Hi everyone, This is Jorge Costa, Director of Music operations for Create Change and I am here to introduce you to a very good friend of Create Change: Angel Sananda. Angel is a wonderful musician, composer and is also the owner of SOGA Recording studios.
SOGA is a fantastic recording complex in Mexico where art, technology and wellness combine in a unique and seamless way. So without further a due, here is Angel Sananda.
J: Angel, so good to see you! How are you doing today?
A: It’s going well! We are getting ready to celebrate our first anniversary.
J: Since we had such a great time recording the East of Eli project here, we want to share the experience with our readers and get to the bottom of why SOGA is such a magical place. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got involved in music?
A: My name is Angel Sananda. I started playing drums when I was 11, did the rock band thing for a while and then studied classical composition in Mexico City. After a while I opened myself up to other kinds of music and built a project studio in my old home where I produced and released a couple albums. Later on I had the chance to go to Berklee College of Music where I studied Jazz Composition and Music Synthesis, but also got involved in Sound Healing, more specifically using your voice as a tool for wellbeing through toning and sound meditation. Since then I’ve been combining regular music production with sound healing production, which inspired the idea of SOGA.
“SOGA was supposed to be a place that would bring wellbeing to people, a retreat or holistic space that would also encompass a recording studio. The idea was to take people out of the business of the city life and put them in a place that would be conducive to creativity.”
J: Can you give us an overview of SOGA, it’s location and the community it was built in?
A: Since we developed the concept, SOGA was supposed to be a place that would bring wellbeing to people, a retreat or holistic space that would also encompass a recording studio. The idea was to take people out of the business of the city life and put them in a place that would be conducive to creativity.
We are located in a small town called Jiutepec – that means “The hill of precious stones”- about an hour away from Mexico City. The name turned out to be very meaningful because stones are a big part of our architectural concept. We also want to provide a space for the community to be exposed to quality cultural and artistic content.
J: Can you tell our readers about your vision behind SOGA and what inspired you to build it?
A: Before building the studio we opened as a holistic retreat center with 9 rooms that can accommodate over 20 people and an auditorium for 170 people, that serves as a multi-purpose room. Unfortunately a lot of people feel that spirituality and wellbeing should be free, which created a conflict because it is a big complex and a lot of people work here. That forced us to rethink how to best utilize the space, but this time focusing on music, so where we used to have yoga workshops now we have music recording workshops and that worked really well. The beauty of it is that the retreat aspect is still intact: Now it’s a creative retreat for people that want to create music and record albums. We are facilitators that help artists be the best they can be. We have great staff, great gear and great rooms, but it is what happens outside of the studio –the interaction between people and the space that really creates the magic.
“Things like golden ratios, yantras and mandalas allow you to incorporate proportions that happen in nature into things we develop as humans…”
J: Can you share with us the heart behind the design of the complex and walk our readers through a day in the life of a guest here at SOGA?
A: I’ve been a fan of nature and sacred geometry for a while and I wanted to incorporate those concepts, because it has an impact on people. Things like golden ratios, yantras and mandalas allow you to incorporate proportions that happen in nature into things we develop as humans; Leonardo da Vinci was a master at this. Our architect incorporated all this into the design of the space and he did such a great job that in 2014 ArchDaily selected us within their top 5 best new buildings in the wellbeing architecture category worldwide.
As far as a day in the life of a guest, first we suggest they arrive a day before they actually start recording so we can hang out, get to know each other and have fun, so by the time we start working we are not acquaintances but friends. Every project has it’s own pace, but we usually start by having breakfast together to share stories from the day before (good or bad) and when the artist is ready to work we are ready to go. As I mentioned before, we are here to accommodate, we will follow their pace. The idea is for artists to have their creative process the way they want it. After the session is done, we have fun together and plan ahead for the next day.
J: What are some of the most rewarding moments that you’ve personally experienced since SOGA opened?
A: There are milestone moments in terms of recognition or getting big artists here, but honestly, I don’t see it that way. What I really wanted was for the place to be alive, to have people moving around, so the biggest moment is when the next production arrives! It’s always cool when you get to meet someone that you really like as an artist, but at the end of the day they are just regular people and we are graced to get to see that aspect in people that are famous, because we meet them in their most vulnerable space. They are just doing their best to make a great record. I really believe that the energy we’ve put into this place also calls the people that understand it…we are playing, not working and when that happens it’s magical. We are proud of the things that are happening here.
J: What does the future hold for you and the team at SOGA? Are there any particular hopes, dreams or aspirations that you are yet to accomplish?
A: It would be great to work more with productions that have the means to work with an orchestra, or to bring musicians from different cultures and parts of the World. It’s happening, but I’d love to see more of it. Right now there’s a single from a very well known Mexican band that was produced here and is doing great and it feels good. But that’s not my primary focus: in the end they are regular cats that are doing great stuff and are great people and now I have new friends. When you guys were here (East of Eli), Angelo picked up on it right away: we don’t make customers, we create family.
“As we watched them work we realized that despite the amount of talent, they were regular human beings and we got to share stories and bread with them.”
J: A small parenthesis: I know the song you mentioned earlier is the new Café Tacuba single and I know it was a big deal because it not only encompassed one of the biggest artists from Mexico, but also a really important producer and engineer who have influenced generations of musicians. If you don’t mind talking about that, it would be wonderful
A: We have a project called ‘Sounds of Giants’ which is a week long production workshop and we got in touch with Mick Guzauski who’s worked with Pharrel, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, Prince, Eric Clapton…and the list goes on. Once we had him on board we were thinking: we need to find a band worthy of this legend. My partner in this project suggested Café Tacuba, and they got on board right away. A bit later their manager told us that a long time collaborator of the band, producer Gustavo Santaolalla was also participating! Mr. Santaolalla has won 14 Grammys and 2 Oscars as a composer. So all of a sudden we had a dream team and we were inside the studio with them. As we watched them work we realized that despite the amount of talent, they were regular human beings and we got to share stories and bread with them.
J: Are you planning on continuing with Sounds of Giants?
A: Yes we are! Mick is planning on coming back in July 2017 and we are working on more workshops in the future.
J: When we came here with East of Eli everyone on the team agreed that one of the most special moments was the sound healing experience. Can you tell us more about what that is and what inspired you to make it a part of the SOGA experience?
A: What you experienced was focused on the voice and the sound, not so much music. It is something interesting enough to engage your mind but simple enough for your mind not to engage. It is a profound experience because when we live in big cities and have a lot of responsibilities the mind is always working, so when you get to experience moments where the mind quiets down for a bit, the body relaxes along with everything around you and that is really powerful. In our western society, relaxation is a commodity we don’t pay much attention to.
J: You also have something called Sonic Encounters where you invite engineers, producers, and artists to share their experience with young aspiring musicians that probably can’t get exposure to this knowledge because they can’t afford a music college. You do this by making the encounters very affordable. What made you start this and do you want to keep developing it?
A: The seed idea was to bring seasoned pros from different aspects of the music industry that were really interested in sharing their experience to inspire young kids that perhaps have not had the chance to get to meet professionals like this or can’t afford a music university. We mainly call friends who are willing to do it for free. We cover expenses and they share their talents. We’d love to be able to offer this to the Latin American community, so we want to make it grow and become more and more interesting.
“There’s a lack of harmony in the World, but you have to have something that brings out the best in you.”
J: It’s pretty obvious to me that giving back to the community is very important to you and the team at SOGA. Can you tell us what creates this desire to give back in such a strong way?
A: Oh dude…I’ve been so blessed all my life! I’ve had the blessing of being able to travel, to study abroad, get to see the World and meet different cultures and people. I’ve always had food on my table and a roof over my head. I really enjoy when I can enjoy with someone, so I like to share what I have: the physical things, mental things and moments. There’s a lack of harmony in the World, but you have to have something that brings out the best in you. You become what you focus on, so I’d rather focus on giving to people and creating work opportunities and creating bonds and alliances, so that we become stronger together.
J: I can’t stress enough how incredible it is to work and stay here, because not only does it inspire creativity, but every guest seems to leave more refreshed and replenished than when they first arrived. Was that part of the plan or more of a natural phenomenon that began happening once you opened the doors?
A: It’s been always part of the plan. That’s why we put so much effort in the construction, architecture, the ratios and sacred geometry…there’s a whole energetic aspect behind the place; the materials, the colors, remind me of mother Earth and bring peace and quiet to myself, so I’m really happy we achieved that goal of people feeling refreshed, expanded and leaving as family.
J: Finally, to wrap things up: Do you feel the SOGA experience is for everyone?
A: In essence, yes; in reality yes too. I’m sure you get to feel something here, so sure, why not? Check it out for yourself!
J: I guess this is the time where we should start celebrating the anniversary. Thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate being here, being a part of the family and creating music along with you and your amazing crew and team and we hope to be back soon.
A: Right on! Well let me take a second to thank Create Change and to say hi to Nathan (West), Pete (Barbush), Angelo (Lagdameo), Jordan (Wright) and Gabe (Torres). Thank you guys, it was an amazing experience!