Audiopharmacy: American Cultural Ambassadors of the U.S.
06 Feb, 2013
Interview with Teao Sense of Audiopharmacy by Cindy Maram
Audiopharmacy has been chosen by the Dept. of State and American Voices to represent America as Cultural / Music Ambassadors! Dig In Magazine caught up recently with Audiopharmacy founder, Teao Sense, to find out more about their music, collective and upcoming international tour!
DIM: Do you feel that these days it is better to publish music online? I know for me, it is easier to do everything online, because it is so expensive to publish hard copy magazines.
Audiopharmacy-Teao Sense: That is how it is with music. People are slowing down on putting out albums because it’s so much easier to upload stuff online instead. I can make something and release it in the same night.
DIM: Do you think publishing online or publishing hard copy albums is the route to go?
TS: I think both for sure. Sometimes I want to drop a record, straight vinyl. Nothing beats having something you can hold in your hand. You can’t really pass on a CD without it being in some sort of physical form anyways unless everyone is in this virtual world. It’s nice to have physical things. Someone once said: “You can’t hug a download”.
DIM: Where are you based?
TS: San Francisco, California
DIM: Regarding the Audiopharmacy Collective, what do you look for in an artist, dancer or musician?
TS: There are a lot of talented individuals in the crew, but more importantly it is a spiritual connection in a sense of moral and heart. For starters, if somebody is really talented and they come into the crew with a big ego and not getting along with the rest of the crew, it’s hard for me to say, but they aren’t going to be a part of the family because they don’t actually… well, it takes more than just skill and talent for them to be a part of the tribe. Not that I want to exclude anybody, but it’s a moral movement.
DIM: Can you explain the social and culture movement?
TS: We are a collective, so there are a lot of sub-projects going on within the crew. It started as being just about music, but as it evolved we became musicians, producers, DJs, dancers, photographers, videographers, activists, poets, and live painters. At this point we are getting into learning and educating each other on self-sustainability. With all these different interests in the collective you can imagine our projects are becoming very broad too.
DIM: How would you describe your music?
TS: Musically we are rooted in hip hop, but have evolved into a more eclectic worldly sound. You can still hear the hip hop elements in the music, but I personally play a lot of world instruments. I am also a turntablist so I like to fuse together world sounds with turntablism, hip hop, Latin, Spanish and Middle Eastern scales, dub. Some might say we are a fusion of the Fugees with Gil Scott Heron, with Dead Prez on the revolutionary side. And in the spirit of Bob Marley, we are a conscious group with a conscious message.
DIM: Who are your artistic influences?
TS: In the four-piece, Audiopharmacy live-ensemble core, it’s myself, Teao on production, turntables and guitar, Ras K’Dee on vocals and keys, Keepyahjoy whose on bass and buckets, and Ras Pulse on drums. Ras Pulse is from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands and he is from the Zioneers, which is a legendary reggae band. The first band to bring roots culture to Puerto Rico. He brings the reggae element to the band. Keepyahjoy is also Rasta. He comes from New York and was into East Coast hip hop growing up just like I was. Ras K’Dee has always been into hip hop so there is a lot of hip hop influence. But on a personal note, it’s hard to say who my influences are because I actually like to create a sound that is new. I tend to veer away from styles that have been done. I play more from my intuition and my emotion, communicating my emotions through sound.
DIM: What are you trying to communicate through your music?
TS: [I communicate] my emotions through the music, but Ras is our main vocalist. He is African and Native American, so a lot of his vocals deal with the struggles of the Native American community. He is from the Pomo Tribe of Northern California. Aside from concerts for people who like our music, we do a lot of indigenous events as well. In the production and the vocals overall, we like to unite the cultures of the world. The voices of the different instruments bring together different cultures. We have members in the collective who are from all over the world featured on the albums.
DIM: I understand you have played all over the world. Where have you played nationally and internationally?
TS: Nationally, we’ve played California, New York, Seattle, Toronto, Oregon and the whole west coast including Los Angeles and San Diego. Internationally, we’ve toured Europe six times. We’ve done Germany, Austria, France and London, Holland, Switzerland, Japan… I’ve played in Nepal and the Philippines, but because I’m a DJ I’ve played a lot of places that not necessarily the whole band has come out for. Including Australia and New Zealand, I’ve been to a lot of places.
DIM: What do you enjoy most about playing music and doing what you do?
TS: Our community and building community around the world. Showing people they can enjoy the richness of life not necessarily through monetary means, but by supporting people through community, which art, music and the elements of nature already provide. I’m from San Jose and San Francisco, I grew up here where money is very essential. You are part of a system where you have to pay expensive rent and have to pay for all these things that everyone is stressed over. But I’m learning more about self-sustainability. All you really need to be happy, in my opinion, are the four elements of nature. Water and Sun will give you energy. If I want to have a recording studio, I don’t have to pay PG&E to power my studio, the sun will provide that energy. If I have solar panels on my land, I can have a studio there. Food, I don’t necessarily need to pay money for my food, I can grow it in the garden. Community and love, well those are things we just have to manifest. That is something I am learning myself too. I still live in the city. Ras just bought land up north and we are calling it the “nest”. We are basically offering the land to the community to do various projects up there. It is a place to go to garden and practice these things.
DIM: How did you get involved in the U.S. State Department of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the non-profit organization American Voices?
TS: It is a program that Hilary Clinton developed to dispel the myth that America is a whole bunch of greedy politicians, which is what a lot of other countries think. She developed this program so the 99% of America could be represented in other countries who hate on America. Technically we were chosen by them as being cultural ambassadors for America. The process was first the application and out of 300 applicants they called and wanted us to come to a live audition. They told us we were top-40 in the nation. It was funny because our bass player Keepyahjoy didn’t even want to apply for the thing. We were busy and he wanted to keep doing shows. He didn’t want to waste our time with this extensive application and figured we might as well enter the lottery. But next thing you know they wanted us to come to a live audition and fly us to Washington D.C. At the last minute they changed the audition to San Francisco, so we went over there. About a week later I got a phone call from the Director who said “we want Audiopharmacy to represent America”. So in the end, we became cultural ambassadors of the U.S. and they are sending us to Indonesia, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and New Zealand.
DIM: Who will you be playing for in these countries?
TS: We go on a 35-day tour in February to do concerts and also go to schools and do workshops with the youth…To be the face of America, to teach them music and American culture.
DIM: Best of luck on the tour!