On being a dance musician

As I cross over the 150 show mark this year (with three months still to go) and since I’ve had a couple of slow weeks I’ve been reflecting on how I’m still spending close to half my gigging time playing for dancers as I’ve been doing over the past decade or so. As I prep my Bach and the Muslim World project/recital, I’ve been exploring another world of dance (baroque) and how that the movements of a baroque suite are comprised of dance movements and how that relates to the dance movements of Turkish Fasıl, Arabic Waslah, and North African Nawbah. Before concert music became a thing, music most often served dance.

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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

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!

_____________________________

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. 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

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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