About 3 years after he left Orphaned Land, guitarist and musician Yossi Sassi is once again on the verge of a breakthrough with an ensemble, that is highly likely to make a significant mark in the music world where east and west mix together. After 3 solo albums, dozens of worldwide shows, endless lectures and masterclasses, Sassi recently created the Oriental Rock Orchestra. A 9 piece act that combines the Yossi Sassi Band with more oriental musicians, including his talented teenage daughter, Danielle. It will be a very difficult task to explain the energy, originality and vibrant attitude of the Oriental Rock Orchestra, best recommendation will be to go and see them on stage.
“In a way, the idea was always there”, Says Sassi about the orchestra, “ I felt for years that the results I reach with my studio productions, involving multiple musicians, are not reflecting the same during the live show. I alone play between 17 to 22 different instruments on an average album. The quest for ‘The sound’ is rooted since our very first touring experiences. In the past year, after trying various ensemble, using computers that send certain instruments to the P.A, etc, I decided there are ‘no shortcuts’ – we need a bigger and more suitable ensemble for this to happen.”
When did you and your daughter started to play together? And does she play with you on stage on a school night?
“Danielle developed her own style and technique. in fact, she rarely consults me with her musical approach, ha ha, seriously, she’s very determined to make it on her own. She played the violin for 4 years, then some guitar, and eventually ended up devoting herself to the instruments of wind. Naturally, we’ve been jamming together at home from time to time, but the significant steps were done by her, by herself. On school nights? sure. Why not? it’s something she does professionally and out of pure passion, so she skips school whenever she needs to. Objective learning experiences are always there, subjective ones are hard to come by. Danielle is very passionate about the flute. she recently started playing Nay flutes as well.”
In order to motivate others, and considering your successful years in Orphaned Land. There are tons of ideas while putting music, production and actual visuals together. How do you know when something you have in your hands is worth to hold on to?
“I never know in advance. Success, as many other worthwhile things, is an elusive concepts. True, with time you develop a more delicate sensor for what could be worth to pursue, yet paraphrasing another common saying: no song survives the encounter with the first listener.
“It’s only after it’s out in the open that you can fully validate concepts, melodies & certain songs. I’m glad it’s like that. It releases me from thinking about objective success factors and focusing on genuine, truly pioneering, new music. There are formulas to songs, in terms of dynamics, atmosphere, structure, key, scale, tempo etc, as I teach them in musical colleges, but the factor of luck and whatever may trend next is always there to change your plans.”
While a lot of artists are looking to find a way these days to reduce the size of their bands and creating smaller shows in order to save expenses, you jumped right in with 9 musicians on stage. Do you have no fears at all?
“I was never totally sane, it’s a known fact. You’re right – today’s touring efforts focus on ‘lean and mean’ ensembles, starting with one man bands. If you can come play with just a playback on your mobile phone – you’re hired. But I felt that THIS is what it takes for the ‘Undeniably Great’ feeling. True, it’s totally not profitable at the moment. And it cannot be played at any stage size or smaller venues. Yet the music I compose was meant to be played full-heartedly by multiple musicians, and if it means investing a lot to make it happen – then that’s what it will take. What helps is that we can pull it off quite successfully even with 8 or 9 musicians”.
In your wildest dreams – where do you see the orchestra 5 years from now?
“It will be playing at festivals & touring worldwide, as it should be. One the orchestra’s concept is ‘a surprise singer’ – We’d love to host a female or male singer, and we’d usually not announce it – but every show will have a different guest vocalist with different arrangements to the songs.”
When you look deep into the Orchestra’s style and arrangements and considering you already pioneered a complete genre with Orphaned Land, What kind of musical impact do you think this unique style will create?
“It’s no secret that I’m a huge enthusiast of fusions, and a true explorer of musical boundaries. I feel the basic genres are been highly used and misused, and while you can create a super tight rock act or an outstanding jazz trio, it is the latin-Gothic-salsa-metal that will potentially stimulate more new ears. This is the best time in human history to be creative – you just can’t allow yourself to go safe. almost 30 years ago, when I began playing guitar, I was sitting in a synagogue, hearing traditional prayers being chanted.
“My father said: ‘Why won’t you mix THAT with your electric noises?’. I laughed. and I was partly right – not everyone loved the fact that we were fusing metal music with traditional prayers and ‘hard-core’ ethnic & oriental music. But he was right. Today there are dozens of bands following the footsteps of the musical mix pioneered by my music in ‘Orphaned Land’.
“Being bold about your true self pays off. and this is who I truly am: a mix of my roots and roads, my heritage of eclectic music from Greece, Maghreb, Turkey etc, along with a solid passion for multiple western musical styles and vast exploration of rock and heavier music. Better be your extreme self than others’ moderate version.”