Teja Bell

Teja Bell
Teja Bell by Stephanie Mohan
Leeward Sail
Forest Window

Teja Bell is a guitarist and producer who composes, performs, and records a dynamic blend of acoustic and electronic music. His distinctive style covers a wide variety of influences, including classical, jazz, and rock.  His album DOLPHIN SMILES (a collaboration with Steven Kindler) on Global Pacific/CBS charted in both R & R and Billboard International for over 40 consecutive weeks and was listed in Billboards year end "NO. 1 AWARDS" issue as #3 on the "Top Ten Contemporary Jazz Albums" chart. DOLPHIN SMILES was also #1 New Age Album of the Year in Japan, according to Japan’s Musician Magazine.

Listen in as Teja reveals a bit more about himself to Creative Director, Yvonne de Villiers

How did your musical journey begin?
I began playing piano at an early age – my mother was a classically trained pianist and my father played jazz saxophone and clarinet.  We called our music Jazzical or sometimes Clazz!  At age 10 I got my first guitar with money I earned from a paper route – it was a KAY.  That, the radio, and a Mel Bay Guitar book or two, and I was off to races.  I began taking lessons and soon started learning classical guitar.  I played rock and roll throughout my teen years but always loved the classical guitar repertoire and the intimacy of this instrument and performance.

When did you write your first song?
I wrote my first song at age 13 and started performing it with my rock and roll band.  I first stepped into a recording studio at 15 and have loved writing music and songs and recording ever since.

What attracted you to Luna Guitars? What do you and your fans love most about your Luna?
Luna guitars are unique and bold in their design and aesthetic presence.  I play a Luna Vicki Genfan Signature Model and an AMT100 Dreadnought.  These guitars sound great, and nobody suspects that are not super high-end and expensive guitars.  Audiences love the appearance and most importantly they love the sound of these instruments.  I personally like their playability.  Besides being serious guitars, they are fun guitars to play…. and fun is important!  These instruments lend themselves to a variety of styles – finger-style or with plectrums, you can get just the sound you want.  Coupled with a fine microphone, these guitars record beautifully and sound as good as any you will hear while adding their own unique favor.

Teja Bell
Teja Bell by Stephanie Mohan

Who were your musical influences?
My musical influences are many and various.  I would have to start with the classical masters like Bach, Chopin, Maurice Ravel, and Rodrigo, for the beauty and timelessness of the composition.  Amongst guitarists, well, there are just so many excellent and inspiring players I hardly know where to start.  Of modern day players, certainly Tommy Emmanuel is awesome and musically one of my favorites.  Classical guitarists: John Williams, Manuel Barrueco, Sharon Isbin – and so many others… wow!  For electric guitar I have to go with Eric Johnson, Steve Vai and Frank Vignola – these players are absolutely dedicated.

What are you most proud of musically?
I had the honor to play and tour with jazz great Ahmad Jamal as a featured soloist.  Ahmad taught me — without teaching me — about emotional transparency in performance.  Every night on stage with Ahmad was an adventure in letting go of all imagined limitations and being completely present to pure music &— lose yourself to find yourself, as the saying goes.

Another amazing adventure was with Japanese pianist Tadamitsu Saito.  I had played on and helped produce a number of recordings with Mark Jeffrey for Saito's Japanese label.  Saito Sensei came to the US to play a concert and asked violinist Darol Anger and me to perform with him.  We played the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon.  Darol and I arrived two days before the concert for rehearsals.  To our great surprise, Saito did not want to rehearse any 'compositions'. Instead we only practiced being completely in the moment — meditation in its most pristine musical form — and playing and improvising completely uncontrived or rehearsed.  We played an entire concert for 2,700 people totally unscripted and spontaneous.  I've been in an altered state ever since (laughs).  It was beautiful and fresh and I connected with people deeply and purely from the heart.

What's your next CD and its scheduled release date?
Right now I'm working on a solo guitar recording and then one with Steve Wolf that is more vocals and songwriting.  To be released this Fall 2012!

Do you play any benefit shows? What causes are close to your heart? 
I have played and contributed to many causes, including Saving the Redwood forests here in Northern California.  Dolphins and whales are also very important to me, and I've done many benefits for environmental groups such as Greenpeace.  Almost always when asked, I will support a worthy cause by playing — it's an honor to do so.  I like to contribute to causes that have to do with the Earth and with animals — they need our love and attention equally with our fellow humans, I believe.

What is your favorite word?

What do vulnerability and authenticity mean to you and how do you practice them in your work?
Vulnerability is the willingness to be real and authentic.  For a musician it means being who you are and not trying to compare yourself and your skills and gifts to others.  Each of us has our own special gift.  Not everyone will be able to play like John Williams or Tommy Emmanuel.  But we can always work toward being the best that we can be and if our heart/mind is directed to contributing to others and to life through our playing and performance — then our time is well spent and our lives are well used.

Starry Night Album Art

What inspires you?Beauty in any form inspires me.  Kindness always inspires me.  It is always healing and returns us to our essential humanity.  When we live from this place we bring joy and benefit to everything and everyone around us.

What's something that gets in the way of your creativity and how do you move through it?
Managing time is very significant to musicians.  There's hardly enough time in a day or a lifetime to practice and perform all the music that we love and would like to create.  But we just keep going and do the best we can, knowing that we can't always live up to our own expectations — but we can persevere and always give it our best.

Describe a snapshot of a joyful moment in your life.
The most joyful moment of my life was the birth of my daughter Rio.  It changed me forever and connected me completely to her and in my commitment to life.

Do you have a mantra or manifesto for living and loving with your whole heart?
We don't live or play just for ourselves.  All of our actions and every note we play expands out into the Universe.  Every moment is precious.  Future circumstances are uncertain and situations are ever-changing.  Now is the time to give the best that you have and love fully.  Don't wait to awaken!

What's something about you that would surprise us?
In my parallel life I am also an ordained Rinzai Zen priest and martial arts master.I've been a lifelong practitioner of Aikido and Chinese internal martial arts. I practice these arts for their healing and integrative qualities and principles. I teach the healing practices of qigong and meditation as well as the internal energy arts. Healing is what we do with our music.  Music can be like meditation in sound – restorative, reaffirming and rejuvenating.  Healing music doesn't have to be new age soft music; it can be the blues or folk or really any style where the playing is coming from sincerity and true heartfelt-ness. Meditation, healing, and music are parallel and complementary paths — one enhances the other . . . .

Your six-word memoir?
 Fully live, love, play and give.

For more from Teja Bell, visit his site: www.TejaBell.com
Learn more about Qigong here: www.qigongdharma.com

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