BWW Interviews: VOCA PEOPLE Invade San Francisco June 6 thru June 17
A long time ago – okay, maybe not so long ago – in a galaxy far, far away, there lies the planet Voca where music is life and life is music. The inhabitants there are in tune with the universe and live in perfect harmony, communicating only through music. One day eight Voca natives decided to take a trip, so they charged up their spaceship with the only known energy source on the planet Voca – music – and off they went. They got as far as the planet Earth when they ran out of music and crash-landed in, of all places, the studio of musical director and composer/arranger Shai Fishman. Fishman and his friend, co-creator-director Lior Kalfo, were looking to create a new show - and the Voca aliens presented the perfect opportunity for collaboration.
Shai Fishman was kind enough to talk with BroadwayWorld’s Linda Hodges to tell our readers more about the VOCA PEOPLE and their upcoming show here in San Francisco. VOCA PEOPLE is performed by eight snow-white, ruby-lipped aliens with perfect harmony--there are no musical instruments, no sound effects, only vocals! Performed with humor and the help of the audience, VOCA PEOPLE features a cappella and beat box versions of over 70 well known songs, including hits from Madonna, Queen and even Mozart. They've done sold-out tours throughout Europe, South America, the Middle East, Mars and, most recently, a highly successful engagement at West Side Theatre Upstairs and New World Stages in New York City. VOCA PEOPLE will be at the Marine’s Memorial Theatre June 6 through June 17.
And now on to the interview!
Hi, Shai – thank you for doing this interview with BroadwayWorld San Francisco and welcome to the city by the Bay! It’s a thrill for us to have the VOCA PEOPLE here before they get their spaceship “tuned up” with enough musical fuel to head back to their home planet! Have the VOCA PEOPLE been enjoying earth?
Very much so, Linda. They keep learning about new music they just don’t have back at home.
What has been the VOCA PEOPLE’s favorite thing about earth so far?
They seem to love the NYC subway. Sometimes they get lost, but they love the ride none-the-less.
Well, while they’re here, they’ll have to ride one of our cable cars. I think they’d love it. What has been their favorite earth food so far?
Hands down - Falafel. They call it fa-fara-falafel. They don't really eat earthly food. They just enjoy the sound of it.
Make sure they try some Fisherman’s Wharf clam chowder. Now that’s something to sing about! Do they wear white for any special reason?
Actually they are white, because their planet is all white. They love skin color clothes. What can I say?
How long have you worked with creator and director Lior Kalfo?
Lior and I have known about each other’s work for years before we actually started collaborating. I must mention that I’ve been a huge fan of Lior’s work, on and off the stage, even from the mid 90’s, when I was a teen-ager, starting out.
I’m sure you never imagined that you’d be working with visiting space aliens! Would you ever consider making a trip to the planet Voca? If so, how do you think you’d be received?
What do you mean consider?! I’d be jumping up and down! I get to go this planet and experience music in its purest way… definitely a no-brainer. Plus, with the volume of work and level of closeness I’ve achieved with the VOCA PEOPLE, I think I’m the natural choice for Earth’s ambassador on planet Voca.
Shai, you’re a musical director. How do you do that with an a capella group like the VOCA PEOPLE?
I get to take all these wonderful songs written by great artists such as: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and the Beatle’s and even going farther back to the holy bible of music -- the works of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart – and arrange them for 6 to eight voices and 2 beat boxers. The fun part is that the voices aren’t always singing human notes.
What do you mean?
In any given song they may be doing a guitar or other string instrument, maybe brass, percussion or a crazy sound effect, like winds, whistles, beeps and even motor sounds.
Then it’s time to teach all these independent parts that I just made up; this entails rehearsals and lots of communication, working with the individual ability of the Voca who sings it and using his or hers individual, unique abilities, to help the part, be even more than it was, when originally arranged by me…. The work goes on and on and I keep perfecting it, even after 3 years. I have to say it’s a lot of fun… for all of us.
How hard is it to compose and arrange for space people?
Not hard at all. They’re so much easier to work with than earthlings. Think about it - they have the whole outer-space as their freeway, there’s no road-rage at all: no traffic, no tolls, no parking problems (or meters) and if you consider the speed in which asteroids move, you get that speeding is not an issue either. In those circumstances, it’s no wonder they’re so pleasant and friendly.
Do they have anything to say about the violence and/or economic disparity that they surely see traveling around the world? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in perfect harmony?
This is, in part, the bigger message of our show and the VOCA PEOPLE. It could be as simple as make and sing music – not war. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have everyone take 90 minutes out of his or her life and go see a concert? Listen to music? Dance? Talk to their loved ones? Educate? All these are wonderful and I think that instead of having to comment on hardship and pain and really state the obvious on these matters I would like to be the one who’s working on the solution. There’s a better chance for perfect harmony like that, no?
I agree. How have the VOCA PEOPLE changed your life?
In so many ways. Not only that I got to create this show, with and for them. It also brought the option to do a cappella, which I loved for years, but never really got the play with, in this manner. And mostly, it got so many people to listen to my work and to get to know me as a creator and a musician. It meant working on projects like T-Mobile’s Welcome back campaign ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB3NPNM4xgo -here’s the making of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMTXy-OcbG8) and also working with Lara Fabian, who I got to meet in Paris while touring with the VOCA PEOPLE. My life has been changed by all the wonderful opportunities that came to me after creating this show…and I get to see the world, that’s great by itself!
What is your favorite part of the show?
This answer keeps changing as I continue to listen to the show but as of now, I’ll say that Classical Medley, when performed in front of an enthusiastic audience, still moves me. Plus, last tour in St. Petersburg, we had a seven-year-old kid conduct through the whole show. He is surely a conducting student because he brought his own baton with him!
Now that’s audience participation! What has been the most surprising thing about the VOCA PEOPLE’s reception?
I discovered that everyone (I mean everyone!) responds the same way, from the age of 4 to 94 – people always walk out singing, dancing and smiling. They seem uplifted by the experience. I expected a real difference by the country, the ethnicity, the age and at least the religion but no, it’s about the same, and very positive. It’s a very pleasant surprise.
Did you expect them to generate this much excitement worldwide? And are they famous in any other parts of the galaxy?
They keep telling us stories about other planets they’ve been to. They’ve played music from these places for us. We find it wonderfully different and beautifully weird. Maybe we should have them perform some of the music from other, other planets…
Lastly, what can we earthlings learn from the VOCA PEOPLE?
- How to beat box
- How to sound like instruments
- How to love.
- How to enjoy and listen.
- How to be open to other cultures, opinions and ideas.
Well, Shai, thanks so much for doing this interview with me. Please give my best to the VOCA PEOPLE! I look forward to seeing their show!
I will, and thanks for this interview, it’s been a real pleasure!