The Story Teller and Other Pieces -Interview with Writer Pramod Kumar

The Story Teller by Pramod Kumar

Some untold stories

To die is one thing, to fall in love is another…

To live is one thing, to be alive is another…

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The café was full as usual. Though located in downtown, it was particularly mannered compared to its other counterparts.

It was not the aroma of the freshly baked coffee beans that pulled women to this part of the town, but the young lad who used to tell stories- stories with strange endings, which sometimes would leave the audience spellbound, sometimes in rage of anger, sometimes in tears. They would promise themselves not to come to him again, not to listen to his stories again. But the promise was too hard to keep for they had become addicted to the drug he secretly served in his stories.

The café owner walked up to the lad, held out his purse, and handed him out five shriveled dollar bills. He smiled and said, “You know I don’t need these.” But before the lad could hand it back, the owner had turned his back towards him.

“Keep them for future. Save it for the days when I fire you,” the owner said with a chuckle, waving his finger in the air. And then the owner left.

The young lad had his bunk in the store of the café, and pretty much everything he needed in this world was there.

Retiring from the day, he switched off the lamps and closed his eyes. And within no time, he was in his stories, stories for the following day, stories which waited for its audience.

The following evening, as usual, the café was full of beautiful Spanish women, ravishing to say the least. So at peace, they were listening to the stories. It was a sight to watch.

A woman’s silence is all a man longs for- when she is listening to every word you say. Because you know deep inside, she is falling in love with you, however far and different you may be.

But this was not going to be the same any longer. A young, pretty maiden walked in through the door. She looked so innocent that all other women who looked ravishingly beautiful now looked like a pack of wolves staring at an innocent lamb.

The young lad raised his eyes as the ebony smell of her body hit him. For that instant, he was stuck, and no one but the damsel and he felt the moment. That was when he realized he was smiling stupidly.

It took him a lot of such moments to come back to life. He cleared his throat and finished the story.  For the first time in his life, he felt the urge to finish a story, for he wanted to speak to the girl. He knew she would come to congratulate him.

Unceasingly, his eyes searched for the girl as he shook hands with people who came to thank him, but she never came …

Going to sleep was particularly strange that night. He tossed left and right, but couldn’t find the right comfort. Yet he was smiling and found himself in a strange world. It was a long night, a dreamless night.

The following evening, he didn’t have a story to tell for the dreamless night. He didn’t remember any of his previous ones too.

So the women had coffee and chattered in disappointment, talking and gossiping through the happenings of the day.

The night repeated itself. The days and evenings did the same …

The storyteller was out of stories…

The café gradually lost its ‘customers.’ and the owner was left with no other choice but to ask the young lad to leave.

He packed his bag, his small tattered bag, the only bag he had which had all his worldly possessions. He headed to the market place to catch a bus for he wanted to leave everything behind.

As he walked uneasily through the market place, the ebony smell hit him again. Startled in excitement, as if a baby to the sound of its mother, he turned. The strange smile was back but short-lived this time, for she was holding the hand of another man who could barely walk.

He noticed the pensive expressions, the paralyzed look in her eyes. He walked up to her, dropped his bag at her feet, and said,” I hope it’s enough. I never used it, never felt the need.”  He smiled, looked in her deep eyes. He could feel the flow of tears through them.

So he left, keeping himself strong. He had realized love was not about loving someone and expecting something in return. But it’s actually about the inability to see someone in tears. It’s about the power to witness two loving souls and to feel their pain, and feeling the happiness by seeing them smile together. And it only grows when you know that it was you who made them smile.

 This way, it is eternal and heavenly…

Now he could sleep in peace. He could have his stories again. Only now, they were about eternal and true love. He used to tell them to people who would come to visit him under the tree.

But later, this became a pilgrimage for all the spirits in love. For them, it was a place where they found true solace. For him, it was just another day at work.

To read more of Kumar’s stories, click here: Brains and Heart

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Interview with Pramod Kumar- Writing as Freeing

“It’s important to get the feelings out and not keep them inside yourself.”

Pramod

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in a small village in Kerala, India.

Was writing a part of your life from a very young age?

The first time I got published in a newspaper was when I was in 7th Grade. I used to write short poems back then.

You said that you wrote more when you were dealing with sadder or heavier emotions in your life. How did the process of writing about these experiences make you feel?

Writing helped me with dealing with sadness. I felt relieved after writing stories about the experiences. Sometimes, as a guy, you have very few people around you to talk to about your feelings, especially when everyone is trying to come across as macho as they can. When I wrote my feelings down in a story, I could read them and talk to myself through them. Who else knows you better than yourself, right? Now, with the stories, I could separate the guy who was sad from my self for a little while, and talk to him. Now I could share the pain and it felt better.

Wow! I love how you describe that. Talking to the sad self.

Does reading those pieces now bring up the old emotions or memories?

Reading my blog now with all of those old pieces is just like reading a diary entry.  I feel good. I believe our emotions dry down as we age. These pieces I wrote back then still keep me green. I am glad I wrote what I felt. It’s important to get the feelings out and not keep them inside yourself.

“Show, don’t tell” is a very common tip given to writers. I get lured into your writing instantaneously, from the very first sentences, because of the way you describe the feelings, emotions and details of things around and within your characters.

Are you aware that you are doing this or does it just come to you naturally?

Honestly, I am not sure if I could have been able to write it in any other way. I wrote as I remembered the experiences. When we sit in the sun and are having a conversation with someone, the sun warms our skin. If you are having a difficult conversation, it might make you uncomfortable, and if you are sitting with someone you like, you would love the warmth of the sun. I just happen to write about it. To me, it’s a simple thing that everyone can relate to.

It’s interesting that in the two pieces I’ve read so far of yours, it isn’t obvious what the setting for the story is- whether it is in India or Canada or even somewhere else. Do you still write creatively like this no matter which home or setting you are actually in, or does the environment around you, especially where you are living, dictate how much or whether you will be writing?

The stories you read were written when I was 22 years young. I was in India back then- confused, with less self-direction and with a million things going wrong.  Writing helped me work through this. In my opinion, it’s not the geography that dictates the flow or the settings of the story but the place in life that you are in. Happy, sad, tired- it’s all in the state of heart. Continue reading

The Power of the Voice- Interview with Spencer Welch- Master Vocal Instructor

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Where were you born and brought up?

I was born in Ferney, in the Kootenays, BC. A year later, we moved to Calgary. And when I was five, we moved to Mexico.

Oh, that’s how you know Spanish.

Yeah. I grew up in Mexico in a small little city of two million people called Puebla. It’s about two hours outside of Mexico City. I lived there from age five to sixteen.

Did you grow up in a musical family?

Well, sort of. My grandpa and grandma on my dad’s side both played instruments and sang. And my dad sings beautifully and plays the piano and guitar all by ear. He has no idea which notes he is playing. He can only play the piano in about four or five keys. And they’re actually the really difficult keys. From very early on, my dad would bring a bunch of vinyl records home and would play all this music for me. He had a stereo with huge speakers and he would crank it as loud as he could. The windows would start shaking from the trumpets and the canons going off.

Haha! That is awesome.

Yeah, so it wasn’t like there were highly trained musicians in the family surrounding me. But there was all of this music in the house. Also, my friends that I was surrounded by were very good musicians. I remember being in bands from when I was 9 or 10 years old.

What instrument did you first start playing?

My first instrument was actually the accordion. We didn’t have a piano. We just couldn’t afford one. I took some accordion lessons but I wasn’t that into it. Then I got into guitar and I learned that by ear. I started teaching myself piano by ear after that. I got so deep into piano that I basically begged my parents for lessons. That started in Mexico.

And you started training your voice more in Canada?

When I came to Canada, I continued taking more theory and piano. And it wasn’t until I got into college that I started taking voice lessons. I always sang, and I started to perform professionally by the time I was about sixteen. I was getting hired by bands to play keyboard and sing back-up vocals. But at that time, I was just all self-taught. I had no vocal training. But I had lots of instinct built up. The majority of my formal training was when I went to college in Canada and studied jazz theory and composition, as well as piano and voice lessons. I did a little bit of Royal Conservatory before then too.

Spencer20I was introduced to the book The Talent Code through you and one of the other instructors at the Spencer Welch Vocal Studio– Rebecca Lam. What are your thoughts about the premise behind it- that talent is not born but learned?

I was afforded the opportunity from a very young age to be musical and to explore music. It was modelled for me in my dad and in my friends around me. And I didn’t have parents that looked down on music or singing as if it was somehow unimportant to explore that.

When I was five years old, I’d get pushed on stage at church and I’d be playing my ukulele and singing. I also went to a really small international school in Mexico where there were always big roles in every musical, and I very often got to be the lead. I think I was no more talented than the next person. It was just that I had lots of opportunities to express my musicality.

So I can relate to the premise behind the Talent Code in that way. The combination of all that was around me made singing, being on stage, and playing music seem natural. It was made to feel like a normal part of my life from a very early age. The talent was grown and nurtured, not necessarily something that I was just born with. Continue reading

Interview With Kathana- Born to Make Music!

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Your artist name- Kathana- is very unique. Where did it come from?

My mom originally wanted to name me Kathana because she wanted to honor my great-great grandmother Katherine and my grandmother Anna. My dad didn’t like Kathana as a name in everyday life. So I used it as a stage name instead.

That’s beautiful. From what I’ve read, you started music from a young age. Which instruments do you play?

I started singing at a very young age. My mom says I was singing ever since I could talk. I would go around the house singing “do do do do,” making up my own little melodies. I picked up the guitar and piano around the time I was in middle school, and just started playing by ear.

Wow! That’s amazing.  Do you have a favorite instrument?

Aside from my voice, it is hard to choose a favorite instrument. The piano is very calming to me and gives me a lot of creative freedom. It best allows me play what I’m feeling, and it’s therapeutic. With the acoustic guitar, overall, I just love the warm sound of it. I do a lot of my songwriting with the acoustic guitar.

How do songwriting classes help you?

They challenge me to approach songwriting from different ways that I had never previously thought about. I used to get stuck with writing songs when I didn’t have the inspiration first. My habit has always been to write a song in the very moment I found inspiration, which I still do. But now, I am able to write songs more consistently, using the tools I learned through class.

You are a beautiful songwriter.  Do you have a particular way you approach your own writing? For example, do you start with melody or lyrics first?  Or is your process of songwriting always different?

Kathana4.JPGMy songwriting method varies. Sometimes, I’ll hear a melody in my head, so I’ll record it on my phone and put words to it later. Other times, I’ll just think of, or say, a phrase and realize it would work well as a lyric so I’ll write it down. I’ve also stumbled across great sounding chord progressions when just freely playing on the piano, and decided to find lyrics to fit to them. Sometimes I’ll journal how I’m feeling, especially in very emotional situations, and then I’ll pick apart my journal entry to find lyrical content.

That’s a good reminder- that going through journals can be a great source of ideas.  I need to do that more often.

Some singer songwriters learn by trial and error, just going out there and doing shows and learning from gigs and other musicians around them. What do you think are the benefits of actually taking a full degree program in music as you are? How does this compare to what you learn from gigging?

I have definitely learned through trial and error and through gigging experience. Learning new cover songs for the different bands I’ve been in has taught me how to really listen to and analyze popular songs. Now I can quickly learn a new song and pick up on song structure patterns. Performing live has made me much more comfortable in front of an audience. I started out very shy on stage, and now, being on stage is where I feel the most comfortable.

In comparison, taking a full degree program has given me structure to actually do my musical work. Classes and assignments always give me deadlines to work within, so I’ve had to learn to prioritize and not be lazy. The information and feedback I receive from my teachers has become incredibly valuable. These are people who have been in the music business for a long time and have become very successful musicians themselves.

What are some of your favorite classes?

My favorite classes have been all of my songwriting classes and music therapy class. I’ve always been interested in how music heals and how the mind and body respond to music. So music therapy was a very exciting course.

Oh, that’s great to know that music therapy classes are offered as part of the program too. This sounds very in line with the healing aspect behind Dance Me Free.

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You have some great new music coming out. Where did some of the inspiration for the songs and their messages come from?

I’m so excited to finally have new music out that feels true to my style. A lot of inspiration came from my past experiences with relationships that were THE WORST. Haha. Yeah, they weren’t healthy.  But inspiration came from learning about myself in the process of it all too. They are really personal experiences to me, but my goal is to make them something that others who have gone through similar experiences can resonate with.

Of course it’s not all about negative topics, and I have some cutesy summer songs in the works as well.

Oh, I can’t wait to hear them!

What are some challenges you go through with songwriting that people might not realize is part of the process?

Since a lot of my songs are based on similar ideas, one of the difficulties I’ve noticed is making each one unique to itself. It takes a lot of energy to put myself back in those situations when I’m recording my vocal tracks, but it really helps to come across genuinely and convey my true emotions in the recordings. The entire process of putting these songs together feels like a journey for each song. Sometimes Chris Gruchacz- my producer- and I are in the studio all day and all night just working on tiny details. We’ve even started over from scratch on mixes of songs a few times. Other times it goes really fast because we start with a lot of ideas and are able to implement them right away.

You mentioned that Kathana is a collaboration between you and your producer Chris.  What do you think makes a good collaborative partner?

A big thing I’ve noticed about collaborating is that it’s important to be willing to listen to the other person’s ideas and not be so attached to your own so much sometimes.

I feel so lucky to work with Chris, who is very patient. I tend to be more hyper during the process, so I think we balance each other out.

Also, it’s pretty crucial to have the same taste in music. Chris and I have a few differences in our music preference, but they aren’t so different that we can’t learn from one another and come up with interesting idea combinations that complement each other.

What are the benefits of collaborating?

To me, in our situation, it feels easier to work with another artist because it takes some of the responsibility off of both of us. This is because we each have our own strengths and can help each other out.

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What advice would you give to those who are new to collaboration and aren’t sure what to expect?

Our advice for those who are new to collaboration is to be very open minded to new perspectives and suggestions. It is also important to understand that creativity can take a long time and a lot of revision.

Dance Me Free is about the power of Dance, Music and other Arts to inspire, free and heal.  How do you think music and the making of music has benefited your life? 

Music has always helped me cope with stressful situations and anxiety, whether listening to it or writing it. Dancing is also a huge passion of mine and it goes hand in hand with music. Dancing allows me to be in the moment and not overthink things. Music has benefited me by connecting me with a lot of different people.

It is so inspiring that you are one of those rare individuals who actually has the courage to pursue your passion for music.  

It makes me feel really good that I can inspire you. I also admire your passion for art and writing. So I’m honored as well to be featured on your blog. I definitely can’t imagine life without music. It’s the one thing I’ve always known I wanted to do, and I couldn’t see myself pursuing any other career.

It seems like something you were just meant to do, and I can’t wait to share your music with others. Where can people hear your music and find out more about you?

I post a lot of sneak peeks of my upcoming songs on my Insta story, so let’s be friends on Instagram and Facebook where you can keep up with my projects!

(Please click on the links below)

Instagram: @kathana.music
Facebook: Kathana
Spotify: Kathana
SoundCloud: Kathana
YouTube: Kathana

 

Interview With Nipa Rassam- Dance= Connection. Conversation. And it’s Contagious!

Nipa4What got you into dance?

I was always interested in dancing in general. And partner dancing came along for me about fifteen years ago.  A friend asked me to go to a salsa night. I had no idea what to expect.  We took the lesson. I thought it was pretty intense. I didn’t know what to do.  And after that, the floor opened up for social dancing.  I saw people were dancing together in a way that looked as if they already knew each other, like they were actually couples.  But then when they finished the dance, they said thank you and then went their separate ways.  And I thought how did that happen? How do they know how to dance with each other, without knowing each other? How do they know when to turn and what to do?  That was my first exposure to partner dancing. And so I wanted to learn. Continue reading

Interview With Vladimir Shmitsman- Part 1: Homeopathy recognizes the individual

“In homeopathy, the personality of the individual determines their prescription,.. because Homeopathy understands that every person is different.

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Dr Shmitsman

I think some people might be surprised that you began your medical career with more conventional medicine.  

Yes.  In the beginning, I was a nurse.

I like that your grandma was one of the first to plant a seed for you very early on in terms of natural medicine.  

Yes.  She used to take me with her when she would pick plants and berries in the forest.  She was around me until I was 16 or 17 years old.  So it was a fair amount of time that I spent with her. (For more details about this story, please visit Dina’s Homeopathic)

And you had other people along the way who opened your eyes up to homeopathy?

Yes. It wasn’t just my grandmother’s influence that made me make my change from conventional medicine to homeopathy.

I finished nursing school, and then I went to the military for two years. The doctor who I worked with there was Russian Japanese.  That was a third generation of people who used to practise acupuncture.

For the first time in my life, I saw someone using acupuncture.  This man was a doctor in a hospital, but almost every day, I saw him treating different guys in the military using acupuncture.  He practised acupuncture as he felt he needed. Continue reading

Dancing’s Appeal to the Senses- Interview With Danielle Felices

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I know you dance a few different styles of dance, but … is Zouk your favorite (smiles)? 

Oooh that is a loaded question! Currently, yes, Zouk is my favourite. I guess that is pretty clear to people who have met me. (smiles)

 What it is about Zouk that draws you to it?

When I think about what draws me to Zouk, I think first about what draws me to dance in general, and a few things come to mind. To me, dance is about passion, connection, emotion and technique. I was drawn to Zouk because it really resonated with me in those three areas which are important to me. I have found a new level of passion in myself and my dance through my journey so far in Zouk. I am passionate about the music, my personal development, the growth of the Zouk community, and I love learning more about myself and others through this dance. Continue reading

Choosing Music Over Meds

One man’s quest to retrain his brain- through movement and dance-to overcome a severe movement disorder. Federico Bitti suffers from dystonia, a disease that affects a person’s ability to control their muscles. He is using a new therapy involving neuroplasticity, and specific exercises to retrain the brain, which for Mr. Bitti, includes …DANCE!

It’s stories like these that keep Dance Me Free growing and remind me why the site was born in the first place. There is proof, all over the globe, of how Dance and Music really do heal. You’ve got to watch this one! Incredible! What an inspiration.

And Dance, you’ve done it again!

La Época Interview- Part 1

Josué JosephOn Faith, Music and Talent

Dance Me Free is all about the power of Dance- and the Arts – to move, inspire and heal. What an honour it is to feature an individual who understands and embodies this concept through a variety of artistic disciplines. Josué Joseph is an award- winning musician, composer, film producer, dancer and international instructor. He is an all around inspiration.  It has been a pleasure to get to know more about what drives this artist, and I am thrilled to be able to share his insights and passion for the arts in this in-depth, two-part interview.

Thank you, Josué, for your openness and authenticity. I am grateful to have met you and I know you will continue to inspire people wherever you go.  

(Click here to view the full Interview Introduction)

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Why the name La Época?

The idea came to me immediately after the death of Tito Puente.  I was talking to my father- Alfonso Panamá –who is a legendary bassist of the Palladium. After talking to him, and to Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz, Cachao (another famous bassist), and to some other well-known musicians and dancers, I noticed that no one else had created a film which put all of these legends together,  to document their legacies.  And my concept was different from other films that were done about the Palladium.  I didn’t want my film to be about the Palladium.  I wanted it to be about “the time” of the Palladium, and to allow people to see the musicians that supported the major orchestras.  For example, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz were in other films about the Palladium.  But Tito Puente and Celia Cruz were individuals, they weren’t an entire orchestra.  So who were the musicians who made these individuals?  That’s what I wanted to focus on.

Continue reading

Intro to Interview with Josué Joseph, La Época- Of the Time,… But Also Transcending Time

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No hay que llorar; el tiempo pasará, tú verás.

(There’s no reason to cry; the time will pass, you’ll see.)

Podrás abrasarme de nuevo, tú veras.

(You’ll be able to hug me again, you’ll see.)

Que no hay que llorar! Que conmigo estarás de nuevo!

(That there’s no reason to cry! That you’ll be with me, again!)

Que podrás adorarme de nuevo! Yo se que no me olvidarás!

(That you’ll be able to adore me, again! I know that you won’t forget me!)

Each of these lines is written across my hallway mirrors. The words are the lyrics to the song Verás, which I was introduced to in a live performance at the 1st Vancouver Mini Congress this fall. I don’t remember ever making it to the early parts of any dance congresses before. Yet, something that weekend compelled me show up early for a film being shown at the congress.

Continue reading

How Art Inspires Art- The Depths of Dance- by Linda Strathdee

DANCE1-INKOver a year ago, I had participated in a master class blues workshop in which each of us were critiqued individually about our dancing by both the instructors and the other participants.  We were then given tips on what improvements we could make and then were to dance in front of the audience again, this time keeping in mind these suggestions in order to see and feel how they could transform our dancing.

I learned so much from that workshop, but unexpectedly, one of the most memorable components of it was a dance by two student participants I had never met before- Patrick and Linda.  They didn’t do anything particularly fancy or flashy in their dance, but their connection to each other and the music was so sweet and heartfelt. Continue reading