V-Train – Sunset On The BLVD/Sunday Service [Interview]

Sunday Service has a lovely nostalgic vibe. Tell us a few things about it.

Thanks again Hip-Hop Paranoia for asking me this question. Sunday Service samples “Friends Let Me Tell You About Jesus” by the Dixie Aries that highlights the theme of the song of going to church and singing hymns. It is then followed by lo-fi pianos and bass. As a religious person myself, I wanted to create a lo-fi song that contains a religious theme. I found the sample in Tracklib. Tracklib is an excellent website for Lo-Fi Hip-Hop Producers like me who want to improve our craft of sampling music and getting legal licenses to use the samples in our music. With that, they also got a huge catalog of genres to sample from which is perfect for producers like myself to explore.

Sunset on the BLVD is seriously lofi. You have managed to maintain a consistent style throughout your music. How easy though is it to stick to a coherent idea and not be carried away?

It’s easy for me because there’s no other genre that I can really branch out to. When I first started with music, I was doing covers and posting on YouTube. Rock music is more of a team effort and EDM is vast and difficult to navigate for me. I was already familiar with R&B and Hip-Hop music from my late childhood to early teen years so after taking music production lessons, I’ve discovered I had a lot more fun with Hip-Hop production, but I can’t rap and don’t have any connections with rappers. Somehow, I stumbled across Lo-Fi girl on YouTube and discovered Lo-fi music and I just took off from there.

Do you accept the term study beat? Why is lofi used for studying?

I accept the term study beat for the lo-fi genre, but I think it can be used for multiple reasons. I would also accept other terms like relaxing beats, work beats or even jazz beats (Jazzhop or Chillhop). I think there are 3 big reasons why lo-fi is used for studying. There are almost no lyrics to the music which makes it easy for the listener to concentrate or relax. Lo-fi usually has a slow to medium tempo between 80 to 100 BPM which also increases the relaxing mood of the listener. Atmospheric pads and Vinyl record sounds are always associated with Lo-fi music and those sounds bring a certain mood to the listener by having them imagining themselves floating in space with the synth pads or reminiscing on what the past was like with the vinyl effects. In contrast to EDM that is fast and loud, Lo-fi Hip Hop does the opposite making it perfect for study music.

How would you describe your musical progress over the years?

An improvement. When I released my first album “My Quiet Room”, it was liked by friends, family, and people within my community, but it didn’t get much buzz and I was working with limited sounds. Then while I was working on my second album “A Wandering Soul”, I upgraded my DAWs, downloaded new sounds appropriate for lo-fi music and I’ve bought new gear including my new Akai MPC One Drum Machine. With the help of some friends, my music began to spread outside of the community and even in different countries. Right now I currently have almost up to 40,000 total streams on Spotify.

What first got you into music?

I was playing music all my life. After watching my mother play piano at home and at church, I started to follow in her footsteps as well as experimenting with all the different sounds and effects on the keyboard. My parents and teachers discovered that I like to keep a steady rhythm and though I would be perfect for the drums. So I would bounce back and forth between piano and drums. Eventually I would pick up the guitar and bass and things just took off from there.

Do you think there is a true underground hip hop sound today?

Absolutely. Hip-Hop since its conception has always been underground music. Even when it became mainstream and America’s #1 music genre, there are still cats like me making excellent bangers in the comfort of our houses. There’s also a major benefit working underground compared to mainstream like signing to a major label. When you’re underground you have complete control of your sound, and you get all the payments you wouldn’t get if you worked with a team hired by the industry. The underground Hip-Hop scene is a lot more versatile in my opinion which makes Hip-Hop unique. Today’s mainstream Hip-Hop music is mostly created with trap beats and mumble rapping. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the current popular Hip-Hop songs of today, but I was raised in the 90s East Coast era, and I take pride in it. Most of the underground Hip-Hop sounds replicate the sounds of the 90s because I think most producers like myself missed how Hip-Hop was more about the message and creativity rather than making the same beat used by many other mainstream rappers.

What would be your dream performance venue?

I’m not into performing in big venues so I would be content in playing music in a small café.

When not writing music, how do you spend your time?

I love to play pinball. I’ve participated in local tournaments and have gotten some recognition. Currently I’m in the top 200 pinball players in Pennsylvania and I have a best friend who’s #1 in the state. He’s the one who got me into pinball. I also like to play video games to relax especially Call of Duty. Drawing and reading are my other favorite hobbies especially when the topic is Hip-Hop and producing. Currently I think I have over 10 books about Hip-Hop.

What is the best concert you have ever been to?

When I went to see Jacob Collier live in a Philly club, I was impressed to hear about this artist from England who is a multi-instrumentalist. After that experience, I’ve listed to all of his albums. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see him in concert this year but I hope he comes back to Philly soon.

Your dream collaboration?

I would like to collaborate and co-produce with DJ Premier if I ever get the chance. I really love his sound. It was and still is the pinnacle of Boom Bap Hip-Hop in my opinion.

Favorite music related film?

I haven’t watched much music related films, but I use to watch a lot of movies about Ludwig Van Beethoven when I practiced classical piano. The movie that stands out to me is Immortal Beloved. I think Gary Oldman portrays Beethoven well and I can relate to Beethoven in many ways in music and life’s struggles. I want to see Straight Otta Compton one day. Maybe sometime during the summer I’ll rent it from YouTube.

Thank you!

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V-Train – Cold World [Interview]

Cold World has very chill organic sound. What is the story behind it?

I created the song using a sample from the song “mélange” by the Casual Brothers and Alya. I was excited because after I upgraded to Cubase Artist, I discovered a method to separate the instruments from the vocals. I decided to use that method on the sample to make it fit in to my song, and I was pleased with the results. Then to make the music more interesting, I included a sax solo near the end of the song as an excellent way to fade out along with the music. I decided to base the theme of this song on my feelings and everyone else’s when we are bombarded 24/7 with bad news from our news outlets. With so much going on in the world, it causes many people including myself to retreat from the world and try to find solace in whatever calms us down. To add a visual emotion that represents the song, I added a picture a I drew years ago of a beautiful woman shedding a tear. The picture combined with the song was a response to the events that occurred in 2020 with the Covid pandemic and the race-riots but interestingly, this single came out around the same time the Russia-Ukraine thing was becoming an issue. I didn’t plan on it, but the situation really reinforced the theme of the song.

Is it an extra challenge to promote instrumental music?

I think that promoting instrumental music is starting to become less of a challenge thanks to the internet and streaming services. Back then, it would really be a challenge to promote instrumental Hip Hop music because Hip Hop has always been associated with rap. I don’t think I can remember any Hip Hop producer that has acquired fame from their instrumental pieces unless they were J Dilla or Madlib. Nowadays with streaming services becoming more available, it opens the floodgates for upcoming producers like myself to get our songs played on different streaming services. Lo-Fi Hip Hop is the perfect subgenre to listen to for simple tasks like working a desk job, doing chores, or just relaxing. Since these tasks happen almost every day, it increases the likelihood of someone playing a lo-fi track while they are doing these activities. A friend of mine told me that he always plays my music whenever he’s working because it helps with his concentration because the songs are instrumental, and he doesn’t have to be distracted by the lyrics.

What is your favorite (analog or digital) synth?

The Roland FA-08 synthesizer workstation is my favorite analog synth because it is my primary tool of creating music. It has 2,000 sounds installed and many more when I connect it to my laptop as a MIDI controller. It also has a list of other cool features like sampling pads, a solo synth that acts like a theremin and an arpeggio and chord option that leads you create your own ideas.

Favourite album of the past year?

Djesse Vol. 3 by Jacob Collier was my favorite album this past year. I admire Jacob Collier as a musician because he is innovating as a jazz artist. He finds a way to make Jazz listenable to the mainstream audience by collaborating with rappers and other artist who don’t have a similar background as him. Despite that, they blend really well to his music, and I think it might create more possibilities for Hip Hop/Jazz fusion in the future.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist so far?

My biggest challenge as an artist has been promoting my music. Right now, as I answer this question, I grew up to 1000 followers on Spotify. Before that, it wasn’t easy because I was a new artist and I had little experience on how to promote music. After I’ve uploaded my first album “My Quiet Room”, they only advice I was given was to submit my music to different curators. While I was submitting my music, I’ve also learned the other challenge I had as a new Lo-Fi artist was that I had little experience with the subgenre. I guess that is why not many curators accepted my album because I would get lots of feedbacks stating that the tracks were too long, the mix was below average, and the music didn’t exactly sound like Lo-Fi. Although it didn’t affect my goals, it did make me consider if I should continue producing. Rather than calling it quits, I took a curator’s advice and found different ways to make my music sound better as I continue to grow as an artist. It paid off because after the release of my second album, I’ve been receiving a lot more attention which increased my followers.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always hold on to Jesus and persevere no matter what. You won’t see success when you first put your mind into your passions but overtime you will learn how to improve and then you will get better and better. As that happens, a lot of people will notice and will reach out to you to help you along your journey. As they do, you will help them out in return and inspire others along the way.

One last thing we should know about you?

I offer my talents voluntary at my local church. I always love to provide assistance in music whenever I can.

Thank you!

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Sam CD – 3 Suites [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

beats for nerds

Your music has an experimental vibe. What is your creative process like?

If I have something in mind I will try to put it on paper, but if not I will try to build off of a transcription of an existing work, usually jazz, sometimes classical, as a starting point. All of these tracks were made while commuting to and from work over the course of a few years.

Do you like the idea of collaborating? Is songwriting a lonely process?

All music is collaboration, at the very least between creator and listener. It shouldn’t be a lonely process I don’t think.

Main influences?

Hip hop (beatmakers especially… Alchemist, Kanye West); eccentric classical (Stravinsky, Debussy); jazz piano (Dave Brubeck); movie scores; randomness

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist so far?

Having to get a job

In which state of mind do you imagine people might listen to your music?

contemplative, cooling out, zoning out

What is the most useless talent you have?

They’re all pretty useless but I was a tour guide in Paris for some time, so I could tell you some cool facts about French history which are likely false.

Thank you!

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V-Train – A Wandering Soul [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

Chill, Sad, Hopeful

Tell us a few things about your album A Wandering Soul. What is the main idea behind it?

“A Wandering Soul” is my second album with Lo-fi Hip Hop as the main genre. Each song describes the different moods I’ve felt in the past. They range from sadness and rejection to happy and hopeful. While only one song contains lyrics, you can still understand the feelings each song is trying to convey based on the tile and the sounds presented in each song.

Which song of the album reflects you the most?

The more I think about it, I think the song “Gloomy Morning” reflects me the most. I’ve frequently struggled with Anxiety and Depression and the feeling of waking up every morning to those emotions has been difficult. As a good dose of medicine, I create this song that expresses the feeling of waking up and dreading the challenges they new day may bring but encouraging myself to persevere and have the strength to move forward. Something not only to encourage myself but to encourage others.

Artists and people who have influenced and inspired you?

My mother was and is my main inspiration. She was a very talented piano player and I’ve grown up watching her practice every day on the keyboard for church. When she’s not playing, I would experiment on the keyboard. She also noticed that I could keep a good rhythm and encouraged me to play the drums. Eventually I would play the drums for my church and my school. She has passed away 3 years ago and every music I create is to remember her and her legacy. As for artists, I’ve been mainly inspired by J Dilla as he is considered the godfather of Lofi Hip Hop and other producers like Timberland, 9th Wonder and the Alchemist.

What would you change in the music industry?

I don’t know if I would change much in the music industry but I think that the streaming services should pay the artists a little more money for their music.

If you were asked to rescore a film, which one would you choose?

I think I would rescore the Spider-Man film “Into the Spider Verse”. I feel this movie is perfect for my music since the setting is New York. The center of East Coast Hip Hop and Miles Morales seems like a chill dude. I cam imagine him listening to Lo-Fi music while he’s studying.

What is the most useless talent you have?

Singing. I can sing decently well but I’m not too confident in including my vocals in any of my songs. Also I’m not great at remembering the lyrics even to my favorite songs and since I play so many instruments, it is not a talent I would ever focus on or need.

Thank you!

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Perttu Leinonen – I Found It [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

Unrefined, autumn, passage

Tell us a few things about your new song “I Found It”. What is the story behind it?

“I found it” is a part of 3 album collection, Eyes closed, Hidden and mind open.
I found it is in the Hidden album. Story so far tells about death of a friend and how life felt during the Corona isolation and how I get over it. It was written as kind of healing music for people that might find help from knowing that they are not alone in their feelings.
“I found it” starts the passageway out of the noise and dark industrial world towards musical world where Eyes closed album ended. There are still shadows hanging in the Hidden theme, but we are quite close to musical world.

Do you like the idea of collaborating? Is songwriting a lonely process?

Yes, I l would love to collaborate. I found incredible singer Llany Arias who has been very central part for most of the releases. It keeps you grounded when you work with real people. There just isn’t that many people out there interested in experimenting, it takes loads of time and effort to do something properly. And yes, songwriting is lonely process. And really weird process where you are writing for the future that you can not predict.

Favourite album of the past decade?

Forest Agates from Deca. It is really difficult to find new music, but I listened what he had to say and liked the message and production.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist so far?

Everything has a cost. I produce everything alone and each sound has a price tag.
I was lucky to get good master for this one, but to keep costs low you need to learn to mix and master. It is mind numbing equation if you are just producing art and got no sales.

Which book should we read while listening to your music?

Nine Princes in Amber from Roger Zelazny.

You’d give up making music for…

Could start doing game or movie music, but giving up music is no option

Thank you!

Carter Fox – M87 [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

Chill Space Beats

Tell us a few things about your new song “M87”. What is the story behind it?

The song is really a celebration of how far we all have come…as a species, as a society, as people. It celebrates the release of the first-ever picture of a black hole. A REAL black hole. Einstein had theorized about them a hundred years earlier, but to observe one in real life was yet to happen. The Event Horizon Telescope’s global team of astronomers, engineers, and scientists forever changed how we view our place in the universe, and it’s a beautiful thing to realize there is just so much more out there. When I saw the picture when it was released in April 2019, I went into my studio full of inspiration and the basis for this song was created. I asked my good friend Steve Honz (who I play with in Freddie Jackson’s backing band and in a group called JUTAUN) to add his synth and piano specialties onto it and what emerged is this wonderful piece of music.It’s a wonderful way to follow up the success of my song Eclipse (about, well, an eclipse!) that has almost 2,000,000 streams across platforms!

Do you like the idea of collaborating? Is songwriting a lonely process?

I enjoy collaborating and have been fortunate enough to work with some truly amazing artists as a songwriter, producer, and musician. But I do also enjoy creating on my own. It’s not that it’s ‘lonely,’ but there is something to taking yourself into a different plane of mind and soul and to come back with something new and unique like new music often is. Plus, you can be a little more truthful with yourself, though the hope is to share that truth with the world through collaboration and releasing music anyway.

Who is your favourite beat maker?

I have many and the top of the list is Dr Dre, J Dilla, Nujabes, and Flying Lotus, and some of the new generation like OddKidOut, the Kount, Kaelin Ellis, and Thelonious Monk.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist so far?

That’s an interesting question. I think staying confident in myself and my music has been the most challenging thing. I remember someone I once worked with saying ‘Even if you don’t believe in yourself, believe in the people who believe in you.’ Maybe he was inspired by Gurren Laggan’s Kamina, but it’s still true. So, when I feel down on myself or uninspired, I remember it’s not just me. My music has evolved since I’ve started making it 15 or so years ago and I’m so glad to have found such great fans and friends to support my journey.

If you were asked to rescore a film, which one would you choose?

It may be a little ‘on brand’ for my stuff but I’d definitely love to do that with Interstellar. Not that it wasn’t good music, but just to have fun with the feelings and visuals!

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve gotten into too much trouble. I mean… I guess more correctly is I haven’t gotten caught with said trouble (knocks on wood). But when I was a teenager at lacrosse camp, I thought it was a great and hilarious idea to pull a prank on one of the coaches who was stricter with us (but not mean… just strict). After it happened and everyone had a good laugh, I got in SO MUCH trouble from my parents. Even the coaches were like ‘don’t be that mad at him’, but I learned my lesson…. Don’t try to show off doing something stupid like that… not everyone thinks it’s as funny as you… (laughs out loud)

Thank you!

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DARGZ – Lou’s Tune [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

Groovy Good Times

Tell us a few things about your new song “Lou’s Tune”. What is the story behind it?

I had recorded Moses Boyd’s LP Dark Matter and gotten chatting with ihm about recording a bunch of different break beats, grooves, samples and the first stages of Lou’s Tune were created. There was a particularly beat he played that got me thinking of a melody. I then added some bass, strings, flute and brought it all home with a vocal sample.

Do you like the idea of collaborating? Is songwriting a lonely process?

I love the idea of collaborating. I started my musical career in a band The Postelles which started when I was 13 so I’ve always created alongside other people. It’s inspiring to hear other peoples’ stories, favourite music, and particular flavors they bring to the creative process.

Who is your favourite beat maker?

These days I’ve been in love with pretty much everything producer Inflo does (Sault, Little Simz, Jungle), big fan of DJ Dahi as well as the all-time greats like Q-Tip, Sly Stone, and Joni Mitchell (whose rhythms were so interesting I consider her a beatmaker!)

What would be your dream performance venue?

As a New Yorker, Madison Square Garden is the mecca so any insane scenario that saw me on stage there would be amazing.

Favorite music related film?

Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do is my favourite music film because it captures the magic of an act in the early days just trying to figure things out.

What is the most useless talent you have?

For awhile I thought my clarinet playing was pretty unusable during my indie-rock days however I’m starting to come around to thinking I could get back into it and use it on an upcoming DARGZ tune so maybe not so useless after-all.

Thank you!

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Peter Spacey – Spacey Beats 4 Scratch Vol. 2 [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

Spacey, Beats, Donuts

Tell us a few things about your new work Spacey Beats 4 Scratch, Vol. What is the story behind it?

SB4S Vol. 2 is a collection of Spacey beats that are made from my pure love for turntablism, 8-bit synthesis, Hip Hop, Electronics, Groove & Space.
After using the turntable as a musical instrument and production tool for more than a decade, I decided to produce a collection of Turntablism-oriented beats with a dedication to the creative Djing artists.
My intention was to give those beats a bigger meaning, more than just music on the streaming platforms. I wanted to contribute to the Turntablism and creative Djing worldwide community. I partnered up with ‘Tablet Beats’ app – a tool used by the worldwide Skratch DJs, lyricists & dancer community and released the beats via their app.
I wanted my music to be more than just music to listen to, to be a tool for creatives, to learn their craft, express themselves, interact with my music and create something new.
I also decided to share/submit it to ‘Artlist’ catalog – an original music platform for the use of worldwide filmmakers, video editors, and moviemakers.
The beats obtained huge exposure since I released them, and I received a lot of warm messages from a wide spectrum of creators, from Djs that use them for study purposes or playing in clubs, to filmmakers who use them in Videos, commercials, & films.

Do you like the idea of collaborating? Is songwriting a lonely process?

Collaborating is fun, always refreshing the perspective of the creative process. The end result is always surprising and it helps you break out of your comfort zone.
With that, I never get bored working alone and like spending hours in the studio by myself, making beats, exploring different sounds, blips and blops, synthesizing, producing, and playing around.
I surround myself with fun instruments and toys, they give me inspiration and I feel like I’m collaborating with them :).

Favourite album of the past decade?

Hi This Is Flume (Mixtape) – an audiovisual masterpiece, it’s basically an album but actually so much more, and for me it symbolizes the 21-century albums, an audiovisual / digital experience.
Everything is so fresh, accurate, from the sound design and music tracks to the visual aesthetics, how it all coordinates and correlates in perfect harmony.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist so far?

The biggest challenge I have faced as an artist was in May 2018 when I released my first beat tape.
For the album release party I decided to make an audio-visual exhibition based on augmented reality technology / experience.
For the first time in my career, I had to face the physical materialistic world as an artist.
print canvases, cut papers, and do all kinds of things outside of my familiar musical world.
Looking back, I feel that this was the first step out of my comfort zone as a musician and this opportunity raised me up from being only a musician and made me the artist I am today.

If you were asked to rescore a film, which one would you choose?

Hmm, that’s a good one. It will be one of the twos:
Sci-Fi film I’ll do a spacey electronic synth-based soundtrack
Rescore one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, not because I feel that the music is not good or I can do better, I actually think the original scoring is brilliant, fits so well and is irreplaceable, but I feel like composing a soundtrack for Miyazaki’s films is absolute freedom, working with a huge symphonic orchestra, or playing intimate mellow piano parts. It is very much about storytelling, and I love storytelling using music.

Thank you!

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RINZ. – Long Distance [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

Groovy, heartfelt, chill.

Tell us a few things about your new song. What is the main idea behind it?

The song “Long Distance” is my second release with my homie from Potsdam, Smokey Da Bear. At the time, we had never made music together in the same room. It was always a long-distance collaboration—him in Potsdam and me in Amsterdam. My initial idea for this song was clean and downtempo. Smokey works more with sampling, so, he chopped up the recordings I sent him to give the song a fresh, raw hip-hop feel. I could feel his musical essence and individuality even though we were not in the same studio. This is what inspired the title.

What is the story behind your name?

My artists name is based on my real name ‘Rinze’. It’s a Frisian name and I was named after my grandfather. I removed the letter E because most people I know pronounce my name without the E sound, so it seemed like the right choice.

Who is your favourite beat maker?

Back in the day, I used to listen to a lot of beats from DJ Premier and Marco Polo. Their skill for sampling vinyl records into their drumkits to make new, unique beats really inspired my own creativity. Nowadays, I find myself enjoying Mark Rebillet’s Sunday morning livestreams where he makes impromptu live music. Those sessions are an insight into his creativity, and I find them very motivating when working on making my own beats.

Your music has very cool grooves. Tell us a song with a lofi beat you wish you had composed yourself.

The song ‘Bitter Chocolate’ by the Lofi Artist SamuW. It’s so fire that I wish I had come up with it myself. Also, ‘Haenyeo’ by the same artist has such intricate sonic details that it’s a great joy to listen to.

If you were asked to rescore a film, which one would you choose?

This is a very difficult question. Most of us are very emotionally attached to soundtracks of movies and TV series and they get imprinted in our minds along with the stories. So, it feels odd to change it. Although I wouldn’t want to re-score it, I would love to be part of the team scoring the soundtrack to the series Stranger Things. Their unique blend of synthesizer sounds creating the 80’s nostalgia really complement the story and I’m fascinated by it as a musician.

What is the one habit/thing you cannot live without?

My morning/breakfast routine. Almost every morning I have the same order of things to get my day started. Most people don’t eat a lot during breakfast, but I really take my time to make a big breakfast every morning. This includes bread with eggs, orange juice, some nice filter coffee and an occasional bowl of yoghurt (Yes, I eat a lot for breakfast!).

Thank you!

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Watasino – Sayonara [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

everyday life, passion, solitude

Tell us a few things about your creative process.

Basically, the work is divided into three days. On the first day, we set up a simple beat and then record as many ideas as we can think of to create a prototype for the song.
The second day is spent stripping away the unnecessary sounds from the first day’s recordings. Once the song is finished, we take a walk and listen to it over and over again. This makes it easier to find areas for improvement.
The third day is for fine-tuning the arrangement and mixing. Too much attention to detail often makes things worse, so I finish the work in moderation. I leave the mastering to AI, so it’s very easy.

How difficult is it to promote instrumental music nowadays?

I don’t think so. Without a doubt, instrumental music is being heard more than ever before.
And for someone like me, who lives in a non-English speaking country and can only speak my native language, instrumental music is an important way to cross borders.

Your music has very sweet grooves. Tell us a song with a groove you wish you have composed yourself

The Pharcyde – Runnin’

Favourite album of the past decade?

This is a very difficult question. The one I can think of right now is Malibu by Anderson .Paak.

Favorite music related film?

I’m not much of a movie watcher, but Sister Act is one of my favorite movies.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

No matter what path you take, it all leads to one.

Thank you!

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