KERANI
Small Treasures
(Kerani Music Production)

 

Holland-based keyboardist and composer Kerani is a true renaissance artist of the early 21st century instrumental music world. Having released five critically acclaimed albums since 2011, Kerani returns in 2018 with her sixth release, Small Treasures. There’s plenty of New Age instrumental music that tastefully blends in a European inspired musical style in the spirit of the iconic composers of centuries past, and played and recorded with sonic precision and wonderful intention. Free from electronic keyboards and synth backing, Small Treasures is mostly a fine showcase for Kerani’s exquisite grand piano skills. Small Treasures begins with a track called “Temple Of Roses”, a song that features a rare vocal performance from Chanele McGuinness, who also is featured adding spoken word poetry on the track “Celtic Mystery”. With elegant sound contributions from Arno Op den Camp, Small Treasures also features a number of guest artists, including flute maestro Ron Korb and Carla Maffioletti (guitar), along with several other musicians, with a high point being a full-bodied string quartet. Enhancing the musical majesty on Small Treasures are Kerani’s wonderful paintings, which are reproduced in the CD booklet along with excerpts from her favorite poetry. Commenting on the album in her memorable CD booklet liner notes, Kerani notes, “This time, I have chosen to write music that is closer to myself; music which describes memories and feelings that left an imprint on my heart forever.” An impressive follow-up to her 2017 album Stardust, 2018’s Small Treasures is overflowing with wondrous and majestic instrumental music that will impart an instant sense of sonic relief to the most seasoned 21st century New Age / Neoclassical music lover. www.kerani-official.com

 




mwe3.com presents
a new interview with

KERANI


mwe3
: Your 2017 album, Stardust had a kind of futuristic feeling with topics ranging from space exploration to the future. So does your 2018 album Small Treasures feel more like a trip into the past? I felt that some of the music on Small Treasures had karmic impressions about the past and your early years as a younger person in Belgium and also Hungary. How does the Small Treasures album relate to your times as a younger person and so, looking back years ago, was there less of a need to feature more electronic coloring of the music this time?

Kerani: Small Treasures is a journey into the past in many ways. There are at least five tracks on this album that take you back to certain moments in my youth which left emotional imprints that I have carried with me until this day.

I was born in Brussels, Belgium. I was 6 years old when I visited Hungary and met my grandparents for the first time. “Fields Of Hungary”, for instance, describes my wonderful memories of the many summer holidays that I used to spend with them as a child. I will never forget the unconditional love and warmth of my relatives and how they valued the simple things in life. I didn’t feel the need to add electronic sounds on Small Treasures. This album was supposed to be more intimate and more basic than Stardust, which was a sonic explosion. Small Treasures is a collage of sepia photographs, a collection of precious moments. Adding synths would have majorly distorted that image.

mwe3: Your paintings adorn the CD booklet which also features some of your favorite poems, perhaps to add additional colors and design to your music. Tell us about your paintings in the CD booklet. What came first in your history, music or painting and are the two art forms related on the Small Treasures CD?

Kerani: Music came first, but I have always loved visual art, as well as poetry. During the creation of Small Treasures, I wanted to bring this love of art to full expression, thereby highlighting another aspect of myself to my audience.

The different forms of art are all related on this album. “Garden Of Dreams” for instance, was inspired by a poem by Bliss Carman, who lived during the turn of the 19th/20th Century. During the process of creation, I applied certain musical elements of Claude Debussy in the song and visual elements of Claude Monet in the painting. Both men lived in the same period of time as Bliss Carman.

mwe3: Interesting you start off Small Treasures with a track called “Temple Of Roses” and the track features a rare vocal on a Kerani album, even though you have a kind of pop background yourself. So, how did you meet singer Chanele McGuinness and, also the song features lyrics by American poet Sara Teasdale who lived in both the 19th and early 20th century. Sadly Teasdale committee suicide and died young at 48. What about her poems fascinated you the most and can you compare “Temple Of Roses” with Teasdale’s other works? Also can you say something about your new video for “Temple Of Roses”?

Kerani: I was raised with classical and Hungarian traditional music. Pop and electronic were not part of my musical education until 1979 when I discovered the works of JM Jarre and his peers. “Temple Of Roses” started as a concept. I wanted to write a song with a simple melody, which was to evolve very slowly, unlike many of my other compositions. I wanted a female vocal to carry the song in a mysterious, subdued atmosphere. Before anything else I needed lyrics and, since I’m not a lyricist, I had to find inspiration elsewhere and that’s when I found the poetry of Sara Teasdale. I was immediately taken by her style and the way she was able to set a solemn, thoughtful mood. My inspiration for the melody came after the second reading. The tempo of her poems is very melodic. The most beautiful part of it all is that the song describes how beauty survives everything, even death.

I happened to find Chanele’s name in an Irish music magazine in which she was featured. When I heard her music on YouTube, I just knew that her voice would be perfect for “Temple Of Roses”. The video was made by my partner Arno Op den Camp and me. Chanele sent us the footage of her singing and we filmed and assembled the rest.

mwe3: On “Fields Of Hungary” you revisit your ancestral country. It’s a very karmic sounding track as it has a kind of Bach-inspired vibe to the melody. Kind of like revisiting somewhere else… Is that something that relates to your choosing the Johan Strauss Orchestra to back you throughout the album and how did you meet up with Andre Rieu and his orchestra?

Kerani: No one has ever compared my music to Bach’s. Thank you for that! Well, as Arno and I have a recording studio, we often work with musicians of André Rieu’s Orchestra. It was a practical choice to work with them on Small Treasures, really. But they were delighted to be part of this project. They created the perfect sound and atmosphere.

mwe3: What else can you tell us about Hungary? How would you compare living in Holland with life in Hungary? How has Hungary changed for you over the past decades and how would you compare Hungary with other Eastern European countries like Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic? Is the Hungarian culture and language much different from its neighbors and is Western music, pop, rock, New Age also popular in Hungary?

Kerani: Being surrounded by Slavic neighbours, Hungary is very much a country on its own, with its own culture, traditions and its very difficult language, which is remotely related to Finnish and which has been declared the most difficult language on earth. Hungarian grammar is unbelievably difficult as it has far more “cases” than Latin and just about everything is conjugated, including the adjectives, possessive pronouns, adverbs, etc.

Life in Hungary is a little bit slower than in Holland, especially in the countryside. Mind you, Budapest is a beautiful and vibrant metropolis, which offers a lot of business opportunities. Arts and culture come in many shapes and are present all over the city and beyond. With globalisation at its high, a lot of influences from the West have found their way to Hungary, including music. New Age is quite popular too. There are some very fine New Age musicians over there.

mwe3: “Sakura” is an interesting track. I was thinking the traditional “Sakura” from Japan but this track is a Kerani original with the same Japanese title. What does the Kusai poem featured on the page say to you and how did you find this poem as Kusai dates back to the 1300s? Do you have a following in Japan as well and have you performed in any of the Asian countries? Also the track features the great Ron Korb on Japanese flute. Do you feel with Ron’s Japanese bloodline he brings an air of authenticity to that track?

Kerani: “Sakura” is one of my favourite tracks on this album. I still don’t know how I was able to write this piece. It just came to me as if by magic. The intriguing aspect of Kusai’s poem is that it was written as a “renga”; a form of Japanese poetry. You should look at the two verses as separate, and try to form the mental bridge that connects them:

“On an unfamiliar path,
I seek a nearby lodging
Blossoms beckon me,

Maybe I have forgotten
Myself for my heart”


With his Japanese background, Ron Korb definitely brought authenticity to this track. Initially, I was afraid that he would refuse to play the flute, but I’m so grateful that he did! It was a delight to work with him. I’m not sure if I have any significant following in Japan or the rest of Asia, but that’s something definitely worth looking into in the near future.

mwe3: Irish poet Oscar Wilde is also paid a kind of musical homage with “Fantasy In White”. The song has such sadness reflected in the sparse piano melody. Do the painted flowers represent something else about Wilde’s life or career?

Kerani: I will let you in on a secret. Without “Fantasy in White”, there would be no Small Treasures, at least not in this form. Everything started with a painting that I had made for my daughter Debbie. She was moving apartments and I wanted to surprise her with some of my art. I started drawing these white fantasy flowers and when the painting was finished, a friend said that I should write a song about it. “Fantasy In White” came to life!

mwe3: Does “Celtic Mystery” reflect your love of Celtic and Irish mythology and lore? You seem particularly fascinated by Irish folk music and history. Where did you find the “Song Of Amhairghin” and are you very interested in Irish music history? I’m thinking some of your music is a kindred spirit to some of Eamonn Karran’s music. Are you friendly with Eamonn?

Kerani: Oh yes, absolutely! I love everything that is Celtic: the music, mythology, the legends, etc. The “Song Of Amhairghin” can be found on the internet; it is part of Irish mythology… and it’s quite a long story too! Eamonn and I have known each other since 2011. He’s a friend and a very talented colleague whose work I truly admire.

mwe3: “Garden Of Dreams” is one of the highlights of Small Treasures. It has a very old world melody. As you say it was partly inspired by your fondness for classical master Debussy, did you draw on your knowledge of classical masters in composing this melody? What fascinated you most about poet Bliss Carman? One thing that amazes me about the Small Treasures album is that it’s a virtual history lesson that combines music, art and poetry. How can you miss with such an expansive concept?

Kerani: As mentioned previously, “Garden Of Dreams” was inspired by a poem by Bliss Carman, who lived during the turn of the 19th / 20th century. In this composition, I applied some musical elements of Debussy and, in my painting, some visual elements of Claude Monet. All of this gives a total picture of the 'spirit' of that time. It’s certainly not my intention to teach art history with this album, but I do wish to paint the 'full picture' of the musical pieces, if you understand what I mean. It’s like serving a four-course meal with the knowledge that everyone has tasted and liked all the dishes and will leave the table with a feeling of satisfaction.

mwe3: Track seven “Where The Heart Belongs” was written by you when you were just 14. It’s amazing that you remembered the melody and everything. Did you always plan on recording it at some point and is Small Treasures the perfect way for you to revisit it? It’s amazing that you dedicate the track to your ancestors. What do you find most amazing about your ancestry and were there musicians in your family tree?

Kerani: I was too young to make any concrete plans at that age, but somehow I have always felt that one day in the future, I may record the pieces that I wrote back then. Ancestry and heritage are much more important than we think. Without our ancestors, we would not be here. It's thanks to their will to live, their strength and endurance that you and I are alive. Their blood runs in our veins and their history is encoded in our DNA.

I have been investigating my ancestry for a few years now and I’m starting to get a better picture of their fascinating stories. A large number of my Hungarian ancestors emigrated well before and around the year 1900 to Germany and Sweden. I have even found close relatives, second cousins in the U.S., who I’m regularly in touch with. I don’t know whether there are any musicians among them! Knowing the past does give me a better understanding of who I am. It explains why do things or act in a certain way.

mwe3: “Echo Of Our Souls” is inspired by the poet Kahlil Gibran. What interested you most about Gibran and does the music on this track relate some of Gibran’s work? The song is another great track and is one of the centerpiece tracks on Small Treasures. Also what can you add your painting with the red flowers adorns both “Where The Heart Belongs” and “Echo Of Our Souls”? Does this track have a kind of Vangelis sound? It’s very majestic sounding. How did you meet and bring guitarist Carla Maffioletti into the recording?

Kerani: Gibran was someone who contemplated life in an extraordinary fashion and possessed the rare talent of finding the right words to express his thoughts and feelings. “Echo Of Our Souls” is about two souls searching for each other. When they finally meet, they discover how similar they are and also how much they missed each other, although they had never met before. It’s as if they heard the echo of each other’s souls through space and time. This excerpt of “A Lover’s Call” evokes this theme perfectly:

Where are you now, my other self?
Are you awake in the silence of the night?

Let the clean breeze convey
to you my heart’s every beat and affection.”


The red poppies in my painting are being blown away by the wind. They symbolise the human souls which are being carried towards their destiny. “Echo Of Our Souls” somehow reminds people of Vangelis’ sound. Maybe it’s because of its majestic build-up and climax.

We have known Carla Maffioletti for many years. She’s a coloratura soprano by training and she used to be André Rieu’s star singer before she left for the Luzern Opera in Switzerland. She is also a very skilled classical guitarist. Her rendering of “Echo Of Our Souls” is really beautiful.

mwe3: “To The Heavens” was actually inspired by a poem written by your mother. You say you discovered the poems your mom wrote after she passed away in 2015. Did you know she wrote poetry? What else can you tell us about your mother as she came from Germany and did she encourage your musical career. You mention the Hungarian language title for the poem at the bottom of the page. Does it translate to the English title?

Kerani: Yes, I knew that my mother wrote poetry, but I never really paid attention to the real significance of her poems when I was young. She was born in Hungary to a German family of successful entrepreneurs; her mother tongue was German. During the Russian invasion, she left everything behind and fled to the West with only a small suitcase. She ended up in Belgium where she rebuilt her life from scratch. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been! But she was intelligent and very brave.

She was always proud of my musical abilities, but she never really encouraged me to pursue a musical career. That has always been a personal aspiration. The original Hungarian title of her poem is: “The Skyscraping Poplars”. I decided to call the song “To The Heavens”.

mwe3: “Reflections Of The Heart” is actually a newly re-orchestrated piece of music that you wrote for your first album. Was the original piece really 27 minutes long and why did you choose to revisit this melody and track at this time? It’s a brilliant and very reflective way to end the Small Treasures album as it has a vibe of watching and waiting for life to unfold as time progresses and it’s a good way to end fear of life as you say in your original notes. Do you draw upon music as a way to deal with the stresses in your own life? Watching and waiting, listening to the silence… tell us more insights into how you regenerate your creative flows while also dealing with the fears of life? Either way, the track is gorgeous and, also to note, it’s also the longest track on Small Treasures.

Kerani: My first album Wings Of Comfort (2011) was commissioned by a small Dutch New Age record label. They asked me to write music for yoga and meditation. I filled the CD with 3 long pieces, each of which were between 20 and 27 minutes long. I have always liked “Reflections”, so I decided to pick out the most beautiful part of this track and re-orchestrate it. I’m happy I did!

Fortunately, I no longer experience significant moments of stress in my life. But when I do, then I find that music is a very good source for healing and calming down my nerves. Over the years, I have also learned to create my own moments of silence in which I can re-center and re-align my thoughts. This way, I can also deal with possible fears, one of which is not being able to create new original music. But this fear dissipates each time I sit at my piano or keyboard.

mwe3: You have released a series of great albums so far. Do you feel the desire to get your finest music out in the future? Are you still fascinated by musical themes like space, and now with Small Treasures, the past and its impressions from our childhood and youth? Seems like with your active imagination and musical expertise, the sky is the limit.

Kerani: There are so many fascinating subjects that I could write music about. I am investigating a few possible and exciting paths at this moment, but no decision has been made yet. I will announce any new project in due course. People know where to find me. I am on Facebook and I also have a brand new, beautiful website that they can visit.



 

 
   
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