Turtuga Blanku: The InterviewLaiste 6 comments
I recently reviewed the music of Turtuga Blanku, a Caribbean musician who is making sunshine into sound waves. This inspirational eco-messenger was kind enough to answer a few questions from me explaining more about what he does and why he does it.
First, and most obviously, who or what inspires your music?
Music-wise, I am very much my own muse, actually. When starting a new song, I usually simply go sit in my studio, and start playing something. I do not necessarily have anything in mind, beforehand. But if I like what I hear, I’ll use it and work from there.
I don’t listen to a lot of music at the moment and I don’t look to other bands or musicians for inspiration. Of course all music I like and have listened to has influenced me, but I don’t think it influences me in an obvious way when I’m busy making a tune. I follow my own lead.
As for the lyrics, they are inspired by things in my direct surroundings and by what is going on in the world. I like to sing about fun stuff and I like to address serious issues as well. Environmental issues, for example, are important to me. I usually keep my songs rather upbeat, and the subject of the lyrics does not always necessarily influence the way the music sounds. My music sounds often sounds quite sunny. And it actually literally is recorded sunshine: I used only solar energy to record my songs. So, all in all, I think it is safe to say that the sun forms the foundation of my music.
What lies at the heart of your decision to go solar?
I guess I can say that at the heart of my decision to go solar, lays my heart. Apart from being a musician, I am a biologist at heart and by education. And when I was looking for a new place to live, I wanted something quiet and preferably in the middle of nature. That is possible on the Caribbean island where I live, but usually only off the grid. Well, I considered that a plus as it suited my wish for ‘clean’ and green living perfectly. So, I rented this place in the, what we call, ‘mundi’ (wilderness) which was running on solar power only and installed my little studio there.
Do you have plans to develop the technical side of your music? For example, solar power instruments and tour gear?
Ha! Yeah, that would be great! I have been thinking about “decorating” my whole guitar with solar cells to turn it into a solar guitar. But, although that might help me in promoting solar energy, it will not practically contribute to producing green electricity. For now, I want to make sure that I am always able to continue using solar power to produce my recorded sunshine music, wherever I may live in the future. I want to keep on promoting renewable energy use through my music.
As for tour gear, most music shows take place during the night, so that rules out using solar energy on the spot. And using (electric!) vehicles to bring along loads and loads of batteries that were charged during the day by solar power, is not realistic either, I’m afraid.
No, I think it is more important to concentrate on motivating people to try to get their electricity through clean, renewable ways. And to show that you don’t have to wait for your government or electricity company to start working on that. You can take matters in your own hand and work on realizing your own renewable energy home system.
What would you most like to be known for, your music or your environmental message?
Both, actually. They are equally important to me, plus my music and my environmental message tend to go together. I use music to ‘broadcast’ my environmental message. And people hopefully take notice of the lyrics as well as taking notice of how they were sung.
Of course my music is not all about environmental issues and solutions, there is fun in the world too. But even if the lyrics have got nothing to do with the environment, the production of the songs still is done using solar power only, which shows you that solar energy can basically power up any kind of business, including the music business.
Do you have plans or ideas to expand your music (like a record deal), your environmental message and your merchandise?
Sure! I would like to have as much people enjoying my ‘recorded sunshine’ as possible! People seem to like my music and are inspired by my songs and the way I produced them. If a record deal can help me spread my music and eco-message better and faster without me losing grip on my own creations, why not? But it does not have to be a record company per se. Joining forces with a big environmental organization might get me the same results.
As for my merchandize, it is meant to promote my music, but again also to promote my eco-message. The t-shirts are not regular band-promo-designs. Most of the shirts don’t even portray my name ‘Turtuga Blanku’, now that I come to think of it. They have a recycle-turtle on them or subtle sun-designs, for example.
But yeah, what you see now is only the start of things, I hope. I am working on expanding my music, the eco-message, and merchandize constantly. But instead of telling you of all my plans, I will keep you up to date with how they work out! How's that?
How do you respond to people who criticize or dismiss your solar powered efforts?
Well, it is me trying to do my bit to help solve the environmental problems in the world. If someone else feels they have another good way of doing this, I am all ears and would certainly encourage them to give their way a try.
Using renewable energy like solar power is not the solution to all our problems, but I think it is to one of the biggest of them: pollution and subsequent ecological and climate changes. It is getting harder and harder to dismiss these global environmental problems as non-existing or not important. My aim is to provide information and to propose a solution. And I like to do that in a pleasant way. Music made with solar power only is, in my view, a perfect means for that!
Do you consider or have plans to experiment with other forms of renewable technology?
I have been thinking about a combination of solar energy and wind energy. But I don’t have the finances to ‘experiment’ right now. That is, by the way, one of the other things I’d like to achieve: getting the price of renewable energy home systems down so that it becomes accessible for more and more people. It should be made easier to invest in a renewable energy home system, especially because it will pay itself back after a while. As there is no real risk, governments could and should encourage their citizens through subsidies. Or at least it should be made possible to sell any surplus electricity back to the grid.
What have been the best compliments you have received up till now?
One of the best compliments given to me was someone telling me that ‘the world could use your voice, especially right now. 1,000,000 of them!’
Also, I very much liked this one concerning the style of my music: ‘And for once I am lost for a comparison...’
And there was someone saying: ‘Something about your music has the ability to draw-out the goose bumps!’
Those are pretty big compliments to me as an artist and an eco-messenger and I was very happy to receive them. It is really encouraging.
What about the worst criticisms?
To be honest, I haven’t gotten a lot of bad criticism. People are really enthusiastic about what I do and how I do it. Of course my music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but even those who normally would not listen to my music recognize that the songs are special and they think my eco-approach is special as well.
Probably the worse criticism I have gotten was someone who commented on my promotion of the use of solar power with: ‘it is easy for you to say, you live in the Caribbean…’ And yeah, living in the Caribbean with a lot of sunshine almost every day makes creating ‘recorded sunshine’ a lot easier. But it does not mean that solar energy cannot be used outside of the tropics or subtropics. It does mean you have to invest in more solar plates to get the same output. But in the end, you will earn your investment back, and will actually start gaining from it financially. It just takes longer. However, with conventional energy prices going up fast and with developments in renewable energy going ever faster as well, I have no doubt that it will become even more financially attractive to start using renewable energy home systems in the future.
How do you measure your success? Do you think there will be a point where you can say to yourself “yes, I got what I was aiming for”?
That is a difficult one, because I am not the only one promoting solar energy or other forms of renewable energy. About which I am very happy, obviously. The more people promoting it, the better! But it is difficult to precisely determine what the effectiveness of my personal contribution in this is, in the end.
That said, I feel that I am successful with every extra person telling me I am doing a good job. Every individual I have been able to inspire or even only have been able to made stand still and think about what is going on with their environment means that I have been successful. Because it really starts there: with the individuals realizing what is going on and how they can make a difference, be they motivated ecologically or financially, or both.
Of course, I’d like to achieve that as much people as possible will listen to and enjoy my ‘recorded sunshine’. And I really hope that the success of my music goes hand in hand with the appreciation of my eco-message.
So there you have it. If you haven't already headed over to check out his music do it now. And if you can think of a cooler or funkier way to spread the message about alternative energy I'd love to hear about it.