually, we never chose, it just happened that our music’ lyrics are in Breton. Of course, we could explain why we prefer songs in Breton, because of the rhythm of the language, maybe also because of the particular sounds, because of the stories, but explanations came out afterwards.

teach yourself breton language books
Don’t give up…

The question should maybe then be “why do you KEEP singing in Breton when such a few amount of people may be able to understand you?”. This issue is for sure a meaningful one for us. None of us was brought up in Breton, in my case, because my family is not from Brittany, in Yann’s case, just like… more than probably 99% of people that are our age. In a survey made in 1997, 0.2% of people aged from 15 till 19 were able to speak Breton (source) . People our age.

We have both a good knowledge of Breton, from self study, from paying attention to songs, to road signs, from trying to speak to old people, from night classes… But anyone having learned any foreign language for a couple of years knows how hard it is to make it your language. Despite of that, we both strangely relate to that language as being our language. The one we’re emotionally connected with.

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We don’t sing in Breton to be understood. Nor to be heroic people trying to save their language. We sing in Breton because it is a part of us. We sing in Breton because it is what we like to do. But when we sing in Breton, deep in our heart, you’ll find sorrow, because we know that not many people will understand all the beauty behind the poetry, we know that no translation or explanation can replace it.

§ Simone

Sound & Video

What else ?


1 Comment

Do you wanna try something ? Listen one more time to Tri Martolod …

… and try to concentrate on the percussions you hear right on the beginning, when the ‘oud starts to play. What does it make you think about ? any idea what it could be ? The answer is in this short video :

Which lead us to something as musicians we know but is still hard to admit : music is not only about expensive materials and instruments. We know it. But sometimes it’s more comfortable to hide behind a brand, or any accessory. Not that they are not useful, they are, they also add value, but music is more than that.

playing rhythm with a coffee pack
what else

Yann got inspired for this sound while queuing at the local grocery store and thinking about this Turkish song :


Can you believe Yann heard this song for the first time last winter ?

§ Simone

DIY Album

All about money.


We setted up the release day for… the day after tomorrow, which means, within 2 days. In a way, we’ll be happy to be Sunday !

As we already mentioned, after long discussions, we decided to sell it for 12 euros (that’s about $15.50), including shipping costs… But what is “a” right price ?

The question is more complex than it looks at first sight. When we searched around the web, some advices were not to sell it for more than established artists. We’re not established artists. When we refer to French albums’ prices, it doesn’t seem to function that way, at least for physical CDs. Music produced by small labels tend to be much more expensive (too expensive? we’re talking about at least 20€ / $25) than mainstream records.

Where does the value of the music we play come from ? Is it about the value we think it has ? Is it about the value other people would give to it ?

show me the money - how much should we sell our diy album ?
Show me the money

We’re not planning to really earn any money directly from the sales, even if we hope our music would spread enough to get more venues. Still, we have to get at least a part of the money we invested to get it manufactured, and anyone can guess that for small quantities like ours, it gets the price per CD much higher. We’re far from talking about refunding the rest of the material, not mentioning any salary.

show me the money - how much should we sell our diy album ? 12
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So far, we questioned as many people as we could about the price, and although we didn’t get any “that’s really too expensive for a self-produced album”. We could have chosen a “pay what you want” option. We could. Maybe we don’t feel yet confident enough in the value people would give to our music ? In a way we also consider that people are not only “buying” a CD from us, they’re supporting our project on a much longer term.

If you really think “that’s really too expensive”, let us know why…

§ Simone

Musicians' Diary

World Music Wednesday: Astrakan Project


We were very happy to read a review about our music on Incognito’s blog here :

World Music Wednesday: Astrakan Project.

(even if you already know about us, take a few minutes to have a look around this very interesting music blog, there’s quite a couple of unusual and non-main-stream musics to discover there )

Of course, it’s always nice when someone takes time to listen to us, and give feedback. But also, it answered many questions we always wonder about. “Is it a problem if people don’t understand our language ?” “Is our music interesting enough so that it can interest people outside our home country ?” “How do people feel about it ?”

Any thoughts about that ?

DIY Album

We’re heading to Germany !


For two days now, we’ve been busy finding a new company (remember ?) that could manufacture our Album in Europe, at a decent price. And luckily, we found one in the south of Germany (in English here), everything will be processed at the same place, including cover printing. We got them already a few times on the phone, and it’s really nice for a small release like we are to have such a nice and direct contact.

The funniest part of the story, is that they’ll be able to manufacture it within 10 to 12 days… and that we can claim the album directly at the factory ! Because, by chance, the location happens to be on our way back to Istanbul, which will also save us a little amount of money. And it can be funny experience, isn’t it ?

The other good new then is that we’ll be able to release to album by the 1st of October, much earlier that what we were expecting. But for now… let’s go back the wonderful world of administrative authorisations and paperwork !

DIY Album

Difficult choices


1 Comment

Yesterday wasn’t our best day. We found out the company we had chosen to press our album was in reality located in China. We only realised it when we asked for the legal info that we have to send to authorities in France (which includes the manufacturing place).

So what ? For many reasons, starting from human rights to social or environmental concerns, we just can’t imagine getting our album made in China. We strongly believe that local production (in our case at least in a close European country) is a way to support our economy, jobs, society… even if it will mean in our case an extra of maybe 10% on the total price.

unemployed 1932 1929
Unemployed – (image source)

So right now… we’re searching again for companies that really do manufacture in Europe. With the best prices possible, of course.

§ Simone