Name: Savana Funk
Members: Aldo Betto, Blake C.S. Franchetto, Youssef Ait Bouazza, Nicola Peruch
Occupation: Guitar player (Aldo Betto), Bassist (Blake C.S. Franchetto), Drummer (Youssef Ait Bouazza), Keyboarder (Nicola Peruch)
Nationality: Italian (Aldo Betto, Nicola Peruch, Blake C.S. Franchetto), Moroccan (Youssef Ait Bouazza)
Current release: Savana Funk have just released their new full-length album Tindouf via Garrincha Go Go.
Recommendations: We highly recommend an album by Alifarka Tourè and Ry Cooder entitled “Talking Timbuktu”, a work which is symbolic of the cross-pollination that Africa and America have had in music.
We also suggest a book entitled “Monte Analogo” by Renee Daumal, a book which inspired the title of our first album MUSICA ANALOGA. The cover of this album is an amazing work by the wrist Serse Roma whom we highly recommend. We are honoured to have him as a friend, and his works are quite spectacular.
If you enjoyed reading this interview with Savana Funk, visit them on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud or bandcamp for current updates, music and more information.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
The three of us (Aldo, Blake & Youssef) started writing music together in 2015 within only a few month of our first encounter, and in 2018 we added Nicola Peruch to the creative process.
Each one of us of course has his own story and path in music, but we have many things in common. We love the blues, soul, African music ranging from Alifarka Tourè to Ebo Taylor, but also the British rock of Cream.
In general we love music that is true to the soul element, music that digs deep.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
All musicians starts off emulating someone they like. Guitarists may look to Santana, Hendrix, Clapton, Jim Hall etc. and after a while the different elements that you picked out start to merge into one, almost subconsciously. This is from an individual perspective.
From a band perspective it’s different, but the conditio sine qua non of honing in on a group sound is that its members have an individual identity first of all.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
As a band, we feel that with our latest album TINDOUF (released this year with record label Garrincha GoGo) really captures the concept and identity of Savana Funk.
This doesn’t imply that we didn’t have an identity before. Since our very first album MUSICA ANALOGA we understood what work worked best for us as a band from a musical perspective. But now we are fully aware of what is specific to us, we now know which path is our path. It must be said that writing four albums together and touring intensely has helped us greatly in this process.
Finding your own identity is, for us at least, one of the most important things to find, in life and in music.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The creative process is always a challenge. There are moments where apparently you don’t have any worthwhile ideas, other moments in which you rush to the nearest recorder or cell phone to record a musical idea that suddenly springs to mind. On the first album most of the tracks had been previously composed by Aldo (guitarist), from the second album onwards it has always been a collective effort.
The two elements that we value most are melody & groove, and assembling these two into a song format ... we are very meticulous when it comes to this creative phase. The real challenge is composing instrumental music with structure, and not surrendering to the easy solution of jams, which are ok, but not all of the time. Unless of course if you are The Grateful Dead. In which case, jam all you like.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
We started off with the concept of playing, instruments in hand, no tricks or gimmicks. A true live band where every note and hit is played. Guitar, bass and drums, full stop. Over time we added some effects pedals, Nicola Peruch with his incredible sound design and synth layerings, but the “song remains the same”. On this latest album TINDOUF we chose analog recording to further emphasize this live playing element to our music.
Another thing that is common to all of us, is that we learnt with the instruments that we had, developing an osmotic process of mutual influence with our instruments.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Our first 3 albums (MUSICA ANALOGA, SAVANA FUNK, BRING IN THE NEW) were record with an analog-digital format. The almost totally analog approach of our latest album meant that takes couldn’t be adjusted or had to been redone completely. Therefore you have a different awareness and (pleasant) tension to your playing. This is what you hear in many artists, from Pat Metheny to The Doors. In our case, it was exactly what we were looking for.
Aldo: I would add that the wah wah pedal is something that immediately clicked for me, from the first time I tried it, and this influenced greatly my approach to soloing in certain styles.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
We like to keep all doors open when it comes to learning from or interacting with others around us. Each person you encounter has something new for you to learn from. Over the years we have hosted various jam sessions in our hometown of Bologna (Italy) which has allowed us to keep in contact with our colleagues.
When we are in the recording studio, if we develop a track and feel that a specific musician would fit well on it, we might send the audio file to them and they might record from home. This was the case with Gianluca Petrella, Piero Bittolo Bon on “Calais Blues”, Nicola Perch on our first albums, etc. But overall we like playing with our guests in real time, or even composing together, as was the case with the tracks that we laid down in the studio together with Chris Costa on our album Bring In The New. Whatever is best for the music is what will dictate the choices we make, ultimately.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
As musicians and artists, routines are not something that comes spontaneous to us. We constantly are on the move, on tour, the in the studio ... the only common thread to our days is that at some point we will be eating, playing or traveling! Having said that, each one has different habits. Aldo is an avid reader, Blake (bass) meditates, Youssef & Nicola are into motorbikes … despite the differences in age, hobbies or social identities, all of our lives are centered around music, whether it be composing, playing, or just enjoying and listening.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Surely a big moment for us was peforming numerous times alongside superstar Lorenzo Jovanotti at his Jova Beach Parties in 2019 to crowds of over 30,000 people at each performance. It was special because we were not only called to participate in these mega festivals, but Lorenzo came onstage to play with us. The vibe was magical, and the audience reacting was amazing. We were also the only instrumental group to participate, and receive such raving reviews all around. It was very exciting.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
As we mentioned before, formulas and rules are almost contrary to our way of being. But for sure being relaxed and not rushing about can aid the creative process greatly.
For the album TINDOUF, before going in the studio to lay down the tracks, we took 10 days to retreat in the Apennines (mountains in central Italy) to get away from everything and to concentrate just on making music and honing the tracks. Having the possibility to play at any out of the day with your instruments already set up is another favourable element.
Despite this, we must add that some of our best ideas sprung up during soundcheck or simply goofing around with a riff whilst we were on tour and constantly on the move. There is no general rule, the muses may come to visit you at any time. Your responsibility is to stay connected and receive the calling, when it comes.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Bob Marley put it beautifully: “The one good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain. So hit me with music”. All music is an extension of its composer or the musician executing it in real time. If their intention is to hurt, the music will hurt. Problems and difficulties in life will always come and visit us, and for us music has a healing value that is very valuable for us.
We want music to heal the many scars our society inflicts on us. We want love and peace, we subscribe to Lennon’s message. We have received much love from our audiences, and we want to give that back.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
A very interesting question. Senses are connected to our perception, and our perceptions are filters between us and our surrounding reality. Experiences are made up of constant stratification of these perceptions that form a menory, a moment in time. These all flow into our subconscious and manifest themselves independently of our will.
So yes, all experiences are are sum of senses working together, and the strongest memories that stick with you are a sign of this. From a band perspective, these moments are almost always lived out in a live string, during a concert. And we have many that have stuck with us.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
We still believe that a song can reach millions, and that music can have a deep effect on changing the world. It has done through the ages, and continues to shape its listeners. Music can be whatever you want it to be, and can influence our society deeply.