Andres Mansilla

 Andres’ music with the band ‘De la Barriada’ 

Image The Interview audio

Hi my name is Andres Mansilla and I’m from La Union in Southern Chile. Currently I’m a bass player and a drummer hobbyist. I started playing music when I was about eight years old. I started playing traditional flute, then took various workshops in my school – guitar, choir, etc. I was always involved with musical activities that happened in my school. Then in high school I started doing bands with friends, bands in the school, and groups with people that were a little older than me, which was actually work. After high school I decided to study music pedagogy in Puerto Montt. I met a lot of musicians, a lot of bands, and I played in a lot of bands in different cities. I met a LOT of people. That was when I began to make broader musical contacts and experiment with new musical settings. Over the course of a year and a half I learned a lot but realized that the field of study wasn’t appropriate for what I wanted to do. I liked playing a lot and all that, but I wasn’t very interested in the classes I was taking about teaching. And 60% of my studies were spent in teaching classes, and only 40% in musical material. I got kind of annoyed and wasn’t very motivated, so I dropped out of the university and took a year off. I kept studying electric bass and playing a lot of music. And then I decided to go to Santiago to study electric bass. Right now I’m in a jazz school; this is my first year. I spend my day working with bands in many different styles. I like to have varied musical tastes and  I’ve had opportunities to study different styles. When I was younger, I remember I liked funk a lot and studied funk a lot and it’s become a strong base for how I play. Before that it was hardcore, then rock, then Latin Jazz. And now I’m going through a phase where I listen to a lot of jazz and that’s what I’m playing too. I think they’re all pretty complete styles, but each has its own form of expressing itself. So I can’t really define a preferred style right now, because I’ve done a lot. My tendencies are a little more in line with Latin music, for example Salsa, Latin Jazz, Tumba, Cuban music. So I’ve always had those tendencies, but these days I can’t really pick a preferred style of music. Obviously my musical tastes are evolving and I’m listening to music that’s maybe a little more complex. And maybe that’s just because of my studies.

I think music is very important in everyone’s life. I think everyone lives and shares with music daily. I think music also just has a lot of style. I don’t know, without really thinking about it, I just like music a lot. But now that I have a little better notion of what’s up, I’ve realized how important music is in everyone’s daily lives. I don’t know… it’s so strong what music gives you. It can control your state of mind, your mood. Music can put you in a state of relaxation. It can improve your mood. If you’re sad, you can listen to sad music, then maybe you’ll be worse, I don’t know. [laughs] It also has a strong connection with your state of mind. But I think what I like most about music is everything you can discover, all the things you can invent. You study every day and you think, maybe many people have been through this, but there are many things you can learn alone, things you can come up with. And the options are unlimited. That’s what a like a lot about music, apart from playing it. Studying it is also really entertaining, but complicated and difficult at times. I prefer to play mostly now. I want to get to the point where I can really play around with all the styles I’ve come across. I’m studying jazz so right now, I’d like to be able to understand and play around with jazz more. But that has also happened to me with funk, as it happened to me with many styles. I don’t dominate them 100 percent, but I kind of assimilate everything a little. I’ve recently started my music career and there are still a lot of different paths for me to explore. But my objective right now is to be able to dominate the styles I have played, god willing some 70 percent.

The musicians I prefer to work with… I mean obviously people always say, I like to work with the best, but I think the responsible musician is best. I find that the responsible musician is more professional than the musician that knows how to play a lot better. I mean, I would always go with the musician that’s responsible, that learns his tunes, that arrives on time to practice, that respects the other musicians, before the super talented musician that can do everything, but doesn’t respect his fellow musicians and on top of that doesn’t respect the music. That’s what I think about musicians.

My view about music in Chile… I was brought up in a setting where music wasn’t given a lot of importance. It was a very minor class in school compared to others, so the content that it taught was little or nothing. So I have a somewhat negative view of the level of music in Chile. I don’t know if they feel the same way everywhere, but those from my generation at least do. I know that things have changed some now. Teachers come with a different attitude, another mentality. So at a young age, students start having contact with other things, with the language of music, not with the music you listen to, but with how to write music, and a more theoretical conception of music. That didn’t exist in my generation. But I think that in comparison to other countries the general musical level is very very low. We can see that in, for example, for a person to be able to listen to jazz critically, they have to spend many years studying the music. For their taste to get to the musical level of jazz, or to be able to play it, they have to devote a lot of time, at LEAST the experience I have, to get to jazz. I’ve been through a lot of styles, including a time when I was trying to develop an ear for listening to jazz. And I simply didn’t like it much, so I left it. I just let my tastes go naturally by themselves so I went through different phases. I think the closest I got to jazz was Latin jazz. But then recently I’ve had a strong impulse to get into jazz music. And now I just started studying but I’ve been listening to jazz seriously for about two years now. And when I started listening to it, that created a sort of small vehicle to get into it. But, I don’t know, I think that in other countries there would be a little more contact with other musical styles, maybe more cultural events. Maybe the area where I lived just wasn’t the best for that. But all this makes me think it’s a culturally poor country in this sense.

Have I played with musicians from other countries? I’ve had very little experience, I think it’s been two. The last experience I had was a strange one because, I don’t know, it happened in my home town. In fact it’s the person that asked for this interview. [laughs] We heard, were I lived, that there was a musician that played jazz, and that he was from the Unites States. And everyone started putting something together, coordinating things to be able to play. We got to the jam, no one knew each other, and the music quickly generated the bond of friendship, a connection. And after that we kept playing together in various groups and situations for a few months until he had to return home. It’s obvious that it was because of the musical connection and the language of music, nothing else, because we couldn’t even communicate well with words. And I think all musicians have experienced this, even with people that speak the same language. I mean, in my case I’ve played in many different cities and I’ve met an infinite number of people. I have a lot of friends that are musicians, many really good musician friends that I don’t even know personally, just through the cyber world. [laughs] But we have a bond of friendship that’s come through music. I don’t know if in other instances, or other professions the same thing happens, but for me great bonds have been made and they’ve always been positive.

Anyway, that’s my outlook on music and I little about my experience. Cheers

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Saba Samakar

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The interview audio

My parents are from Iran and I was born in Germany. We lived there for about a year before we came to America, but I personally feel like I’m Iranian. It’s a little difficult for me, living in America, being half [culturally] American, half Iranian. Sometimes I feel like I’m more Iranian, sometimes I feel like I’m more American. It’s hard! This is one of the things that I try to come to a conclusion to daily.

I was born in Germany and I’ve lived in Seattle, where I live now, and Salt Lake City. They say Salt Lake City is a lot like Tehran (where I’ve never been), but I don’t know… Maybe that’s why I liked it so much there, the weather, the mountains, that kinda thing. The sunshine.

I play the drums and the guitar. I’ve played guitar for I think 10 years and drums for I think 8, but my practice has been more in drumming. I haven’t studied music much. I didn’t study it in university. I studied a little on my own but you could say I’m not exactly literate in music.

I’ve played a lot of rock and roll and hip hop and these days I mostly just play for myself. I don’t play with others that often, but when I do… I don’t know. Electric guitar, distorted sound, dirty, rough sound, that’s how I like it. Loud sound. And… that’s all. These days I don’t play with others that much. I play monthly with some kids but… it’s very simple. We never practice together.

Music’s important to me because when I was younger everything I saw on TV, in the magazines, on the covers of the records, it had a, I don’t know how to say this in Persian but they had some sort of secret thing about them and I wanted to know what it was, and I sought it. And now that I know a little how to play music, now that I’ve, with various groups, experienced the slightest bit of popularity, now it’s… I don’t know, it’s still important, but it has a different kind of importance now. Now the secret thing that I didn’t know, I think I know it. So, I don’t know. Now I’m trying to figure out why music is still presently important to me.

The thing that’s been the most exciting for me because of music hasn’t been playing. It’s been the people I’ve become acquainted with. When I was younger I’d listen to all this music and I just played until I met all the musicians I admired. Like, six years ago I was listening to this band here in Seattle, and nowadays I see them all the time. We talk and we’re friends, and this is so interesting to me. It’s been so interesting that these people who were so important to me are now a part of my life. I mean, daily I can talk to them and ask their opinion on things and stuff like that. So it hasn’t really been playing that’s been the most exciting for me, but playing has gotten me to this place.

So this next question is whether I’ve ever played music with people that don’t speak my language… and this is kind of a weird question because I don’t really speak Persian daily. I speak English mostly. I only speak Persian with my family. Everyone who I play music with speaks English. I’ve never played with anyone who doesn’t speak English. But I have played with people whose musical language has been different from mine. Like, I play a certain style, they play another style. In whatever culture you grow up in, music can have different meanings. The things I do with music, the way I learned how to play, I see that it’s very different from other people. I haven’t yet been able to find anyone who plays like me. I don’t mean that, like, I play better than everyone else or that nobody’s ever played like me before… this isn’t what I’m saying. But I haven’t found anyone so far who I’ve been able to play with completely harmoniously… That actually isn’t really true, there have been one or two, but for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to play together much. Not long term, anyway. But my hope and wish is to find someone or a group of people where we can all have some cool harmony together.

I haven’t been able to make relationships with people very well through music. Earlier I did say that because of the music I played, I got to meet some people I really admired. But in the actual playing of music, like, standing on stage and playing with a band, I haven’t been able to really feel a camaraderie or, again, a harmony. I haven’t been able to find someone where we really play together really well. When I play music, in spiritual or mental or emotional terms, whatever weight I feel on my shoulders, when I play I try and want to play so loud and play however I want so that I just become empty. So I can empty the pressures of the day through music. I don’t really know how to explain it. But I’ve never been able to do this with someone else. Like, it hasn’t happened that I play and someone else plays and we play together and afterwards we both feel cleansed. But I’m still trying. And I’m hoping someday I can, maybe someday, with one person, two people, maybe a group, do it! Other than that… the friendships I’ve made through listening to music with other people have been a lot better and stronger than the relationships I’ve made through playing music. So, that’s it. Maybe I just need to practice.

Saba’s music – “vibes”

Music is an international language

This project is about how language is like music and how music is like language.  It is inspired by my travels in South America, mostly Chile, where I made great friends and got to know people often without being able to communicate fully with traditional language.  So in that sense, music is like language – it teaches you things about people you might not expect and lets you share and become more comfortable with them.  Language is also like music – it has melody, harmony, and rhythm.  And it can be just as beautiful, expressive, emotional, inspiring, nostalgic, etc. as music, especially when not understanding the language forces you to focus on its more musical qualities.

In the long run, I hope to bring musicians together and maybe inspire them to travel with this project.  But for this first part of the project, I’ll post periodic submissions about musicians from different backgrounds who speak a language natively other than English.  Each submission will include an audio or video interview with them in their native language, an English translation, and an example of their music.  I encourage you to listen to the interview first and experience the music of their words without trying to understand it.  Then listen to the music sample and think about what it tells you about the musician.  Maybe in the end you’ll be inspired to check out more of what they do.  Happy listening.