Karjam Saeji

11th Annual World Traditional Album Nominee

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Record Label: Self-Released

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Home Base: Machu County (Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture) and Lopez Island, WA

Genre: Tibetan traditional folk music

Categories Entered: World Traditional Album

Work Submitted: 2011 CD “Tibet in my Heart”

Artists Featured: Karjam plays and sings on every track, in addition Waza Samkuchet, Ricardo Hambra, Yoon Jihee, Go Seokjin, Kim Yuna, Hilary Finchum-Sung and Philip Graulty have contributed musical or vocal tracks.

Label: Independent

URLs: www.karjamsaeji.com

Who are your influences? Dube, Sangnor and other great Tibetan musicians.

Describe your nominated work. This album is a raw combination of Karjam’s soaring vocals on traditional and new folk compositions backed up by acoustic instruments from around the world

Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording? The instruments include Dranyen, Ghatam, Tabla, Ukelele, Bouzouki, Haegeum, Ajaeng, Violin, Guitar, Bell, Janggu, Buk, Ggwaengwari, Jing and Shaker. The album is 100% acoustic.

Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned? When working with traditional musicians from another country who do not share the same language or musical background everything that sounds good is a happy accident.

How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses? A lot of the project was self-funded (all the recording costs) but we also used a kickstarter campaign to raise the money for mastering and printing the CDs. We have no expectations that we will recoup our out of pocket expenses—in this day and age it would be a recipe for frustration to think of music as a money maker.

Why did you choose to submit this work to The 11th IMAs? I hope more people can become aware of Tibetan traditional music. I’m passionate about it and want to share.

What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? To me success is being able to share what you enjoy, and I love music and my culture. In terms of Tibetan traditional music I also feel it is important to keep these styles alive—many young artists are attracted to non-Tibetan popular music and few people continue to add to the traditional artistic canon or re-record old classics. In addition there is a need for Tibetan language (Amdo language) materials in the world as globalization, economics, and politics continue to erode the linguistic security of the Amdo region. That’s why my 2011 release includes the complete Tibetan lyrics in the liner and also why I record songs like “Counting Song” and “Alphabet Song” that I hope will interest learners of Tibetan (whether they are Tibetans in the diaspora, Tibetans in Tibet, or non-Tibetan students of Amdo Tibetan).

How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals? I hope that through the IMA I can popularize a genre few Western people have been exposed to before. I don’t know much about the music business in America, but my music is heartfelt and I hope that if more people hear it, they will feel my sincerity. Perhaps raising my exposure in the US will be helpful when I plan my fall tour.

Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique? My fans are mostly other Amdo Tibetans, but I think that fans of acoustic folk music from around the world have responded well to my music. I guess my audience is mostly people with a deep knowledge of many genres of music.

What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour? I like an excuse to visit new restaurants—when I’m at home I usually just eat home-cooked meals.

Who are your musical heroes & influences? This is really hard to answer. There are so many amazing voices—whether Tibetan artists you may never have heard of before—or Western artists with great pipes. I’m sad that Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Andy Palacio will never record again, as they were such amazing performers. Honestly, though, my music comes from within. As a devout Buddhist and advocate for my culture, I listen to Buddhist teachings and my own heart when making artistic decisions.

Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why? Not that I can think of.

What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans? My wife plays a lot of K-pop (Korean pop) ~ it’s hard to avoid listening to it. She likes Brown Eyed Girls, 2NE1, Big Bang… you get the idea. It’s still not my favorite, though. I enjoy strong vocalists in almost any genre.

How do you discover new music? Do you buy music or are you content with streaming? I spend too much time clicking around Youtube. For new music in the house I get introduced to things by my father-in-law and my wife. I don’t usually buy very much music, but my wife is always buying new tracks or entire CDs. CDBaby is her candy store.

How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free? If fans continue to expect music to be free musicians won’t make a living; I think that’s already true. Don’t most musicians hold down other jobs part or all of the time? It’s sad, but artists are not well supported in the world.

What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today? I think fans don’t understand that if we don’t sell music we’ll be releasing a lot less music in the future.

Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future? I think EPs are the future. Next time I record a CD I’m not sure I’ll print very many at all. Recording just 4 or 5 songs will be cheaper, and basically just selling them online is the way to go. I’ll keep some EPs on hand for selling at live gigs, but digital is the future.

Finish this sentence: The music industry is… in denial.

What do you have in the works for the upcoming year? I’d like to tour this year—in the fall of 2012—but we’re still working it out.