Shakira & Jennifer Lopez shined bright at NFL Super Bowl 2020 in Miami

Feb. 3, 2020 –Shakira and Jennifer Lopez were hotter than the summer heat in Vegas at The NFL’s Super Bowl LIV Halftime show. The two Latinas made headlines today with their saucy, sexy and salacious performance at Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Florida. Normally, I would not pick two pop stars to write about in a punk, metal, rock n roll zine like Rank & Revue – but our Editor is a huge football fan – and I’m a Latina, Lebanese girl and an artist that’s a huge fan of these two ladies. For decades, I’ve been following Shakira and J.Lo’s careers and mimicking their moves when I dance. I was addicted to watching Jennifer Lopez’s music videos before school in 8th grade. [I also danced to Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill and Ace of Base in the mornings.]

At the end of the show, I really smiled from the heart when Shakira was in gold and J.Lo was wearing silver and they were holding hands, uplifting and complimenting each other, looking incredibly happy and vivacious. Clearly living out their dreams to the fullest. Silver and gold were colors of royalty, and I liked the way the girls ended the show together, hand in hand, rather than looking like a subtle competition for time and publicity. Each woman had their unique time to shine and relive the classic songs that made them famous. They showcased their unique dance styles. Then, the two sort of passed the baton onto a younger generation as Jennifer Lopez’s daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz, sang at the end whilst her mother danced and Shakira played the drums. There was a wide range of ages and generations performing on stage, which also made me happy: to see beauty thriving at any age and how all women can be beautiful and powerful, especially in numbers, no matter your age. [Beyonce does a good job of showcasing black girl magic when she performs in masses, too!] So often, society is so shallow and we idolize the youth like Greek gods and demonize women past a certain age. Seeing these women excelling and rocking it at ages 43 and 50 gives hope to all ladies that we aren’t just getting older, we’re getting better and stronger with age, like scotch. Although I doubt either of these women imbibe alcohol with abs like that. Dios mio!

Most of the coverage has been positive, but there has been quite the uproar amongst viewers and alike regarding their provocative dancing and clothing. First, some of those NFL cheerleaders are wearing uniforms with a lot less coverage and a lot more makeup than what Shakira and J.Lo had on. And I’ve seen some of the cheerleader’s dance routines, which can be pretty risqué, even at college games. Truly, I don’t know why anyone that’s seen an NFL game is shocked by what they saw at Super Bowl 2020. Do you have to like it? No. But please don’t act surprised that sexuality has made its way into men’s professional football. We aren’t at church. Plus, male artists have performed shirtless at the Super Bowl, so, why the inequality and scrutiny towards female artists? Secondly, the NFL asked two Latina entertainers to perform the show. They didn’t ask a balloon artist, a magician or a group of older jazz players in suits. They asked Shakira and Jennifer Lopez to perform. And these two ladies brought the live entertainment.

At our best, Latinas are a passionate, sexual, tantalizing and evocative group of females with mystical powers. No one should be surprised that two super stars like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira turned heads and seduced the crowd with their beauty, style, athleticism and artistic talent. The photo provided by Pepsi promoting the show was a bombshell of sex appeal, clearly letting the audience know: this will be provocative, times two.

Furthermore, belly dancing is hard. I would know because I am a belly dancer and have performed on stage at nightclubs. What Shakira is doing is hard work and it’s more than just a few sexy hip thrusts: she’s showcasing cultural art, dance and music. She’s isolating parts of her body and her muscles to move each part, one by one, sometimes in a fluid and constant motion. I remember years ago, one of my gay guy friends sent me a video of Shakira coming down the pole in her video “Rabiosa” with Pitbull and said “this reminds me of you”. An ex of mine, got jealous about it, which was absurd. True, the pole dancing by J.Lo in Super Bowl 2020 was pushing it a bit, considering kids were watching this event, but that is also an extremely difficult dance form that requires strength. It’s not just for strippers, pole dancing is a great core exercise and can really make someone feel sexy and empowered. Even if you pole dance in private at home.

Ultimately, no matter where you stand on sexuality, it shouldn’t be a shock, especially since J.Lo was nominated for an award for her role in the film “Hustlers”. Which featured a dance routine with her on the pole wearing not very much at all. Believe me when I say, she toned it down for the Super Bowl. Mind you, I did notice there was a lot of spread eagles and close-ups of intimate lady parts and was rather graphic. [Remember in the film “Chicago” when Catherine Zeta-Jones says she caught her husband and her sister doing the spread eagle?] Either way, while I did notice that Shakira and J.Lo’s dance routines and their performances were dripping with sexuality and perhaps many didn’t appreciate the sex factor. Again, why are so many people shocked? This isn’t anything new for either entertainer or The National Football League.

Today, my boyfriend was playing sports radio and three men were talking about the Super Bowl Halftime show. Listening to three straight Southern men talk about the performance was amusing, cringe worthy, depressing and cliché. I love men’s sports talk! But this was quite silly to waste this much air-time on gossip. Instead of talking about the costumes, hair and makeup and the fantastic dancing or their successful careers; the focus was on the women’s sexiness, appearances and their ages. The men talked about how Shakira had an outer belly button and normally that’s not sexy, but she pulled it off. One guy talked about how Jennifer was too old to be dancing like that, and so was Shakira. Other men defended the ladies right to entertain, which I appreciated. Although I did understand some concerns from one man, speaking as a parent, because little girls are looking up to these women and we’re already under so much pressure to be sex objects. Sadly, us ladies are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We get treated like sex objects no matter what. We are either too sexy, not sexy enough, too young or too old, too skinny or too fat. Too confident or too submissive. It’s always something. Aesthetically, we can’t please every man and it’s not our job to do so. It’s exhausting how women are always expected to smile and ‘be ladylike’ and never be too pushy or you’ll look like a bitch. It’s simply impossible for girls to please everyone. So, I think the message is clear and just like Rihanna and Madonna said, we should “shine bright like a diamond!” and be “unapologetically ourselves”. J.Lo and Shakira give so much back to the community, why didn’t the men talk about the fact Jennifer Lopez has an estimated net worth of $400 million and Shakira has an estimated net worth of $300 million. Hips don’t lie? How about numbers don’t lie. These women are two fiery powerhouses that know how to make money, create a brand and flourish in a man’s world.

The first thing I said to Steven Mark, my boyfriend, after we saw the Halftime show, “I loved their costumes! I want every single one for me!” Because anyone that adores fashion knows that J.Lo’s handmade Versace and Swarovski clothes were to die for! I wanted to do a photo shoot in it and I can just imagine all the people around the world about to mimic these iconic looks. Already, a local dance studio here in town is offering Super Bowl Half Time classes for dancers to replicate the routines. All in all, it was an unforgettable performance that reminded me of Las Vegas.

¡Gracias chicas! Your hard work has paid off. ¡Viva Latinas!

“There is a rose in Spanish Harlem
A red rose up in Spanish Harlem
It is a special one, it’s never seen the sun
It only comes out when the moon is on the run
And all the stars are gleaming
It’s growing in the street right up through the concrete
But soft and sweet and dreamin
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There is a rose in Spanish Harlem
A red rose up in Spanish Harlem
With eyes as black as coal
That look down in my soul
And starts a fire there
And then I lose control
I have to beg your pardon
. I’m going to pick that rose
And watch her as she grows in my garden.”

– Ben E. King

Note: This story was originally published in Rank & Revue, 2020 issue

Dale Watson sets the record straight

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

Rumors flew around Austin like a wildfire in high winds the last few weeks about Dale Watson leaving ATX for Memphis. And Watson is adamant to set the record straight after a recent interview gone askew. When I read his quote on social media to clarify the truth: I was relieved to read that Dale Watson will still be in Austin, Texas and Memphis, traveling the country, and the world, touring and playing music with His Lone Stars. So, rest easy, Texas, we haven’t lost one of most beloved musicians.

Dale Watson is a very well-known name in Texas, Tennessee and various parts of the world. Born in Alabama and raised in Pasadena, Texas — Watson moved to Austin in the early 1990’s and has made it his home ever since. Personally I’ve known of his name and heard about his music long before I ever saw him perform seeing as I’ve lived in ATX off-and-on since the 90’s. My Latina mother (and Texan) once told me that she had a crush on him back in the day and enjoys dancing to his country music. Even the legendary Willie Nelson spoke highly of Dale Watson and stated “I’m one of Dale’s biggest fans”.

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Watson has performed all over the world and is currently touring in Europe. However, in the near future he will be spending a little more time in Memphis and a little less time in Texas. Two homes, two cities he loves and still focused on sharing his music with his treasured fans around the world.

“O.K. friends , let me set the record straight, if you don’t mind. I love Austin. Austin is my home. I love Texas and will ALWAYS live in Texas. That said, I bought a house in Memphis as an investment and in the process fell in love with the town. It reminds me of Austin of the 80’s, the good and the bad. I play over 300 shows a year, meaning Austin and on the road world wide. To afford to live in Austin, I literally have to tour. As one guy posted I’m old and should retire, but I love what I do and quite honestly can’t afford retirement either. What musician can? These things are facts I’m volunteering now but I recently granted an interview locally. They had seen an article about my moving Ameripolitan Awards to Memphis and buying a house there. The interview was heavily edited. This happens often but the things left out were important to me. Things like, my love of Austin. My roots are in Texas and the fact that, at some point I will have to sell my house in Austin and move to the outskirts, but I will always have a house in Texas. I will hang on to being an Austinite as long as I can. Monday’s at the Continental Club, a Friday or Saturday at the Broken Spoke, and Chicken $#!+ Bingo at C’Boys on Sunday’s. As for the media, they suck. If any media repeats this post, then print the whole thing, because you suck at editing and paraphrasing. So, after all is said and done, I hope I see ya at my regular gigs in Austin friends. I hope you come to my AirBnb and recording studio in Memphis. And I hope you all vote when it comes to your mayor and city council. Peace.”    – Dale Watson

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Secretly when I read the media coverage Watson is referring to, it seemed to me that pieces were missing to the interview. To play thousands of shows in Texas, you must really love the city of Austin and The Lone Star State, therefore it struck me as odd to read a short story that Dale Watson was just going to up and leave TX without going into more details. True, the city is growing overcrowded and is becoming more expensive as the love for the almighty dollar bulldozes the love for local artists. But, thankfully the rumors weren’t true and we can look forward to many more Dale Watson shows. Also, I’ve visited Memphis a few times and I can definitely see the appeal. Memphis gives Texas a run for its money in regards to BBQ, live music and the beauty of the hill country.

Over the past 20 years, Austin has become attached to Dale Watson and His Lone Stars. I am certain many Texans all over the state will also be relieved to hear Watson is here for the long haul, even if we must share him with the city of Memphis, too. Stay tuned to his website and social media to find local shows in your area to support local artists and keep the art scene alive and well in ATX!

Screen-Shot-2018-03-11-at-7.59.45-PM-2 For more information please visit www.dalewatson.com.

Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, this Austin-based honky-tonker carries on in the tradition of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with his “Ameripolitan” brand of American roots music. Dubbed “the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin’, Lone Star beer drinkin’, honky-tonk hellraiser” by The Austin Chronicle, Watson sat in with Jimmy Kimmel’s house band as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) from SXSW 2015. He also emceed the first ever SXSW “Ameripolitan” showcase featuring the best of Honky-tonk, Outlaw Country, Rockabilly and Texas Swing music. Since the release of El Rancho Azul in 2013, Watson’s profile has risen considerably via appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), Austin City Limits and The Sun Sessions(PBS) and as a guest on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year. He also put his money where his heart is and took over ownership of two struggling Texas honky-tonks, the Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin (home of Chicken $#!+ Bingo) and The Big T Roadhouse in St. Hedwigs (outside San Antonio).  If not on the road, he and His Lone Stars perform at one of them each Sunday. Dale has flown the flag for classic honky-tonk for over two decades. He’s christened his brand of American roots “Ameripolitan” to differentiate it from current crop of Nashville-based pop country. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson may be the hardest working entertainer today and is rapidly approaching legendary status.  He is a country music maverick, a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters from the Lone Star State.”     http://www.dalewatson.com

Note: This story was originally published on Rank & Revue, SXSW 2018 issue

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

The magic of Euphoria Music Festival lingers

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The 2017 Euphoria Music Festival came to an end and yet the magical feeling of experiencing music with over 50,000 people in Austin, Texas lingers vividly in memory. I can still hear the crowd chanting at Chromeo, and I can relive the hypnotizing light show alongside Moby’s DJ set in my mind. Perhaps this is one of Euphoria’s most lovable and endearing traits: the music festival exerts a natural high of happiness and contentment that stays with you in silence even after it’s all over. For a few hours, everyone that passed the gates entered an intimate and intense world of music, dance, art installations and light shows. There were three stages on the map: Euphoria, Elements and the Dragonfly. The first two stages are the larger set-ups, but the Dragonfly stage is a beauty, waterfront to the Colorado River. A map of the grounds can be found on the official Euphoria app that was released in April. 

Upon entrance to Carson Creek Ranch, the eyes are filled with bold and bright colors, canopies, giant tents, kites, butterflies, swing sets, hammocks, bubbles and an artisans alley. The festival even has a volleyball court, wedding chapel and a giant Tree of Life. There is a sign below the Tree of Life that reads: Write down wishes, hopes, dreams, etc. and set ’em Free. It was very moving to see the thousands of notes left on the tree. Watching the festival with digital eyes that changed moods and colors as the sky shifted from day to night — at the Elements stage there was a steep, tall fox (or wolf) overlooking the crowd. Several times I got lost staring into its round eyes as the music played. 

Founded by Mitch Morales, the 2017 festival included headliners like Chromeo, Knife Party, Moby (DJ set), Oliver Heldens, Post Malone, The Disco Biscuits, Wiz Khalifa, Zeds Dead and many other artists; bringing the sum total of the line-up to 70. As the region’s largest independent music festival, Euphoria attracts over 50,000 fans each year, all while maintaining the qualities that land it on many annual Top 10 lists. Conveniently located just minutes from Downtown Austin, the multi-stage music and camping festival returned to Carson Creek Ranch on the banks of the Colorado River and offered world-class visuals, unique stage designs, artist workshops, interactive experiential installations, enhanced camping options and much more.”

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Euphoria showcases the professionalism, style and acute qualities equal to a global event like Austin City Limits, Burning Man or Lollapalooza. Festival goers can see the time, love and energy invested into the decoration and preparation for the festival. However, unlike the ACL Music Festival that draws 450,000 people—Euphoria is much smaller in attendance and exposure. This independent festival deep in the heart of Texas provides a more intimate experience. Using the power of music to bring everyone together, Euphoria is a festival made for the community. The Euphoria Music Festival feels personalized and charming. The size of Euphoria provides a natural, easy going way of drawing people together. Even if you are attending alone as a member of the Press, like me. That is one of the nice aspects of a festival is various walks of life coming together for the love of music. 

Ultimately, the magic of Euphoria re-awakened my love for music festivals. It brought back the fun and joy of a festival that I used to feel when I was younger. As a local Austinite, I’ve been blessed to attend live shows and music festivals since before I could drive a car. I was one of the lucky people from Austin to experience the live music scene before it morphed into what it’s become today. (True, the music scene has improved with better venues, more esteemed artists and a boost in the economy, but it also came at a cost for the locals.) Years ago I was so sentimental about live music, I saved all of my ticket stubs that are now in a box. Honestly I don’t know how many times I wore a costume or got dolled up for a live show, like the night when I was the absinthe fairy covered in metallic glitter with green wings for Galactic’s Halloween show at Stubb’s. Countless days and nights, my friends and I would gather in masses to rock out, dance and let loose. Alas, after too many festivals and concerts for my stamina-—after one too many expensive tickets, late nights that lead to hangovers and dating too many musicians—the magic began to fade out. Secretly I started to become a little jaded: been there, done that and bought many, many t-shirts. The thrill of live music had begun to alter from love to stress. My heart no longer felt that spark like it once did when I was younger and I really only attend concerts these days at specific venues and no more festivals. Fortunately, Euphoria brought that nostalgic, familiar adrenaline rush back into my heart and it reminded me why I used to love festivals so much. Euphoria made my heart feel lighter and made me feel younger. Frankly I did not know what to expect at Euphoria. And to much delight, Euphoria Music Festival captured the intimacy of the art scene that used to be in ATX. I hope as the festival grows more and more each year that Euphoria will never lose its unique charm.  

I highly encourage music enthusiasts to mark Euphoria Music Festival on their bucket list. A strong indicator as to whether or not a musical event was a success is greatly determined by if the audience transcended time. Meaning, while the band is playing, the DJ is spinning or the musicians are on stage, those in attendance lose track of time. We forget our worries, stresses and anxieties for a while. We are present in the moment and feeling alive in the rhythm of the music. Euphoria Music Festival can and will take you to a transcendental place. 

To view the 2017 recap videos or purchase official merchandise of Euphoria Music Festival please visit www.euphoriafest.com. #FindYourEuphoria

West Coast artist Raven Felix will perform at 2017 Euphoria Music Festival in Texas

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Raven Felix. Photography provided by 740 Project. 

Born in The Valley of Los Angeles, Raven Felix is an artist best known for her music and this year she will be performing at the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival held at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. A Latina from the West Coast, she began her exciting music career at a young age after being signed-on by Snoop Dogg at 18. Raven was discovered after posting music videos on World Star hip hop and that’s when Snoop Dogg took notice of her talent while he was in Amsterdam. Raven Felix is also a member of the entertainment company, Taylor Gang, as is Wiz Khalifa, and the two artists will both be performing (separately) at Euphoria Music Festival in Texas. Even more exciting for us all, even though this isn’t Raven’s first rodeo in the spotlight or on stage—it will be her first time to showcase her music in Texas. Ravens’s performance at Euphoria on Friday, April 7, 2017 marks Raven’s first ever show or festival held in Austin, Texas. 

Prior to my phone interview with Raven, I did not get to meet her in person. But through the photographs and music videos on social media: I noticed her strong voice, her dark brown hair that resembles silk, luminous skin, big brown eyes and how she always seems to have a chic manicure. Raven Felix is facing a successful future and a vivacious career in music, and she’s off to a great start. She is not only talented at rap and hip hop, modeling and music videos—Raven is also a writer and you can find some of her poetry online. Writing is something she has been doing since she was a child and holds very dear to her heart. 

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Photo of Raven Felix’s hands from her music video “6 in the Morning” feat. Snoog Dogg.

Nicolette Mallow: Here in Texas we have an area called The Valley near the border and it’s much different than LA. I heard on a radio interview with Power 106 that part of what motivates and inspires you to excel in your career is to pave the way and make a lane for younger girls, especially the young Latinas back home in The Valley… Giving back to the community is important and I am also a Latina. So I am curious to hear about The Valley and I was wondering if you’d tell me more about life in the valley for young girls?

Raven Felix: Everyone in The Valley is super close and it’s a tight-knit community. It also encompasses a large portion of the Hispanic/Latino population in LA. There is a lot of backyard parties and a lot of shows. It’s a really interesting place to be and I certainly grew up partying, too. A huge part of the culture in The Valley is community, art and entertainment. 

Nicolette: The music video for “Hit The Gas” with Snoop Dogg and Nef the Pharaoh looked like it was a lot of fun for the cast and crew to film… I also saw the video “6 In The Morning” … Will you tell me about how  you came to sign and work directly with Snoop Dogg after he found you on World Star at the age of 18?

Raven: It all happened fairly quick. I think I started putting out videos on World Star when I was 17. And when I was 18, he was in Amsterdam and saw me online and thought my tracks were dope and wanted to be involved. So, he found me and my people, and I feel very lucky. After that, all of a sudden we are making music a month or two later.

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Nicolette: What was it like touring with  with Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa during “The High Road” tour in 2016?

Raven: I think for me it’s just a blessing to even have these huge artists that are insanely talented as my friends and colleagues. They are monsters of artists with amazing careers and to be involved with me. It’s definitely cool. And we all bring different songs and styles to the mix. Tour was amazing in general. 

Nicolette: I read one of your poems on Instagram. And I liked your line in the track “Me” when you say “Tell ‘em kiss it like I was your Bible”… How long have you been writing?

Raven: Well I’ve been writing since I was a kid, really ever since I could write. I wrote. But I think middle school is when I really started being interested. I had notebooks in drawers and boxes of handwritten notes. I still really very much want to branch out into writing novels, poetry, screenplays and scripts. Poetry, for me, is something that is a completely different outlet than my music. I keep it separate and I think its something that relaxes me. If I am having a road block. I think poetry can be my outlet. Writing is important to me and I seek to become a multifaceted artist as I move forward in my career. I can do much more than rap and sing on stage, which is dope. Writing is just one of many things like modeling, acting and other art forms I would love to explore in the future. 

Nicolette: I read the interview with VIBE that stated your top female artists are Eve, Missy Elliot and Nicki Minaj.. I recall listening to “Love is Blind” a lot as a teenager, dancing to Missy Elliot in college and playing Nicki’s track “I Lied” a lot while I lived in Ireland… Will you share a little about how these artists inspired you and your musical craft?

Raven: Nicki Minaj is the biggest inspiration to me out of all three women. I am 21 and so when I was in high school. I think I was in 9th grade. I had a mixed tape of hers and it was so hard and so dope. I fell in love with her then because I had never really heard an artist like her during my era, growing up. I heard a lot of rock and alternative stuff as a child because of my mother. So when people turned me onto Nicki and opened up doors for me to discover others like Eve and Missy Elliot, it’s amazing to hear all these talented women.

Nicolette: I read Southern Comfort was your first drink. What’s your poison (choice of alcoholic beverage) these days?

Raven: I usually switch back and forth between Bombay and Hennessy. Wiz and them from Taylor gang really like gin. At first I hated gin, but like now I really enjoy it. 

Nicolette: So when you aren’t touring or traveling for work, which sounds like a lot of fun. What do you do for fun and leisure with such a lively schedule?

Raven: I love being able to travel and do all this stuff for work. But I was just in London for Christmas for leisure. Just for me. Just for fun. So yeah, I love to be on the road and being on tour, but when I get to be home. I spend a lot of time with my mom and it centers me and keeps me grounded. She is my best friend and spending time with her is important; being near my mother relaxes me. I also like to keep in touch and be around my west coast friends that I grew up with in The Valley. The ones that cared about me from the start. Because, often we got lost and lose track of time out on the road. Coming home, back to your roots, it’s important for my friends to know that I’m still the same person they always knew and loved—and they’re just as important to me as always. 

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To purchase tickets to the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival to hear Raven Felix and 70 other artists in Austin, Texas please visit www.euphoriafest.com

ill-ēsha: Canadian musician, producer, songwriter and vocalist will perform at 2017 Euphoria Music Festival in ATX

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Recently I had the pleasure to interview ill-ēsha. Music producer, vocalist, songwriter composer, DJ, musician and more; ill-ēsha radiates artistic talent and the more I read her artist’s bio. It was very clear what a vast range of art forms within various industries that her skills could be applied to. On April 9, 2017—ill-ēsha will be performing at the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. Euphoria Music Festival is showcasing over 70 artists this year and even though ill-ēsha has visited ATX many times for festivals like SXSW and feels at home in the capital of Texas. This will be her first show at Euphoria and Austinites are delighted. 

Formally known as Elysha Zaide and casually known as Elle, “Vancouver-born and Colorado-based music producer, artist and DJ ill-ēsha has crafted a long-standing soundscape of electronic bass music throughout her career, continuously evolving her musical stylings and bridging gaps between hip-hop, dubstep, R&B and future bass music. Ill-ēsha is recognized as an extremely rare and diverse, burgeoning artist in the EDM scene, as her live set showcases her incredible talent to sing, DJ, and simultaneously rock her keytar. She is one of few electronic artists to blossom throughout the progression of different musical trends while still focusing on her artistic vision and authenticity. Constantly evolving a dynamic stage show, ill-ēsha is a perfect example of electronic music’s transition towards live instrumentation and indie pop sensibility.”

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Nicolette Mallow: You have one of the most interesting music backgrounds out of all the composers I’ve interviewed. Your skills are so vast and you’re so musically gifted. A producer, DJ, vocalist, composer, songwriter and more. I loved reading your Bio… Did you always know you wanted to make music? Or did music and the arts choose you? 

ill-ēsha: I was always very drawn to many different forms of art. As much as I loved music. I was also into theater arts and that was a potential path for me. Even in high school when I was already DJ’ing, I also partook in a theater company and visual art. Performing arts was my artistic expression for a long time. But yes, I’ve had a tendency towards the arts since I was a kid. I was born into a  family with lots of artists. 

NM: I read you love classical, world jazz and cinematic music—and that you completed Royal Conservatory piano training. That program sounds so fancy and challenging. Is this where you began to learn music?

ill-ēsha: (she laughed) Well, it sounds fancier than it is. It’s just another method to learn music, like the Suziki method. Royal Conservatory is simply one of many systems similar to a competitive sport or grade levels. The more you learn and excel at each level you pass on to the next. My mother was passionate about piano and she always wanted to play. I began taking lessons at 4 years old. I continued to take piano classes until I was 12.

NM: You have a spectacular voice. I loved the demos, especially the animation video… How did all this begin? Can you tell me a little about Speech Level Singing?

ill-ēsha: Seth Riggs created Speech Level Singing (SLS) in the late 70’s. It was a school of thought to help train vocal muscles. Artists like Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin studied it. Since I am a self-taught vocalist after years and years of rigorous piano. In my 20’s I got into Speech Level Singing to learn how to control my breath better. SLS was sort of a style that purely worked out your vocal chords. It appealed to me because I am not jazz or an opera singer. I’m not an Ariana Grande or Celine Dion with a big, booming voice. I am a musician of all types, not just vocals. Once you have a voice: you go all directions developing it and SLS was a way of developing mine. 

NM: What did it feel like to place in the top 3 finalists for The John Lennon International Songwriting Contest?

ill-ēsha: That was a long time ago, but the coolest thing about that award is I was given a few hundred dollars and I used it to buy my first Serato. (A DJ program with turntables and a laptop.) Up until then everything was pure vinyl, so, thank you John Lennon Songwriting Contest for helping me buy my first Serato. But yeah, songwriting is something else that I do. My roots is songwriting. 

NM: What is the title of the lyrics you wrote and submitted for the contest?

ill-ēsha: “Broken Windows”. 

NM: Vancouver is your hometown and I hear it is beautiful. I hope to visit Canada next year. Now that you’re based in Colorado, do you feel like it reminds you of Canada in any way? I would imagine it’s easy to miss the seaport of Vancouver but the climate in CO perhaps reminds you of home?

ill-ēsha: It’s 50/50. I love the mountain life in Colorado. Before I moved here, I lived in San Francisco. Honestly I considered moving to Austin because I love it so much there, too, but I chose Colorado. 

NM: Speaking of Austin, how did you come to be involved with Euphoria Music Festival? And what can we expect to enjoy during your live set at the festival? 

ill-ēsha: ATX is one of those cities that’s been supporting me for a long time, all the way back to my tracks with Gravitas. Over time I’ve interacted with most of the promoters. I feel very lucky to have played at SXSW and so many other venues. Austin has become a home for me. Really I was torn between Denver and Austin. Ultimately, the weather in CO won me over. But I love Texas and I feel like its one of my strongest markets. It’s very cool to be involved with the music scene in Austin… Euphoria is one of the first festival types I’ve performed, and I will be sharing a lot of new content. Anyone who sees me, even old fans, will have something new to look forward to. Over the years I have evolved. Now that I make so much music in the last few years. What I’ve found is that I want to divide the sets I do and remain conscious of the environment. Live shows are compelling and people enjoy festivals. But for instance, nightclub people want the DJ energy. They want to dance and they want the drum and bass. The booth is tall and people can’t see me or my live set up, they just hear me and my music. However, festivals are more intimate with an open stage. There are more live elements, like my keytar. I’ve been taking a lot of time in the studio to write, collaborate and create new art to suit the time and place of each set. 

NM: Will you tell me about your transition from DJ to headlining performer and Producer? I liked your quote about wanting to participate in the music and not just the culture. 

ill-ēsha: I’m not much of a bystander. I enjoy art from being part of the process. I love film but I don’t actually sit around for long periods of time watching movies. I want to score and write for them. I wanted to be part of it. I started off with singing and DJ’ing. I wanted to control beats and make music. The deeper I got into it, the more deeply I realized I wanted to be part of production… About 10 years ago was sort of the turning point. All in all I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, since I was really young. The first ten years were very much passion projects and you could really tour and do live shows. I worked other jobs, too, and went to college. Touring and other jobs helped pay off student loans. Right around 2008 or 2009, I started feeling discontent. I was not feeling inspired. So I decided to go back to music as contractor and post-production for TV shows and editing. I regenerated and began making a new style of music. It was fun and different. It wasn’t simply drum and bass. At that point I just kind of discovered new people without the pressure. Re-inspired an online chat forum and people became receptive and started signing it. And that’s when I moved to SF and production became a full time priority… Ultimately my passion project and my true underlying goal is to give back and inspire young creative people. I was sort of an angsty teenager. Bummed out by life. Music saved me. Being a mentor, a guide and to give connections to the young artists and young creatives means a lot to me. 

NM: What was it like touring with Bassnectar? I adore his track “Butterfly” featuring Mimi Page and listen to it all the time. 

ill-ēsha: Touring with Bassnectar was pretty magical. I feel so lucky I got to experience that. It was only a few Southern tour dates and New Year’s Eve shows. I loved it though! Bassnectar is a big symbol of my music scene. Bassnectar created the west coast music sound within the DJ world. It was an honor to get to open for him. This is the guy who took it from A to Z.

NM: Last question, listening to your music on SoundCloud I heard a track called “Ghostwriter” with opening audio talking about computer hacking. Why did you choose to write about a computer hacker? 

ill-ēsha: In the 1990’s there was a children’s TV show called “Ghostwriter”. A lot of the samples in that track are from a single episode that I found to be cute. “Ghostwriter” was an educational kid’s show and that episode was about early internet. Teaching kids about hackers. At the time I was learning more about computers and I definitely enjoy digital nostalgia of different era’s because I’ve been through them all. As a child of cross generation analog and digital and I remember both… it’s always on my mind. 

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For more information about ill-ēsha:  please visit her website at www.ill-esha.com. To listen to samples of her music please visit ill-ēsha’s SoundCloud page at https://soundcloud.com/ill-esha

Crystal Mangano composed the score of documentary film “Asperger’s Are Us”

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Crystal Grooms Mangano is a composer that has created music for film and television, and her most recent project was for the documentary film “Asperger’s Are Us”. The film made its grande debut at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas. During this time: Netflix bought the global streaming rights to the documentary, “Asperger’s Are Us”.

To talk more about her musical background and composing the soundtrack for “Asperger’s Are Us”— Composer Crystal Grooms Mangano chatted on the phone with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow. The phone interview took place shortly after the end of the The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals 30th anniversary held in March 2016.

SXSW 2016 ran a synopsis of the film containing the following: “For the members of the comedy troupe “Asperger’s Are Us,” it’s easier to associate with a faceless audience than with their own families. No matter who the crowd, best friends Noah, New Michael, Jack and Ethan have one simple mantra: ‘We would much rather the audience appreciate us as comedians than people who have overcome adversity’. In this coming-of-age heartfelt documentary, this band of brothers finds themselves at a crossroad. With real life pulling them apart, they decide to plan one ambitious farewell show before they all go their separate ways. People with Asperger’s don’t deal well with uncertainty, and this is the most uncertain time in their lives.”

Nicolette Mallow: I read your biography about your compositions for film and television, but will you tell me the overview about how your journey as a musical composer unfolded?

Crystal Grooms Mangano: I began playing piano in the 1st grade. Then I added on the flute, the electric bass and I participated in as many music groups as I could while I was in school. Back then I started composing piano pieces. And I loved playing piano reductions of film scores, which I know frustrated my piano teacher. Like the time I brought a piano piece from “Seven Years in Tibet”. In college, I studied music and film together at Montana State University because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. Their dual degree program allowed me the freedom to learn both spectrum’s… I sort of created my own path by absorbing, learning and combining as much as I could from studying film and music. Practicing both at the same time. I met so many people in both departments. It gave me a great background into all aspects of filmmaking, editing, directing and music. Sort of like learning the ground base for what goes into making a film… When I got to LA, it was a big change and a bit of an adjustment. I was born in Casper, Wyoming and then moved to Montana. But I have grown to love Los Angeles. During the last four to five years is when I really started composing for film and television.

NM: Do you have a process when composing music for film and TV? Or does it alter depending on the project?

CGM: Yes, it depends on the project and the Director. A composer can come on at any point in the project. A composer can begin as early as the script, or as late as when the film is being edited at the end. I recently worked on a horror film and I read the script in advance and then submitted a demo to the Director while he was editing. And then once they were finished, I came back and created the complete score… During the making of “Asperger’s Are Us”—I came in close to the end when they were almost finished editing. I didn’t have much time to think about the music. Before writing anything down, I watched the film multiple times. Just because I really wanted to know as much about the story as I could, first. One of the first tracks I sent was “First Rehearsal” when the guys are looking for a place to rehearse. The scene shows their personalities and struggles; exterior influences. They so much want to focus on themselves and are having so much fun with it all. And I wanted to portray the spirit of their comedy troupe. They do it because they love it and their friendship becomes formed around this comedy troupe. But they don’t have a space so they keep getting kicked out of places and it’s not going smoothly. The score at times is a little off-kilter and a little unconventional as far as instrumentation. I wanted to show they’re having fun and that’s the point of what they’re doing.

NM: I listened to your tracks several times. The music is so playful, fun and it makes me want to go on a walk outside or take an adventure somewhere. There is something about the music that reminds me of youth and the playful mood of being young and free… Music is so powerful. When you’re creating music for a project, does it affect your mood? I would imagine the horror music was vastly different than this documentary.

CGM: Music is powerful and it does affect my mood. I really have to get into the same mindset as the music I am trying to write: anxious, happy, subdued. Whatever mood it may be, yes, it can be difficult because I really have to get into the film. “Asperger’s Are Us” was really light and cheerful as opposed to the darkness and eeriness of a horror film.

NM: I read that you run marathons… Does running help calm your mind and help you write?

CGM: Running clears my head. Running gives me space for my thoughts. First part of the run, I am thinking and stressing about projects. But once I get into the run, that space clears and I am able to enter a creative place. I come up with a lot of ideas and bring them into the studio after a run. The more you sit and work, the more you get where you don’t know if you’re having fresh ideas or not.

NM: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists entering the entertainment industry?

CGM: My advice would be that if you’re going to pursue something to remember why you want to do it. Always remember, never forget. For me, when I am getting upset or I am frustrated by the process of it all—whenever I feel burnt out or discouraged: I remember why I love this. I remember that it makes me happy and brings me joy. Keep that remembrance and the love of it all the focus if and when you get caught up in the politics of the industry. Don’t lose sight of why you want to be there. Always put that love and that positive energy into your work.

To read more about Crystal Grooms Mangano and her biography, please refer to her website at www.crystalmangano.com. Stay tuned for the film “Asperger’s Are Us” to appear on Netflix.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016.