Moisés Pérez is one of the founders of MuOm, the Barcelona overtone singing choir, very unique and beautiful music project that visited London last 25th and 26th July. They use techniques such as “overtone singing” and “throat singing”, that come from Tuva, Mongolia, Tibet and also the Xhosa people in South Africa.
Moisés is the only Spanish person who has ever participated in a competition of troat singing in Tuva. He stayed at home for a few nights and I had the chance and pleasure to talk with him about music, singing, health, love, life and more… and this is a part of what happened.

Maria: What did you study?

Moises: I studied Biology in University as Undergraduate. But I’ve never felt a Biologist. Or nothing.

Ma: And how does one feels like “a biologist”?
Mo: I have never felt like anything. There are people who can say “I’m a biologist”. I studied biology. To “be”… I don’t know “what” I am. But I worked in waste water treatments with natural systems and involved for various years in a government department for sewage discharges licenses.
Ma: And even if you “are” not a biologist, why did you choose Biology?

Mo: When I was a teenager, what was really doing was to study music in Conservatory, up to the professional degree: four years of guitar, sol-fa, two years of harmony, a couple of years of singing… but I was in a way “obliged” by my parents to study a degree… so I left Madrid to study in another city, expand myself and explore other disciplines. I started to do contemporary dance, theatre… joined an amateur Peruvian music group, in which we played flutes, and that was a great experience… but it felt like life was taking me through other paths, I was also very active in the ecologist movement, had a lot of meetings about it and music had to take a second position.

Ma: Are you vegetarian for environmental reasons or for any other reasons?
Mo: I started being vegetarian when I was 19, but well, I don’t consider myself to be really a vegetarian, or I don’t define myself as such. In the beginning it started because I had a shock doing some practices on arthropods in Galicia because a sea warm I had to kill to preserve it, and then I forgot about it and the bottle got rotten… that made me felt really bad about senseless and futile deaths, all that was really very intense for me. I don’t know, but that was a very strong experience.
I have always felt very connected to nature, and this experience made me think and reconsider my way of eating animals. I’ve had many stages, sometimes I eat animals, others I didn’t, for health and environmental reasons, but it was after a Vipassana retirement various days doing meditation ten hours a day, where I not just thought about it but I also felt it: it really came from inside, I felt I didn’t really want to do that. I prefer to avoid it.
Since them I am more strict about it, but I still eat meat occasionally. For example when I was in Tuva, the nomads kill animals specially to give you meat, and I didn’t felt like I should say no to them.
Ma: Are we what we eat? Do we sing what we eat?

Mo: It does affect the vibes. In our group we have the tendency to have a healthy way of eating. Not that we should be obsessed about it because that could also be insane, but going beyond if you eat meat or not, most of us look for ecological products, or raw products, with a lot of enzymes, with a lot of life energy, that in the end will have some repercussion in your body and your energy. And I’m sure that this will also help for singing.

Ma: Give us a recipe for a concert.
Some hours of fast, lots of water.

Mo: That doesn’t make you weak?
Not really, I think that so that you can really lower your diaphragm is best that all that area is empty. And also a lot of being concentrated in what you have to do, so that external organizational factors can’t affect you. I prefer to be in retreat and focused in what I am going to do. I also avoid chocolate.
Ma:Do you think that affects at all?

Mo: It does. It creates mucus. And on the days before a concert I avoid flours and dairy products.

Ma: So you think there can be mindful singing and mindful eating?(Laughs)
Mo: Yes… to me it’s all linked. It’s about how you live your life according to what you feel it’s important, so you blend it all. Singing is part of my own process, the same as being part of consume co-operatives and creating them, so that you help the ecological agriculturist who respects and values environment, so you value this and buy from him. And these aspects are all important to me.
Ma: What matters to you?
Mo: To be well. I believe that the most important is to be well, because in reality everything external is just external. Maybe I give it importance because I want to promote someone’s well being and with my actions I try to help to have a better world, to promote certain structures. But in the end what matters the most is to be well with yourself because you can be a great ecologist and very important, but be a jerk.
Ma: I recently had someone talking to me about how dangerous can it be to construct your identity in the things you do. “If I sing in this choir, that is my identity, that I do gigs…” so if you loose your voice, what are you going to do?

Mo: That has happened to me and it was a great lesson. It happened to me while learning khoomei (Tuva’s throat singing) and later on in critical moments, like going to record a CD and loosing my voice, and with all the load of work that I was putting into the group, I am also trying to relax myself about this, as I have been putting some pressure sometimes on it to pull the group forward. In the end live was telling me “be calmed and quiet”, so I try to be as calm and fair as possible rather than being with lots of emotional ups and downs.

Ma: How are you now?
Mo: I feel fine! I think I am in a moment of my life in which I feel very much connected to something very and deep inside myself, my own life purposes, and I am feeling like everything will be okay. I am also an optimist!
Coming to England has also been a great step for MuOm, and it feel like we are finally coming out of our frontiers and even if it’s symbolic, this means a materialization of our intention, so there is a part of me that is put to rest because of this.

Ma: Would you like to sing something?
Mo: Okay.

Ma: Whatever you like. And I might join…or not…I don’t know.
Mo: I can make a drown for you, with a harmonic of 5th, and then you can find where to fit in. I won’t move too much from there.
Ma: You do as you like. But if you feel like moving… just do it.
Mo: Well, I might move a bit.

Mo: You are a provoker!

Ma: I can’t help it!

Mo: Because this thing I’ve just done, I normally don’t do.

Ma: Ah, so you do this sometimes?
Mo: It’s inspired in the Chukotka singing.

Ma: Blimey, what is that?
Mo: I had before seen the Inuit singing in a video doing something somehow similar, but then I had the opportunity to meet this Chukotka woman and she showed me this. Chukotka is a part of Siberia close to the Bering Strait. Their singing is very interesting, very guttural and very ancestral. Inuit do it between two women together, I recommend you to see this because it’s breath taking.
Two Inuit women place each other in front of the other and it’s a vocal game with some rules and connotations. What they do is to make one kind of sound when the voice comes out and other when taking a breath in, in a rhythmical way. They can then make changes on their vocal game, and the other woman has to follow, and if she doesn’t follow they laugh or just stop the whole thing.
It’s very interesting because you can see what they do can get really complex in rhythm and it’s really amazing.

Ma: In my case, I had no idea about this. I just have my headphone and I am “there”. I mean, I am must listening and reacting to what you are doing.
Mo: Yes, I can see. That is why you are a great provoker.

And you took me to places where it’s normally harder for me to get.
Ma: It’s fun. I didn’t know that there is an Inuit doing something any similar, as to me is about listening and because I am not trying to do anything or not doing it, that is just what I feel like.
Mo: And this is a good starting point, this is what I use to say to my students, that it’s about exploring your voice. You can later shape it in a way or another in order to present it to an audience, but if you have not explored it you won’t find certain things.
Mo: Also, after this you can create a work of conscience. If you put some conscience to what your are allowing to happen, you may find something you have done and then you can learn how you did it so that you can do it again. If you are able to retain what is was, that moment, perhaps you can even come back to it.
Ma: I understand that even if you don’t understand it or make the effort to retain it, once you did it, it’s already in your “circuit”.
Mo: It’s easier. Easier to do it again.
Ma: So with practice it can happen again by it’s own. Even if you where unable to retain that moment, your body did it, so your body has in a way “learned” it. It’s there somewhere. It will be easier to let it happen again. Even during a singing lesson, sometimes the singing student’s anxiety for trying to do again something that came out “well”, like “gosh, I did that right! I want to do that again!”. And that makes exactly that you cannot do it again!
Mo: Maybe its more about “re-cognizing” so that when it happens again, you can recognize it again, and so when you have recognized it a number of times, you can then produce it, more than forcing yourself into it at all cost.
Ma: I believe that if you did it once… you know you can…
Mo: I also explain when teaching overtone singing techniques. The body is wise. Students are exploring and sometimes comes out something really sharp, and that is the way to go forward… so if you put your ear in it then your body can register it without having to look for something specific, because there are so many micro movements and adjustments that one needs doing that we cannot really have all that in mind at the same time. There are so many factors that is very complex to think about all this. Your body processes at a much faster speed if we don’t put the rational factor into it. So if you put your internal ear instead of your head, then your body can get there on it’s own.
Ma: The body on it’s own before your mind. The mind is fast… but the body can be faster.

Mo: Of course. Rationalizing it’s a process that can take time, so this is passing through another circuit.

Ma: Maybe If you don’t risk to do anything new, you won’t know your voice well enough.

Mo: Yes, because your voice talks about your limits. So if you really begin to truly explore it, even if it sounds however it may sound, it doesn’t matter, or if anyone can think aesthetically what the f*** are you doing?

Ma: Exactly. This recording we have just done, we may want to display it publicly or not… but is not about that.
Mo: No… it’s important that one has fun too.

Ma: Did you have fun?

Mo: Yes.
Ma: Me too.

 © Maria Soriano 2014, Singing4Health