Monday, March 17, 2014

Sharing is Caring, kids.

Art can be created for one person and one person alone. However, most artists hope to share, and even profit from the work they create. Of course, let's not forget the performance artists, the ones who thrive off the energy and connection of an audience. Artists often use art to challenge perspective and change lives, and in this way, sharing their work is absolutely essential.
  There are a million ways to share art, from doodling on a public bathroom door, to performing in a massive theater for thousands, or hanging a piece in someone's living room, or art gallery. But one that has quickly moved into the forefront of discovery and creation is social networking. 
  I know, I know. It's become an overused and annoying hot-word. Who doesn't have a Facebook, or Google + or something? Despite the increasingly negative connotation given to such things, artists are being discovered every day. The very definition of fame has changed immensely. Here at Nomad Nouvelle, we track down a good chunk of our artists through social media networks, spending more hours than we'd care to admit flipping through photo albums and creeping on News Feeds. 
  Ten years ago, an artist could feel seen if he found himself hanging a piece in a busy gallery. A singer felt seen when the bar was packed with a line out the door. These things, of course, have not changed for many, but with YouTube and viral marketing, there are plenty of performers who have been viewed by the thousands before ever setting foot on a stage, and this is certainly not limited to any one particular genre of art.
  Kids on the streets peddling fliers and hand outs have been traded in for event invites and countless reminders from every network possible. All in all, it can feel a little overwhelming, even for the people who are supposed to benefit from it. Countless artists have told us in their interviews about how much setting up posts and writing a million messages every day can get beyond wearying.
 This goes both ways, as people even avoid liking their favorite artists or adding their arts active friends all because the clog it causes. When each weekend becomes sorting out which one of fifteen different events you want to go to, the whole thing seems too much energy. After all, isn't it supposed to be about having fun and getting a quick glimpse into the lives of those you care for? 
  On the flip side, I see huge potential for art with social media. There are musicians who can collaborate without ever having to meet; a handy trick when you're separated by an entire country, if not an ocean. Dancers teach lessons over Skype, and painters, sculptors and all manner of other craftsmen can sell their wares. This very blog would not exist if it weren't for social media. 
  As much as it has the potential to suck the soul of out you, social media has done a lot for the world. Some bad, of course, but I think largely, it has improved the way art is viewed, how many people get to see art who would ordinarily never see it, and even, at least to some degree, the ability of artists to find others to work with, and importantly, an audience that connects with their specific image. 
 So next time you're secretly reading Facebook instead of working, like a new artist, share a new page, and hey, maybe even give us a shout out. ;) 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Elias Caress

People love to be entertained. In fact, if you're reading this right now, you're only proving me right. But who better to entertain yourself with than a self-described variety artist? Elias "Lefty" Caress is exactly that man. A true performer, you might just find yourself laughing away at any of the number of shows he does around the Salt Lake area.
Magic, juggling, comedy, and a wild west show are the mainstays of his repertoire. Having gotten his start as a palm reader at parties, he delved into the world of juggling and magic and hasn't looked back. He tells us that this all started as a diversion from his day to day life, a way to stay sane in a world of mind numbingly dull work. What a way for a diversion to turn out. Check out more from this talented individual!

The Interview:

Kita: How would you describe your work?

Elias: I am a variety artist, a term usually reserved for live entertainers. I perform magic shows more than else, I also work on comedy, I juggle, and I have a wild west show.
Kita: How did you first get involved?
Elias: I was once an engineer. That's a very boring job! I got involved in entertainment to keep myself sane. I fist learned to read palms when I was a kid, and I was hired to give readings at parties. That's where I met jugglers and magicians, where I later got the idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Kita: At what point did you decide to start performing?
Elias: I love performing. I did it on nights and weekends when I had a job. A friend got me a few gigs performing card tricks and cowboy stunts at parties, then I got a regular show at renaissance fair.
Kita: What were your goals when you began?
Elias: At first, I just wanted to have fun. To get away from my boring 9 to 5 life, and I loved making other people happy.
Kita: What are they now?
Elias: I still like making people happy. It's hard for some of us to understand the power of simple amusement. There are people who are stuck in a rut, in a routine. A little fun can mean the world to some of these people. Once a man told me he was planning to kill himself, but decided he wanted to live after he went to a festival and had a good time. More than making people happy, I'd like to make people think. I'd like to make people examine their paradigms and their beliefs. That's a tough thing to do, but it's my goal.
Kita: Do you get stage fright? If so, how do you deal with that?
Elias: I do get stage fright. I actually like stage fright, and sometimes I'm disappointed if I don't get stage fright. I think that stage fright adds to the exhilaration you feel after the show (assuming you do a good job on stage). The best advice on stage fright that I've ever heard came from magician David Copperfield. He said that you should rehearse your show until you can perform it in auto-pilot, without even thinking. At that point your show will not be negatively impacted by stage fright.
Kita: What are your biggest struggles?
Elias: Right now, the business end is my business occupies most of my time. When you make a living with your art, you have to make your art pay. Not to mention taxes, accounting, expenses, logistics, etc. Also, the artists ever present struggle for inspiration and creativity.
Kita: Do you ever struggle with the balance of day to day life with your art?
Elias: No, my art is my life. It's what I do all day every day.
Kita: How about the business side of your art and the actually performing and putting together of shows?
Elias: Actually, the business side does help with creativity. Now and then I'm asked to put on a show that I otherwise never would have thought of myself. Like a historical magic show, or a corporate pirate act.
Kita: Do you feel your work is respected?
Elias: Yes I do. Respect is earned, if your work isn't respected then you haven't earned it. I hope that doesn't sound rude, but I have worked very hard all day every day for years to earn respect for what I do.
Kita: How have you found the performance scene in Salt Lake?
Elias: SLC has a very bad reputation in the rest of the world, I think most of the rest of the world would be surprised by the scene here in SLC. There are very creative and fun-loving people here.
Kita: How have those closest to you reacted to all this?

Elias: Most people understand what I do and support me. But I do have a semi-funny story about that! When I quit my job to entertain full-time, my parents didn't support me in the slightest. They constantly told me to get a real job or I'd loose everything, they always belittled everything that I did. But they had never actually seen me perform. Eventually they did come to one of my shows, and they loved it. Ever since then they've shown nothing but support and confidence for what I do.
Kita: Do you find yourself preferring the creation side to the performance side or vice versa?
Elias: I do back and forth. Sometimes I love creating new things, and I always love performing new things. But most of the time I love performing for than anything.
Kita: If you could tell your beginner self one thing, what would it be?
Elias: Most successful entertainers began early in life. They have a big advantage over me because I'm sort of new still. I sometime wish I could have started earlier, but I think that even if I had I would be wondering about all the other things I've never tried.
To get more info on this talented artist, check out his website at:

Have anyone else you'd like us to chat with? Let us know in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Struggle Is Real

                                                                by Aubrilynn
 Commonly, as an artist, there are some real struggles that you face. While they vary for every artist in some way or another.. They are almost inevitably going to be an issue for any artist out there.
    First of all, trying to balance your day-to-day life with your artistic talents. Many artists have other facets of their lives. Whether it's a family, a full time job, schooling or something else. A lot of artists fight to keep the balance a healthy one, but it can definitely become difficult or discouraging. Not just at first, but throughout your life as an artist. I'm sure many of us have found it hard to be at work when we know the art is calling, but that brings up another common struggle, finances.

    The battle of paying for your love of the art, especially before you are paid for it. Having to go to work, to make money, to supply an art form, that you are just a little bit too tired to do because you had to go to work today. Whether you're buying paints, cameras, instruments, or anything else.. You're still having to sacrifice a bit of that money for your art.. Which is entirely worth it! Some artists are lucky enough to make that dollah through their art.

    But now, who are we trying to impress here? Do we stay true to our art? The way we intended it, created it, and loved it.. Or do we try to make it pleasing to crowds so that we can hope that maybe, just maybe, we get hired on for a gig or a commission piece? There are always constant trends circulating, what the masses finds enjoyable at the time may be based off of what is popular on Tumblr, or suggested videos on YouTube. There are folks at the forefront of every artistic outlet, and often time, those are the ones who have made it. That get paid to create art every day!

    From personal experience, in performing art, it was always difficult to make the decision of, "Well, do I want to learn to dance like her? Or do I want to dance like me?" It seems there is an obvious answer, right? But what about when you know you'll be profiting from the first choice. Many artists evolve over time, it's the beauty of life. Growing and changing, but I've found it a struggle to keep in mind if I'm growing into a better me, or growing into rip-off of that girl on the internet.

    Every day, artists are facing and overcoming challenges. They're taking on difficult situations and bettering themselves as artists. For each one of us, I think it's important to fight through the struggle. Even when we find ourselves a little to busy, practice at home. When we feel exhausted from work, remember what it's for. If you have lost touch of what your art is, how it started, what you want it to be. Remember that it's going to be okay, sleep it off. Wake up, and make something that's fucking brilliant.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Heidi Lyn-Butterfly

by Kita

I'm not sure anyone in the SLC area really embodies sheer performance art the way Heidi does. A self-described shape-shifter, she seems to be able to perform almost anyway she sets her mind to, and has quickly evolved into a renowned performer in almost every circle. It helps that she's worked with countless other artists and has brought her crafts to the forefront of her life focuses.
Even the way she words herself is a refreshing breath of air in a world that can quickly become stale. She has a way of finding something exciting in everything. This might just be her natural charisma, a trait she clearly has an abundance of. It is no surprise then, that she has found herself at the heart of the ever growing and changing art scene in Salt Lake City. I know we here at Nomad Nouvelle, and certainly plenty of others are going to keep a close eye on her career!

Kita: How would you describe your art?
Heidi: I would describe my art as eclectic and ever~evolving. I am a bit of a shaper~shifter and as I delve deeper into what ignites my passions and inspires me, my characters evolve and I am constantly transforming and exploring the many facets of performance art. Everything from Mermaiding to Stilt~walking to dancing with Wings and Hoops and playing with Fire...there is an infinite world of possibilities! I absolutely LOVE embodying all types of characters! I connect the most deeply to the ideology of the Butterfly and the Mermaid for sure though!
Kita: What first got you into art? 
Heidi: I have always loved all forms of dance and performance art. From a very young age I was inspired by the Circus Arts, Mermaids, Fairy Tales, etc. I also have a deep love of literary arts and story~telling so I love to imagine whimsical stories and bring them to life!

Kita: At what point did you decide to start doing art a little more seriously?
Heidi: I decided to start taking my art a little more seriously when I literally joined the Circus . I joined up with an amazing group of performers in San Diego called Charmed Life Entertainment led by the amazing Jennifer Quest aka HoopCharmer. She hired me for my first "real" gig for her monthly show called "Circus." The knowledge I gained from working with this group of professionals has helped me tremendously not only in my performance art but also in my life in general and prepared me for when I met Jennifer Tarasevich and began working with the Fabulous Voodoo Productions here in SLC which then led to the creation of the Voodoo Pearl Mermaids and the story continues... . I have had the pleasure of working with so many talented groups and individuals who have become like family to me!
Kita: What were your goals when you first started?
Heidi: My goals when I first started were simply to inspire and share joy and happiness through creative expression.
Kita: What are they now? 
Heidi: They are very much the same...only on a larger scale .
Kita: What steps do you typically take between the original thought of an idea and the final execution(performance) of it?
Heidi: Hee~hee! Great question! The creative process is always an interesting journey..sometimes it happens very fast...sometimes it takes a lot more planning and thought. I like to write ideas down, create story~lines, gather inspiration from a variety of outlets allowing it to morph and shift along the way and then just make it happen .
Kita: Do you prefer creation to performance?
Heidi: I love all aspects of the creative process but I am certainly a bit more partial to the performance as that is the culmination where it all comes together .

Kita: How have those closest to you reacted to your work?
Heidi: From those who know me and truly love me, I have had nothing but the utmost support ...especially from Chad "Rockstar" love who is also a performer himself!
Kita: How about the general arts community?
Heidi: In my experience, I feel like the general arts community is very receptive and open to new ideas and art forms.
Kita: Do you feel that the arts receive the proper respect in the Salt Lake area?

Heidi: The Art Scene in Salt Lake is definitely becoming more prevalent and respected. There are so many amazingly talented artists and performers in this Salty City!
Kita: Do you struggle to maintain a day to day life vs art life?
Heidi: I do my best to incorporate as much art into my daily life as possible or I tend to go a little crazy . When I'm not creating...I'm thinking about it..Art is all around us and I feel healthiest and happiest when it is infused into my life and part of my every day existence. ~}i{~
Kita: How about the business side vs the art side? Do they conflict for you at all? 
Heidi:That is a learning process that I am still navigating but I feel really good about it all. I have had many valuable learning experiences and am constantly learning how to balance it all!

Kita: Do you ever get anxious about a performance? If so, how do you deal with that?
Heidi: YES!!! I honestly get nervous little butterflies every single time I perform! It is so worth it though! I calm myself by taking deep breaths and focusing on what I am there to do...which no matter what type of performance I am doing...the goal is inspire love . This helps me to not overthink things.
Kita: If you could tell your beginner self one thing, what would it be?
Heidi: I would tell my beginner self what I tell myself all the time... "A rising tide raises all ships." This quote to me means that there is room for all of us and what benefits one benefits us all. We all have a unique and beautiful expression to share with the world! ~}i{~

For info on how to book Heidi:
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Have anyone else we should chat with? Let us know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nomad Special Edition: Juana Ghani, Part 2

by Kita

Back into the fold of things with Juana Ghani. This week we've talked with more of their members to give you the best complete imagine of this fantastic band. Truly, they are a great bunch of people with an ability to have fun and put on a show you won't forget. I can't recommend them enough! 


Tanya is the kind of bubbly person who seems to emit sunlight through every pore. With a shock of golden hair and a smile that could take over any room, she is one of the few who seem to be counted among the truly happy and content.
 She can usually be found either dancing around the stage with a tambourine, or banging on a gigantic drum that seems too big for her. Easily, she owns them both, and countless stages have been lit up with this wonderful energy that only Tanya, a gypsy spirit and happy soul, can bring. 

Kita: So what first got you into music?

Tanya: Well, I love music, but I'm not really a musician. I've always loved music and I've always dreamed of being in a band. From being a young child, I've always listened to music. My parents played lots of music- usually John Denver, Neil Diamond kind of stuff, but I've always loved it. I go to every concert I can possibly go to. I was never trained in any kind of instrument, so it's kind of funny that I'm in a band, but it's a dream I've always had. So I'm really happy. 
 In terms of this kind of music, I would say that belly dancing really introduced me to this opportunity and a different style of music than what I was used to, which was more mainstream and pop and alternative.

Kita: How did you get involved with Juana Ghani?

Tanya: Well, the fact that I'm a belly dancer, and my boyfriend at the time, now husband, was talking with Leisl and Brian about starting this band, and I would go to the rehearsals, while they were making up songs as they went, and I got to sing songs, and Brian would just bug me until I would start hitting the bass drum. I was embarrassed and thought there was no way that you'd ever get me to stand on a stage and do something like that since I had no experience with it, but I was there enough that they convinced me to try it. I think I added a little something to it, and no one else would do it, so that's how I got into it. I think I was the fifth member of Juana Ghani. 

Kita: Aside from joining, what attracted you to them?

Tanya: I had worked a little bit with Leisl through belly dancing, because she sang with No Blood to Spare, which is a band that played some music for us dancers. Leisl was wonderful. I loved her voice and I loved her attitude about music and dance, and her different fun lifestyle. So that really did attract me to doing something with her. And then being at the rehearsals, I thought the music was really fun and different. If I could be a part of it, and get over the embarrassment, I was definitely intrigued by it. 

Kita: Do you prefer rehearsing or performing?

Tanya: Oh for sure the performance side. Rehearsals are fun, but getting on a stage and seeing people dancing and having a great time, it's just this big family. Rehearsals are kind of a family thing too, but there's so many members of this band that there's very few times that we're actually all together. Typically that's more at a performance, and we can hang out before and after. Just hanging out on the stage together is so much fun. Rehearsals are fun for me as a nonmusician, because I'm amazed at all the stuff they come up with on the fly. 

Kita: Do you ever get stage fright? 

Tanya: The only time I get stage fright is when we are playing a new song and I'm not feeling very confident, and then I just hit the drum very soft and pretend like I'm doing something It's not really stage fright, I'm just a little nervous about something new. The songs we've been playing for a long time, I feel really confident with. 

Kita: What's your favorite part of being in Juana Ghani?

Tanya: My favorite part is the family element. I really, again, stemming from the belly dancing side, there is this family feeling of people that relate to one another by sharing interests. It's a different community than anything else. I'm a professional working in education and I'm a mom, and to get together with an alternative community that is not anything I would have ever pictured for me is really cool. I really like it, and it keeps me young. I love the people. The dancers we've had dance with us are just so great. It does feel like a family. I don't know if that's always how bands are, but for us, it's definitely that way. The other part is really going back to having always loved music. I just think it's so cool to be on that end of it. Being onstage and watching people and seeing how happy they are. 

Kita: What about the larger arts community? How do you enjoy it?

Tanya: My experience with music is maybe a bit more traditional. I do like many varieties of music, but a lot of the bands that we go and see are somebody that I never would have chosen. People that open for us or that we open for, and the like. It's been pretty cool to get that experience and to see musicians that I would probably not have experienced otherwise. Some of the cabarets we have done, with the aerial performers and the fire performers, have been so different. I love that people have found things they're passionate about, no matter what age they are, or what they do outside of that. Watching them just go for it is inspiring. There is drama, but I'm not really the kind of person to get dragged into that, so I just look the other way and smile. It's not typical in our band, which is great.

Kita: So for you, what have been your biggest struggles? 

Tanya: Time. I work full time, and I'm a mom for three kids, and I'm a wife. The time commitment is hard. I've had to give up some other things for it. I don't really dance anymore, I don't have the time to practice. Even with the time commitment that's required, I don't get to that as much as I should. I miss some practices and some performances, because I travel or have other commitments. Also just building my skills and confidence in feeling like I'm actually contributing. When I'm performing, I feel confident and it's great. There's other times, though, where I'm just thinking, "What am I doing here?!" That separates me from the other musicians. Everyone else is legitimate and they've had years of experience. This is just brand new for me.

Kita: What are your goals?

Tanya: My goals would truly just be to get better at drumming and more kinds of percussion. I do want to take some lessons, so it's not just me hitting on the beat. I do play the tambourine as well, but there's so many other percussion things out there that I know I should be able to contribute to. As I get more experience and take some lessons and try some new things out, I think that will happen. I would like to start dancing again, because when I first joined them, that was, I think, part of the appeal. I could dance and play. There are some songs that I'd really like to dance to. Putting the dance back into the music is part of what I do in Juana Ghani. 

Kita: If you weren't doing this, what do you think you'd be doing? 

Tanya: If I wasn't playing with Juana Ghani? I don't know. I did get a little bit bored with belly dancing, and I needed a bit of a break, so I don't know. I kind of like to think I'd be doing that, but I'm not sure. This has filled that desire to be performing and be creative, and be with an art community. 

Kita: What other arts have you tried then? 

Tanya: The only other performance art that I've been involved in is belly dancing, and I didn't do that until I was thirty-four. I've never done any other sort of performance. I've always been more of an athlete and sports type of person. It was such a great experience for me. There's no way I would be in Juana Ghani if it weren't for belly dancing, specifically Kismet. Yasamina Roque was our dance leader, our mama belly. She taught me to be confident in dance, and in myself, and being onstage and performing for others. She introduced me to the whole art community, and so many of the people I met through Kismet are now involved with Juana Ghani in one way or another. This includes my husband. I would not have met him if it weren't for Kismet. so I feel very blessed. 


An intellectual with a heart of gold. Is there really anything else to be? Tony has a mellow demeanor that gives him a flexibility few possess. Any mood seems to suit him, and he can always been found picking away at his mandolin and singing along with every song.
  I met Tony years ago as he drummed at the Kismet School of Dance, here in Salt Lake. At the time, I never would have guessed that in a few years I would see him as one of the key members of a premier band in Salt Lake City. Leisl and Brian both tell me that without this man, Juana Ghani would not exist in it's current capacity as it does today. All I can say is thank goodness for his desire to find his bohemian roots once more.

Kita: What first got you into music?

Tony: Well I was young, I was eighteen. I started in a band called Station Identification. I think it was probably fun, and the friends. I played bass and guitar in a guys attic in upstate New York. 

Kita: Are you from upstate New York?

Tony: No, no, I was going to college there. I'm originally from Colorado. Denver. 

Kita: How did you get involved with Juana Ghani?

Tony: Leisl sang for an industrial rock band that I was in for the Arts Festival. That was in, I want to say, 2009. It was the band called No Blood to Spare, and we did belly dance drums and industrial guitar and synthesizers. She sang for us and then I posted something about how I had just gotten a mandolin and how I was channeling my bohemian ancestors through the mandolin. She told me to come and hear the songs Brian had, and so I went down to Riverton and that's how I got into the band. I love the songs Brian comes up with, I still do. That's probably one of the most amazing things about our band, is the songwriting he does.

Kita: What's your favorite part of working with them?

Tony: My favorite part, well, changes. I like recruiting other members. It started with just the three of us, and we were meeting all these talented and very diverse people these weird instruments. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know the accordion player and pulling him in. That, and learning the songs. It was my favorite thing at the beginning. The mandolin is not my native instrument, so learning the mandolin was a big part of it for awhile. Now, I think, vocals and the audience. The audience is, I mean, you've been to some of our shows. They're incredible. The belly dancers are great. 

Kita: So do you prefer the performing or the creation side of things?

Tony: Right now, most of what we do is performing. Brian kind of goes in cycles where he'll write a bunch of songs and we'll learn them. We'll kind of go into show phase then. We've got shows every week, and we played our first wedding, about a week ago. Who knew? Weddings could be fun! 

Kita: It can't be your first wedding! 

Tony: My own reception, that's right! So yes, it was our second wedding! 

Kita: So do you ever get stage fright?

Tony: Not anymore. Not even a little bit. I think the nerve receptors for stage fright burned out a long time ago. I mean, I say that, and then watch, I'll panic one day. But I don't get stage fright at all anymore. I don't know why, but I don't. 

Kita: How have you enjoyed your time in the arts community?

Tony: Oh it's amazing! I think it's kind of a well kept secret. Most people, when you say you're from Salt Lake, they think of Mormons riding in horse carriages or something. Or that we're stuck in the 1950's or something. Really, though, we have an amazing arts community here. Juana Ghani plugs into dancers, and a variety of performers and visual artists. It's amazing. and constantly surprising. People like you, people like Wallace, people like Fvorboda, and Yasamina. I never would have expected to meet them here. 

Kita: So what first attracted you to this group? 

Tony: The songs. I was thinking about this coming over here. Brian has a way of writing songs that, as soon as I've learned them I feel like I've known them my whole life. It's very unconventional composition. Having played in lots and lots of bands, I've gotten used to conventional songs. I was kind of bored with the regular way of doing bands. The music is very original and challenging. But then, once you learn it, I feel like I've been playing it my whole life. It's a very natural feel. He's a very gifted songwriter. I'll be honest, I was ready to go down and meet this lady with purple hair and her husband and think, "Well, that's great, and they're nice people, but not all that musically interesting." I've been just on this wild ride ever since.

Kita: What's your biggest struggle?

Tony: When you add members to your band, the complexity of dealing with artistic visions, and also the logistics of getting everybody to the same show or on the same page, it goes up dramatically. With as many people as we have, there's a lot of organizing and logistics. If it's just you, or a duo, or a trio, it's very different from having to worry about groups. Don't get me wrong, we've got great people, but it's a natural human element that the more people you have, the more time you spend just organizing. Leisl and Brian do most of that, but it's a struggle for everyone. We've had a little bit of turnover in the band, and sometimes you feel like you're going back to square one and getting everyone on the same page. If you want to call it a struggle, then I guess it's a struggle, but it's more of a challenge everyone has to deal with. They're all great people, so the trade off is that you get to meet all these crazy people. I never thought I'd play with a saw player. That's the fun part.

Kita: What are your goals with music?

Tony: I seem to be on this journey away from mainstream pop, which is kind of where I started. The bands that I was in in New York were power pop and. not conventional rock, but more rock oriented. Really the only things that interest me are outside the mainstream now. So whether it's gypsy music, or whether it's African rhythms or world music in general, that's kind of my focus now. And trying to make stuff that doesn't sound like anything you've heard. Juana Ghani really fits that hole in my soul in regards to that. Weird is good.

Kita: Are the people you feel closest to supportive of what you're doing? 

Tony: Yes! My wife plays the bass drum in the band, and my young kids scratch their heads sometimes. They're not really sure what's going on all the time, but they're generally supportive. I would say yes. 

Kita: How involved are you in the process of writing songs? Brian was saying he would sort of start it and then hand it to everyone else to do their own thing. 

Tony: Well, I get input on a couple of levels. I mean, I've never had Brian say, "Play this."  I really get to write my mandolin parts. Leisl is sort of on the vocal arrangement end of things, and she'll hear a harmony, she's got a great ear for that. We've done songs with like, twelve different vocal tracks because she has all these ideas. She'll make suggestions too, but I feel like I can really do whatever I feel is appropriate to the song. It's very satisfying creatively. 

Kita: It's such a big sound that the band has, being as there are so many musicians and tracks going at any one time. Do you ever struggle to get something you want out there heard? 

Tony: Absolutely. There's sound, and then there's sound. By that, I mean, there's the way it would sound in your imagination. That part, usually, I can imagine all the pieces working together and it's fine. But because a lot of the instruments that we work with are acoustic and a lot of the clubs we go into don't have really sophisticated sound engineering and equipment and such. It's a challenge of ours. I should probably go back to your question about struggles. That's definitely one of them. Just with that many instruments, and especially instruments that aren't easy to amplify like the saw, or some of the stuff that Bryan does with percussion that isn't easy to mic. We're on a crash course, right now, figuring out our sound stage so that you can hear it all! At practice, we can hear great. It's absolutely a big issue that a band this size faces and a band that uses acoustic instruments faces. 

Kita: If you weren't doing this and going in this direction, what do you think you'd be doing right now?

Tony: Well there's no question that I would be playing music. Even in spite of what I said about unconventional music, I have a big sort of funk, neo-soul sort of thing that I love to do. I love to play guitar in those kind of settings. Even though I like to play off of pop, and I'm in the phase now, there are some alternative pop sounds that intrigue me. It would probably be one of those. It all depends on the people. You find these creative directions and energies that have to do with who you're associating with. It'd probably be something like that. 

Kita: What other arts have you tried? 

Tony: Well, I'm a writer, for what that's worth. I do occasionally write poetry, and I find certain visual arts appealing, but I'm not very good at them. Brian and Leisl have a big theatrical streak, and our shows are a lot more than just listening to music. They're about watching all this crazy stuff happen onstage, and I've gotten more interested in play writing and such. 


A slender, tall man with long dark hair and big inquiring eyes, Bryan finds himself at the heart of a number of musical projects in the Salt Lake area. A true musicians musician, he has a passion for music that seems to find itself all over his life. Bryan is easily one of the smartest people I have met, and he uses this intelligence to master instruments and give life to a fantastically sharp wit. 
 For Juana Ghani, he can usually be found on some form of drum or another. This is no large surprise, as he also runs local doumbek group, Tabla Arabia, an all drummer group. Those that know Bryan describe him as a genuine human being. I can say that despite his quiet nature, he is one of the most performance oriented people I have come across, and Juana Ghani definitely seems lucky to have him.

Kita: What instrument(s) do you play?
Bryan: With Juana Ghani, I play Middle-Eastern percussion instruments,
including the dumbek/darbuka (goblet-shaped hand drum), doholla
(larger, deeper version of the darbuka), and riq (Egyptian
tambourine).  For our past couple of gigs I've been playing my drum
set.  We recently worked a new song (Mori Shej) into our set; for that
one, I play a tin whistle.  I also play guitar, but not with Juana

Kita: When did you first start?
Bryan: I started learning percussion in 1997, and started playing a drum set
a few years after that.

Kita: What got you to start?
Bryan: I was friends with Graeleaf, who taught percussion for Kismet at the
time.  I actually ended up renting the back room of his house for a
while, so it was easy for me to join the classes he taught in his
living room on Saturdays.

Kita: When did you join Juana Ghani?
Bryan: I joined them in 2011.

Kita: What were the circumstances?
Bryan: Chris Futral was already a member at the time.  He invited me to jam
with them at one of their rehearsals.  Kelsey Covington (who later was
one of the producers of the Gypsy Cabaret shows) was also telling me I
should check them out.  So I showed up to a rehearsal one Saturday
afternoon, and after that, I just kept going back.  I agreed that I
would play whatever shows with them I could, but I couldn't guarantee
that I'd be at all of them because I was already part of other
projects.  As it turns out, I've probably made it to more than 90% of
Juana Ghani's gigs.

Kita: What other projects have you been/are you currently involved in?
Bryan: I have an all-percussion ensemble called Tabla ArabĂ­a.  That's
Arabic for "Arabic drum".  We started playing together in late 2006.
We usually play at belly dance shows, and we've opened up for Juana
Ghani a couple times (at the Woodshed and at Bar Deluxe).

- I first played with Kairo by Night in 2004 at Cafe Med; Raj and I
were filling in for Angus and Bryce while they were out of town.  I
officially became part of that group in 2006.  We play a lot of
popular Egyptian songs (arranged by our keyboardist Dave Weisenberg),
and Dave has written several original pieces.

- Raj and Tarek have been playing as a duo for about 20 years at the
Living Traditions festival; I joined them, along with Adnan, to form a
group called Bazeen in 2006.

- I often play with Desert Wind when they have a gig that calls for
extra percussion.  When they're not playing jazz or classic rock, they
play their own original Middle-Eastern-flavored compositions as well
as popular Jewish folk music with Arabic percussion.  It's more
Hasidic than Klezmer.

- I have several friends that rehearse together once or twice a week
and play backyard "concerts" every summer.  We call ourselves the Red
Eye Donnas, and I'm on lead vocals and guitar.

- I also play my drum set with the house band at Keys on Main for
their "live karaoke" show every Wednesday.

As an artist, what have your biggest struggles been?
Bryan: Trying to collect instruments and other gear has probably been the
greatest challenge because of finances.  And finding a place to
practice isn't easy; I hate to disturb my neighbors, so I don't often
play drums at home.

Kita: Has working with Juana Ghani changed your interests in music at all? Expanded, perhaps?
Bryan: My tastes in music were already pretty broad, encompassing just about
everything from Mozart to Megadeth, as well as Arabic, Turkish and
Greek music.  But I hadn't previously had much exposure to eastern
European influences.  Through my friends in Juana Ghani, I was
introduced to the music of Gogol Bordello and Firewater.

Kita: Do you typically prefer the process of rehearsing/learning/working on new stuff to performance or vice versa? Why?

Bryan: I'd say I enjoy both about equally.  I enjoy being part of a
collaborative creative process with musicians who have a passion for
it.  I like the idea that we're creating something nobody has ever
heard before (but they soon will).  I also like to play music for a
lively, energetic crowd of people who have a passion for that.  It
feels pretty good when we can get everyone in the place on their feet.

Kita: What were your goals when you first started in music? What are they now?

Bryan: I very first started in music when I was in 7th grade.  One of my
elective classes was beginning band, where I decided that I wanted to
play the baritone sax.  (I was too small for that instrument at the
time, so I started on the alto sax, and later switched to French Horn,
though I haven't played either since 9th grade.)  I suppose I band
class because music appealed to me more than any of the other choices
that were available to me.  In December of that same year, my dad gave
me an Ovation guitar and an amplifier for Christmas, and signed me up
for lessons.  I suppose I just wanted to make music, because it was a
pretty big part of my life through the radio.

My goals now are simply to learn to play better, and pick up new
instruments like the bouzouki and bass guitar.  I'd also like to write
songs; I've written some lyrics, but composing melodies has been a
challenge for me.

Kita:  When you first started learning music, could you have or would you have ever predicted this was where you'd be now?
Bryan: When I first started, I didn't know much at all.  I knew there were
some songs on the radio that I liked, and I wanted to learn to play
them.  My father had some friends who were musicians; when they were
guests in our home, they'd sometimes show me a thing or two that I
could play on my guitar.  But I had absolutely no clue that I'd ever
get into percussion.  I had no idea that I'd settle down in Salt Lake
City.  And I could never have predicted that I'd find a group like
Juana Ghani here and become an integral part of it.

Kita: How does day-to-day life work with everything arts wise?
Bryan: Sometimes I feel that daily life is monotonous.  Going to work at the
same time every day, doing the same things, sitting in front of a
computer for hours on end--it really does feel like a "daily grind".
It wears me down, clouds my brain, quashes my creativity.

But I really can't complain, because it's not a bad job at all.  I
work for a small local business who's not accountable to some
corporate headquarters; I work for someone who cares more about people
than the bottom line.  And my employer is a big supporter of the local
music and art scene.  The hours are pretty flexible when I need them
to be, which means my job has not interfered with my music projects
much at all; I've rarely had to miss a performance because of work.
In that, I'm very fortunate, because music is the only thing in my
life right now that keeps me (mostly) sane.  It gets me out of my
apartment when I'd otherwise just stay home alone.


A Georgia boy who found his way to Utah, Chris is one of the biggest personalities in the Juana Ghani family. A mop of curly brown hair, a pair of sunglasses, and a drum is all Chris seems to need for a good time. This is a man who likes to laugh, and boy does he. 
  An imaginative character with a fondness for pushing himself to his limits, musically speaking, Chris made himself a part of the performance in a way drummers seem to struggle with. He has a stage presence and a knack for finding himself getting so into the music, that his whole body seems to move with it. No matter where this wanderer finds himself, I suspect his was a soul made for the stage.

Kita: How did you first get involved in music?

Chris: My uncle played drums from middle school on through college and then with an Air Force marching band. He introduced me to drums at around six or seven. I began taking band in middle school and lessons from various instructors. From then on, I was in band all the way through college and was in all of the concert, marching, jazz bands and pit bands that I could be in as a student. Then of course were the obligatory garage bands and house party bands ever since high school.

Kita: How did you then get into Juana Ghani?

Chris: On Facebook I first became friends with Leisl, then after chatting with her there a bit and her and Brian seeing me with perform with a former band at the Utah Renaissance Festival... they invited me to audition and one thing led to another, and I've been here ever since.

Kita: How did you end up in SLC?

Chris: Moved out here with a friend from north Georgia and fell in love with the West and the SLC belly dance, burlesque and music scene. Now, with three kids here and lots of music and outdoor activities to keep me busy... I never see myself moving.

Kita: What were your goals when you started playing music?

Chris: Get better and better and have fun (and get chicks). 

Kita: Have they changed at all?

Chris: Not really, but I do now realize that the ladies don't go for the drummer, so now it's just to get better and better and have fun.

Kita: What have your biggest struggles been as an artist?

Chris: That the better I get, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. And the plateaus that go along with getting better. Sometimes I just seem to get stuck and can't seem to find anything to help me progress with my skills. Often, when this happens though, something new comes along to give me a nudge in the right direction to throw off my frustration. That is what happened when I started playing for belly dancers and then when I started playing with Juana Ghani.

Kita: How has being a part of Juana Ghani changed your perspective as a musician?

Chris: Working with such a large group where there is still so much collaboration is new. I really enjoy that. And being able to imagine taking old world flavors and making them new and fresh. That has really helped me with the the belly dancers that I work with.

Kita: What other projects have you been/are you a part of?

Chris: As I mentioned, I have been a part of innumerable middle school, high school and college bands, both in school and in garages and house parties and all ages venues. Until Juana Ghani came along I played with the gypsy band Yom al Had. I currently spend most of my time outside of Juana Ghani drumming for Kairo in her classes and on any stage we can find. She has really pushed me as a musician. Other girls that I have drummed for have been wonderfully talented, but we would often take the stage with little practice and just wing it. With Kairo, she has resorted to using a cd for a performance here and there, because a piece we had been working on just didn't come together... after hours of practice. So we would put off 'til another opportunity came along and it was more polished. That level of expectation has really added to every other project I have been a part of in the last few years. Otherwise, Juana Ghani keeps me very busy... which I love.

Kita: Do you typically prefer rehearsal/creation or performance?

Chris: Juana Ghani practice is always fun. We all get along wonderfully. Brian and Leisl write most all of our songs. Brian puts together great demos of their ideas, that we get to listen to, and once we hear them we come to practice with your own contributions... and boom... most every time it becomes a part of the song. It is a great way to work, especially with such a large group of musicians.
Of course I prefer the stage more, but our live shows would not be nearly has fun without the practice time.

Kita: What's been your favorite part of your experience with Juana Ghani?

Chris: My amazing band mates. I am a much more disciplined musician for having been in their company these last few years. And how busy Mizz Leisl keeps us. She finds fun show after fun show for us. I haven't been this busy as a musician since I was in school. 

Kita: Do you ever get stage fright? How do you handle it if you do?

Chris: Not so much. Maybe a little when something totally new is going on... a new JG song, a new dancer I'm drumming for. I would also say that I come closest to stage fright at big belly dance events like Spring Fest, when I know the audience is full of real enthusiasts that know what is on and know what is off. Also when emceeing a burlesque show, it takes me a few minutes to get into my groove. In most any stage situation... I always seem settle into a groove and forget any nervousness.

Kita: How have you found the arts community in SLC? 

Chris: Wonderfully diverse and wonderfully supportive. The Atlanta scene was too big to really get to know anyone, it was dog eat dog. It wasn't nearly as much fun. I like seeing other musicians and performers and rooting for them and know that most of them are rooting for me/us.

Kita: How do you feel you and Juana Ghani have been received in SLC? 

Chris: Couldn't have hoped for better. A very pleasant surprise.

Kita: Are there any new things you'd like to try as a musician?

Chris: Nothing immediately comes to mind. My plate is pretty full right now, between Juana Ghani and belly dance. I have a lot to learn to get better for both of those endeavors. 


There's something to be said for having a signature look, as I'm sure most every musician can agree. Few have mastered the art of sticking out without ever losing a sharp and polished edge like Nick. With passions that seem to include drinking and mastering somewhat rare and obscure instruments, it's an absolute no-brainer that he should fit in with this crowd. 
  The accordion and the hurdy gurdy seem to be his weapons of choice, not to mention his Derby hat, a part of his aforementioned look. And really, could you have a band with the word "Gypsy" in their description without an accordion in there somewhere? 

Kita: How did you first get into music?

Nick: I first started playing music in my teens; I was inspired by Bob Dylan to pick up the guitar and harmonica.

Kita: How did you end up in Salt Lake?

Nick: I was born here in SLC, I have lived throughout the west, and went to school back east in Pennsylvania, then spent some time in the Bay Area in California. But Salt Lake is always home, and one of my favorite places in the country.

Kita: How did you find yourself in Juana Ghani?

Nick: By accident, really. I had responded to a craigslist ad by the mandolin player, Tony, to play in a folk band he was putting together. That fell through, but he invited me to come out to a Juana Ghani rehearsal. The rest is history, I guess.

Kita: What were your goals when you started playing music?

Nick: Just to have fun and learn a new instrument.

Kita: How about now?

Nick: It's about the same, I still like having fun and learning new instruments, but I have a strong pride in the performance aspect; I want to play my best and put on a good show. There's always more work to be done there.

Kita: What have been your biggest struggles as an artist?

Nick: Balancing playing music with the everyday is the biggest struggle, I think.

Kita: How has being a part of Juana Ghani changed your perspective as a musician?

Nick: It's definitely opened me up to different musical styles that I might not otherwise have been exposed to. Also the experience of having to work with so many musicians in one band is quite unique.

Kita: What other projects have you been/are you a part of?

Nick: I also play with Hectic Hobo, a wild west gypsy rock band. In addition, I occasionally perform with my Irish folk band, Bonnie Mad.

Kita: Do you tend to prefer rehearsal/creation or performance?

Nick: That's a hard one. I'm not sure I prefer one over the other; I love both the process of creating and the process of sharing it with others.

Kita: What's been your favorite part of your whole experience with Juana Ghani?

Nick: The opportunity to perform and meet so many wonderful people.

Kita: Do you ever get stage fright? If so, how do you deal with that?

Nick: I used to get stage fright pretty badly when I first started performing, but I don't anymore. I think it's just a matter of repetition; I've played so many shows now that it's not a big deal.

Kita: How have you found the arts community in SLC?

Nick: I think it is small but passionate. I think that if you work at it, you can find the right community that is willing to support and cheer you on in your artistic endeavors.

Kita: How do feel you and Juana Ghani have been received in Salt Lake?

Nick: I think the reception overall has been pretty positive; Juana Ghani is certainly different than the standard rock band, so it is exciting to see people open to listening to different styles of music.

Kita: Are there any new things you'd like to try as a musician?

Nick: There are always new things I'm interested in; learning new instruments, playing music with new people, it's really just a matter of trying to find time for it all.

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