Archive for September, 2009

Chingis Khaany Magtaal

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

chingisskhanAfter the initial craziness of arriving in Ulaanbaatar doing TV and radio spots, making stands for taiko and carting our equipment all of the city we’ve settled into a little routine.  We rehearse during the evening while the days are relatively open.  Yesterday I tried to go to the national museum but it was closed because I didn’t realize it was Monday.  Still I had fun wandering around Ulaanbaatar.

The day before yesterday a Mongolian group called Boerte came to our rehearsal and performed for us.  They were amazing and inspiring!  They perform on a variety of traditional instruments and created the music for the Oscar nominated documentary The Story of the Weeping Camel.

Our own music is coming together nicely.  Yesterday Tetsuro and I learned a piece called “Chingis Khaany Magtaal” or “Ode to Chingis Khan” performed by our virtousic Morin Huur player Shinetsog.  This song has become one of my favorite pieces music and it’s going to be great to be able to perform it with such great musicians.  Today we had our first run through of the program and tomorrow we have our first concert in Ulaanbaatar!  More soon!

Ulaanbaatar part 1

Saturday, September 26th, 2009


kte_mnbshine_tetsuro_meWhat a great couple of days filled with new experiences.  From New York I boarded a plane with Kaoru and Teddy to Seoul where we met up with our Japanese musicians Miki Maruta and Tetsuro Naito then the five of us flew into Ulaanbaatar that night.  My first day in Mongolia was spent in a daze induced by the 10607 mile trip and the lack of espresso.  After months of skype sessions and emails it was great to finally meet our Mongolian hosts and musicians.  Teserendorj, Shinetsog and Khongorzul are all amazing musicians.  It’s one thing to hear them over a sporatic internet connection but to actually be in the same room and to hear their powerful voices has been amazing.  We’ve also been extremely well taken care of, our Mongolian hosts have gone out of their way to arrange transportation, translate and feed us. Tonight we were treated to dinner at a fantastic vegetarian restaurant courtesy of one of our translators Nominjin, who is an great singer in her own right.

Today we went to MNB the Mongolian National Broadcasting Network to tape what I though was going to be one short piece and an interview.  When we got there it ended up that the producers wanted a 20 minute performance and short interviews.   The taiko I was planning on using has been held up at customs so I only had one small (but mighty) taiko to improvise three impromptu pieces on.  In the afternoon we had another live radio interview with more improvised madness.

With any kind of cross cultural collaboration communication can be difficult and with three different languages it can be quite hilarious.  One of our translators speaks Mongolian and Japanese the others speak Mongolian and English we have one person who can translate between Japanese and English and then there is me who understands only enough Japanese to misunderstand a situation perfectly.  It’s so much easier to communicate through music.

Home owner

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

newhomeIt has been a crazy couple of weeks.  The biggest news for me is that I’m now a home owner!  My wife and I closed on our first house in the Mt. Washington area of Los Angeles a couple of days ago.  The house search was an all consuming process and I probably would’ve gone crazy or ended up settling for much less if it wasn’t for our realtor Marc Kondo.  Marc is like a walking encyclopedia of architecture and real estate in the Los Angeles area and he really took time to teach us about what to look for and helped us through every step of the way to find our perfect first home.  Thanks Marc!

After we closed we had four days to clean, move and paint before I left for Mongolia.  This is when it’s really great to have family around!  My brother-in-law and in-laws helped us move all of our large items in one day then we spent two days painting furiously.  Or I should say my in-laws spent two days painting furiously while I had one minor disaster after another.  One comic episode involved me cursing for dropping paint on the floor climbing down a ladder and stepping in the paint then bending down to wipe the paint off of my foot only to sit on the open paint can.  I also had no idea I could care so much about the infinite varieties of off-white.  I used to think white is you know white…  wrong.  There are zillions upon zillions of shades of off-white from bluish ones to yellowish ones to grayish ones with a touch of yellow with fanciful names like Canyon Cloud, Bleached Almond, Eggshell, and Clear Moon.  The seat of my shorts are now Apple Core colored.

In the middle of the move I boarded a plane for NY and am boarding a plane for Mongolia today.  Whew.  Much craziness and much to do when I return to Los Angeles but for the next month I’ll be in Mongolia and the East Coast as part of the Khoomei-Taiko Ensemble.  The next post will be from Mongolia!

HOW Promotion Design Awards

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Ume in the Middle is being featured in the latest issue of HOW Magazine.  It won a merit award in HOW’s 2009 Promotion Design Competition and is featured in their current issue.  We’d like to thank Josh and Max at Chen Design Associates for their great design work on the album.  They were fantastic to work with and their design of the CD packaging really added to the whole project.

Yukai Daiko’s Taiko Camp

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Kris and I both taught workshops this past weekend in UCLA at Yukai Daiko’s Taiko Camp.  Every year, before the school year starts, Yukai holds a taiko camp to which Kris and I both taught at last year as well.  This year, I did one of my newer workshops called “How to Kiai Confidently While Playing Taiko”.  Kiai are hard because it’s another thing added to the form of Taiko.  You’ve got your stance, you’ve got your beats, you’ve got your movements, and then your kiai or vocal shouts.  It was fun, but my voice was all tired from the day before at Chico!  I was very impressed with Yukai this past year and I’m excited to see their advancements this year.  Special thanks to Jessica and Isabella for organizing everything and to Danny for the following picture.Yukai09

Chico World Music Festival 09 wrap-up

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Maz, Kelvin, and I have just returned from performing two sets at the Chico World Music Festival. We had a great time! Just like the Grass Valley festival, also organized by the great Dan DeWayne, the staff is amazingly helpful and courteous and the festival attendees are enthusiastic and friendly. See what I mean?!

(Sorry about the ridiculously shaky video!)

Calling all Dawns

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

I’ve been waiting for this for a while, Christopher Tin’s debut album Callings all Dawns is now on presale!  The album’s official release date is Oct 1st and those who order now will receive an autographed hard copy and a complimentary digital download of the full album.

Calling All Dawns was recorded at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Performers on the album include the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, Grammy-nominated opera singer Frederica von Stade, Portuguese fado sensation Dulce Pontes, early-music quartet Anonymous 4, and Iranian singer Sussan Deyhim among many others.  Calling all Dawns was recorded and mixed by three-time Grammy-winning engineer John Kurlander.

Calling All Dawns consists of twelve songs in twelve different languages and opens with “Baba Yetu” the theme song for Civilization IV that won Chris the 2007 GANG Awards for Best Original Vocal Song and Rookie of the Year. Kris, Maz and I recorded taiko and percussion parts for the Japanese song “Mado Kara Mieru” and I programmed an electronic drum machine track for the French song “Rassemblons-Nous”.

I’ve had a chance to hear this album at different points of its’ development and it’s fantastic.  Chris’ talent for great melodies and orchestration and his ability to weave influences from around the world into his work really set him apart.  This album is a powerful artistic statement from a great composer with a unique point of view and full of great performances, what more could you want?

Meet Sam

Friday, September 11th, 2009

samfishkame_drawingThis is Sam, he’s a puppet maker, illustrator, animator and director of our first music video!  Music video is really too small of a title for what Sam is putting together.  His vision for the short film is quite epic and the entire endeavor is being produced by Heather Henson for her Handmade Puppet Dreams Film Festival.

On Tuesday I visited Sam while at Chiodo Bros studio to get a glimpse of what he’s been working on.  Ayumi and Brent took these great pictures and will be documenting the process.

There is something about puppets that is magical.  They are some of our first friends with names like Oscar, Cookie and my personal favorite Grover (let’s face it Elmo is just a wanna be Grover).  Recently my interest in puppets has been rekindled through being exposed to the great puppet theater traditions of Java and Bali.  What struck me was how easily I am transported to another fantastic world by the puppets.

I had a similar experience the first time I met Sam.  He was working with Tri-Pi Theater on a table top bunraku production called The Fox Lantern.  It was a really amazing production using very simple yet imaginative set pieces to create a completely engrossing experience.  The puppets were really beautifully made and I was amazed at how much the puppets were able to emote.  Their faces had such an expressive quality to them that you were able to read almost any emotion in them.

After our first meeting we kept in touch and talked about how fun it would be to do something together.  I knew he’d be great to work with after I sent him a copy of Ume In the Middle and and he sent back two or three video ideas per song in a matter of days.  The ideas were very imaginative and it was hard to narrow it down to just one but eventually we settled on “Yamasong”.

More to come later!

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