Imagine meeting the walking, talking embodiments of ancient, universal culture, with hands that have mastered the conductor’s baton and composer’s piano, the stringed instruments of Spain, Greece and Arabian culture, and the sounds of the Arhuaco nation.
Now imagine that you are in a comfortable meeting room in a nice hotel, and the easy laughter wrapping itself around chit-chat about football and podcasts.
All three are at the top of their musical field but are down-to-earth, amiable and truly fascinating. In our interview with them, recorded for our podcast, you will hear insights about the world of creation; the ancient and modern sounds of Flamenco; and, last but not least, how music can tell the stories of refugees, ourselves and bring us all back into a shared, communal space.
An Exclusive Interview with Snow Owl, El Amir & Gavin Greenaway in Three Parts
With the stage set, the magic began. Below, you’ll find snippets from the full interview.
As a pioneering, custom guitar playing bassist from Colombia, Juan Garcia-Herreros, or Snow Owl as he is commonly known, has quite the story to tell. Firstly, his name is derived from the culture of his nation – from the Arhuaco, an indigenous group from Colombia. The characteristics of this animal, with its keen eye-sight allowing it to peer into the darkness, represents the best of Juan’s music – every note is designed so that it can tell a story, so it can help someone.
In some of his live performances, Snow Owl is covered with blue paint. He is the personification of the Universe and, as such, he is forbidden from speaking. He finds this rather challenging because he’s naturally talkative and gregarious, but he does this because the leader of his nation asked him to help spread the culture of his people. Furthermore, he is forbidden from speaking because the Universe delivers a tailored message to each individual, one that every person must feel for themselves.
In our interview, Snow Owl also details how his fans, when confronted by the mute, inscrutable face of the Universe, often break down into tears. In our hectic world, we try to distract ourselves and only rarely are we confronted with our true selves.
As an interviewee, he waxes lyrical about colours, symbolism and the twin powers of nature and silence. For him, silence is a powerful force, and so too is nature. In Balada Para Mis Hijas, he inserted the sound of a Syrian waterfall. He joked about how people thought there was something wrong with the CD, but then we reflected on refugees, both musically and politically.
Listen to Snow Owl’s new single, The Horde, by following this link.
El Amir – otherwise known as Amir-John Haddad – was born in Germany to a Palestinian father and a Colombian mother. He has mastered the flamenco guitar, the Arabic oud, and the Greek bouzouki.
For this maestro, he sees the commonality between instruments and cultures after growing up in a household where he was exposed to an array of influences, starting from hearing Colombian folk in his mother’s womb to picking up his first guitar at the age of 8.
When he’s not strumming the iconic chords of Mission Impossible in The World of Hans Zimmer Orchestra, he finds time to illuminate interviews with his thoughts on how each person is an emotional being, one who feels and intuits a creation. Then, a person can look back and trace the evolution of a song or artwork.
We also hear about a nail care routine and climbing that metaphorical mountain!
Check out some of El Amir’s breathtaking music.
Gavin hails from England and is an accomplished conductor. He has worked closely with Hans Zimmer and he has also conducted the scores for Interstellar and Casino Royale.
For me, his involvement with these concerts, replete with an amazing orchestra and selected scenes projected onto a big screen, was truly fascinating. We were able to discuss how music can help bring us back into a communal space; staring at the silver screen, in the hooded reality of a cinema, makes the movie-going business a solitary one. However, at concerts like these, people clap wildly and feel the emotion of a scene together, as a shared, lived experience.
And in the current climate, where the arts are seen as defunct in comparison to the sciences, Gavin delivered a passionate defence of how music and culture are vital, and about how they can provide a viable career path.
On the podcast, you will also hear us delve into the mechanics of making music, how many modern musicians don’t know how to follow a conductor’s baton, and about how Gavin has moved from conductor to composer.
This is our favourite tune from Gavin’s new album, Woven.
A Thousand Thanks
As a half-Irish blog, we give the full 1,000 thanks as is common in Gaeilge, the Irish language.
All three were courteous, kind and equally wonderous as people and as performers. Also, many blessings must be sent to Monika Müller, Snow Owl’s publicist, and Elisabeth Vázquez, El Amir’s manager, as both were extremely helpful before and during the interview.
If you happen to be in Madrid, you can explore the Spanish capital with our nifty app.
Go raibh maith agat for reading our interview with Snow Owl, El Amir and Gavin Greenaway; we’ll do more interviews like this in the future!