Mzaza’s Savvy Seven

Mzaza

Mzaza (pronounced Em-zah-za) bring a sophisticated, sumptuous explosion of culture to the musical table. The band has been electrifying Australian audiences since 2014, having performed at festivals including Woodford Folk Festival, the Queensland Music Festival, and the National Folk Festival.

Mzaza’s multi-talented members play a diverse range of instruments – everything from the more traditional violin, guitar and double bass, to Persian spike fiddles, accordion, Balkan end blown flutes and Turkish hand percussion. Vocalist Pauline Moody sings in French, Spanish and Turkish, combining both traditional and contemporary vocal styles.

With a brand new album, Ghosts, under their belt, Mzaza’s new single Enfants Du Chemin (Children of the Road) is already a finalist in the Queensland Music Awards World Music Category 2015.

Though it’s a busy time for the band, we managed to catch up with them for some Savvy Seven tips…

1. The best live music venues in my area are…

The Hi Fi, because it gets the best acts in town, like Gogol Bordello and Grandmaster Flash. Mzaza played there as part of Karavan Gypsy Music Festival with Baro Banda and DJ Click. I really hope the Hi Fi can pull through their current difficulties and I urge everyone to go see lots of gigs: Deltron 3030 and Balkan Beat Box are some great shows they’ve got coming up. The Bearded Lady is my other fave spot in West End. It’s always full of friends when Mzaza play there, and there’s a wall between the bar area and the live music space, so the PA doesn’t have to be cranked.

2. The music scene in Brisbane is…

Rich. For years, a balmy climate and some very hospitable West End cafes and restaurants (including The Three Monkeys, Ekythump, Cafe Yalla, Caravanseria and The Wogs Club) fostered the ‘Waziz’ session. Since 1999, groups of 5-20 friends have met weekly to play Middle-Eastern and Balkan music on ud, ney, kaval, spike-fiddles of all descriptions, darabuka, bendir, gaida, violin, cello, zurna and the odd bassoon. From the weekly session developed many world music groups including, Mzaza and Trans-Balkan Express. An awesome documentary maker, Julie Romanuik, made a feature film called Waziz, and it was one of the top 10 films of BIFF when it came out.

3. My top tips for artists who self-manage is…

Don’t do it alone – have one or two others on the team. Use Google Docs for collaboration, Podio for project management, Dropbox for distributing charts and recordings to musicians, and Doodle for scheduling rehearsals.

4. In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is…

Cultural imperialism, and its impact on traditional music diversity. The prevalence of Western music and instruments in developing countries can have a devastating affect on the traditional music there. Keyboards and guitars don’t have the micro-tones of traditional music. Drum machines don’t have the complexities of local rhythms. I’m worried that the songs and beats will be forgotten. For me, the solution is to travel to somewhere where you like the traditional music and learn their tunes on their instruments.

5. When on the road, my favourite pit stops are…

Where the people are friendly. When I was in Istanbul for a couple of weeks with musician friends, we could have eaten at a different place each night, but we kept going back to a restaurant run by some very special brothers from the Karadeniz, and a borek joint run by a lovely Kurdish guy.

6. My biggest career mistake has been…

Saying ‘yes’ to too many offers to be in bands. I used to be in about seven bands, and I’ve weaned myself down to three.

7. My best advice for emerging artists is…

Even though I’ve cut down my band count, I still recommend collaborating with lots of musicians. While developing and launching Mzaza’s new album Ghosts, we collaborated with Rob Davidson, who arranged a traditional Ladino song for us (sung in Sephardic; quite a rare language, which is a mixture of Hebrew and Spanish). We also got to play with Linsey Pollak and his gaidanet, Andre Bonetti and his cimbalom, and Mike Taylor on ud. It’s all about seeking out new sounds constantly (and the sometimes unexpected by-product is new contacts and opportunities).

For more Mzaza, head on over to their Website, Facebook, YouTube Channel, or check out their new single Enfants Du Chemin.

 

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