SalaS – a craftsman married to the sounds that surrounded him all his life.

SalaS – a craftsman married to the sounds that surrounded him all his life.

Written on 03/03/2020
Kobus Kotze

SalaS is a hard-working musician who creates extremely diverse and unique music through trusting his own experiences and constant engagements with sound. He recently relocated from Hanoi to Berlin and hopes to carry on his ever developing and changing journey as an artist who defines his identity through sound. Kobus Kotze from DiscovrTV Hanoi recently asked him a few questions, read his inspiring answers here.

Do you remember how you started out as an artist and when did it begin?

Memory is a strange thing. We seem to remember certain moments so vividly in our lives. At the time it can seem arbitrary or simple, but later when we remember it and contextualize it, it seems to have so much more meaning. This was one of those moments that I later realized was much more than it seemed at the time, and that might be the reason I still remember it. I was around six years old and we were on a family holiday trip in Chile, my home country. I was sitting in the back car and were travelling far, from the North all the way to the South of Chile.

I was looking out the window daydreaming and started singing a melody by a famous Chilean band. It hit my parents right where it was supposed to, in the gut. I remember them looking at each other, exclaiming, “This kid is an artist, and he is going to remain one!” This of course is the way I would like to remember the first prediction regarding my future path.

Let me tell you about when I decided that I am and wanted to be an artist. It started with becoming aware of what the term artist meant to me as a person. Me and my high school friends were having passionate and very opinionated discussions about what it means to be an artist, as one does during that time. We were rebels and labeled the weird ass kids by others. We constantly questioned what society meant by the use of certain terms, as opposed to what they meant to us. Since society had a very set way of describing the term artist, and we decided that the label was too elevated, too ideological. Yes, we were constantly thinking about artistic projects, including film scripts, paintings and other forms of art but that didn’t mean we wanted to be seen as elevated artists. We wanted to be more bound to earth, more near what real people felt. It was a wonderful time of self-discovery and realization.

These ideas changed with time and I ended up going to University to study music composition. This was when other people started calling me an artist. I still prefer the term artisan of music, a term that more refers to being a music laborer, if that makes any sense to you.

I think I started being an artist when other people started considering me to be one, and not because I labeled myself as one. The label is the consequence of working, living, and being with music almost my whole life. I hope I still have many years to keep working on it.

Fast forward to your  new single - where did you compose it? Can you mention the producer or engineer you worked with? 

My new single is called I only know one thing. It is a live version of a song I composed while living in Hanoi. I believe that music should be honest and humble, especially when it is recorded live. The live single was produced by the team of DiscovrTV Hanoi and recorded by Ian Campbell and Tabitha Perez, two musicians I really respect. I did the final mix for it. I prefer to be a part of the whole recording process. The Discovr TV team has been producing many live sessions, including local and international musicians living in Hanoi. The have contributed a lot to the diffusion of our music, and it has helped the music community here a lot.

What is the single inspired by? What is the story behind it?

I only know one thing is about losing someone I loved and not really being completely sure why and how it happened. It all ended very dramatically. At the time of writing it, I was quite upset about it all. This song is about wanting to tell her that although things were confusing for both of us, we both learned from it, and therefore the future would show us a better path. If you listen to the song until the very end, you will discover where the name comes from. The only thing I know is that love can be dramatic and intense. This song reflects that. To me, it also serves as a reminder of how we can take the hardest times in our lives and channel them into writing and composing music.

Do you usually write about experiences like that or do you sometimes write spontaneously, and is there an underlying theme in your music?

Writing and composing music and lyrics for me usually starts out as a game. I try not to overthink it or plan it too much. I normally just tell myself, today I’m going to write a song. I play around with melodies, harmonies, and emotions. I experiment with the material and have fun with it, until that thing we call inspiration comes. I use this inspiration to feed the material I am busy playing around with. Like a kid does with toys, not really trying to do something specific, but just having fun with the idea of playing.

I believe that inspiration is nothing more than feeling comfortable with the things we do and say. Therefore, inspiration catches us while we are having fun composing or writing, hoping that something comes out of it. Something that we can share with others, all the while being aware that it is something we want to perpetuate in a piece of what we call art.  

Where was the new release written?  How does place and time influence you and your writing process?

As mentioned earlier, I wrote and composed I only know one thing while I was living in Hanoi, out of a very strong feeling of love I felt for someone. Hanoi provided me with so many feelings and so much time to think about myself, and that has undeniably had an influence on my music and lyrics. Nonetheless, I never forget the rhythms and harmonies I learned as a kid living in the north of Chile. Huaynos, sayas, taquiraris and tarkadas were running in the air from the mountains, passing through the desert, and eventually getting lost in the beach of a small town called Arica. I only know one thing has those rhythms which my hands can’t avoid. It is always present in my music.

Let me tell you something funny. These are not thoughts I discovered a long time ago. I think it was around 4 years ago, while in some bar in Melbourne, Australia that it happened. I went to the bathroom, a little bit drunk, and read all the scribbled messages on the bathroom wall. One of the messages has been staying with me ever since. The message read: Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Already Taken.

I am not completely sure if it originally was coined by Oscar Wilde, and I’m even less sure how many people have been touched by this dude that felt compelled to write it on a bathroom wall in some weird Australian bar. For me, it was both an eye and ear opener, and it plays a big role in how I perceive my music and its identity.  

Do you let yourself be influenced by music you listen to while writing and can you mention any musical influences? 

Not really. It has actually been a while since I sat down and properly listened to music. Sometimes I listen to classical music and folklore music from South America. When I was younger, I fell in love with so much music that all of those different genres are probably influencing what I am doing right now.  

Do you think there is a perfect time and place to listen to the single, does it lend itself to a particular listening experience?

Take a seat wherever you feel comfortable, be patient, get ready for the journey, and try to not judge me for what I say at the end of the song. That’s it!

What do you hope to inspire in people with your music?

I hope that people who listen to my music find elements that encourage them to not feel scared to try certain harmonies, or dissonances that might be a bit unusual. That's the message I implicitly receive with every single song or piece of music I really like. I think our path as musicians is to try new elements and to unlock more dissonances offered by the world of sound. To dig deeper, and find the hidden, secret sounds waiting for us to discover them. Don’t be scared to write slow music. I believe musicians are implicit teachers, who educate both audiences and future musicians about what to do with their own thoughts and music. We need to create examples of certain styles or genres which position music even farther out, suggesting new challenges in the craft. It is a good and exciting challenge.

Are you hoping to achieve a certain sound or theme on your new release or are there musical influences we should know of?

That’s a tough question since I listen to so many styles and genres, and even things you might not consider music. I admire and try to take something from all these listening experiences. If I have to name a few, I would say that some of the impressionist and contemporary composers in classical music, and all the Latino American Folklore stuff. Also some Jazz and Soul from North America. I love the electronic elements that are starting to appear in the music of European musicians. Gamelan and Suling from Indonesia also inspires me a lot, and then of course every single sound in a beautiful city called Hanoi, Vietnam.

What do you consider to be a success as an artist?

I don’t really know what to say regarding this. I think success or fame might be the consequence of putting a lot of work into whatever we do. Sometimes people recognize that and start calling you successful. I don't think a real music laborer cares about this. I care about my music and how it communicates with others.

If I would have to use the word success, I would use it to describe the privilege I have to be able to dedicate my life to whatever I love and want. My family has a lot to do with this.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of music? Anything else we should know about you?

Apart from music you ask? Well, what I really like to do is more music. After that, maybe a bit more music. I am always thinking about it, to the extent that it might be an obsession. Sometimes this scares me a little, but in the end, this is the path I’ve chosen. There is one more thing I like. That is talking about music to other people.

Photo by Victoria Siwik 

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