Photo Credit: Haley Busch
Canadian producer Kora has gone from strength to strength since his emergence at the end of 2016, rising to the fore of the scene as a revered melody maker, beat merchant and now label head. The Montreal artist has become an experienced globetrotter too, touring the length and breadth of North America, while also touching down in the likes of Thailand, Lebanon and India as well as in European hotspots like Amsterdam, Paris, Mykonos, and Berlin.
We catch up with Kora in the middle of his latest European tour.
Electronic Groove: Welcome, Kora. Where in the world are you right now?
Kora: Hello there. I’m in London right now; heading to Berlin in a few hours. This weekend was my first time playing and visiting the United Kingdom, lovely experience!
EG: 2019 has been a superb year for you. Can you share some of your highlights?
Kora: 2019 has definitely been the craziest year of my life with plenty of positive changes. About a year ago, I made the decision to give up my apartment and car in order to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
My first Burning Man experience was quite a highlight as well. The discovery of new continents and over 20 new cities also, that is probably what I’m most excited about. The most valuable thing that those travels and experiences brought me are incredible friendships and creative relationships, on top of discovering new cultures that keep challenging my perspectives.
2019 has been a year of growth. Witnessing the strength of my parents overcoming health challenges was very inspiring and eye-opening for me. Now everyone is healthy again and full of energy, and I’m very grateful to have such incredible and supportive family and friends in this crazy lifestyle.
On the music side, the launch of my label Saisons has definitely opened the door to new creative possibilities and inspiration. Having my own platform to launch my art on, as well as the work of some of my closest friends and favorite artists has been an amazing experience.
EG: Your label Saisons is flourishing. What are the latest developments?
Kora: The family is growing! We just celebrated our 7th release with Salmo Salar by Gab Rhome & Evren Furtuna. We are very grateful, the response has been magical on our releases so far and we are having so much fun. I’m lucky enough to work with an incredible team and super talented artists. Our planning towards ecological initiatives is also going very well. I met incredible humans in the recent months that will help us pursue our mission on fighting climate change through music; we are also planning our first events series for 2020.
EG: What has been the biggest challenge for you as a label boss so far?
Kora: Probably saying “no” to amazing music demos. While I’d love to release all the great music we receive, we want to make sure we put full energy and creative effort into each release, which means we have to be highly selective with music and evolve our musical story accordingly. That being said, we love to hear new talent. It’s great to hear all the incredible music being made today and I love to connect with up and coming producers from all over the world.
“2019 has been a year of growth”
EG: The summer is a busy time on the road. What’s on the agenda?
Kora: It kicked off with three great gigs in Cesme, Odessa and Barcelona last week. More adventures on the radar with Istanbul and Zsámbék this week. Then on to Paris, London, Boom, Goch and Mykonos before heading back to North America for Montreal and New York.
EG: What is your process when you arrive in a new city?
Kora: I never make set plans, which is my favorite way to visit new places. I drop my things off in my room, take my camera and recorder, and go walk around to explore. Sometimes I meet locals who show me around and sometimes I wander on my own. If the logistics allow it, I arrive at least one day prior to the gig so I get some quality time to embrace the culture, as well as rest up to top off my energy for the set. I try to avoid touristy areas to discover local food and how people live, that’s what I’m really curious about.
EG: Can you share some lessons you’ve learned on the road in recent months?
Kora: 1. Always go with the flow & embrace change. Adaptability is the best tool. 2. Everyone you meet is there to teach you something. Listen, observe, be curious, kind, grateful and open. 3. Climate change can be felt all over the globe, in a very powerful way. We have to act fast, change our habits drastically, reduce our footprint as much as possible and take action. Every little step matters.
EG: You have a close relationship with India and have been recently returned from shows in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. What is it about this country that makes it such a unique place to tour?
Kora: India is so real, colorful, chaotic, alive, spicy and beautiful. The diversity is infinite, the quality of life is humbling, the history is mind-blowing, and the food is a voyage of flavors. The daily challenges most Indian families face just to survive and make it to the next day is glaring in comparison to the western cultures. To witness how the locals overcome these obstacles gives me an extra-large dose of gratitude. Some of us are luckier than others in the lottery of life, and this contrast is eye-opening. I always leave India humbled, inspired, and full of thoughts.
On the music side, Indian people are probably one of the best audiences out there. They love music so much! It truly comes from the heart and it’s very special to play for them. During my first visit there, I met a multi-talented singer and performer, Shri. We recorded some melodies and vocals back then in Hyderabad, and we are now finalizing our first collaboration that will see the light later this year on Saisons.
EG: Your collaboration ‘Toboggan’ with Gab Rhome was a standout track this year. You guys have been touring a little bit together also with great chemistry. How does your approach change when solo or when playing together?
Kora: Playing solo is more of a personal voyage, a deep connection with myself where there’s only one storyteller. When we play together, it’s more social, spontaneous & definitely less serious (laughs)! Our sets together are a blend of both of our personalities. We never know what the other will play so it’s a fun synergy to explore behind the decks. 4 hands & 2 pairs of ears can be pretty useful! It allows us to add a performance aspect to the sets – while one is blending songs and selecting the next record, the other can play percussions, add drum layers, or simply go get snacks so we can survive the extended sets until the morning!
EG: Will we see more music from yourself and Gab in the next 12 months?
Kora: Gab has been working very hard on his bagpipe solos. Hopefully, I can manage to record my tambourine loops in time so we can finish our album! Jokes aside, we already have a few sketches in the making & since we now share the same studio, it’s just a question of matching our schedules before we’ll be getting back in the studio soon for a follow up to ‘Toboggan’.
“Everyone you meet is there to teach you something. Listen, observe, be curious, kind, grateful and open”
EG: What has been your studio focus in recent weeks?
Kora: Finishing up my rework of Mercan Dede’s original song ‘Kapadokya’. I’ve also been working on wrapping up a couple of originals, which are all at something like 90% of completion. I will be able to road test them during the summer adventures and finish them up when I go back home!
EG: How was your production process change over the last 24 months?
Kora: It’s still very spontaneous, and I’m working with more of my own samples & field recordings. I started using a bit more hardware and also discovering the positive sides of making music on the go with a super minimal setup. With recent touring schedules getting busier, my time at home is more precious, and I value my studio sessions even more. The challenge is to not stress too much about not spending enough time in the studio before hitting the road again. You can’t rush the production process, even if you don’t have as much time as you’d like in the studio. It’s a learning curve, and I think the key is in planning the schedule accordingly.
EG: Can you share with us three up and coming artists that are impressing on your radar at the moment?
Kora: There is so much talent out there it’s incredible, very challenging to pick only 3! Madota, Esteble and Rasi Z.
EG: Lastly, will we see you at Burning Man this year?
Kora: YES! I’m lucky to say I’m going back to this crazy creative universe for the 2nd year! I will camp with a beautiful group of people at 1001 Nights. It’s a multicultural camp where out of approximately 100 people we are over 60 different nationalities. I have the honor to do the sound programming this year. We will include some ambient sounds, live musicians and a few groovy celebrations! For those who will be on the Playa, come visit us at 4.45 & E!