Category Archives: International Musician

Adrian Puan is first Malaysian songwriter to be signed to U.S. label

Some people are born with talent that they don’t realize right away. With no training, they can master something that someone else has spent their life studying. That is certainly the case with Adrian Puan.

Puan was born in a small town in a state called Melaka and moved to the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur when he was 8. Now, he is recognized internationally as a songwriter and composer.

“To be honest, growing up, I never knew that one day I’d be involved in music or anything related to it, simply because I never had the interest in music, much less play it,” he said. “I guess it all started when I began organizing events in the university I studied in.”

Puan used to be an organizer during his studies, which required him to network with local musicians and constantly keep a lookout for upcoming talents to perform in my events.

“That was when I got to know the band Beat The System and we all became best friends. It wasn’t until in 2012 when Gerald, the drummer of Beat The System, asked for my assistance in writing some lyrics for a song the band was working on and he realized that I had the talent in songwriting. Gerald then began to push me to come up with melodies for a chorus, or a bridge, and subsequently a full song.”

The songs that Puan had co-written with the band went on to win multiple awards in the Asian region. “Shine” won Song of the Year, Best Genre Bender, and Best Collaboration at the Asian Voice Independent Music Awards in 2012, and another song titled “Hero” went on to win Song of the Year at the Asian Bite My Music Global Awards in 2013. Puan also won third place for a song that he submitted to the Malaysian Revival Songwriting Competition (MRSC) in 2013.

“That reassured me that I could actually write songs,” he said. “I didn’t have any sort of training. I used to write tons and tons of poems when I was younger and that’s the closest thing I did to songwriting at the time.”

Now, it is evident to everyone that works with Puan that he was meant to be a songwriter.

“Adrian has the ability to compose songs that are very relevant to the listeners now, he writes melodies that are catchy and it resonates with the listeners,” said Amelia Tan, director of Malaysian Revival Songwriting Competition.

“Working with Adrian was a great experience, he surely portrayed a very professional working attitude and took his craft very seriously,” said Mokhtaza Ahmad, head of A&R Warner Music Malaysia.

Songwriting allows Puan to write stories, to express his deepest feelings, and to channel his creative senses in melodically designed tunes that transport him to a place and time of familiarity or to a place that only he can imagine.

“It gives me no greater joy when the songs I create elicit strong emotional responses from those who heard them,” he said. “I always believe that music is an agent of cure to the human soul and I’m just glad that I get to be a part of it.”

However, the craft does not come without its challenges. Every writer experience a creative block every once in a while.

“As I don’t play the piano or guitar or any other music instruments, unlike most songwriters I can’t play some random chords and create melodies based off them. Melodies come to me by inspiration and imagination. It may happen at any time of the day like how ideas would. It comes when I’m sleeping or when I go for a walk outside or sometimes even when I’m taking a shower. There are times when I’d be able to write a few songs in a day, but there are also times when I won’t get a single song-worthy melody for months on end,” he described. “I also face certain challenges while songwriting especially when I can’t find the right words or a right tune to accurately describe what it is I want to convey. In writing lyrics, it’s particularly frustrating when the word you want doesn’t fit into what I’d call ‘a melody pocket’ whereby the sound of a syllable doesn’t pair well with a particular music note.”

He certainly overcomes all obstacles, being the very first Malaysian songwriter to get signed to a U.S. record label.

“My inspiration comes from many places. I’d say the love I have for God, my family and friends is the main inspiration for me to write music. Coming to learn of other people’s life stories and experiences inspire me to write as well. Having gone through much heartache and disappointment in my own life’s journey certainly do inspire me to write music that other people can relate to,” he said. “It’s funny how much less lonely we feel when we realize that we’re not the only ones feeling whatever it is we’re feeling and that somewhere in the world someone’s feeling the exact same thing as we are, and I believe music does that, it tells a story about the human life, its ups and downs, assuring its listeners that they’re not alone.”

Puan is now located in New York City, working with Beat The System on their upcoming album. He is officially a band member, coming a long way from being their “number one fan.” He says the music industry in American has many more possibilities for him as a songwriter.

“Coming from a small town in Malaysia where music is not as widely celebrated as it is here, my goal has always been to further my career in America as I know the people here deeply value the art of music. Back home, the English music market is too small and it’s saturated with delusional musicians who refuse to transcend the already low music standards. Instead of being supportive of one another and building each other up, they’d tear you down just to get ahead in the music scene. On the other hand, the music community that I’ve gotten to know in New York has been nothing but supportive and one can sense their genuine joy and pride whenever a musician they know has achieved something significant,” he said. “The music environment that the U.S. has created is unbelievably conducive and it is no wonder why every musician from any parts of Asia aspires to make music here. From music facilities to opportunities, no other country compares to the U.S. Like people always say, if you want to make it big in the global music scene, you’d have to make it big in America.”

Puan wants to continue to be the best songwriter he can be, and write for a variety of different artists across all genres.

“Despite pop being my absolute favorite music genre, I’ve had melodies recorded that lean toward rock, R&B, and even country music. There are also songs that I’ve written which I believe would be a perfect fit for certain artists that I look forward to working with and my goal is to make that happen,” he concluded.

Self-taught guitarist Stewart Sellan Beats The System

Stewart Sellan started playing in church, and has an established fan base with Beat The System.

It is always inspiring when people take charge of what they want. When you see someone never give up, it makes you feel like you can do the same. That is exactly what Malaysian born musician Stewart Sellan did.

Sellan was not did not have an opportunity to study music formally. He continued his education as an engineer, but never lost his passion for music. He took lessons at church. He spent hours watching videos, teaching himself, and perfecting his craft. He took the initiative to form a band knowing that he was destined to play music for a living.

Sellan is the founding member of the successful Malaysian rock ground Beat The System. The band has gone on to have over 130,000 views on YouTube. In 2010, Beat the System was certified with Tipped to Be the Next Big Thing by the Asian Voice Independent Awards committee, and in 2012 they were awarded Song of The Year in Asian Voice Independent Music Awards for the single ‘Shine’.

“Beat The System was formed because of my strong passion in music and I always believed in what I’m writing and playing,” said Sellan.

Sellan and the band have relocated from Malaysia to New York City. The move has opened up opportunities that Sellan thought were not possible at home.

“Music scenes in Malaysia are very limited for upcoming or new bands unless they are signed under a label or well connected. Being a newly formed band, Beat The System had a tough time to get performance slots in any major gigs as most organizers would prefer established bands due to the tickets sales revenue. This situation had forced Beat the System to perform in many Battle of the Bands talent shows in order to gain recognition among the Event Organizers and to establish a name for the band itself,” he described. “This helped us to see the existing standards of other bands and helped us to improve and be competitive, subsequently always being among the top three finalist in any Battle of the Bands.”

Sellan says this experience opened doors to perform in most college events, public events and music festivals held throughout Malaysia. However, not all events were paying gigs, so the sole goal was to something gain a fan base which could help in future album sales. Throughout the years, Sellan the band was able to establish a decent amount of fan base and being recognize as top performing band in the local scene.

“I always compared us with bands for US, UK and Europe and believed our music is on par with their standards,” said Sellan.” I wanted us to venture out from Malaysia to be known among the international artists. After performances in Malaysia, a lot of people would give good reviews about the songs and live performances both by local and foreign crowds. We also had encouragement from friends, family and music related personnel to venture out from Malaysia music scene.”

One of these connections was Diana Meltzer, an American music industry executive, owner of Monster Hits. Being recognized by Meltzer is attributed to success in the industry, as she is known as the “Woman with the Golden Ears,” and she heard something from the Malaysian rock band that she knew was something special.

“Stewart’s a serious guitar player being that he gets right down to work whenever it is asked of him. Working with him is simple and straightforward, he understands his role very well and is always open to suggestions when it comes to his guitar playing,” said Meltzer.

Sellan says Meltzer guides the band to write songs that are up to industry standard, teaches the business in music industry and constantly advises on the band’s journey. He also works with the band’s producer Andy Anderson, who is known for his work with Shinedown and many more, and helped Sellan understand how to get a good guitar sound for recording. The band’s mixing engineer Damien Page Lewis, who is known for his work with Mariah Carey, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry and more, helped Sellan understand how to find a balanced sound for a good recording.

Sellan has also been influenced by bands like Nirvana, Deep Purple, Mr.Big, Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Stryper.

“Seeing them on live performances on TV always wanted me to do something similar,” he said.

Now, Beat The System consists of lead vocalist May Leigh, drummer and composer Gerald Sellan and composer Adrian Puan. The band has both a professional and personal relationship.

 “Stewart’s idea on the guitar and bass guitar arrangements certainly makes the song unique and makes it one of a kind, it enhances the melody structure of a song. This is very important and that is why he is a big asset to Beat The System,” said Gerald Sellan.

Beat The System has released two singles this year, and is set to release their album Journey.

Check out their single Be Your Own here.

Guitarist Teddy Fan Tours With Hit YouTube Sensation Jason Chen

Jason Chen UMass Amherst

The YouTube generation is among us. This day in age, whether you’re a millennial or not, millions of social media goers are turning to this entertainment platform in search of videos of all kinds. The influence of online video is growing, so much so that performers are now making a living off of generating content for it. YouTube Singer and Artist Jason Chen is no stranger to using this tactic to market and make a name for himself and recently, he secured the widely successful guitarist, Teddy Fan, as accompaniment in touring, playing and creating with him.

Originally from Hong Kong, Fan has been playing the guitar since he was twelve years old and as of July 2015, now holds an Associate Degree in Guitar Performance from the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. “I love to perform,” Fan stated, and was very quick to add, “I always have – I really enjoy being on stage. Growing up, all I wanted to be was a rock star guitar player, so I decided to become a guitarist.”

After graduating from the Musicians Institute, one of Fan’s teachers and greatest mentors, Katsuya Sezaki, hired the musical genius as his recording guitarist. From there, Fan’s professional career took off and he immediately began booking gigs, several of them including Chen.

Fan and Chen have been working with one another since February of 2016, together becoming a viral musical success. “Teddy showed up at the right time,” Chen answered, when asked how the duo initially came about; a mutual friend initially introduced the pair to one another. “I needed a new guitarist, and that’s when Teddy came into the picture. He was a really talented musician whom I enjoyed working with. So, I asked him to be my guitarist.”

With over 1,300,000 subscribers on YouTube, Chen’s international fan base had already been vast. Resultantly, after forming a team with the acclaimed singer, Fan’s network of followers and subscribers expanded as well.

Jason Chen UIC

Together, Fan and Chen host live acoustic performances. These performances usually consist of a thirty-minute set where the musicians perform covers of preexisting, popular songs as well as some of Chan’s originals. It is Fan’s responsibility to rearrange these covers into acoustic versions. “The acoustic version of a song has to be simple,” Fan explained. “This is because there’s only one singer’s voice singing live, and I wouldn’t want to over cover his voice. The singer is who should take over more. Usually, I just listen to the song, pick the main rhythm and that’s what I play, unless there’s also an important instrumental portion of the song that needs to be covered, too.”

These talents of Fan’s are skills that Chen greatly relies on in order to ensure a successful and entertaining performance. “Teddy can always come up with a nice rhythm on this guitar to back me up when I sing. Each time I ask him to play a song, he learns it very quickly and precisely. He’s always really helpful with arranging sets and always comes prepared. I just feel really comfortable playing with Teddy. I really trust him,” Chen commented.

So far, the pair has toured in Chicago, Boston and Seattle, booking gigs at Northwestern University, Brandeis University and the University of Washington. They’ve played cover songs such as “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber, “All of Me” by John Legend and “Stay for With Me” by Sam Hunt for their audiences, as well as a one of Chen’s most popular original songs titled “Best Friend.” “We usually play hip, pop songs depending on what’s popular at the time,” Fan shared. “Two of my personal favorites that we’ve covered are “Umbrella” by Rihanna and “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars.”

Following each performance of 5-6 songs, Fan and Chen always hold a meet and greet with their fans. “The first meet and greet we held was the first time I was asked by fans to sign autographs and take photos. That was so memorable for me,” Fan recalled. “There was one time, while we were performing on stage, an audience member was non-stop screaming my name, which was cool because usually fans are screaming out Jason’s name a lot. After the performance at our meet and greet, she ran over to me and told me how much she loved my work and really wanted to take a photo with me. It was such a crazy experience; I didn’t expect it at all. Working with Jason has made me feel like my career is headed to a new level.”

While Fan solely plays guitar for Chen, he also dabbles with singing and song writing on his own. “Working in music means committing to the type of job where you never know when and where your success will come from, so you can never give up,” Fan said. “My ultimate dream is being a singer-songwriter. I really enjoy writing and performing music. That’s all I want in my life.”

Jason Chen Brandeis University

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Prolific Composer Emily Rice Scores Complex and Moving Documentary

Much like film, television, novels, and theatre, music and song are also powerful forms of storytelling. In some instances they can stand on their own, while in others they are used as a means of enhancing and completing the expression of a particular story. Talented composer and orchestrator Emily Rice has been telling stories through sound for the past four years. Her framework of experience consists of a long list of accredited success stories, her work ranging from student films to Hollywood blockbusters. Most recently, Rice has been cordially attached to compose a new and exciting project; a documentary film called “100 Faces of Survival,” directed and produced by innovative filmmakers Jared White and Lilit Pilikian.

“100 Faces of Survival” focuses on the Armenian genocide, which had its 100-year anniversary in 2015. The documentary also partially follows the married couple, Pilikian, who is of Armenian descent, and White, as they travel to Armenia to see if they can uncover her family’s past home prior to them fleeing the genocide. “It’s a story of Armenian identity in general, but closely follows Lilit’s relationship with her own identity,” Rice said.

Elaborating on this, White added, “We had long thought about what we could do to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. We didn’t want to just make another genocide documentary, as there are many well-made ones out there already. So, we landed upon our hook into the topic: exploring Armenian identity, and what it means to be Armenian 100 years after the genocide.”

Composer Emily Rice

Prior to “100 Faces of Survival,” Rice collaborated with Pilikian and White on two previous films, composing both shorts titled “Clone Counseling” and “Kill Me Now.” The three have been working together for nearly a year now.

With as complex of a score as “100 Faces of Survival” is expected to have in order to help guide its viewers through a range of different tones and emotions, it was important that Pilikian and White selected the right composer for the job. The duo is confident that Rice has what it takes to bring the audience to those depths. “Emily strives to always keep the audience’s experience with the film in mind as she crafts her scores. She immerses herself in the films she scores, always works to help further the story, has a deep understanding of music of all genres and flavors, and adapts to best suit the needs of the project at hand. Her music often acts as a gateway into the emotional journey of the films she works on, so we knew she would be a perfect fit for “100 Faces of Survival,”” stated White.

Originally from Harrow, England, Rice received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the University of York in 2008. In 2014, she moved to Los Angeles and completed her Graduate Certificate in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television at the University of California. “I did my undergraduate degree in music, so I always knew that I wanted my life to revolve around it. I’d spent a lot of time playing in orchestras so was always drawn to that sound, and from my experiences playing in bands I knew that I liked the storytelling aspect of songs. In many ways, film music is the perfect combination of these two things as it helps tell stories through the use of almost any combination of instruments,” Rice commented.

As a composer and an orchestrator, Rice’s responsibilities vary depending on what she is working on, though they always encompass a similar idea: to aid in telling a specific story. When it comes to composing, her main duty is to compose (or in other words, write) all of the music for whatever film it is that she is working on. “Sometimes, I perform on it and either record it or produce the final mixed mock-ups which will be used if live recording isn’t an option,” Rice explained of this task.

For orchestrating, Rice does this while simultaneously writing. “Orchestration is a slightly different and more complex thing to describe, but the two [orchestrating and composing] go hand in hand. Orchestration is about knowing each instrument inside out, whether they are orchestral instruments, synths, guitars, etc., and knowing which combination of instruments to use to achieve a specific sound or effect,” she said. No matter what Rice is working on, whether it be the music in a film or an episode of television, she states, “My role is always to enhance the story and emotion, not to ‘get in the way’ of it – especially of dialogue! It’s also important to me that the music has an opinion, or a ‘point of view.’ Music that blends into the background too much can seem like wallpaper, and I often try and imagine the scores I write to be another character in the story.”

For the score of “100 Faces of Survival,” this is exactly what Rice plans to do. “The consistent thread through the film is the issue of Lilit Pilikian’s identity as someone of Armenian descent,” Rice said. The film correspondingly addresses the different elements that make up ones identity, such as aspects of culture like language, religion, food, and geography. While the composer will be scoring the documentary alone, she is looking forward to working with a number of performers throughout the process in an effort to compose a number of themes based around these topics, as well as a recurring theme for Pilikian herself as audiences follow her journey. “Armenia has a number of indigenous instruments – the duduk has often been used in film scores and so I’m excited to have a legitimate excuse to use it in this score. The Armenian national anthem is also a fun piece of music, so I may weave a number of my own arrangements into the score, too,” she added.

Thus far, Rice has been reviewing rough cuts of the film in preparation for the composition work she will be creating throughout postproduction.

Composer Emily Rice with Kaushik Sampath

“I think that the score is likely to be very broad, and what I mean by that is I’m expecting there to be a number of themes to write as well as an underscore. It’ll hopefully show my capabilities composing music connected to a specific geographical place despite not being from that place, and as I’m also hoping to use live players, that should enhance the overall quality of the sound of the score,” said Rice.

With a prospective scoring deadline of mid-August, a final release date for “100 Faces of Survival” has yet to be set in stone.

“It’s really a privilege that Jared and Lilit have asked me to score such a personal story that must have so many feelings and emotions mixed in for both of them. I think that my ideas for this film are strong because the filmmakers have a clear vision and the storytelling thread through the film is also strong. I love working with them, and I feel that scoring something with such a cultural/national identity will be a huge challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Armenian music and have the chance to write themes, something I love doing in my scores whenever I can,” Rice stated.

Forthcoming, Rice will be involved in preparing for the scoring process of the renowned composer Brian Tyler’s (“Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World” and “Fast Five”) upcoming projects. Her work can also be heard on the hit television show “Underground,” where Rice worked with composer Laura Karpman (“The Tournament,” “Carrie” and “Man in the Chair”), playing the cello on several episodes.


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Master Bassist Martin Fredriksson

Martin Fredriksson
Swedish Bassist Martin Fredriksson

From the powerful melodic bass lines that drive soul, funk and blues to the heavy and improvisational styles of psychedelic rock and hip hop, Swedish bassist Martin Fredriksson is one of the rare musical forces in the industry that is able to play virtually any bass style with pure precision. It’s not surprising that after his abilities became known throughout Sweden that he was called to bring his talent to the World’s musical melting pot, the United States.

Fredriksson recalls, “My parents bought a bass and a guitar as Christmas gifts for my sister and I when I was about 10 years old. I took the bass and have never let it go since.”

It was not long after picking up bass that Fredriksson began receiving recognition for his prowess back home. At the age of 12 he along with some of the best musicians at his music school in Sweden formed a band known as The Junk. Two years after the band’s inception they received the Culture Prize from Swedish magazine, Frotté, and shortly after two of their songs were voted into the Top 5 on the regional public radio station in Nyköping.

For Fredriksson, playing music is the “sweet spot” that many people search for in life—the true calling that puts one at ease. And, considering that he found his true calling at such a young age, he has had the opportunity to perfect his craft to a rare level of mastery.

“I get very calm and concentrated when playing,” admits Fredriksson. “When I was 16 I was chosen as a young ‘successful’ musician to be presented in a poster together with about 100 other people with different backgrounds and ages from my home municipality. There was a quote from the interview on the poster at the exhibition that said: Life flows when you play, everything will be all right… That is still my experience.”

Fredriksson would go onto play at some of the most notable festivals in Scandinavia including Åmåls Blues Fest, the biggest blues festival in Sweden, and Notoddens Blues Festival, the biggest blues festival in Norway, before taking his talent to the US where he earned the musicianship scholarship for the bass program when entering the bass program at the Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles.

Since moving stateside several years ago Fredriksson has become the bassist for a number of well-known bands and internationally acclaimed artists including The Malloy Band, Dream Alive, SuVi Suresh’s band, Major Myjah, Radiorelics/Mary’s Mischief, Jasmine Villegas and many others. What is even more impressive than the sheer number and fame of the groups he plays with however, is the fact that they are all completely different in terms of musical style, something that speaks leagues to Fredriksson’s versatility as a musician.

Fredriksson and Dream Alive were featured on MTV India earlier this week when the music video for their song ‘Drifting Away’ directed by Irving Ong began recieving national airplay on the station on Saturday. The video, which you can check out below, will continue to air on the station for the next week!

Aside from performing at shows across Los Angeles with the band Dream Alive , Fredriksson played bass on the album “After the Dawn,” which was released in 2014 and the “Drifting Away” EP. He has also doted his magic to several music videos over the last two years for the band’s songs ‘See You Tonight,’ ‘Don’t Say No,’ ‘Drifting Away’ and ‘Waiting So Long.’ In the band Dream Alive Fredriksson also plays alongside drummer David Meyer, who has gained attention in recent years for his work with John Mayer and as the drummer in Frank Ocean’s band.

Fredriksson admits, “I love to play many different genres, but I guess my heart right now belongs to soul, funk and blues.”

The extraordinarily talented bassists also plays with soul funk singer Anduze, who recently released “The Lone Wolf Odyssey Mixtape Vol. 3,” alongside guitarist Johann Frank who also tours with Engelbert Humperdinck.

The caliber of seasoned musicians Fredriksson plays with speaks leagues to his unparalleled skill, something that is even more astonishing when considering that he is still in his early 20s!

His ability to complement the soulful singing voice of famed singer songwriter Suvi Suresh with his bass playing led Fredriksson to join her band in 2011. Better known as SuVi, the singer’s music has been featured in a long list of Bollywood films including Highway, Blue, Ghajini and Raavan for Grammy & Oscar Award winning composer, A. R. Rahmanand. 2013 Fredriksson recorded the songs ‘Made of Gold,’ ‘Sweetest Dream,’ and ‘Ricochet’ for SuVi’s album “Made of Gold,” in addition to being featured in three music videos for SuVi’s songs recorded live in the studio.

In 2014 Fredriksson also began playing with Radiorelics, an explosive and alluring LA-based rock band. Last year Fredriksson and the band toured and received major radio play. They went on to receive incredible recognition when their song ‘Jack Daniels’ made it to the number 9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and continued to maintain a strong position on the chart for 18 weeks. The band has changed their name to Mary’s Mischief since their initial debut.

While Fredriksson’s versatility has been a major factor in his success, he is also a naturally powerful performer on stage.

About performing in concert, Fredriksson explains, “I think people can see that I love what I do, sometimes I just lean back, close my eyes and enjoy the moment…. I have had this longing to play on stage from the start. I have been performing frequently since the age of 13… Therefore I can be very relaxed on stage and just enjoy the flow and the feedback from people in the crowd.”

In 2012 Fredriksson played bass for singer songwriter Laura Warshauer at Lollapalooza, one of the largest rock festivals in America. Warshauer was chosen by BMI and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame to be the recipient of the first ever (Buddy) Holly Prize in 2010.

Fredriksson also performed live on television as the bassist in Jasmine Villegas’ band on AXS Live in 2013. Villegas, who is currently signed to Interscope Records, skyrocketed to success in the music industry after starring in Justine Bieber’s music video for ‘Baby,” as well as performed during Bieber’s 2010-11 My World Tour. You can check out Fredriksson playing bass alongside Villegas and the rest of the band as they perform the song ‘Hello’ off her album “S(he) Be(Lie)ve(d)” for AXS Live in the video below.

Aside from being a killer bassist with an unparalleled capacity for playing a diverse range of musical styles, Fredriksson has also contributed heavily to many of the bands and artists he’s played with as a composer, arranger and songwriter.

“Arranging music together with a band and feeling that we have created something great together is very satisfying,” explains Fredriksson.

“A very important part when I am involved in arranging is that the songs is very melodic and also has variations in melody and strength… I really like to have a strong connection with the drummer I’m playing with because that creates a strong backbone for the rest of the band.”

In between playing with the plethora of bands and artists he plays and performs with regularly, Martin Fredriksson has also been called in as a studio musician to lend his talents to a variety of other projects. In addition to joining Kendall Lake’s band, and playing live shows in the band of Major Myjah, who signed with Warner Bros. Records earlier this year, he also recently recorded eight songs with Japanese rapper Morii Daichi for his third full length album.

Bringing Cultures Together Through Jazz: Master Trumpeter Ramiro Nasello

Romero Nasello
                                    Argentine Musician Romiro Nasello shot by Claudio Maxit

Every genre of music has fans, but jazz is among the few that has devotees. Variations of jazz exist in almost every culture in the world, distinct from one another but sharing common influences. The diehards, the connoisseurs and the aficionados ingest the sounds of a good jazz band like a fine wine and know every hook and riff like the face of an old friend. If one were to ask them where to find the thriving genre’s modern hub, they would answer in unison: Buenos Aires.

That’s where Ramiro Nasello found his calling. Nasello was born in Olavarria, Argentina, where he took his first steps toward his lifelong love of music at 10 years old. Starting off with the piano, Nasello felt at home around music and musicians. It was when he discovered the trumpet, though, that he really came into his own. He moved to the city of Buenos Aires at 14, where his natural talent caught the attention of the iconic Argentine trumpeter Roberto “Fats” Fernandez. A major influence in jazz music at home and internationally, Fernandez is well known for his work with world-renowned musicians including Ray Charles, Roy Eldridge and Lionel Hampton. He took the then young Nasello under his wing and helped him realize the extent of his innate gift.

“My style was further defined after I met my mentor Roberto “Fats” Fernandez,” Nasello said. “It was a big step up for me as a musician and trumpet player at that time.”

At 17 he was introduced to Fernandez’s close friend, music legend and eight-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Fernandez had written an original composition for Marsalis, “Luces de mi Cuidad,” aka “Lights of my City,” and Marsalis happily agreed to perform it as a guest artist on Fernandez’s album La Musica y La Vida. Nasello sat and listened as Marsalis played, and found himself moved to the core. Then, he got an opportunity many musicians spend a lifetime dreaming of.

“He did one take, and he was playing so beautifully I started crying like a kid,” Nasello recalled. “I also got to play for him. He was very nice and very encouraging to me.”

Throughout the ‘90s, Nasello had focused primarily on the classical side of trumpet. He became incredibly skilled during that time, and even held the prestigious principal first trumpet chair position from 1993 until 2000. But after training under Fernandez and hearing the sounds of Marsalis, he began to focus his efforts more on jazz and popular music.

Through his training, Nasello quickly became one of the most sought-after trumpeters in modern jazz ensembles. He’s played all over the world, and with some of the most recognizable names in the genre.

“I did a collaboration with ‘The Latinaje Project,’ a Latin jazz band led by the great bassist, composer and arranger, Guido Martinez. We played lots of high intensity music,” Nasello said of one project. “They put me in charge of the trumpet and flugelhorn solos. That was an all-star band that I was fortunate to be part of with musicians like Daniel ‘Pipi’ Piazzolla, Astor Piazzolla’s grandson. We played many concerts and I participated on the self-titled debut album with them.”

To be band mates with Astor Piazzolla’s grandson is no small achievement. “Pipi” Piazzolla’s grandfather was a revolutionary figure in Argentine jazz and tango, and helped put the country on the map as a major influence in both Latin and jazz music.

In the past two years alone, Nasello has played in Singapore, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Rome, Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale. He also recently played trumpet on Fernandez’s album ‘Montecarlo Jazz Ensemble,’ a charity album with an inspiring purpose.

“‘Montecarlo Jazz Ensemble’ was an album recorded for a UNICEF fund-raising initiative for the Indian descendants in the north of Argentina,” Nasello said proudly. “It was a collaboration of the most renowned artists of the Argentinian music scene for a good cause.”

Shakespeare once wrote that music is the food of love. Jack Kerouac called it the only truth. And Ramiro Nasello sees it as a gift shared between giver and receiver.

“When somebody comes to me and says, ‘Thank you for your music,’ and I can see in their eyes that they enjoyed that moment, that we felt the magic of music and they felt it too, it really is a beautiful thing.”

Nasello is currently working on several new and exciting projects with other internationally renowned musicians including Italian drummer Andrea D’Angelo, who is known for his work with the bands Human Feel, the Matt Wilson Quartet and Tyft. The two have already begun planning their first album, “Inside Out,” which they will begin recording in 2016 under the name of the D’Angelo-Nasello International Jazz Collective Project. The new project will bring together musicians from Italy, Argentina and the US, offering audiences a modern and culturally rich jazz flavor.

Leading Guitarist Proves his Diversity Across Platforms

                                                           Guitarist Daniel Raijman shot by Fernando Stein

Film composer and guitarist Daniel Raijman got his start playing music across Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he grew up. His expertise in composition and arrangement for film has made him a mainstay in the industry, but it’s his lifelong fascination with the study and performance of string instruments, which has led him to his rewarding career in the field.

Raijman toured with his first group, Orquesta Kef, for four years between 2006 and 2009. The band puts a modern twist on the traditional eastern European Klezmer style, a genre with long ties to Jewish culture in the region. As a guitarist for Orquesta Kef, Raijman toured venues throughout Argentina and Uruguay.

The band combines the classic sounds of Klezmer music with contemporary Latin American influences.

According to the band’s website, “It all began at the end of the year 2000, near Chanukah, when a group of young musicians wanted to express and share their talents with the community. Shortly after the premiere, Kef found its own unique musical style. Kef is the number one Klezmer Band in Argentina and one of the biggest in Latin America.”

Beginning in 2007 Raijman also toured with Quinta Estacion (Fifth Season), a group that he founded alongside award-winning pianist and composer Sebastian Kauderer. A contemporary jazz quartet, Quinta Estacion was a hit at venues in Argentina and took an inspired approach in its performance of modern jazz and funk.

“We wanted to achieve that sound similar to our influences such as Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau. The challenge was to write complex harmonies and fit them into beautiful melodies,” Raijman said. “We played in some of the best jazz clubs in Buenos Aires and recorded our album in 2008.”

Heavily influenced by his years playing with Quinta Estacion, Raijman’s next band, Pentafono, was a jazz quintet, which drew an eclectic sound from its Latin American and jazz roots.

“I composed most of the songs based on odd meters and rhythms from Latin America and I wrote challenging harmonies and melodies that were fun to play,” Raijman said. “I wrote some of the songs while I was studying jazz composition with New York-based composer Guillermo Klein.”

Pentafono regularly played and toured around Buenos Aires, and in 2012 recorded their self-titled debut album.

Most recently, Raijman played guitar for the soundtrack for Triggerfish. The film, which is set for release later year, follows the fictional, eponymous punk band Triggerfish as they embark on a night of debauchery and unhinged excitement.

“I was working for Megan Cavallari when she scored this film. She asked me to record guitars for this film and I totally enjoyed it,” Raijman said. “I had to record music ranging from punk to hard rock to blues – all kind of different styles.”

With such a diverse background of influences, and years on the road and in the studio, Raijman’s seasoned expertise has made him a go-to guitarist and composer in a highly competitive field. In addition to Triggerfish, Raijman has lent his extraordinary talents as a composer to the scores of the films An Opening to Closure, Monster Hunters USA and Day Care Center, Love, the documentary 8 Seconds: Humane Decision Making of the IDF and many more. Raijman is also slated to play guitars on the upcoming film Jay Rocco.