Below, you can read our interview with berekekê and listen to his album Historias de Nela (Nela´s stories). Check out our full music review of Historias de Nela (Nela´s stories) here.
Q: Great to be speaking with you, Jose! How has your Spanish heritage influenced your musical style and the way you approach composition?
A: A pleasure. Well, I am an artist who does not have a nationalist vision. In fact, my compositions have a wide radar that covers many cultures, perhaps the result of my interest in what was called world music or traditional music. It is true that on certain occasions there is a strong component of Spanish tradition, as is the case with Plateroideología (Plateroideology) 2006 or Asnografía (Donkeygraphy) 2009, but this is also due to the very context of the works.
Q: Could you describe your journey from your debut with MIRADORES in 2003 to your current release? What has changed and what has remained the same?
A: MIRADORES 2003 was an album without the intention of dedicating myself seriously to composition, it is an album with many influences and styles typical of beginning artists. The road has been long and generally I don’t like to repeat styles or ideas that have already been embodied in previous albums, which is why my work has a very diversified spectrum.
The conceptual style that imprints all my works that revolve around a specific theme and that began with Siete piezas chinas 2006 has remained.
They have changed the way of understanding composition, the arrangements, especially the result of my time at the Thinkspace Academy with important arrangers such as Charles Fernández, Nelson Milton among others, under the direction of Guy Michelmore, also from other academic fields such as Berklee or UNIR. At Berklee I had the opportunity to learn a lot about mastering with Einstamnn who was a sound engineer for artists like Depeche Mode to name a few.
The sound libraries have also made my job much easier.
Q: Your most recent album “Historias de Nela” is inspired by the novel “Marianela” by Benito Perez Galdos. Can you talk about the process of translating a novel into a musical album?
A: Well, that’s not really new in my compositional journey. Many of my albums or music are inspired by literature and this is due to my great love of reading since I was a child (devouring books).
Plateroideología 2006 is inspired by the novel Platero y yo by Juan Ramón Jiménez or El correo del zar 2020 in Miguel Strogoff by Jules Verne.
The novel is a great source of inspiration and focuses you on the work since it delimits the compositional field to an axis through which the entire work takes place. It is an interesting process of translating into music what someone wrote.
In fact, it is a process very similar to that followed by film score composers.
Q: How long did “Historias de Nela“ take to record? What was the process like?
A: I started working on Historias de Nela after my album De vuelta a casa 2022, which was published just on the last day of that year. Therefore, it took just three months of hard work to achieve this result. As I have already said, it is an almost methodical process, you simply have to follow the line that the novel, the characters, etc. mark, and shape them. Selecting the instruments or sounds that best suit and then the recording process is easy with current media (I have a home studio, I work in my DAW and I use professional audio software that makes the job much easier).
Q: You’ve made a statement about the music industry not recognizing many talented composers. How do you think the industry could better support artists like yourself?
A: Interesting question. I think that the music industry in general does not treat artists well (just look at the income generated by streaming platforms), but there is also a big problem with creators who are not dedicated to giving concerts and who also because of our musical interests we are not dedicated to what most of the music industry market sells, especially on the internet.
I don’t know, I think there is a lot of talent in this field that doesn’t have visibility. I listen to demos of sound libraries made by composers who work for these companies with great creative talent and who are genuinely unknown to the public.
It is true that consumers are also to blame for this.
Q: What was your first instrument? Do you still have/play it?
A: Yeah! I started in music playing the bandurria, a traditional string instrument similar to the six-course mandolin. This instrument, which I learned with maestro Pedro Álvarez Hidalgo, was the springboard for my studies at the Manuel de Falla Music Conservatory in Cádiz, Spain.
That instrument means a lot to me and I still keep it and play it. I did not have a good childhood due to illness and my peers made up for the lack of physical activity with music, something for which I will be eternally grateful.
In my album 9 momentos inolvidables + 1 sentimiento infantil 2016, which is an autobiographical work, there is a titled track: Bendita bandurria. Also, on the album De vuelta a casa 2.022 I mainly use this instrument as a reference (although it is recorded with a sound library mandolin).
Q: Perhaps in some unspecified amount of time, your musical career explodes in the best of ways. What does that look like for you?
A: It would be fantastic! but I don’t believe in utopias. In twenty years of music composition and many others as a musician, there has not been this leap or recognition. I doubt that by magic now it will happen.
Q: You get to collaborate with anyone of your choosing. Who is it?
A: Well, as a musician I’ve already collaborated often. I was an arranger for many pieces of local rock and pop bands to which I belonged, also for plays or as a companion to the Eurovision representative Eva Santamaría.
Q: Your favorite album of all time? (Yup, you gotta choose one.)
A: This is a very difficult question. I wouldn’t know how to answer. I consider Handel’s Rinaldo to be a masterpiece.
Q: Your favorite song of all time? (Again, only one!)
A: It’s just as hard, but I’m currently in love with the Pas de Deux from Act Two of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. This composition really excites me, it really has a great power to reach people’s sensibilities.
Q: What would you like fans to know about you that they’re most likely unaware of?
A: That I am a normal person (laughs). I am a fervent defender of Nature and the Rights of indigenous peoples and I make contributions to solidarity projects with my compositions.
Q: Any shout-outs you wanna make?
A: Especially to all those who have contributed to making me a better person and composer.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Yeah! I would like to encourage symphony orchestras to get out of their “concert program” and support new proposals like mine. The public and art will win. And thank you for the opportunity of this interview.
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