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

Yo-Yo Ma’s Romulan Music Project

Jen Usellis Mackay as a Klingon

Nerd Lunch has a podcast about the upcoming Commedia Beauregard’s production, “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” with a brief mention of my group’s (the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project) involvement with the soundtrack.  I composed all the music (you can hear a couple of samples here and here) and my band will record the final versions for the production.

 

Cast member and official tweeter for A Klingon Christmas Carol, Jen Usellis Mackay, joins us at the lunch table this week. Jen gives us the inside scoop on what it’s like to work on the first play performed in the Klingon language, how to get in on this year’s performances in Chicago, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Romulan music project (not really). Later the Nerds get a mini language lesson from Jen and we all play a few rounds of “our favorite Klingon things”. Listen and find out why tlhutlhlu’meH QaQ jajvam!

 

We’re mentioned around 31:30 with a funny blurb about Yo-Yo Ma’s so-called Romulan Music Project which I thought was humorous.

 

Links to the podcast may be found at the links below.

http://nerdlunch.blogspot.com/2011/11/nerd-lunch-podcast-11-klingon-christmas.html

http://blog.paxholley.net/2011/11/15/nerd-lunch-episode-11-a-klingon-christmas-carol/

DaHjaj QeylIS qa’jIH.

A scene from Commedia Beauregard's production of "A Klingon Christmas Carol"

“I am the Spirit of Kahless Present.”

Sometimes I have to be in the business of creating culture, not just re-creating culture (or ‘re-presenting culture’ as I sometimes refer to my musical activities).  I’ve been watching a DVD of the final performance of  “A Klingon Christmas Carol” which is a production by the Commedia Beauregard that has been running during the Christmas season for the past four years.  This is in preparation for scoring incidental music that my group, il Troubadore (or more properly, the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project), will be recording for the live production this season.

As I’ve been developing Klingon Music and the possible theory behind it for the past year or so (though my interest in Klingon music dates back many more years as I’ve mentioned elsewhere) sometimes projects like this are incredibly satisfying.  Nothing like creating not only original music, but a completely ‘original’ style of music for a culture from a Science Fiction series.

While I won’t be posting actual examples that will be used for the score/soundtrack of this production, I will continue to blog about (with other examples) the music as I spend more and more time immersing myself in Klingon Culture.  As I mentioned in a previous status update at my facebook page that I still haven’t gotten the typical post conference/event blues after having the chance to play a concert with Yo-Yo Ma–this project and the project in my previous post are the reasons (amongst so many others).

I’m just so thrilled and pleased that I can have all these exciting musical experiences without having to leave this little quaint part of the world as I’ve said regarding this past month or so of such wonderful strangeness!  As the saying goes–“Show me a bored person, and I’ll show you a lazy person.”

Or, as the Klingons would say, Hoch ‘ebmey tIjon (“Capture all opportunities!”)!

the perils of having too many bands…

Last night I was meeting and rehearsing with my Central Asian music and dance project, Raks Makam, and tonight I get to meet and rehearse with my String Quartet.  The previous night (Tuesday) I rehearsed with the IUS Orchestra which, as I said I do in alternation with the Klezmer group, The River City Klezmer Band, every Tuesday.  Tomorrow night I meet with my Arabic band, Ahel El Nagam, and the bellydancers we’re playing for this Sunday to run through things.

Around this time last year I first started playing with the Klezmer group and my Balkan band, Kermes (now on hiatus) as well as intermittently with the IUS Orchestra.  I started a new project with Celeste–a “Vintage Experimental Goth Music and Dance duo” called Secondhand.  Raks Makam had been on hiatus for a bit since Taletha, my then partner, relocated to Colorado but is not back into the full swing of things with new collaborative partners.

My solo experimental noise act, Noiseman433, which had been on hiatus four a few years, was resurrected last year for a show opening for The Enigma last year and has been performing pretty regularly since.  Reminds me that I have to update the website!

Continue reading “the perils of having too many bands…”

on Klingon weddings and playing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy circuit

Jon Silpayamanant as a Klingon performing before a production of The Pirates of Penzance (in Outer Space) in New Albany, Indiana.

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, there is an embarrassment of riches as far as performing options are concerned, if you’re willing to think outside the box.  The past few years I’ve been playing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy circuit.  I hesitate to call it the “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention circuit” if only because some of the best paying gigs I’ve gotten recently happen to be at organizations outside of the Convention circuit proper.

And some of that has started to creep into the so-called ‘high arts’ realm with organizations such as Symphony Orchestras playing themed shows dedicated to particular Sci-Fi or Fantasy franchises (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars) as part of their pops seasons.

On the whole, however, there’s always been music at conventions–even if it only consisted of filk music.  Part of the Klingon schtick is as much act as play and the idea came to me as a whim after il Troubadore started playing Sci-Fi conventions at the request of some bellydancers.  We decided we needed our own act and schtick, thus was born the il Troubadore Klingon Music Project.

Ok, so I talk about the short series of events from bellydancer request to Sci-Fi convention to developing a full blown Klingon Band personae as if it’s an everyday thing.  But seriously, for me, it is.

That’s the specific issue at hand here.  Over the years I’ve heard all manner of musicians grouse about the lousy economy and the lack of work.  And here, I’m talking primarily about those musicians who do not hold full time or professional positions as musicians–this includes freelancers, but also just your normal everyday band musician.  I know I’ve brought up this issue plenty of times in the past, but don’t want to flood this post with a ton of links.

Continue reading “on Klingon weddings and playing the Sci-Fi/Fantasy circuit”