The Trouble Notes have today released their new single titled ‘Mayahuel’. In a world that is welcoming globalization as well as fearing it, we get a refreshing take from those who have been there and live it. We, as a civilization, are the sum of our best achievements as well as greatest fears. Music is the great documenter of this for future generations. Having said that, let someone please put this song in a time capsule so we can say we had an open mind.
Musically ‘Mayahuel’ is a global trek through the genius of a set of musicians who were meant to be together. A family made this. I hear our collective culture in every note. And it is wonderful. Diversity as a delicacy.
Interview with Carola Zerega
How did you find the courage to uproot your life and leave Ecuador?
I was studying the 2nd. year of psychology. I discovered that I was passionate about discovering personality traits and psychological pathologies, music never left me, so I took courage and talked to my mother, it was a 2-year process before leaving the country, I sold things, to be able to raise the money for the airplane ticket, I applied and approved a student scholarship, I had singing classes to prepare 2 classical works for my audition at the conservatory in Odessa Ukraine and as a “final test” I found love, with the warning of time I started a relationship that could only last 7 months before my trip, I was accepted. I never regretted giving everything in those 7 months, I was happy and I left happy, full of inspiration, dreams, goals, doubts, infinite doubts that became fears over time.
Was there something that triggered this decision?
Passion, passion and passion for music; curiosity, adventure, change paradigms, get out of the social chains of a country.
Was it a process? (did it gradually build up over time?)
I have been singing since I was 7 years old in the Church of my school, and yes, the music “drop count”enveloped me by “drop count”and I could never separate myself from it, music is my sun, my pulse. I did everything I could do with music, voice over for radio commercials, voice recordings of theater characters, choirs for recordings of small local artists, 8 years in the Choir of the Polytechnic University.
How did you find your place in your new home, first Ukraine / second Kortrijk, Belgium?
ohhh my story with other Ecuadorians… in distant lands… a drama, and a mafia behind it…. what I discovered while there….
They robbed us in every possible way, with the minus 15 degree cold, the Ukrainian and Russian language (this is the one I speak), without being able to express myself, communicate; missing my nest, my family, my friends, my food, my “green plantain”, “humita” (ground corn cooked and wrapped in the corn husk), and all the delicacies of my land… All that weight was carried to the bed; every day was a great internal fight, a heartbreaking struggle hidden in a smile and I tried to be supportive for other Ecuadorian compatriots who felt the same as me. On the one hand, it is true that I was not alone, I was sharing the same dream with other Ecuadorians, although what seemed like a wonderful company turned into discovering and stripping masks, one by one they fell, the “friends” became enemies, the more “religious “, they became “envious”, the “intelligent” became cunning and the “teachers” became accomplices of a mafia, that’s my story as it begins…
It doesn’t matter how it started, but how my story ended in my second home Ukraine; each one of my achievements, each one of the new souls found, rediscovered, friendships and wonderful teachers who deserve to be named and recognized, from whom I learned and recognized my ability, my own struggle, my time, and talent
I made space for myself in the local scene, I recorded with several local musicians, I had countless rehearsals: from classical music, through Ukrainian folklore, a jazz big band, a rock cover group, Latin American music, Andean, electronica, my musical curriculum was filled with stages and concerts; I didn’t care if they were big, or small. I abandoned the classic as is obvious and dedicated myself to “BEING ME” and I was happy. I loved what I discovered about myself, I hugged and loved Ukraine because I experienced my greatest personal struggles, I am grateful and blessed.
I learned to cook the local cuisine, example: Borsh (red soup), ohh I learned so much, both with the method: “in dry”, “from the front” (direct) and “cold” (zero sentimentality), that being me Latina! I had to learn to live like this for the next few years of my life in Ukraine (fucked up😂) (13 years old: 11 in Odessa, 2 in Kyiv).
And as the cherry on the cake of this whole experience called “Ukraine” I found love, once again like in those 7 months before leaving Ecuador, an “Aries” love was by my side again and became my current family. .
My new family in Belgium
I live at full gallop especially after the plandemia, I am blessed since the magnificent meeting with the “Magnolias Collective” a bouquet of wonderful creative women, artists, scientists, designers, entrepreneurs, etc.. in the city of Kortrijk, my city, and continuing with the meeting with these traveling souls “The Trouble Notes” who have opened their doors to me doors of their world, the music they create and that I have had the privilege of sharing on stage and in the recording studio.
I currently live without wasting the opportunity to share art, always ready to embark on an adventure!
How do you reconcile differences between the culture of your past and the culture of your presence?
I have the wonderful luck of being a mutable sign and I am very good at adapting, without forgetting that adapting takes time, a new country has its psychology, a sentimental environment to discover, the history of a people, the economics to be part of the system, a language, or 2 languages, an art, a climate, smells, flavors,… humour, customs, etc… it is a process, both within the home and outside it; I carry my responsibility of “YES I ACCEPT” and I am learning my new reality step by step and the most important thing is WITHOUT forgetting my principles and values as an individual and without crushing my freedom to BE ME. I am faithful to my friends, I am my friend with myself too and I embrace Carola “La zerega” (nickname) in all her splendor.
How do you choose which aspects of different cultures make up your identity?
The Latino-mestizo is in “red hot” everything that I discovered that I did less or badly I was improving it as the unpunctuality that is almost impossible in the Latinos, which Ukraine helped me because there many times they arrived even with 5 minutes or 15 minutes before; the humor of Odessa is part of me now. I was born in a city with hot and humid climate, which has already changed and the maximum I can stand is 2 months in my own city, it means that cold has its beauty. And well, all that I forged in Ukraine I consider as concrete brushstrokes that gave more details to the work created by my race and my God.
When I left my country I was not more than 20 years old and I was already a mother of a mutable child like me. what I mean by this is that my mental formation was adult and strong.
Interview with Martha Xuconostli
How did you find the courage to uproot your life and leave Oaxaca?
I come from a Mexican family with very strong identity roots – raised with love and pride for our ancestors, traditions, and community. I was raised with colorful joy, imagination, a love for adventure, and courage as an example at home.
Leaving Oaxaca was difficult for my family. My relationship with my grandmothers and mamma has always been difficult. However, I understand more about it growing up. I was raised by amazing women who instilled in me the inspiration for exploring worlds and tastes and being used to moving around beyond my southern river borders.
I have been uprooting my life with this family fire as the center of my heartbeat: Thanks to the richness of my roots, I have been able to travel since I was very young, being curious about new landscapes, people, food, and cultures.
Could you explain what was going on in your life before you left?
“Before I moved to Belgium, I was living at the Mexican Caribbean beach (my second adoptive home away from Oaxaca) and I was working in the tourism sector. But also, I was very active in the socio-cultural sector with passionate causes such as the conservation of native Mexican maize and river conservation, as well as creating and collaborating with diverse artists and multicultural scenes. Together with my mother, we have an NGO that is still active bringing focus on indigenous languages and biodiversity conservation.”
What sparked this decision?
In 2016 – 2017, the not-so-forecasted decision to leave Mexico was very complex and provoked inner turbulence.
It felt like a midlife crisis while I was reaching my 40s questioning myself: Will I regret it? Will I come back sooner than expected? Am I totally sure about the huge 360 degrees change that I am taking? What am I going to do totally out of context?
I felt confused like I was “acting as a teenager” when I should have been “taking more serious decisions”. After all, I had finally reached my dreams in Mexico, when suddenly I was about to “leave them”… emotional jeopardy, indeed.
Love was the sparkling motivation and even if I had “afterthoughts” about the huge risk, the inside awareness of “follow your inner fire” helped me to “said yes to my heart”, dare to resign from my job, leave the beach and get me onto the flight to Belgium and meet again with all my butterflies, the love of my youth, Jurgen Lemaire.
Was it a process? (Did it gradually build up over time?)
The process was huge! My tropical world was flipped into the Flemish world from 30 Celcius to -0!
Today I can realize what a space-out process is! I had no clue about all the challenges because I never asked myself too many questions and probably because of my adventurous roots. The most difficult part of the process was the 3 years without being able to go back to Oaxaca while I was all the time learning the language, and local culture, and even the challenge of having a driver’s license – building up a life in all senses and being all the time in the ‘challenge zone’.
After five years, some tears, grey winter skies, and some delicious Belgian beers, I felt myself in another skin… I am grateful for the process and the result of my journey, drawing me new doors with hope and feeling the faithful support of my family.
How did you find your place in your new home?
Beyond the cultural difference, when I arrived in Belgium in 2017, I had to start by finding a connection to my new home and life as a couple – first with him, and also very important: returning with myself, feeling me, and embracing me.
Suddenly, I went from arriving with enthusiasm about my new life to stress and uncertainty on how I would build myself again. I was totally dependent on my husband and that was very hard for me since I am used to being independent. I was scared, very scared. I felt a huge pressure. I had no clue. And yes, kind of lost.
I had the feeling of being suddenly isolated in the middle of nowhere, in winter far away from my busy beach life, and I was totally lost in translation with the language within my cold cristal bubble of unknown. I had no friends nor a house of my own, but I was totally open to a new adventure in the Flemish region of Kortrijk learning. Thanks to the guidance of my husband, Jurgen Lemaire, who unconditionally supported me.
I had love, support, courage, enthusiasm, curiosity, new dreams, health, and a soul.
Yes, I was emotionally bombarded but at the same time, empowered by love and the beautiful local life and landscapes – forests, beach dunes, beautiful cities, and local culture.
I’ve decided to explore the beauty of my surreal life-changing feeling not so far from my Oaxaca nest and Papaloapan River. Thanks to “The Leie river” which connected me to my butterflies and roots, reminding me to flow and have faith.
My favorite new ritual suddenly was biking around and along the rivers. Discovering my exciting new life let me be immersed in delicious foods and traditions.
My first two years immigrating here were busy and full of things to learn from zero. Indeed, my most difficult years – I was not speaking Nederlands, I had no driver’s license, I had no network nor friends or relatives, and I was unemployed.
The gray winter was the “top of the drama” to deal with my issues. My shiny Mexican skies were not part of my days anymore.
Step by step, I started to own my life: I went to school to study Dutch, and I got involved with cultural activities with fun and interesting new opportunities.
I started to walk into zones out of the comfort that dared me and squeezed my existence like a seed becoming a flower, like a girl that became a woman.
By the summer of 2018, I was starting up with Love Mexico, Ambassadeurs of Mexican culture in Belgium. During lockdowns, my creativity came back to life. Then, after Covid, I finally got my driver’s license.”
How do you reconcile differences between the culture of your past and the culture of your present?
Past and present coexist in my life as a result of culturally mixed family roots – The Xucunostli family is a very ancient Aztec family. I came from a very old tribe and I was born from a rich mix of cultures: Aztec roots with some Spanish spark. Throughout my life, I have been on a deep journey of reconciliation. I had a lot of wars in the past for me to recognize pride and compassion.
How do you choose which aspects of the different cultures make up your identity?
It has been a very interesting and complex life journey discovering and recognizing my mixed identity. Thanks to this research on identity, the best things in my life have happened.
Accepting who I am by understanding and exploring my cultural syncretism makes me able to see and embrace the beauty of my diversity, strongly supporting my present life and owning who I am.
About The Trouble Notes
The story of The Trouble Notes begins on the Brooklyn banks of the East River. A young visionary violinist stood staring out, beyond the lights of the city into the unknown, yearning for an adventure that would sweep him away from his beloved New York City. Having spent the past years on an intense career path at a Wall Street investment firm, Bennet felt a sense of conflict down to his very core.
“I had spent the early years of my adult life immersed in a career for which I had no passion. Yes, there was a status and a sense of ‘purpose’, but was that really my own?” remembers Bennet. “My violin called to me, increasingly louder with each passing day until I knew it was time to embark on my own adventure, to the beat of my own drum. I would only later find that the drum would be played by Oliver.”
He drew inspiration from the careers of Rodrigo y Gabriela and Gogol Bordello. They had not sat around and waited for opportunities to knock at their door, they brought their music directly to the people. He would daydream from his office desk about traveling across Europe and Asia, playing his music in a group called “The Trouble Notes”. Soon those dreams would need to become reality.
Armed with nothing but a violin and a suitcase, he boarded a plane that would take him across the Atlantic. Upon his arrival in London, he began busking in the streets of the metropolis to connect with the city and its inhabitants.
“I arrived in London and I didn’t know anyone.” Said Bennet. “I had loved busking in New York City, it was a way for me to connect with new people and to practice my skills as a performer. London would prove to be a transformative city in my experience as an artist.”
After one month of busking in London, he would meet local percussionist Oliver Maguire. Born in west London, Olly had grown up in a Rock’n’Roll family. His father a former tour manager for the band Motörhead, young Olly grew up learning his skills from rock drumming legend Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. And while his love for rock music was obvious, it was his upbringing in an area rich in cultural immigration that would shape his passion for World music and beats.
“I saw Bennet playing for the first time on Portobello Road. I basically grew up on that road.” Remembers Oliver. “I had told my mum shortly before that, ‘I’m going to meet someone incredible and we are going to form a group and travel across the world playing music together.’ I can’t explain how I knew, but it was a vision.”
Their musical connection was instantaneous. Traveling together around the UK and Ireland, they would eventually land in one of the cultural epicenters of Europe: Berlin, Germany. Like in every city before, they took immediately to the streets.
“Busking is our way of meeting new people.” Says Oliver. “When we arrive somewhere for the first time, we love to get out into a scenic place and connect with the people. Drop a sign and say ‘We are The Trouble Notes, let’s connect’. We’ve done that in nearly every city we’ve traveled to.”
Within months of their arrival, they would meet guitarist Florian Eisenschmidt. Having graduated from SAE, Florian had spent his young adult life working in recording studios in Berlin. When he first saw Bennet and Oliver playing, he was impressed by their infectious energy and skills on their instruments.
“Honestly, I was a fan of them.” Laughs Florian. “When I saw them perform the first thought in my head was: ‘I have to record these guys!’. There was something truly special about the synergy that they had.”
An encounter that started as an admiration for the band would soon translate into the addition of a third member. Bringing his skills as an engineer and energetic guitar playing style, Florian’s addition would mark the last piece of group’s core. That is when The Trouble Notes were truly born.
For the next years they would travel across Europe, busking and taking every performance opportunity that would present itself. The addition of Stefanie to their team as videographer and co-manager helped solidify their mission. The Trouble Notes became a family of traveling artists, longing for a creative connection with their audience and a desire to cross-pollinate cultural traditions and bridge divides.
They built a remarkable network, traveling sustainably without major investment or finances.
“We wanted to prove that we could travel the world powered by our music.” Said Bennet. “It was a desire to prove to ourselves and all of our supporters that art and culture are incredibly powerful. We wanted to humble ourselves and stand at the eye level of our audience. That’s been the strength of our experience, we have been on the receiving end of remarkable kindness at the hands of our friends and fans.”
After years on the road together, things really started to explode. In 2017 a series of videos of the group playing would go certified viral, amassing millions of views, and catapulting their early EP “Soundtracks from the Street” into the top 5 of the iTunes charts in the United States, Germany, France and Canada. Their debut studio album, “Lose Your Ties”, debuted in the top 10 in dozens of countries, had songs featured in major commercials, TV shows and films, and received critical acclaim. The Album Tour featured sold out shows across North America and Europe, and helped them tour as opener for their musical heroes Rodrigo y Gabriela as a part of their Grammy-winning “Mettavolution” Tour.
SOURCE: Official Bio
Images by Julian Daiber.