Thursday, November 4, 2010

David Valentim & T(h)ree: A Chinese-Portuguese Cross-Cultural Musical Adventure

By Eric de Fontenay

In 2009, music producer David Valentim began producing the album T(h)ree, which brings together for the very first time modern musicians from Macau, Hong Kong and Portugal, in original and unique duets. The album was released in Hong Kong and Macau in May 2010, while David continued working on the release of the European edition.

David also organized the "Hong Kong Flash" and "Macau Flash" music events, in which many bands from the local underground musical scene performed to large audiences. Chochukmo, Hard Candy, Unixx, Wilson Tsang, False Alarm, Evade, Pixeltoy, Kun Chi Ching, S.T. and many others performed in those shows.

What was the inspiration for this cross-cultural musical project? And why the choice of Portugal?

I am a Portuguese that has been living the last years of his life between Portugal, Macau and Hong Kong. And just that fact gives you the whole answer. But to be clearer, I have been developing strong friendships with local bands since I arrived in Asia and I had the privilege to get deeper into their local musical scene.

I always found it unfortunate that none of them knew anything about the modern Portuguese music, which I consider one of the best in Europe nowadays. Adding to that fact, the Portuguese were one of the first westerners to reach Asia exactly 500 years ago. I think I had a whole set of good reasons to do something meaningful that could approach the two sides of the world. Music was the key to it.

As I had some experience in concert production, I decided to take it another step and produce a whole album with collaborations between Portuguese, Hong Kong and Macau musicians. Sounds natural, right?

This is the first T(h)ree album. Will there be future projects with other territories, and if so, any hints on which? How many are you planning on producing?

There will be other T(h)ree releases, for sure. I will be in charge of at least two more. The second volume is in production now, and the new territories will be revealed when the first songs come out. I can tell you that Portugal will be a common territory in all of these volumes, while the other two will continue to be located in Asia, but won't be repeated from one album to another. It will be a "Portuguese - Asian Musical Trilogy".

The album was created entirely via virtual "collaborations". Could you elaborate a little more on that process? How did this virtual collaborating as opposed to getting together in a studio affect the creative process and final product?

The concept of the album was that indeed: that musicians should only contact each others through internet. How did they manage to do it? Well, with lots of passion, I must say. You need to really love what you are doing to create something with a person that you have never seen or heard about before and still make it sound great and unique.

The process was complex in some cases, with a lot of demo sharing. In other cases, it was surprisingly simple: one part started the song and the other ended, in a very short period of time.

There was a lack of studio gathering effect, for sure. It was not the warmest way to play with a guest musician. But at the same time, it was also challenging, like being part of a game when you don’t know how it will finish. In the end, you feel that each side tried to surprise the other with their musical skills and vision, and the songs ended up being a peaceful clash between extremely talented musicians from different cultures.

I recognized some of my favorite HK artists on the compilation, including UNiXX and Elf Fatima. What was the artist selection process in China and Portugal?

The selection of the artists was according to five basic principles: Music quality, influence in their local musical scenes, innovation and capacity to work in a team. I said five, right? The last one is probably the most important: I needed to be a fan of their music. I wouldn’t have it any other way. They would never disappoint a fan.

Any plans to bring this project on the road? Maybe a China-Brazil-Portugal tour?

There were already three album release parties in Hong Kong and Macau, with more than fifteen performances. Right now I am preparing an album release party in Portugal as well, in which I will take some Chinese musicians to play together with their Portuguese musical partners. It will be the first time that they will meet face to face and I am sure they will all give very touching and memorable performances.

Regarding future events, well it would be great if it could happen but I don't think we can put this kind of show on the road. It would involve many musicians, with many "hard to match" schedules, a huge budget and a big team in the backstage to support the entire project.

You collaborated with Bloom Creative Network on this project. Could you tell me a little more about them?

Bloom Creative Network started as a bookstore in Macau and gained a new life last year with several cultural projects. I know how difficult it is to make something culturally professional in Macau and the people in charge of Bloom tried hard to do it. That is why I invited them to distribute the album T(h)ree under their label. I wanted to attract the public attention to their effort in creating an iconic cultural brand in Macau. The freshness of the T(h)ree project could have been the step they needed to solidify their position in Macau and help them give the first moves in Hong Kong as well.

Unfortunately, due to their lack of experience in the music business, Bloom didn't do a good job during the whole process of promotion and distribution, and the CD never had the impact that it should have had. It was a shameful wasted chance to create a strong partnership between two entities that wanted to raise the level of the cultural scene.

After that, I tried to look for an extremely professional and respected alternative label that could release and represent the album in Europe. Fortunately, the Portuguese label Cobra, owned by the seminal, highly influential band Mão Morta, became interested in the project and will release the European edition later this year, with a brand new package and some differences in the line up.

As a music producer, what projects are you working on now?

I am working on the release of the European edition of the album T(h)ree, plus producing the two album release parties that will take place in Lisbon on the 21st and 22nd of January 2011 at the Museu do Oriente. More than 10 Chinese and Portuguese performers will play in those shows.

I am also producing the second and third volumes, plus developing my own music.

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