The Kickstarter Blog

Mitsuyo Miyazaki's "Tsuyako": Free Love in Post-War Japan

  1. Birthday Greetings from Mother Russia

    Birthday wishes are always nice to receive, but some folks in Russia took Kickstarter’s second birthday as an opportunity to…well…just watch the video.

    First off, we’re blushing. We wish we could host projects from all over the Milky Way Galaxy, and rest assured that we are working on it. (Look out, Neptune!) While we may not be opening up in Russia tomorrow, we promise that we are working tirelessly to make the site available for all people with creative projects, regardless of zip code. We want to help make good ideas everywhere become a reality!

    Now, secondly, let’s talk about that cake…

  2. Creator Q&A: Mr. Lif and Brass Menažeri, Hip Hop Meets Balkan

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    Mr. Lif and Brass Menažeri, Hip Hop Meets Balkan by Brass Menažeri & Mr. Lif

    Boston-based hip hop phenomenon Mr. Lif has been rapping and making beats for the last two decades, with heated political rhymes and complex rhythms that make you want to stomp in a very good way. On this new album he’s throwing insurgent lyrics over the rebellious gypsy horns of Brass Menažeri, a Balkan brass band from San Francisco. Their Kickstarter project is powerhouse collaboration that will surely shake the powers that be. The revolutionaries took a brief pause from the glorious uprising to answer a few questions.

    How did you become aware of each other’s music?

    Mr. Lif: Devon Leger, the curator of the Seattle Folk Festival, is the person that first approached us about working together. He called me up and said “Lif, I want you to come play a folk festival in Seattle…but I want you to rock with a Balkan brass band.” I thought about it for a second and said yes. I love opportunities to push the boundaries of my imagination, and this sounded like exactly what I needed at the time. When I finally got to meet Brass Menažeri face to face on Dec. 11th, 2010, the chemistry was automatic. We had a 7-hour rehearsal that went by quickly due to the excitement we all had catching glimpses of our potential. We carried an optimistic and explorative energy to the stage on Dec. 12th, and it became evident to us then that we needed to get into a studio as soon as possible to fully realize our combined sound.  

    You mentioned playing in an old coffin factory in your project video…Go on…?!

    Brass Menažeri’s Peter Jaques: That was where we had our one and only rehearsal. Briget (of Brass Menažeri) had been looking for a rehearsal space and ran across a website advertising one for a reasonable price, so she booked it. When we got there we discovered the ad had been more than flattering. We found puddled concrete floors, no heat, a million drafts, definitely no PA — and finally a sign announcing the founding of the coffin manufacturer once contained there. But we got a heater and an amp and got going. Perhaps it was the influence of the departed souls, or perhaps the crypt-like atmosphere, but we came up with something born from beyond any of us.

    What distinguishes Balkan brass from say, the New Orleans sound? Can you describe what makes it “gypsy” style?

    Jaques: Well, in a literal sense, what Brass Menažeri plays is directly rooted in the music of Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Bosnia, and strongly identified with the Roma (“Gypsies”) there. It’s hard driving music, frequently in odd-metered rhythms (e.g. 7/8, 9/8, etc.) and commonly uses Eastern musical scales, especially Turkish/Arabic scales. Here’s an example by one of our favorite bands, led by Dejan Avdić from southern Serbia, performing in 9/8 at the championship Guča Brass Band Festival. (Apologies for the mediocre sound quality, it was shot from the crowd.) Pretty much a completely different sound from American Brass!  

    Mr. Lif, what about rapping over horns vs. beats? How have you found a balance among all the boisterous sounds?  

    Lif: I’ve sought out big sounds all throughout my career. Even in my early days of self-produced beats, I was mainly drawn to sampling horns. There is something indescribably magnificent about a well-orchestrated horn section. I feel like this opportunity to work with Brass Menažeri presents the best of many things I’ve been seeking in terms of sound. I get commanding drums to accompany the horns, and I also get to rock over the up-tempo boisterous swing that Balkan brass provides. When we get the opportunity to be in a recording studio together, we’ll explore a vast array of options to fuse the best of what I do with the best of what Brass Menažeri does. It hasn’t been a struggle to find a balance at all. 

    Why are you drawn to Balkan music? How does it work with what you rap about?

    Lif: Balkan brass music is rooted as the sound of the Serbian and Macedonian people rising up against the Ottoman Empire.  My lyrics will be a powerful combination over Balkan sounds because I think the times we’re living through do call for an uprising of sorts. The uprising I seek is that of humankind elevating its collective mind to step away from the caustic ways of the “civilized” world we have created. I plan to speak from the heart on the humility and resilience brought about by hard times. I want to implore that intense spiritual growth can be sparked by listening closely to one’s instincts. What better music as a backdrop for this than the music of rebellion and liberation?

    Who and what else are you listening to lately?

    Jaques: Turkish 70’s psychedelic rock! Erkin Koray was brilliant. It’s exactly what that description makes it sound like, complete with electric saz and too much spring reverb. Also Kayhan Kalhor and Mohammed Reza Shadjarian, master Persian musicians. Some of the most soulful music anywhere. BDP — KRS One is a master. Always Beethoven, Marika Papagika (Greek singer from the 1930’s), and lots of Balkan brass! 

    What made you decide to use Kickstarter? 

    Lif: To answer this question, I turn again to the history of the Balkan Brass sound. ”People uprising to overthrow their rulers.” That’s a powerful concept, a powerful thought. For people to accomplish something like that, it requires unity, determination, and focus on a common goal. Within the context of the lyrics I’ll be writing for this album, we may all have to identify our own perspective as our main oppressor. The willingness to make challenging but fruitful and sustainable change must come from deep within. You’ve got to really want it. So Kickstarter is perfect for this project because if the people want to hear these sounds, if they want to explore this path with us, they have the power to contribute funds to make it happen. They’ll be able to come sit in the studio with us and see what they have contributed to. They’ll have their names in the album credits. It’ll be a unified team effort to do something unique and fulfilling. That’s the type of art I want to leave behind when I’m gone. 

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