An exciting and ambitious project featuring popular Latin music stars such as Tito Nieves, La India and Jennifer Peña will be released early next year. The name of this project is Unity: A Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson, a production that provides a Latin twist to some of the most popular tracks ever recorded by the King of Pop.
The head of this project is Tony Succar, a young and talented musician and producer based in Miami, Florida. I recently had the opportunity to interview Tony and he shared with me some very interesting insights about the making of the whole album. If you are curious about this project, I would like to invite you to read this exclusive interview regarding one of the most interesting productions of 2013.
Before we talk about Unity, would you mind giving us a brief introduction about yourself?
My name is Tony Succar. I am a music producer and indie record label owner based in Miami, Florida. I was born in Peru and came to Miami when I was three years old. I was fortunate to be born into a musical family. My mom is a singer, dad is a pianist, grandmother is also a singer, great grandfather was a master violinist and composer, and the list goes on.
My parents always played folkloric music from Peru, and I've been listening to that style of music since I was born. The first instrument that I picked up and started playing was a cajon, a folkloric box shaped percussion instrument, which is very present in this tribute album. I really enjoy fusing different musical elements together and I strongly believe that by doing so you can create rich musical refreshing sounds.
I know you wanted to pay this tribute to Michael Jackson after his tragic death. Why Michael Jackson?
Michael Jackson created the soundtrack of my life. There was not one song from Michael that did not penetrate my soul. His vocal abilities, the perfection in his music, his inspiring compositions, the emotion behind his performance, his dancing skills, his energy on stage, everything about Michael was always to the top of its potential. That's something that always blew me away.
Michael really sacrificed his life for the art of music. He put endless amounts of hard work and dedication to deliver to the world something that is beyond extraordinary. I can go for days, weeks, months, talking about how I admire his music. I can also go on about how I admire the Jacksons and all the geniuses who worked with them: The musicians, producers, Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien, Seidah Garrett, and more. But there's one thing I need to highlight right now: The immense impact that Michael's messages had on my life. His odes to love, respect, reflection, earth consciousness, and unity inspired me, changing my life forever. The legacy Michael has left us is one I cherish, embrace, and intend to mirror for as long as I live.
Can you tell us a little bit about the way you conceive the whole idea and style surrounding this project?
I came up with the concept over two years ago. It was a series of events that lead me on to creating this project. When Michael passed away three years ago, I sat in disbelief, dumbfounded, experiencing one of the saddest moments in my life. A couple of months after his passing, I felt an unquenchable urge to pay homage to Michael's legacy. I had no idea what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it. I simply knew I needed to follow my heart.
In October, 2009, I got a call from an agent that hires my band, his name is Randy Singer, and he wanted to put together a Halloween party for a local club on South Beach. He had the idea of making a Thriller-themed costume party, everyone looking like zombies and all that. Make a long story short, the band I had at the time was mostly a Salsa band. Randy wanted to me to perform "Thriller" for that night so I went ahead and got the idea of making a salsa arrangement to "Thriller" so we can perform it live. When I sat down and wrote that arrangement, performed it, and saw how much the people went crazy for it, that's when it all began.
I finally discovered what I could do for Michael, his legacy, his music, and his messages. My goal was to embody Michael's essence by focusing this tribute on his message of unity, which I saw in his lyrics, music, dance, and his way of being. He always looked out to unite people, unite cultures, and unite talent. I wanted to expand on his message by interpreting his music in a new way where I express myself fully, because expression is in my Latin DNA. This way, it would result into something new, hoping that I could continue the legacy and show the world how he influenced me and how important he still is to all of us.
The first single that hit the market, "I Want You Back," featuring Tito Nieves, is a Salsa track. Is this album mainly shaped around Salsa music or are there any other Latin music genres included in this work?
Most of the album is driven by the tropical Salsa rhythm, but there are many other Latin styles that are included in this album. Some of them include the Bomba from Puerto Rico, Guaguanco and Bembe from Cuba, and Lando from Peru. All of these styles have strong African roots. The innovative sound of this album is found between the fusion of these styles and Michael's music, which was already influenced by African musical culture. Soul, Funk, Jazz, Motown, they all trace back to African roots. That's why I believe Latin Music and Michael's music meshed so incredibly.
How did you choose the artists for this album? What was your criteria for making your selection?
Working with these artists has been a true blessing from God. First of all, I am a fan of their music and their talent. I've always looked up to them, and I still do. I grew up listening to their music, each and everyone of them influenced my musical career during my upbringing. I never thought I'd be able to collaborate with them, especially at such a young age. When I got the call that they wanted to participate in the album, I fell backwards each time. It was like a dream come true for me.
Recording in the studio with them was a thrilling experience. Not only is their talent above and beyond, but most importantly, the passion and emotion they put towards their profession is what makes them unique. I learned a whole lot from them.
The most amazing part of working with these artists is that I could get to know them personally and become their friends. All of them are wonderful human beings, they are extremely humble. That's the beauty about this project. We are all humble, we all share that same passion for Michael Jackson, for his message, for his legacy. We never thought selfishly about ourselves, this was all about the music, all about working as a team, all about giving and delivering the best of our abilities to make this amazing project come to life.
Which role did you play in the making of this album? Did you write all the musical arrangements?
The Unity album includes 14 of the most popular tracks from Michael Jackson, which I arranged and produced all by myself. I cannot reveal the track list just yet but I'll give you an idea why I chose these particular songs. I wanted to include in this tribute those tracks that highlight Michael Jackson's messages about earth consciousness, love, self-reflection and changing for the good. Songs that speak up against racism and abuse. That's the legacy he's left behind, the lesson he's trying to teach us all.
After watching the official trailer for this project and the first single, I noticed you worked with a very nice band/orchestra. Can you tell us something about the group of musicians you worked with? By the way, would you call it a band or an orchestra? There are lots of instruments there.
I've formed Team Unity, an array of over 90 mind-blowing professional musicians who love Michael and cherish his legacy every bit as much as I do. We're all a big family now, focused on embracing his message and showing the world how important Michael's music and spirit still is to all of us. With a large orchestra, the impact, especially in live performances is incredible.
The way it all came about, how the compositions fit so well with our Latin roots, the different folkloric instruments involved, it all adds to the experience. Expect this album to be full of surprises, your ears about to go on a Michael Jackson musical journey through the Americas!
How would you define the mission for this project?
Our mission for this project is to broaden the appeal of Michael's music by showing audiences how beautifully it is suited to a big band orchestration, Latin sound, while remaining true to Michael's artistic integrity. All of us who have worked on the project also believe that unity in music, brings about unity in society, and so as musicians, our goal is to help dissolve barriers between people and countries and shine a light on that which draws us all together, the love of music and dance, just as Michael envisioned.
In the past, several artists have injected famous English songs with Latin music arrangements. The final product hasn't been always well received by fans of the original tracks. Did you have some concerns about this? I mean, you are revisiting some of the most popular tracks in the history of Pop music.
In the beginning, yes. But I followed my heart. Michael inspired me, God gave me the talent and the right tools to do it. In the end, this project is for Michael, to show the world how important he still is to all of us.
The reaction we've been receiving so far has surpassed my expectations. I've realized that it's extremely important that our music industry leaders encourage creativity and fresh thinking. A blend of diverse perspectives is exactly what this generation of listeners desire.
"I Want You Back" includes English lyrics with a little bit of Spanish. Can we consider this album a bilingual work?
Absolutely. This is a crucial necessity in today's multifaceted social hierarchy. Multilingual speakers outnumber those speakers proficient only in one language in the world's population. Multilingualism is becoming a social phenomenon governed by the needs of globalization and cultural openness.
Which crowd do you think will embrace this work? Latin music fans, Michael Jackson's music fans, Latinos?
Unity reinterprets the blend of Hispanic and American music. It not only embraces the musical symbiosis between two cultures but it also appeals to an international target audience of Latin music lovers. Tropical music is known and embraced worldwide and its rhythms, passion and brio marry perfectly with Michael's sophisticated and dynamic approach to composition.
I guarantee that fans will be blown away when they listen to this album. The trailer contains only a very small portion of what is coming. It's been three years of intense work and every song was treated like a single. The musicians and artists, we all look up to Michael and his music, we have immense respect for his legacy. The love and dedication we've put towards this project shows in the music. That's why I really don't like to categorize this project as just an album but rather as a whole experience.
Following the release of this album or 'experience,' as you just described it, are there any plans to produce a tour?
I have many ideas and projects that I'd like to deliver to the world tomorrow but everything takes time, and I always like to deliver the highest quality possible. I always choose quality over quantity. It's just the way I am. I know for a fact that this project will be going on for a long time. I have many plans. This is all a part of the surprise, so I won't share that with you just yet but yeah, stay in tune for those updates!
I strive and work extremely hard to deliver always musical experiences that are above and beyond. Of course, I'm nowhere near the level of Michael Jackson, but I try to follow his footsteps. Michael loved his fans, he truly did, and always gave them the best of him. I want to do the same