Posted by Leo Messias on 12. Mar 2010
BEIJING, Mar 12 - If you've listened to music at all in the last 15 years, you know there have been three DJs putting out some of the best shit out there: DJ Shadow, DJ Krush and DJ Vadim. Between them, DJ Vadim stands as the skillful master of mood shifting, riding universal sounds throughout the world like a musical pioneer on a mission.
Partner in love and crime, Yarah Bravo, on the other hand, is nothing but the goddess of streetwise defiant intelligence ripping MCs, soundsystems and soulful hipsters' hearts apart in between every gorgeous breath she takes.
Together, they are bringing the Yugong Yishan house down this Saturday with their killer joint performance and unbeatable party flow. If you wanna start Spring with the good foot work, don't sleep on this one.
WLIB: When did you guys meet? Was it big-bang-pow-wow stars and explosions right from the start or did it take a while for you guys to decide that just music wasn't enough?
VADIM: Well, for me, it was fireworks and explosions from the first point we met. Music came later.
YARAH: There was definitely a special connection straight away, one that I've never had with another person...ever! We were extremely drawn to each other, and everything about each other was just so fresh. We built a bubble around us, which then became a musical bubble, and the bubble is still here....bubbling away!
WLIB: You live in England, the country of fish 'n chips. However, you guys have a very multicultural background (Russia, England, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Sweden, The States). Who wins on a kitchen fight over what dishes to make? What dishes you guys can't live without and why?
VADIM: Great question (laughs). We both love food and going to great restaurants. That's actually one of my few vices -- going to high-end restaurants. We both love cooking and I would say 9/10 times we cook as good, if not better, than most restaurants we go to on tour.
YARAH: We just love flavors, and also to cook for each other. If i'm all stressed out, Vadim will cook me a nice dinner. He did it last night actually, and brought it to me so I could eat it while working. And he was also working, so I sent him a message and told him, "This was better than any restaurant we've been to: You are by far the best chef I know!! :-)"
WLIB: How do you think each of you have influenced each other over the years?
VADIM: For me, Yarah influenced so many things consiously or subconsiously, like my style of dress. I think so much more about that than before: matching colors and photo shoots. Also about communicating with people. I have learned to be more patient and reflective. I also got into latin music because of Yarah. The whole South American thing. We also discovered a lot of things together, like cooking, traveling, loving...
YARAH: I think we have almost blended into one person (laughs). No, but Vadim keeps me on my toes while I help him relax. So it's a good team.
WLIB: What has changed since the last time you were in China?
VADIM: Well, I started to talk on the mic, as well as released a new album, U Can't Lurn Imaginashun. I also started a new group, The Electric, and recorded that album, as well as remixed loads of people and been around the world five times!
YARAH: I moved to Berlin; set fire to my flat on my birthday and then launched my solo show around Europe: The Good Girls Rarely Make History Show. It's me, a drummer, a DJ, a backup singer and flutist. All ladies! And it's the first time i've done something this big, where I'm 100% in charge. Creatively, I can get all my ideas out. It's an exciting time for me.
WLIB: Both of you wear so many hats it's nerve-wrecking just trying to keep up. Which do you think was the most unexpected turn your respective musical careers have taken so far and why?
VADIM: For me, it was getting and surviving cancer. It was a very dark chapter in my life, but one I wouldn't want to take away because I feel that post that, I am a happier and more loving person.
YARAH: Vadim's cancer was by far the most challenging and unexpected thing we've had to deal with. Anything else that might have seemed big before fades in comparison. Hat wise, I've always been a collector of hats, and I believe you can turn just an average-looking person into someone very interesting with the right one, or wrong hat too for that matter. I can't believe people who say they are not "brave" enough to wear a hat. I mean, what's the worst thing that can happen? It ain't gonna bite you! But who knows, you might get a look from a cute girl ..or guy!
WLIB: It's been a long road since your debut. Helping put instrumental hip-hop on the map, producing more abstract tunes, finely tuned hip hop, soul, latin, down through an amazing (mainly) reggae record and quite a few more electronic influences on the latest, U Cant Lurn Imaginashun. A rare crossover ability you have, indeed. Having said that, what seems obvious to me is that you make increasingly more accessible (i.e., pop), quality music. If so, is there a conscious effort in your part to make quality pop?
VADIM: I suppose I listen to music quite differently than I did 15 years ago. Now I think a lot about choruses, the song in general. Not that I'm trying to be 'pop," it's just that I'm trying to think of the complete song: the hook, the verse, the music, the bridge. I spend much time listening to The Beatles and Michael Jackson, studying their sound and what made them work. I think every artist wants to make something that is appreciated and stands the test of time. I don't want to just make some beats that sound like everybody else. I don't want to be somebody else's shadow: I want to create my own shadow that inspires people to create innovate and take things to a higher level.
WLIB: Do you think an artist's output generally gets diluted when they make that transition from more "underground" styles to music that can be potentially mass-marketed and consumed?
VADIM: It's hard to say. There are examples of both sides of the coin. In general, I would concur that to be in the 'pop charts' as a 'pop charts' band, you will have to compromise your sound. But saying that, there are many groups who have reached the pop charts who haven't compromised, like The Roots, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Angie Stone and Mary J. Blige.
WLIB: How do you see the incorporation of political-minded lyrics in your music?
VADIM: I'm all for awareness and activation, but that's not the only topic I want to talk about. I think I have a platform and its an opportunity to talk about poverty, starvation, corruption, racism, abuse of women, freedom of speech.
YARAH: I think music is definitely a tool for expression, and you can cover a lot of ground with it. I treat it as a diary: maybe one not everyone can relate to or understand, but it's my heart on a beat. There will always be references in my music that will be politically charged. Though maybe the song itself might not be a so called "political" song.
WLIB: You sing in your song "Freedom Fighters" that your (Brazilian or Chilean?) father was once executed, survived (!) and still has a bullet in his body to prove. Which is a true story. How do you think it shaped your character as a child growing up in Sweden having such an atypical background? (would you mind briefly telling us this fascinating story here?)
YARAH: Well, it took me about 10 years to write that song just because I felt I could never capture or give justice to how my parents story truly effected me. I know that I am extremely lucky to be alive, and to grow up in a society where I felt safe. This is not to be taken for granted when the majority of the world's population live below the poverty line.
Both of my parents had to spend time in jail because of their political beliefs, thanks to Amnesty International they are both alive today, and therefore I am alive, too. When there is a coup in your country, change of government, severe oppression of the middle and especially the lower class, you're trapped, you have no way out, no choice but to fight and try to stand up for your people, My parents survived, but many people "disappeared." And I meet youths at concerts around the world who share a similar story to mine: their parents were also exiled. They also grew up in a foreign country: some lost a lot of family. My story is not unique, which is what makes it so scary.
WLIB: As a great role model of female emancipation, what is your opinion regarding the state of hip hop music today? Any female figures influence your attitude specifically in that sense?
YARAH: When I was growing up, I ooked up to MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill. It only takes one girl to inspire many. One of the most beautiful things for me as an artist is when girls, especially younger girls, tell me that I inspired them to start rapping, or inspired them to make music. Or they see me on stage, and they feel proud and say "I can do this too." What more can I ask for? That's a planted seed for a future generation right there, and I ain't even old (laughs). I think too many women in hip hop either act like dudes or complete sluts. How about just being human? This music is for everybody. I'm very confident in my femininity, and I don't feel intimidated by other men in the business. I know what I bring to the table is unique.
VADIM: You've played with so many diverse sounds from around the world, what haven't you experimented with that you hope to incorporate into your music in the future?
VADIM: Well, it's not like like I have a road map of sounds. When I discover something I like, I use it but I may not be aware of it prior to that: Ilike to push myself.
WLIB: The Shelter (the club you guys played in Shanghai last year) just held China's first record digging fair with over 12,000 vinyls. China is known infamously as a country which lacks the musical culture associated with vinyls and record digging. Can you lay down some inspiring words about what record digging means to you for all the aspiring music makers in China?
VADIM: I love records and have very many at home: too many: 20,000. I love the smell of vinyl, the dusty covers, the graphics, the logos, the fashion, the design of the labels, the stories they tell... the shape. It's like mini pieces of art.
WLIB: Top on your to-do list in Shanghai this time round?
VADIM: Eat duck and drink tea!
YARAH: Try some exciting food!!
WLIB: What's on the cards next?
VADIM: More shows, new album - the electric and a holiday in Malaysia!
YARAH: China! Then we head off to a well deserved holiday in Malaysia!
WLIB: Complete the sentence: "Ten years from now, we will most likely be ..."
VADIM: Living in Bahia, Brazil.
YARAH: In Brazil, on a beach, surrounded by kids and drums....
Vadim and Bravo, Sat, Mar 13 at Yugong Yishan.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Roots ManuVaisse through Creative Commons.
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