Music is a universal language. One which "speaks" to writers daily, as we compose our creative works, tap into inspirational stimuli, and seek to mellow the madness.
I don't know about you, but growing up, I was exposed to and enjoyed music of all genres. I still do.
From Beethoven's Fifth, which can bring me to tears; no matter how often I hear it...to Billy Joel, John Cougar Mellencamp, Ray Charles and the Old Motown sounds. I also dig Gloria Estefan, Bonnie Raitt, Jose Feliciano, Billie Holiday, Gospel, and Reggae depending upon my mood and mindset.
I also know that many of you share my enthusiasm for music, based upon previous posts and comments made here.
Which is why I'm so excited to have the opportunity to introduce you all to Tony Succar.
He's the mastermind behind the Unity Project.
What's the "Unity Project"?
Pen and Prosper caught up with Tony, and here's what he had to share about his vision and the direction of this project...
Welcome, Tony. Can you tell my readers a little about who you are and your professional background?
I was born in Peru and came to Miami, FL when I was three years old. I was fortunate to be born into a musical family… my mom is a singer, dad is a pianist, grandmother is also a singer, great grandfather was a master violinist and composer, and the list goes on. My parents always played folkloric music from Peru, and I’ve been listening to that style of music since I was born. The first instrument that I picked up and started playing was a cajon, it’s a folkoric box shaped percussion instrument… one in which is very present in this Tribute album. I really enjoy fusing different musical elements together, I strongly believe that by doing so you can create rich musical refreshing sounds.
I’ve been exposed to so many cultures growing up in Miami. It’s been a true blessing for me, especially during school. I studied jazz performance at FIU. During my school years, I would spend countless hours just jamming with different students and learning from their cultural musical backgrounds. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Peruvians, Venezuelans, Dominicans, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, you name it… You learn that each country has many distinct styles of music. They contain their unique folkloric instruments and particular orchestration/arranging styles…. Every country is a musical journey on its own. I try to learn as much as I can from my peers. Learn from their cultures to discover new ways to fuse different elements with my musical inspiration.
2. Give us the 4-1-1. What was the inspiration behind the Unity Project and how did it come about?
I came up with the concept over two years ago. It was a series of events that led me to creating this project. When Michael passed away three years ago, just like many MJ fans around the world, I sat in disbelief, dumbfounded, experiencing one of the saddest moments in my life. A couple of months after his passing, I felt an unquenchable urge to pay homage to Michael’s legacy. I had no idea what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it; I simply knew I needed to follow my heart. Happens to be that in October of 2009 I got a call from an agent that hires my band, his name is Randy Singer, wanted to put together a Halloween party for a local club on South Beach.
He had the idea of making a THRILLER theme costume party, everyone looking like zombies and all… Make a long story short, the band I had at the time was a strict salsa band, we played some other styles, but very few, mainly salsa. Randy wanted me to perform THRILLER for that night… so I went ahead and got the idea of making a salsa arrangement to THRILLER so we can perform it live. When I sat down and wrote that arrangement, performed it, and saw how much the people went crazy for it… that’s when it all began…
I finally discovered what I could do for Michael, his legacy, his music, and his messages. My goal with paying tribute was to embody Michael’s essence by focusing this Tribute on his message of UNITY. UNITY is something that I saw in his lyrics, his music, in his dance, and his way of being. He always looked out to unite people, unite cultures, and unite talent. I wanted to expand on his message by interpreting his music in a new way; in a way where I express myself fully, because expression is in my Latin DNA. This way it would result into something new, hoping that I could continue the legacy and show the world how he influenced me and how important he still is to many of us.
3. Why did you choose Michael Jackson (out of countless other options) as the artist at the center of your project?
Michael Jackson created the soundtrack of my life. There was not one song from Michael that did not penetrate my soul. His vocal abilities, the perfection in his music, his inspiring compositions, the emotion behind his performance, his dancing skills, his energy on stage, everything about Michael was always to the top of its potential. That’s something that always blew me away, how just one person could do so much, and could it so perfectly.
Michael really sacrificed his life for the art of music; he put endless amounts of hard work and dedication to deliver to the world something that is beyond extraordinary.
I strive and work extremely hard to deliver always musical experiences that are above and beyond. Of course, I’m no where near the level of Michael Jackson, but I try to follow his footsteps. Michael loved his fans, he truly did, and always gave them the best of him… I want to do the same.
I can go for days, weeks, months, talking about how I admire his music. I can also go on about how I admire the Jacksons and all the geniuses who worked with them: the musicians, producers, Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien, Seidah Garrett, and more. But there’s one thing I need to highlight right now: the immense impact that Michael’s messages had on my life. His odes to love, respect, reflection, earth consciousness, and unity inspired me, changing my life forever. The legacy Michael has left us is one I cherish, embrace, and intend to mirror for as long as I live.
4. Michael wrote a lot of his own lyrics, and some of my readers are aspiring song writers as well. What do you think is the criteria for a good lyricist?
A good lyricist is one who can give you goosebumps when just simply reading the lyrics. Forget about the melody, the rhythm, the arrangement, the singing, etc… just read the lyrics… if you can feel the message in your heart, then you’ve made magic. That’s what Michael had… His messages were so powerful, that just the lyrics alone would knock you down. One of the reasons why I think they were so powerful was because he really did feel , and he really did live what he wrote. Every word… listen to songs like Earth Song, They Don’t Care About Us, Black or White, the meaning behind it… You can definitely feel his cry out to the world, his hope and dream that his messages can penetrate the people of this planet to make the world a better place. Not many pop stars do this, not many song writers do this… sometimes we try to write to something “catchy”, or write something that will “sell” , and that’s the wrong way of doing things.
When I read this Michael Jackson quote it all became more clear to me…It helped me realize what it was that I had to do with my life and career in order to be happy:
"I could never just make records for people to buy and just get rich from. That's no good for me. There has to be more than that." - MJ
5. What do you want audiences to take away from the Unity Project?
I Want people to be inspired when they experience Unity. I want Michael Jackson fans to once again feel proud of Michael, and be thankful for what he has left us. I want the world to remember how Michael still is to all of us. I want our audiences to feel the truth behind this project, to see the honest true work that has been going on for the past 3 years. How everything came from the heart, because that’s what I plan to show the world. How we all united for this homage, how it developed over time, how little by little with the unity of more and more people, how the train started getting stronger and stronger. Not necessary bigger, just stronger! :-) But yeah, That’s why I call this project an experience, rather than just a musical album or show, because there are so many plans that I have for this…and so many wonderful ideas for the shows. So excited! You got a VIP in our first concert!!! ;)
BIO:Born into a family of talented musicians in Lima, Peru on May 18, 1986, Tony Succar’s very DNA must be imbued with cadence and rhythm. The Succar family moved to Miami, Florida when Tony was just two; at the ripe old age of 13, Tony’s own music career began. He says, “I was privileged to be brought up in a family of musicians: I couldn’t be more grateful.” Succar’s music education began on piano then segued to percussion. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz Performance from Florida International University in 2008 and his Master’s degree in 2010. This year Succar became the youngest Artist-in-Residence FIU has ever had.
Succar has worked with artists Arturo Sandoval, Néstor Torres, Ed Calle, Tito Nieves, La India, Obie Bermudez, Jennifer Peña, and Tito Puente Jr., among others. Growing up in Miami—a multi-cultural “Melting Pot”—molded him into a versatile musician, prompting him to make the most of his prodigious talent.
President of his own record label, Mixtura Productions, Tony Succar is well-versed in a number of professional roles: bandleader, percussionist, musician, producer, composer, and arranger. He is currently endorsed by Gon Bops, a top percussion brand. Whether in a timbales solo, an orchestration, or an explosive groove, Succar’s sound is gripping and distinctive and accommodates the energies and interests of musicians and dancers. Notably, at every performance, Tony focuses on the integrity of his music.
For more info and to vibe with his sounds, check out the following sites and links.
Your turn. Thoughts? Questions? Your comments are like "music" to my ears. :-)