We’ve had the fortune of chatting with Eduardo Tarilonte before for the T+S blog regarding his involvement with a number of critically acclaimed libraries from Best Service, including Forest Kingdom 2, ERA Medieval Legends and Shevannai Voices of Elves.
With his newest Kontakt instrument ‘Kwaya: African Voices’ released today, we thought it a great opportunity to talk to Eduardo again about this unique and evocative choir instrument, which provides unbeatable flexibility and unrivalled inspiration…
Hello! I am happy of being interviewed again by my friends of Time+Space. Kwaya is an African choir library featuring Aba Taano, an amazing vocal group from Uganda consisting of 4 male and 2 female singers.
Why did you choose to create an African Choir ‘instrument’?
Kwaya is a long awaited project. I started dreaming of it long ago, but finding the right group was not an easy task. But I am very patient, it was not a matter of recording an African sounding group, it was about recording the right group. I like to sample what I love, and as you know I love ethnic stuff. African voices are probably one of the most impressive voices I have ever heard: deep and evocative at the same time.
Tell us about the choir ‘Aba Taano’ – what made you decide to use them for this library?
Aba Taano is a truly amazing group from Uganda. They have been awarded in many choir contests around the world. Every single singer has a unique and beautiful voice. Their voices are so pure and inspiring that just playing a single note in your keyboard will transport you to the African lands. Once I met them and listened to them for the first time I was deeply impressed, full of goosebumps. I instantly felt it was going to be the right group for my sample library.
What are the stand out features of Kwaya?
The main features of Kwaya is that all the 6 singers (4 male and 2 female) have been recorded separated. As I said before, every voice is beautiful and unique, and really wanted to capture that in the library. That also grants a huge playability since you can change all settings for every single singer like volume and pan. That allows you to choose the right color to the group and not to be sticked to the same sound always.
It’s also very easy to use. You get 20 different phrases consisting of 8 syllables each. You can select them via key switch and edit them in the phrase arranger, where you can choose among 40 different syllables, 5 vowels and mm articulation. Once you select your syllables, you just have to choose between long and short articulation. For the short one, you can fine tune the speed of every single syllable.
Of course Kwaya has true legato articulation for 5 vowels (a,e,i,o,u), Kwaya also offers more than 700 cool vocal fx, including, yells, vocal rhythms, poems, etc.
You will also find some soundscapes that go from beautiful to dark.
Did you get to show off Kwaya at this year’s Musikmesse? If so, what was the reaction like?
Yes, we announced Kwaya during Musikmesse this year, and the reaction from people was much better than expected! Looks like many composers were waiting for something like this for years.
Can you run us through the recording process – where the recordings took place, what key pieces of gear were used, mic set-up, the stages involved?
The recordings took place at Eldana Studio, close to where I live in Spain. I have recorded there several other instruments for Era II, for example. It is a small studio, but with a superb room sound, amazing gear and, most important, great people.
The studio owns one of the ten U47 microphones made by the guru Pablo Kahayan. It is a superb microphone, mainly for voices and you can notice that quality in the library. As you know I like dry recordings in controlled spaces, so that’s how it was recorded. Besides the Kahayan U47 we used Api pream.
What has been the key to capturing the true soulfulness of the singers?
Well, that’s the main point in creating a sample library, capturing the true essence of the players/singers. I am very picky about that, so it is very important to explain them carefully what you expect from them and how to do it. Singing just long notes for a long time can be boring, but you have to keep the spirit and make them think they are recording a beautiful melody.
Were you involved in the post-production stages too? If so, can you run us through the steps involved and the software and hardware that are integral to this stage?
Post production is a very important stage as well, but if you made sure that the recordings were properly done, then you don’t have to tweak a lot later. I like good sound, but not processed, so is the user who can change what he wants. The only post production process I did to the samples was compressing them all once all the edit was done and tune them with Melodyne.
One of the most time consuming part is the sample edit part. I use Wavelab for that. Makes my life much more easier. The library has more than 10.000 samples, so you can imagine how long the process is.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Well, although to me this library is a dream come true, the challenges were unbelievable…I rented a very good and famous recording studio in Madrid to record the choir in different rooms at the same time. We had many problems, from the fact that one of the rooms was not totally isolated to problems with the mixing console. It was an old one and we got noises here and there…in the end it was done. The samples were edited and mapped even with scripting, but I didn’t like the sound very much (I´m very picky), so I decided to record the whole library again. I learned quite a few things from the recordings and changed the way we recorded the syllables, but unfortunately I made the mistake of going to the same recording studio again. The recordings were done and then when I got back home and opened the files…can you believe that some of the samples were clipped???
As you could imagine I felt totally down…recording the choir for two times was very time consuming and expensive and took a lot of effort from my side. The group was about to leave Spain, so I had to make a decision in one month. I decided to record again, but in another studio, of course, so I went to Eldana Studio, where I recorded many things previously. Not going there for the first time to record Kwaya, was just because I was looking for a recording studio with different rooms. So I made a tough decision: recording every single singer one by one. That was like recording the sample library six times! I thought about the planning very carefully and we finally scheduled the recordings, but then, one of the singers had a motorbike accident in a short trip to Uganda. He broke 6 tooth and the jaw…so we had to put off the recording for a couple of months, when they were back to Spain and the singer fully recovered…
That’s a brief resume of the problems…there were some more!
Anyhow, with a lot of work I finally succeeded! The group was so good, that I didn’t care about all the troubles, just wanted to finish the project and do a great sample library. And it’s here, exactly as I expected. Amazing sound and playability. Couldn’t be happier.
I still cannot believe it´s done, so please, pinch me and tell me it is true.
Are there any genres/styles of music that Kwaya could be suitable for which aren’t immediately obvious?
Well, the voices are Arican, but they actually work very good for any “tribal/ethnic” track. Definitely the color of the voices is far different from other standard choirs. I am always curious about how people will use the library, most of the times in unexpected yet impressive ways.
Finally, we last interviewed you two years ago, at which time you mentioned that one of your proudest moments was learning that James Newton Howard used Forest Kingdom in the Snow White and the Huntsman soundtrack. Have there been any more career defining moments since then that you can share?
There was a great moment, which was when MusicTech magazine awarded Shevannai with the Gold Award to the best sample library 2014.
Anyway, the best moment is when I get nice words from the users, that’s unbeatable, nothing better than that.
Thanks Tarilonte, it’s great to have you back!
KWAYA: African Voices is available to download now from Time+Space. Click here for full details plus audio demos and videos.
Eduardo is on Twitter, follow him here