A Klingon Christmas Carol

il Troubadore and Deserae at the Opening of A Klingon Christmas Carol
il Troubadore and Deserae at the Opening of A Klingon Christmas Carol

bomwI’pu’ (the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project) with Klingon Bellydancer, Deserae, perform at the opening night of Commedia Beauregard’s, “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” at the Raven Theatre in Chicago.  2012 December 1, photo by Mark Malnekoff

Friday night was officially the longest night and to celebrate my band, the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project (otherwise known as bomwI’pu’ on the planet Qo’noS), opened for Commedia Beauregard‘s Chicago production of a Klingon Christmas Carol (thlIngan ram nI’ tay bom).  Klingons obviously do not celebrate Christmas, but they do have a “Festival of the Longest Night,” ram nI’ tay.

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Wookiee Bellydance + Klingon Band

Wookiee-Bellydance

Deserae dancing to “Muaarga” original song in Shyriiwook with music and lyrics by Jon Silpayamanant and performed by the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project

UPDATES:

  • (Oct. 8, 2012) Word of the Nerd Podcast interview with me about the Wookiee Bellydance video!
  • (Oct. 22, 2012) Just signed a release for the usage of the video on Objective Scotland‘s “50 Funniest Moments of 2012″ programme to appear on Channel 4 in the UK.

Several months ago Deserae, a wonderful bellydancer dancer I’ve known for years and who I’ve finally had the pleasure to play for about a year ago, decided she wanted to do a performance as a Wookiee bellydancer.  Back in March I recorded an excerpt of what such a Wookiee bellydance tune would sound like.  I pulled some phrases and words from the Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide and created a sample audio with drums, cello, cow horn and vocals.  I titled it “Muaarga” (the Shyriiwook word for “Peace”) and posted it to my Soundcloud account:

http://soundcloud.com/jon-silpyamanant/muaarga-excerpt

A couple months ago Deserae asked if my band, the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project, could come to Chicago to play for her at an event called “Raks Geek” which took place at the Viaduct Theatre.  Basically billed as a Geek Bellydance event–probably the first “official” type of event dedicated solely to bellydancers and movement artists who happen to be big Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans.  Most of the event on Friday Night (the Saturday Night show was not filmed as far as I know) was filmed by Bob Nicholas.  We ended up playing two tunes for Deserae (as well as short sets before the show and during the intermission) including the Wookiee bellydance tune and a Klingon Opera-Ballet tune (“be’ joy’ luqaSa”) I had written for another dancer a couple of years ago.  Here is the Wookiee performance:

And here is the Klingon Bellydance performance:

Apparently the video has since gone viral.  While the video above, which I’ve posted to my personal youtube account only has some 8,000 hits (earlier yesterday it had roughly 2,500 views) the original video, which was posted here, currently has 130,000+ views (up 15,000 views from yesterday afternoon).

I got an inkling something was afoot on Tuesday when a student I had known from the High School I do cello sectionals and teaching at told me that a video of il Troubadore was on the front page of Reddit, the self titled “Front Page of the Internet.”  Doing a quick search didn’t turn up any videos of il Troubadore mainly due to the fact that it was the Raks Geek video (linked in the previous paragraph) rather than the one on my personal youtube site.

Yesterday morning the Geeks Are Sexy website had posted the video which I found through its facebook page (which has close to 400,000 followers).  Within a couple of hours it was shared over 200 times by various facebook users.  As I was doing searches around the net, I did finally find the Reddit link as well as several other sites, forums/bulletin boards, and blogs which had been posting various links to the video within the past day.  Some of those include sites which report on viral videos (such as Viral Viral Videos; Metatube; Break.com; Viral Kings), news sites (G4TV’s Attack of the Show & Around the Net; MSN Now; Right This Minute; New York Magazine’s Vulture), and other popular internet meme sites (Cheezburger; Know Your Meme; Dlisted).

I’ve had people tell me they’ve seen me on tv as some of the news sights (listed in the previous paragraph) have syndicated their short segments or are associated with more traditional networks.  Someone in Alabama mentioned seeing the Right This Minute clip and Fox 2 news in St. Louis apparently aired an excerpt as part of a segment of Tim’s Take.  ThinkGeek has tweeted it (roughly 600,000 followers) and Jeri Ryan posted it at her Google + page (whether this is the actual Jeri Ryan is unknown to me).

When I conceived of this piece, I wasn’t thinking it would lead to some that could potentially become viral–but I think that’s half of the point I try to make at this blog.  We just don’t have as much control over potential audiences as we would like and more often than not it’s easier to pull from a pre-existing one than to create one anew.  With 140,000 + hits to the video(s)–not including how many folks saw the actual news segments, it will be interesting to see how far the original video goes over the next few days!

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Credits for the video:

“Muaarga” (“Peace” in Shyriiwook)
Composed/written by Jon Silpayamanant
Performed by the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project and Deserae
Video by Bob Nicholas
Raks Geek organized by Dawn Xiana Moon

Viaduct Theatre in Chicago, IL

August 3, 2012

Which Came First, the Music or the Brand?

If you think your music is a difficult sell, try playing a piece of amplified sheet metal.  Jon Silpayamanant as Noiseman433 performing in St. Louis (9 May 2003) during the Rotten Piece 2003 Tour.  Photo by Carol Kelly.

If you think your music is a difficult sell, try playing a piece of amplified sheet metal. This is me, performing as Noiseman433, in St. Louis (9 May 2003) during the Rotten Piece 2003 Tour. Photo by Carol Kelly.

As I mentioned in a previous post, if you’ve Branded yourself well, then Marketing (to raise awareness about your music) and Selling (to get gigs) should be much easier to do.  Branding is the totality of your public image and having a good Brand is tantamount to making all other aspects of your business move more smoothly.  As Peter Montoya stated (I quoted him in the post above):

Branding happens before marketing or selling; it’s their source. Without a strong brand, marketing is generally ineffective and selling is like beating your head against a wall of sales resistance. A strong brand is the rock-solid foundation for all marketing, because every other aspect of a product’s identity–its logo, how its ads are written, who its spokesperson is–is based on that brand. Branding is the reason customers consider a product in the first place.

When you have a strong Personal Brand out in the world working for you, you’ll attract new business without even trying. Prospects will come to you after multiple exposures to your brand, and they’ll come 90 percent sold on you already. All you’ll need to do is close the sale. We’ve seen it time and time again. New business with no work. If that’s not cool, nothing is.

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Grand Rights and Belly Dance

Copyright all rights reserved
Copyright all rights reserved

Copyright: all rights reserved

I’m in the middle of writing a “Grand Rights” primer for dancers which will likely be a separate web page rather than simply a blog post.  Copyright issues and copyright law are incredibly sticky issues and as I’ve been increasingly dealing with contractual work that deals with licensing my music (or the music of the ensembles I work with) I’ve had more than ample opportunities learn just what my rights are as a composer and maker of music.

Much of this is also the result of following local (and national) issues regarding the usage of pre-recorded music for theatrical or dramatic productions.  In particular, the recent Priscilla Queen of the Desert Broadway production, which is slowly floundering due to the bad word-of-mouth as the result of the producers to use canned music– a first to actually happen in the Broadway world (though not the first attempt).

Since I’ve been involved relatively heavily in the belly dance community for close to a decade now (among other smaller dance communities/industries) it has always been a bit of an uphill battle to convince dancers to use live music whenever they can.  At the very least to get them support the musicians whose music they are dancing to which most are more than happy to do.

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Why bellydancers, anyway? (part 3) “confessions of a bellydance musician”

This one is four years coming.  I can’t even remember if I ever posted the “part 3″ or not, but was considering blogging about some things relating to being a being a dancers’ musician and thought I’d look up the blogs I’d done regarding this.  I still can’t believe I’d blogged those over four years ago, but there it is and here is part 3!  For those interested, here are part 1 and part 2.

As I recently gave another intervew to Julia Zay that is a part of a series of pieces talkin about contemporary bellydance musicians, some of the things we discussed have been on my mind lately especially regarding actual collaboration between dancers and musicians (in contrast to havin dancers dance to can music) and especially regarding copyright and licensing of music for perormances or media that will be sold (show DVDs, for example).

But a few amendments to the dance exposure I mentioned in the previous (part 2) installment of this blog series, since it has been some four years since that post.

  • I’ve since been dancing intermittently with the Louisville Ethnic Dancers when I’m actually in town and not gigging.  This has given me some valuable insight into dance from a dancers side, especially regarding how to have the right musical accents and style for particular dances.  I’d mentioned in a previous post the idea of having a “musical accent” and how that can get in the way of understanding how the music works with the dance,  This is where much of that experience is coming from.  As I also joined a Balkan band (primarily as a drummer with some singing), Kermes, in Bloomington Indiana I’ve gotten the chance to play tons of the Balkan, Eastern European and Western Asian tunes and styles that I learned how to dance to with the LED.  Also, one of the members of the group, Gergana, is from Bulgaria and is one of the folk dance teachers in Bloomington.
  • As I’ve also blogged about occasionally here, I’ve started up more intimate projects with individual dancers.  The first attempt, which hasn’t really gotten off the ground, was Natyasastra which was to focus on Indian Music and Dance (especially Bollywood).  Circumstances have prevented this particular project from doing live perfomances though that may still change in the near future.  Another project, Raks Makam, has actualy done some unofficial performances.  There’s been a line-up change as Taletha, who moved to Colorado, is no longer active dancing in my area.  She remains in an ‘artistic director’ type of position with the project while one of her dance students, Jessica Hamilton, takes up the reins of the dance.  This project focuses mainly on Central Asian dance and music.  The latest duo project, Secondhand, is probably the most active.  We call ourselves a “Experimental Vintage Goth” Bellydance and Music duo, and I’ve had great fun working with Celeste on trying new things.
  • Along with joining the Balkan band last year, I’ve been playing regularly with a Klezmer group, the River City Klezmer Band, and have gotten some great experience playing traditional Klezmer and Eastern European Jewish dance music.  Also, since 2008, I’ve been playing with Ahel El Nagam, a Classical Arabic Group based in Louisville.  We play much more traditional Middle Eastern music than what you might hear from me in, say, il Troubadore.  Lately I’ve been drumming for the group as we’ve also had a number of line-up changes, but it is really wonderful getting the chance to work on some of the classica bellydance tunes in a more traditional setting than I have in the past.

So, as you can see, I’ve expanded my collaborative projects to go well outside of working with just bellydancers and in a sense have come full circle at being a much more versatile musician for them.

At the same time, now that I’ve been actively working with other types of dancers, I get a different feel for dance culture and how dancers view music.  Working more intimately with dancers and in other bands have given me a different viewpoint on how dancers conceive of music as well as how different kinds of musicians view the music they are making for dancers. Continue reading