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“Spice Road” – the story, Part I

March 19, 2010 by · No comments

Yoni Vidal

“Spice Road” is a project made by two good friends: Anthony Jonathan Richter and me, Yoni Vidal. For us, life is music and music is passion…

Photo: Patricia Bouquillon

Our first meeting was in Singapore at Fabrice’s World Music bar in March 1998. Toni Richter was member of the club and a formal customer for two years. I was the lead guitar player of the Spanish band “MATADOR” which had been touring in the region for a few years. One day, playing the flamenco tune from Paco de Lucia “Entre dos agues,” I drew his attention. He asked to meet me and quickly we discovered that we had the same passion: music. Toni and I became very good friends.

Spice Road

In the summer of the same year we decided to go together on holiday across Spain. Toni was a Spanish history lover and I, as a Spaniard, knew my country quite well. For two weeks we travelled, visiting Castilla Leon and his rich historical roads and monuments, the caves in Atapuerta, “el camino de Santiago”, in Galicia – my own little village Mezquita, in Madrid – the Prado museum, the “corral de la Moreria” and his sensual flamenco show, Puerta del Sol, Cibeles, Toledo and his monuments, the Tajo and the old capital of Spain, Castilla-la Mancha across Don Quijote and Sancho Panza roads, the wind mills…

Photo: Patricia Bouquillon

My return to Belgium after so many years travelling was a mixture between the joy of coming back and the regret to see that part of my Asian life was going to be over after a phone call alerting me that my Asian company had collapsed.

I travelled so much those four years: Singapore, Jakarta, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Maldives, but also Mauritius, Gabon, Morocco, USA… I learned so many things, heard a lot of music, new instruments, new sounds, met so many people, lived so many adventures… I had to do something, I had to use all those memories, those stories, those countries, those situations, those feelings…I had to compose some music from all the things that inspired me, that I lived, that I felt…

A cd project was on my mind for a long time. I had to create music, where I would try to bring the atmosphere of all the cultures that I loved so much. For three months I lived like a recluse at my parents house, in a room transformed into a studio, with my ten guitars around me, my pictures, my memories just facing a music sheet, composing with the idea to do a record project which might be called “Eurasia”. I wanted to mix my Spanish guitar and influences with Asian instruments. Toni, who was in Singapore, and completely involved in the project, became my co-producer.

After spending a lot of time on the phone, we decided that each one of us would buy the same hard disc recording system. One would be in Europe, the other in Singapore and I’d travel with a memory disc from one point to the other with the datas. Miguel Augusto, my cousin and sound engineer, recommended me good microphones and showed me how to do a good take. I studied the manual of the VS 1680 from Roland for weeks. I learn also how to use a score editing program. All it all, it takes me around a month to be ready to start the recording. I started the demos.

Toni said that we should have a nice story on this cd. After checking, we noticed that the name “Eurasia” was already used by someone else. Toni, the genius, came with a brilliant idea. Knowing my music, my life, my trips and my passion for oriental and mid-oriental music we decided to call the CD “Spice Road”. The music and the arrangement should carry the listener to some of those great countries on this antique road.

First I did a cd with 6 tracks. I start recording the drums played by Victor Gonzalez in an old bunker from the army in Grevenbroich (Germany) that we transformed in a studio. In one afternoon it was done. After that, a lot of musicians helped me for the other instruments. I laid down my guitars on the tracks and the tunes start to show what they would look like… it was an exciting experience…

Sometimes, I dream music. In my dreams I hear the melody, the chords, and the arrangement. What is hard is to wake up in the middle of the night at 4 a.m to find my old “Panasonic” tape recorder. Two nights before bringing my tracks to my cousin to do a raff mix, I dreamed about Noor…Noor was a belly dancer from Egypt who I meet in Sri Lanka where both of us were part of a show. In my dream, she was dancing to beautiful “Hispano-Arabic” music.

The following morning I remembered it, so I programmed the backing and recorded in 3 hours the demo with parts of guitars and parts of midi files. This music was sounding good to me, so I added it to the others demos. Miguel mixed the six tracks and few weeks later, I was on my way to Singapore. Toni was very satisfied and happy with the demos. He likes the music a lot. We started to think how we could improve the tunes. I thought about bringing together five people. I just wanted to show the music to them and ask for their comments and suggestions.

The final word had been given by a musician and a friend, and probably one of the guitar players that I admire the most for his skill, his musicality, his kindness, and his humanity—Stephane Martini. When we went back to Brussels, Toni and I gave him the demos. 3 days after, he gave me his comments. He wrote 5 full pages of interesting comments about my harmony, my arrangements, and my sound, giving me interesting advise about how to improve the tunes, generously sharing his great knowledge about instrumental music.

Finally, I had everybody’s comments and started the “final work”.
In January 1999 I went to “Chapas studio” in Brussels. The owner, Javier Puertas, was with me in Asia as second guitar player in the Matador band. His studio was close to the Brussels south station “la gare du Midi”. The drums were recorded by Victor Gonzalez who played already in the demos and the bass was by Serge Dacosse. Two days after, a part of the bones of “Spice Road” were done.

The European part of the work was going well. For the following months, many musician friends helped me once again. Dino Palumbo and his magic “Rhodes piano”, Fabian Facci a synthesizer genius, an accordionist—the mystic percussionist Siavac, Fred Malempré at miscellaneous word percussions, the “Castañuelas from Emilio”, André Mewis at the keyboard and many more…

My second trip to Singapore was around mid November of the same year. While I was on the plane, it wasn’t yet clear to me how to use the traditional Asian instruments and blend them with the others in the context of the album. Also, I had to face another problem; I didn’t have enough music to achieve a complete album…

Toni’s “Trax Studio” is in the middle of the Singaporean’s Chinatown. 9b Pagoda Street to be exact. I was at the right place and at the right moment to get inspired by the typical Asian atmosphere! I stayed there for two and a half months.

My hotel -a nice little Chinese house- was only 200 meters from the offices of my artistic agency “Aria Artists International”. I was recording late at nights. Toni was there almost every night. He loved it. Outside, the tropical air was carrying to my window the smells of curry and chilly from the local food courts and incense from the Indian temple that was around the corner.

Singapore is a great city, very involved in its traditions but also as terribly modern as any other occidental big city. The most famous street is Orchard road…

Let me tell you the stories of my music.

to be continued

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