Written by: Justine Wildöer
Talking with Yvonne Liew-On (50), music composer
My job means that I’m an active LinkedIn-user, which is where I came across Yvonne’s profile. A composer that’s worked at a circus and protests the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), of which the Dutch branch decided to close its auditions for the public and select established names instead. Not what Yvonne signed up for, that’s as much as I can tell. Her picture shows a young, happy, shiny face so I figure: why the hell not?
Two days later, I stand in front of her door to discuss her life and ideas.
Yvonne is one of the most special people I’ve ever met, in the best possible way. One of her street-bordering windows displays a huge poster, saying she’ll vote on Partij voor de Dieren (“the Party for Animals”, run by people, not actual animals) and while I try to induce our little chat, she interrupts me to offer me Russian chocolates. Though warning me that they aren’t your typical sweets, they are delicious and I realize it’s a conversation; not a staccato I-ask-you-answer-I-write-interrogation. All is well and I spend the next hour and forty minutes there.
Without having ever known her father, Yvonne and her mom come to the Netherlands when she is only two years old. For four years, they travel around before settling in a southern province and her mother’s ambition has her practice the piano for ten intensive years. For this reason, the conservatory in Tilburg really is the only right option to Yvonne. It sadly doesn’t work out however, so she takes a job in Rotterdam at an office. Lacking a degree and title and struggling to develop professionally but also facing related stigma, she goes to study law. It is at this time when her boyfriend terribly abuses her, eventually demanding all of her strength and even a religious epiphany for her to break Rotterdam ties and move to Amsterdam. She realizes she’s moved away from music for too long and she needs to own up to her passion.
Logically, she finds a room in her forties, loses it after three months, roams the street for about nine weeks and finally finds her current place. Sidestepping into vegetarian cheffing, she eventually wins a contest and is sponsored a computed audio system, allocating her all the tools needed to finally compose music. She is forty-seven, but only starts her life now.
Today, she is a vivid woman that’s lived through all the darkest shadows of humanity, but her optimism equals that of someone who’s only just starting, and this is exactly the case. She is pursuing her dreams, works together with a talented singer (Deci) and has even found one of those “bigger causes” that you sometimes hear about: she wants the auditions of the ESC opened back up to the public. And I hear her! I’m not much of a radical, but isn’t it frustrating that one snobby artist (Anouk) once demanded for the Dutch ESC to exclude the thousands of talented musicians residing in this tiny country, and they did? And let’s be honest – coming from a non-radical untalented individual, hasn’t the Dutch performance mainly been disappointing the past couple of years? Clearly, I can’t stress enough that when I start to sing, birds actually do start falling down the rooftops (click to get my joke) so maybe it’s not up to me to act all entitled, but why aren’t more people annoyed by this? Why are we never annoyed with anything anymore?!
So here I go, my own (not really even my own but Yvonne’s) Manifesto: let’s all be hugely annoyed and, even better, if you see Yvonne any time soon, handing out flyers or filming people in the streets when she asks them these exact questions, admit this! Imagine going back to a situation where you can hand in your music and you’ll be granted the chance to rocket-launch this into Greater-Europe (contemporarily also including Israel and Australia). That’d be great, right?
Written by: Justine Wildöer
This April, the four-headed band One Man Dancing (ironically), will release its debut album Memories of a New Home. Clearly, the perfect time to meet lead singer Agus Samur is one month before, when he is coincidentally travelling Europe with his girlfriend Ana. So imagine a rainy, hungover Sunday night in Amsterdam neighborhood De Pijp, wearing yesterday’s makeup and trainers (yep) and in walk four Argentineans that have just crossed the entire city by foot.
At Whoozy, we are busy setting up a new concept of recording live jam sessions with “our” artists, so the living room had turned into a semi-professional sound studio. Furniture all moved out of the way, some bottles of red wine, candles and a GoPro ensured a perfect setting for some proper music-making, assisted by three microphones and computers. (For actual useful information on the type of devices and systems used, you should obviously not talk to me. I’m decorative in these situations.) Agus brings his girlfriend and her sisters, that have lived in Switzerland for the past couple of years. I’d personally have difficulties imagining ever finding a dude alright with me bringing my sister along on a big continental trip, but the four of them make the most chilled out quartet that I have for long met. Shoes are taken off, glasses poured and everyone talks, sitting comfortably on their socked feet. Especially one of the sisters, who had been walking around in high heels all day, seems relieved to be granted this opportunity.
Seriously, it’s nice. No one’s even really talking about music or the trip the couple has been on for the past few weeks. Eventually though, on about our third glass, it becomes clear that Agus can start playing. He initially excuses himself, saying he hasn’t played since their trip started four weeks ago, expecting to be stiff and possibly even no good at all. I of course tell him he shouldn’t worry about that, given the fact that as a sloppy former guitar player, I have actually lost the finger movements. No need to apologize for having been on a holiday to someone who’s just overall lazy on a daily basis.
As he sets up his play and practices some rifles, he tells me that he’s always wanted to make a career out of his music. Wherever he’s been in the world, his guitar was always there. In fact, the song that he’s about to play, was written by him when he was by himself in London some years ago, at a moment he was alone – not lonely: My Darling.
Granted, at first you may be somewhat able to tell that Agus hasn’t played too fanatically for a while. Yet, the more he plays, the more comfortable -and better- he gets. He explains to me that some interpret it as a love-song, but that it wasn’t actually meant as such. Sitting in his bunkbed in a hostel, his neighbors at the right were producing enough bass to keep the entire City awake, while at this left they were asleep. My Darling didn’t refer to a girl he missed, it described the feeling you get when you are by yourself for the first time. You know, when you move out of your parents’ place and everything is exciting and amazing, but at the same time there’s a part of you latently feeling like cuddling up to your dogs on the couch, while your parents are cooking dinner and are setting the table. The kind of feeling that once you are actually on that couch, you want to be back out there again after only a day, however nice it might be and however badly you might want to have it as long as you’re not.
Agus, his brothers Andres and Meri and their friend Javier Ojeda make up One Man Dancing. Whereas Agus proves to be much promising solo, together the band forms a cradle for creativity. Their video-clip has already been awarded the “best music video” by the Bucharest Shorecut Cinefest competition and as My Darling is sure to spark nostalgia by whomever listens to it, the entire album Memories of a New Home is one to watch. Or, frankly, listen: as of April 2017 something you can do through Spotify, iTunes and every other musical platform out there.
Written by: Justine Wildöer
Back2back DJs: becoming independent by going corporate
Talking to Rakesh Kanhai (32), Amsterdam-based DJ & producer
Early on, he wanted to work with music – or make music work for him. Rakesh Kanhai was fourteen years old when his brother rang him up, saying he couldn’t make it on time to his gig at science museum NEMO. So what do you do, when you’re still in high school and your only experience in the music industry is loading up your brother’s Suzuki Shift with the turning tables? You take your chances, swallow your nerves and get on stage. Artists often claim to remember when, how or why they decided to start a career in music, and this was his. Wiping away his anxiety-sweats and ignoring the fact that the entire turn-up was definitely older than his classmates he would be in school with again the next week, DJ Kesh’ first show went well. He realized he had found his talent and this was want he’d want to be doing: making people dance and enjoying themselves on his music.
It may seem difficult to start a professional career at such a young age, so perhaps it was luck that made him run into a well-known Dutch rapper at a metro stop, one year later. Lange Frans and young Kesh got to talking about one of Frans’ newly discovered talents that he’d just signed under his label. Yes R would prove a much-promising artist slightly later on and Frans urged Rakesh to join the production team on a large national contest. Suddenly, he was faced with questions as what a price-winning show must look like, what decisions you take in order to achieve success and how to balance the life of a DJ with being a teenager. Of course he took the opportunity. And of course, they won.
However, coming from a large family with two brothers and two sisters, it was never really up to Rakesh to decide whether or not to go to university after graduating high school. It was just the way things went. Plus, at a time when money still grew on trees and the Dutch government paid students well, just for studying, it was a financially sound decision. His brother and friends, with whom he’d later on form Amsterdam Sound System, understood. Don’t get him wrong – if he could go back, he’d have dropped out. He can’t, though, and looking back at his greenfield-student time, he does feel that he’s learned to think more critically. One major setback, created by this period where he isolated himself from the music industry, was that he had to start from scratch when he graduated from his master’s degree. He started working for a major sales-corporation, always feeling removed from his music-bubble in which he functioned best. When his situation finally pushed him to feeling like a sell-out, he quit his job and discovered the existence of the DJ School Amsterdam. Turns out, the music industry doesn’t dislike some corporate experience. He was hired as a teacher and marketing director, came to the discovery that there were studios for rent in the school building and immediately told his crew about it. At last, Rakesh was back on track. He and his brothers started a new DJ act called Amsterdam Sound System and suddenly, he found himself providing fellow-artists with career consultancy. Slowly but steadily, it became clear that his talent was – still is – to make people feel safe around him in letting their creativity work. His network once more expanded, the Jimmy Woo allocated a regular evening to him and he found himself hosting corporate events more often than before.
So, what the heck. Why not make a move with that? Having set up corporate events for among others H&M, NIKE, Calvin Klein and Uber, he and his former intern Jesse Dikker decided to expand on this. As of this week, Kanhai and Dikker are reclaiming their independence from the big labels with their new business B2B DJS. The business-to-business provision of musical identity comes with a huge network, through which they will be able to offer sound, light, hostesses, choreography and every possible essential, in translating what corporations want to be and exhibit. Once a rooky that temporarily lost his connection to his dreams and aspirations, Rakesh kept on going and found his way.
Surrounded by talented students and some of the best-known Dutch artists from the hip-hop scene, he was constantly trading off his preference for remaining independent, with the need to provide his living. To use his own words, the music industry goes beyond “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”. It forces you to look your component in the eye and specify which part of their back it is where they want to be scratched exactly. In guiding- and working together with several of his younger peers towards a successful career in the business, it’s become his aim to cultivate critical reflection, overall awareness and autonomy.
His word of advice to young prospect superstars: don’t let them fool you in signing any deal. Build up your own social profile, use whichever tools available in forcing people to get to know you. The 21st century leaves chances up for grabs, if you know how to spot them. He doesn’t regret the times that he sold his efforts for too little in return, but he does regret it when upcoming talents are mal-informed. Developing a means of living out of music is difficult, but not impossible. The same goes for remaining independent. Don’t forget: you can’t actually lose your cultural capital. Your legacy will always be yours. It’s just a challenge to make money out of it.
“We Can Do It!” “Woman’s Place Is In The Resistance,” “We Are The Resistance.” The best signs are about Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia at the Women’s Marches. It showed hope, not fear,
The actress and writer died December 27, 2016 but was remembered as a symbol of resistance at the Women’s Marches. Carrie was not afraid to call President Donald Trump a “classless thug” trying to scare people into voting for him. Let’s all honor Fisher’s legacy, she isn’t gone.
The Scottish group Young Fathers created six songs that appear in T2 Trainspotting; “Low,” “No Way,” “Dare Me,” “Get Up,” “Rain or Shine,” and “Only God Knows:” The song that was described as “the heartbeat for the film”
‘The only thing we have to offer is music’
Gorillaz, Moby, Arcade Fire and more released new anti-Donald Trump protest songs against the rise of the Republican power. All with the same sentiment: “Hallelujah Money” by Gorillaz from their first released album in six years.
Music has become part of the modern office and workplace. But is music really that productive? Why do people tend to be more productive with a specific genre? And do lyrics influence your productivity?
To really understand the productivity of music to our brain, we have to dive in some research. Many studies about this subject show different results and theories; more modern studies link the productivity of music to your previous listening behavior of a song and other studies show improving results when people listen to a specific genre.
Music with lyrics is considered to be the most distracting. Especially when writing emails, setting up documents or doing language oriented tasks. However developing or writing code tasks are more productive by listening to music with lyrics.
The most productive music to listen to is Ambient music. Atmospheric soundscapes, floating pads, evolving drones can help you be more focused and productive. As long as the sounds are ‘natural’ your productivity will increase. However too loud and harsh ambient noises can make it difficult to concentrate.
How can artists in the creative industry benefit from this new technology? What makes a live broadcast interesting to watch? What are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to broadcasting live?
Facebook Live opens up a new and exciting world of live streaming. Making it possible for artists to broadcast videos to a big audience of fans. Because of Facebook Live’s ‘early’ stage there are no good or bad concepts to broadcast to your audience. Whether you are a musician, designer, illustrator, audio engineer or anyone in the creative industry, you already have the ingredients to broadcast some interesting and entertaining stuff. To give you some inspiration: live sessions, studio recordings, pre-gig rehearsals, backstage chats, Q&A sessions and virtual meet ‘n’ greets. But also think outside the box. Writing lyrics together with your fans, tutorials, etc.
Some tips to make your broadcast a success:
Rose Elinor Dougall, comes a with a new album called Stellular; an album that feels effortless and exudes style and class, both in its songwriting and its production.
It contains beautiful arty feel, sophisticated, slightly psychedelic and charming songs moving from dream rock and atmospheric synths to sleek polished disco.