Monday, January 28, 2008

Sorry for the hiatus, I'm back

Hi, sorry for the long delay between entries, after the holiday season the staff of Concretebeat (me) had to focus on recouping money and therefore regular work. But I’m back in the swing of things now so don’t worry. If you’re wondering how you can help keep Concretebeat sustainable, though, feel free to click on the google ads which, while pathetic, at least help pay for tape.

Also, to try to make the documentary sustainable I’m planning to role out a website which will sell the music and the art on the site as well as make it easier to book people (yes, of course the artists get paid). This'll let people support the art they like as well as keep the site up and running. I’ll let you know when that plan comes to fruition. And, of course, for those philanthropists out there, I’ll be happy to accept donations. In a lesson learned from the New York streets “a quarter, a nickel, any amount helps.”

So keep checking in for that, some of the clean tracks I’ve been hearing from the musicians is really good stuff. Below is the latest installment on the ‘Beat – Sera, a living statue. Enjoy.

Living Statue: Sera

Sera standing still for a long time sped up and put to music

Sera standing still for a long time in real time

New Yorkers' reactions to a living statue

Interview with Sera

Artist: Sera
Medium: Living Statue
Location: Union Square on the 14th St. side

Sera is most definitely a real girl she just plays a fake one at work. Sera is a living statue and in a city where the abnormal is routinely unnoticed, she seems to have a special way of unsettling otherwise stalwart denizens.

Of course, standing on her pedestal, alone, at night Sera’s ghostly act can be imposing. And perhaps with all the art around the City people actually more expect a public statue than a human standing still. Whatever excuse you prefer, people found this living statue worth noting.

Sera, who was visiting from Boston, is a self-taught mime who was forced to make the transition to living statue from fire-eater after she learned the Boston police aren’t particularly keen on that act. “If you try to eat fire in public in Boston eight policemen will show up and take you down to the station in two minutes.”

Sera is very dedicated to street performance. Originally a Middle-Eastern style dancer, Sera traded dance lessons for fire-eating lessons. She then began performing on the street to keep up her pyrotechnic skills and eventually made the switch to living statue after her legal troubles. Now being a living statue is Sera’s passion. Street performance is how she earns the majority of her money and, in the summer, she routinely turns down gigs in favor of being in public. A living statue for two years and a fire eater for four, Sera describes her career as a fixation and spends countless hours thinking about new costumes and ideas. Currently she is involved in creating a heated stand for herself and is taking fire-eating lessons in the city. However, a large part of Sera’s love for her job is that she doesn’t think of it as a job. Instead, it’s her art form and her desire to express herself and make a statement is what keeps her braving the elements and the people.

In New York for a week, Sera says that she enjoyed her stay and that although the money in Boston is better, she would prefer to be around New Yorkers any day with the exception of the Times Square Police. “Boston, much better money because it has bigger tourist traps but I would rather be around New Yorkers any day…Bostonians are mean.”

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sanshin and vocals: Kossan

Kossan Playing

Kossan Playing

Interview with Kossan

Artist: Kossan
Medium: Sanshin and vocals
Location: Union Square on the mezzanine above the Q

His name is Kossan, he’s from Tokyo Japan, he’s a Zen Buddhist monk and he has come to the U.S. primarily to teach Buddhism to Americans. He doesn’t have a school, temple or monastery yet but he does have a small meditation group which meets once a week in New Jersey and he gives private lessons in his apartment in Manhattan.

Kossan’s story starts in a monastery, where his father is also a Zen monk. Although not initially interested in Zen, after studying for a few years Kossan developed a taste for the philosophy. During his eighth year of study, Kossan took a trip. Exhausted from schooling and fleeing the cold February weather of the northern islands, Kossan went to Okinawa. A fan of Okinawan music since he was young, Kossan bought a traditional Okinawan instrument and taught himself to play. Not long after, on the advice of his Zen teacher, Kossan came to New York to teach Buddhism.

Kossan plays the sanshin, an instrument which, long ago, made at least one joke on Frasier entirely over my head. Using the Sanshin, Kossan plays folk and traditional music from the Southern Japanese island of Okinawa. While famous in America as Mr. Miyagi’s home in the Karate Kid and one of the birth places of Japanese martial arts, Kossan describes the modern Okinawa as Japan’s Caribbean island – “nice weather, nice, uh, you know” *makes drinking motion* “kinds of drinks and laid back people. The food is good, the girls are pretty.”

Kossan sort of fell into subway performing. As a monk, he says he makes enough money to survive but it’s still difficult to get by in a place like New York. One day, though, he was practicing in Central Park on his Sanshin when “somebody put one dollar in front of me and” *snap* “maybe this is good idea!” After that flash of inspiration, Kossan started playing on streets and in the subway and, last year, auditioned for and acquired a space with MTA’s Music Under New York.

Kossan truly enjoys playing in the subway. Although grateful for the money, his true happiness is derived from playing for people of all different sorts and from all over the world. He is pleased to have the opportunity to share his culture and music with them while he practices a skill he loves. As such, Kossan loves New York for being a place which is so open to and respectful of other cultures and says that if he returned to Japan he would probably not play in public as Tokyo is “totally different.” Althoug he prefers busking, he also makes end’s meat by occasionally playing in clubs and bars.

Kossan has a simple message for the people of New York: “I wanna make you happy, please make me happy, let’s be happy together.”

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