Dream Weaver

June 24th, 2010

I’ve had a steady flow of dreams lately and dream inspiration. Dreams inspire me to be totally free, creatively like no other. For me, it’s the answer to unblocking those creative arteries. It unlocks all the gems that I withhold during my conscious state. It requires that I get to bed at a decent time and don’t unload daily stresses into the dream state. Stress inhibits creativity for me.

This week I’m residing in the City of Fake, otherwise known as Las Vegas at the fabulous Wynn Encore Hotel. The Strip is everything you imagine: glitz, glam and flim-flam. It’s very magical and Las Vegans (pardon the pun) take pride in it, as they should. There’s no place on earth that can marvel the magic of Vegas. Ironically, I’ve managed to find a space to step away from the glitz and go deep inside to connect with my inner magic.

This week alone, I’ve planted the seeds for three unique songs: some with words and other with just the music. Musically, each seed stands alone onto itself, so I’m never exhausted of originality. Even with all of this, I sense that there was even more music and words that I just can’t recall at the moment.

Thanks to recorders, I file the seeds away on my hard drive until I’m ready to develop them into full fledged songs or even connect the dots. And I’ve got tons of them. Tapping into dreams is like tapping into a hidden well of creativity. My goal is to be able to tap into it even more freely and willingly for those hidden gems.

Timing is critical to capturing these seeds before they slip away from memory. I’m usually able to capture seeds within 30 minutes of being awake. And I usually have a tape recorder nearby and lock myself in the bathroom for the added acoustics. I’ve even captured story ideas this way as well.

And it was during one of these post dream rituals that I came up with a song called Slide, a song about taking better care for Earth before we destroy it. I hope you enjoy it.

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lyrics & music by Martina Downey

Martina Downey: lead & backing vocals, keyboards
Robert Urban: guitar, bass, synths & drums
Steven Sullivan: bass

produced, arranged, recorded & mixed by Robert Urban

mama: the umbilical cord is unbroken

April 17th, 2010

last night i learned the meaning of when my lover said “and we are spiritual beings too.” themes and dreams of mama kept floating in my head. some of them good and some of them so deep inside of my inner, emotional self. i was crying in my dream. i was crying in my wake state as well. intimate conversations with the ancestors. intimate conversations with mama. mama, a woman whose name i have not spoken about or written about in 15 years. she was my other mama. she raised me from the time i was 3 until the time i was 13.

as i think of her, it is as though i am driven to baldness with fear, driven to an infantile, “primitive” state of mind. i feel it. i feel mixed emotions. sadness and joy. i spoke to her last night or it was more like i listened and she spoke. i did not see her but i heard her talking to me, looking out over me, advising me; it was more or less like a station-to-station call. i just heard her voice talking to me without the aid any mechanical devices. move over ma bell. i could not remember what she said but i remember the softness of her voice, the softness of her voice, the gentleness of her hands. the message, whatever it was, was calming.

i remember. i remember mama. she loved me for who i was, regardless of what i did. it was 319 hamilton avenue, paterson, new jersey where she lived. she owned the grey painted, two family house across the street from us. whenever i picture the house, a place where I spent much of my youth, i always picture it in the dawn of sun light. i remember mama loving me when i was a child. i remember how i was an example of what a good disciplined child was supposed to be. the truth of it all is that I never got caught. besides, why should I, the perfectionist that I was. I think she knew when I got away with stuff, but she was softer on me because of I’d face the tyranny of my insane mother. most of all, i remember how she loved me for who i was not what i was and i was something special, something different. she knew it. she saw the signs. she saw the signs. mama to me was the calm that even my maternal mother did not seem to have. she was safety. her home was sanctuary. she loved many children. she adopted many foster children and was caretaker of many others on the block. we were all brothers and sisters. it was there too, that i learned to eat. before then, i was a scrawny looking thing that detested food at all cost. i guess being around all the children made it okay to eat. it was there too, that i learned how to play with other children, responsibility and love. i loved and still love mama saffey.

she died of cancer in 1975. the same year josephine baker died. josephine baker reminds me is some ways of mama, the way she loved so many children, so many bleeding hearts. mama was much older than my maternal mother, delsey. she knew my own mother was strict and would tear up my behind if i went out of line. she knew not to tell my mother of certain things about me, the naughty things. mama also knew of my gentleness, my softness, my femininity. she was a witness. she used to tell the other children how i kept my nails so clean; how neat and mannerly i was. i was an example of how a good kid was supposed to be.

i woke up this morning afraid and shaking. afraid that she was physically in the house waiting to talk me. and you know something, i am still afraid but lesser so that i am writing this dream.

i dreamt too of my maternal mother, delsey. this time it wasn’t so pleasant. delsey was scaring me. how you might ask? she was hitting and abusing me. i was running away from her. i was running away from her. i was very afraid. i was crying. i love her but i was or i am still afraid of her simultaneously. this love/hate thang. this mixed double-blind emotions that signifies the instability of what mother meant to her. i am less scared of her physically today than i am emotionally afraid of her. i was afraid to trust her with my emotions for fear that she will abuse them as she has done so as recently as mother’s day during a telephone conversation. she was steadily manipulating, controling, and scheming ways to cause more schisms in the family. it was the only way she knew how to express her love, so it has been said.

i remember ultimately getting delsey to talk to her sister, whom she has been jealous of for the past 60 or more years, on the telephone. finally, it seems, they were able to partially reconcile. and i was glad about that. delsey always had a bug about aunt eloise, as long as i can remember. i think it had to do with her jealousy over aunt eloise being raised in a very loving family; the type of family delsey couldn’t begin to fathom.

delsey was stingy. she always felt that if she gave you a bone 20 years ago, then you owed her your soul for life. in fact, when she gave you a bone, she expected you to bark to the beat of her tunes, but her tunes weren’t always so melodious. besides, us tung-drooped, tail-waggers get tired of salivating for stale bones any way. you see, i figure if you’re going to give a bone, then give it. give it with all your heart and expect nothing in return. delsey always expected gratitude but rather she confused gratitude with her need to control.

i dreamt of you too fuega. i, your agua was outside in a crowd, surrounded by a bunch of strangers in a semi-circle. something was going down. i can’t remember what it was though. i remember feeling all alone in the crowd of those folks. and fuega, i just wanted to tell you that last night before i went to sleep, you told me on the telephone that you’d meet me in my dreams. well, guess what girlfriend, you were there with all of your fiery self. you showed up out of nowhere, unexpectedly as you usually do. i remember you greeting me. i remember seeing you. i felt again, very safe. i again felt your love, a special kind of love that will never go away.

as i sailed through these dream worlds, my destination was mama and i found it at all cost. mama is holistic, sustaining, everlasting sense of the word. mama is me, deep inside of me. mama is you. mama,her love. mama, her milk. all i have to do is call her up and she is always there. mama, i return to you. mama, the umbilical cord is unbroken.

martina downey

What's on my iPOD?

March 1st, 2010

Well, the more I think about it the more I realize that I could be a flower child. The music that inspired me the most when I was growing up were Bowie, Beatles, Stax Records, Temptations, the Jackson 5 and the rest of Motown but not necessarily in that order. I could put on a Parliament record after listening to David Bowie’s Heroes. I remember when David performed it on Bing Crosby’s last special in ’77. It was really something to see. The choreography was great.

On Sunday morning, my mother would play Aretha Franklin singing gospel with songs like How I Got Over or a James Cleveland record. So there was no escaping gospel music. It was always at the root.

Today, I still enjoy the music of the late 60s and 70s because it was the era of convergence. The Temptations began to sound psychedelic and psychedelic rock bands sounded like the Temps. And speaking of the Temps, recently there is a later song circa 1975 that I’ve really grown fond of. It’s called Memories.

And speaking of psychedelic, I could really trip to King Crimson. Songs like 21st Century Schizoid Man and Cat Food are timeless. Check out the dissonance of the piano in Cat Food. You can tell they were inspired by African music and Jazz. They take me on a ride and I just get lost in the music. It’s a wonderful feeling. No wonder I can connect with it. It’s a familiar feeling. And speaking of Cat Food, there is this Japanese band called Benisyoga that does an impressive interpretation of it.

21st Century Schizoid Man is like a symphony, each part of the song is it’s own movement. It’s like several songs within one. This approach to music had a great influence on me. There is a Japanese band called Seasons and they tear it up in their version. They are sassy strings bring the song to whole other emotional level. Check out the video and buy the record! You won’t be disappointed.

I’ve been listening a lot to Traffic a lot these days. There’s just something about those old songs with Steve Winwood on vocals and organ, songs like Freedom Rider and Heaven Is in Your Mind. Ooh, I just love the meter changes in that song. It goes from 4/4 time in the verse to 3/4 time in the chorus. That’s so cool!

Jomama Jones: The Lone Star

February 10th, 2010

I witnessed Jomama Jones tonight at Joe’s Pub in the Village. What can I say. She was “afro-futuristic,” divine and utterly fantastic. Jomama Jones is much more than skin deep. Her music is spiritual and had me foot stompi Read the rest of this entry »

The Balancing Act: Part One

January 24th, 2010

With Robert Urban

What can I say? It’s something that can never escape me. No matter how many distractions, stress inducing moments and work-life balancing acts I endure, I can’t escape the desire, the passion to write music. I’ve come to the understanding that if I don’t release it, it will haunt me forever like a living hell. Scary, isn’t it?

The older I get, the more busy life gets. I am referring to the rat race of urban living. A few years ago, I found myself at a point of being haunted by the thoughts of wanting to create but not finding the space to do so. The more I moved away from the gift, the emptier I felt. And then the painful reminders sink in: aching bones and joints, weight gain and stress.

I realized that I could never totally disconnect because my dreams still presented me with creative pearls of musical ideas; little nuggets that I could store on my hard drive and I did just that. It could be 3am in the morning. It could be a melody, a lyric but usually some kind of melody that I felt compelled to jot down in my groggy, early morning state. And so I did just that over and over again. The closer I was to dream state, the easier it was to truly capture the essence of the gift that was bestowed to me at the waking point. I have a good sense of memory for dream details: smells, places, colors, people (living and dead) and sounds.

For example, I can recall being in a dream listening to a song on the radio, but realizing in the wake state that I never heard of it before. The same thing happened when I was watching a concert on the TV in my dream or the glowing lady in white who taught me an old song in a foreign language. There’s more on that next time.

I still struggle with the work-life balancing act, but realize I’m not alone in that process and that there are other artists doing the same thing in different ways. In that work-life balance is the guilt associated with not having moved forward and feeling helpless in the Matrix of life. Even as a clumsy kid in gym class, I always hated the balancing beam. Remember that?

I think I like creating music more than performing it. It’s always a good feeling when I can accurately share the soundtrack of my mind and when I can capture the moment. It’s a beautiful feeling. I do like performing, but I stress out from all the little details. However, when I am on stage it all pulls together and I am totally in the moment. It’s the before stuff that drives me crazy.

About a year ago, I felt the need to record again. It’s been nearly 10 years and thus began the search. I am very happy to be working with the very talented Robert Urban of Urban Productions. He is my George Martin, the genius that he is. We’ve been working together for a few months and here’s a taste of what’s to come from our hard work. It’s called Sign Post. I hope you enjoy it.

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lyrics & music by Martina Downey
(c) 2010

Martina Downey – vocal
Robert Urban – guitars, percussion, piano, orchestral sounds
Steven Sullivan – bass

arranged, produced, recorded & mixed by R. Urban

Frost/Nixon: New Ron Howard Movie

December 6th, 2008

Your President was not a crook or was he? I’m speaking of 1974 of course. You have to see this movie. I was not quite a teenager when he resigned and I remember the Frost/Nixon interviews and the famous resignation speech that was televised Don’t miss it and neither will I.
Check out the trailer.

Strange Culinary Desires

November 28th, 2008

Thanksgiving day couldn’t have been more perfect. I spent the time with family and friends. I did some cooking and everything came out just perfect. The highlight of the day was eating a chocolate bar infused with bacon. I was dared into it and I can’t refuse a dare. Believe it or not, it really worked just like the lasagna with raisins I had 20 years ago. If you are ever in Whole Foods, stop by the candy aisle and pick up a chocolate with bacon bar. You won’t be sorry.

Music For Film

November 15th, 2008

Today I am feeling very old school. The doc says my voice will be just fine with “west and welaxation at wast.” Well, I don’t think so but at least the prognosis looks good. I’ve been feeling very old school. I’m listening to one of favorite Eno compositions, Music for Film. Check out what he does with rhythm on the track “M386“. It’s somewhat somber, serious and moving at the same time. It feels very familiar to me and hopefully with you as well. Enjoy and discover Eno.

Lost My Voice

November 10th, 2008

It’s Sunday evening, several days past one of the greatest moments in American history, namely Barack Obama becoming president and I have lost my voice. Yes, I have absolutely no singing voice and it’s been gone for two weeks plus. I got sick two weeks ago and my speaking voice was all but a whisper. I feel better but my voice is completely annihilated. I am worried sick about it. I had a dream about me being asked to sing and instead I had to play a recording of one of my songs. I’ve even had thoughts of making music the Quincy Jones approach by having other performers sing and play my music, while I direct. That idea worked for a hot minute. Okay, so I’ve jumped the gun a just a little.

I went to the GP yesterday and he couldn’t figure it out. He said it’s time to call the ENT and that is what I am going to do first thing tomorrow morning. You see, I have hope that somebody is going to return my voice just like I have hope that Barack is going to take action in restoring the economy and the damage that has been done to our nation. It’s going to be a tough battle ahead on both accounts because the damage is quite grave.

It’s so bad that I can’t even hit a note. The most I can do is squeal like a mouse. Well, if you have any bright ideas or home remedies, please pass them along. I have temporary lost my voice before, but not like this. This is bad as the Dow falling 700 points. I have hope that all will we well again with time and good care.

OUTMusic: Breast Cancer Awareness

October 8th, 2008

Good Evening,

It’s almost morning by my account. I just wanted to drop you a few lines to let you know that last night’s Outmusic Open Mic was a wonderful fundraiser for Breast Cancer awareness. There were moving testimonials of how women battled the disease like true warriors, armed with their creativity to survive. There were some great performances. I think they were all were great and very different. We had blues, hip/hop, folk, rock, jazz and comedy.

I had a blast singing last night. I have to thank all the organizers at Outmusic for their warm welcome. I felt at home there and I really like the new venue. They created a nice space and the GLBT Center in Manhattan and kept it intimate at the same time. I posted a couple of pics.

Athena Reich made us laugh. The duo reminded me of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Ganessa James can make a guitar hum and she’s got a great voice to go with it.

Thanks to all the fellas that came out to support. It was a truly a ‘family affair.’  Thank you, Outmusic.