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June 2008

A few minutes with global artist Nitza Melas

Nitza Melas was born in Montreal, Canada, but she’s performed all over the world (she’s a knockout in Japan), she’s produced and co-produced a number of CDs, was named “World Music Artist of the Year” at the Los Angeles Music Awards and is currently working with musician, magician and television performer Criss Angel on a Cirque du Soleil show scheduled to premiere in September at the Luxor Hotel called Criss Angel: Believe.

Tell me about your collaboration with Criss Angel and how it came about?
I was called by the owner of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, and asked if I would like to perform in the show.

What is your role in the production?
I am the vocalist of the show.

You've collaborated with Cirque before?
Yes, I was the opening act for Cirque du Soleil’s first musical event called Delirium. We toured the whole year in 2006, 165 shows across North America.

As a world artist always used to traveling, you don't mind a Vegas commitment of more than 18 months?
The roles will be reversed in the traveling department. The audience members will now be traveling to us. It will make for a more stable environment and yet we will still be meeting people from across the globe…. I am looking forward to this new dynamic.

How did you get so popular is n Japan?
I have recorded many commercials in Japan and released two CD’s in the Land of the Rising Sun. It is a culture very close to my heart. The Japanese people are well-versed in a wide range of musical genres and cultures outside their own. They are a generous, hospitable and refined people. Their esthetic and cuisine is really unmatched.

Did I just hear you speaking Japanese on the other line? How did you learn it?
As a singer first and foremost I make good use of my ears and my mimicking skills, then my love of languages and communication encouraged me to take some courses in Japanese… I am a perfunctory speaker who relishes the opportunity to brush up on my linguistic skills.

What was your work and tour schedule like before you came to Vegas?
For any musician who loves to perform, traveling is part of the equation. There is constant work, constant recording and constant creation. It is on the road that reactions of the new and old music we write are reflected.

Will you miss the travel?
Music and travel are my two passions. I have a vagabond/troubadour heart. The ancient Greeks were a sea-faring people and so I think it rests in my DNA.

How many discs have you produced? How would describe their style?
I have produced (as a co-producer) one CD “Ageless” and the new one I am working on, “Mayia”. I have released other CD’s that have not been produced by me. My style of music production is an amalgamation of world and adult contemporary. I take pieces of the places I visit with me and they seem to appear in my music and life.

How hands-on are you in the production?
I handle everything from songwriting, co-producing, graphic design, lyrics, distribution, promotion……and wish I had a few extra pairs of hands many days.

Can you tell me about your award at the LAMA (Los Angeles Music Awards)?
A lovely surprise. I performed at the LAMA awards in Hollywood and won “World Music Artist of the Year”. Every artist appreciates being recognized especially one that is independent. The LAMA awards recognize indies in all categories.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Passionate and engaged with a clear vision.

What are your musical influences?
My father was a rebeti bouzouki player from Piraeus. My mother doesn’t know when to stop singing or dancing. Loreena Mckennit, who is the master of her universe. Ancient troubadoursm who through their skill and unrelenting passion have passed down stories and music through generations without technology.

Are you often in Canada anymore?
I just returned from a weekend in Montreal where I performed and was awarded a prize of “Artist of the Year” from the Canadian Hellenic Board of Trade. It was a thrill to be amongst those of my community being honored.

You describe yourself also as an entrepreneur?
If you want independence then entrepreneurialship is a necessity. Not having a boss means you have to do everything. Certainly this independence requires self motivation, self reliance and a clear vision…

Where did you grow up and how did you get into music? Is your family still in Canada? What part of Greece are they from?
I was born in the second largest French speaking city-Montreal. My family still lives in Montreal, except my brother Leonidas, who is in Los Angeles. My dad is from Piraeus, but his family is originally from Mani. My mom is Pontian. They make for a rowdy, passionate bunch, these two warrior cultures.

How did you decide to become a "world" artist, with an international scope, as opposed to a strictly Canadian artist?
Although I love western music, I realized very early that it’s not the only component in my musical upbringing or musical taste. I love our off-rhythms in Greek music, our eclectic scales and our bridging of east and west. This defines me more clearly. My first experience with the love of music was in my home, where exotic sounds permeated my dad’s bouzouki, voice, and stereo. There is a stamp of this in everything I do.

How many languages do you speak and in which one do you feel the most comfortable?
In my formative years, I attended French-English and Greek schools. This has helped me be comfortable in these three languages the most because since childhood they have been in my midst. In addition to the regular curriculum of French and English, I attended Greek school three times a week for three hours a day and graduated with a Greek high school diploma. Looking back, I am certainly glad I completed this arduous education because today I am a diaspora Greek who is able to read and write her maternal language. I took Italian and Spanish in college, and finally tackled Japanese (actually that is still a work in progress that I adore) in my travels.

Have you performed in Greece?
One year I received a phone call from Kostas Tournas, who asked me to perform a duet with him on his CD as well as a few live performances. I performed on Greek television in “Sin kai Plhn” and Mad TV. I adored playing in Greece.

What are your future plans beyond the Vegas commitment?
I am completing my second self-produced album called “Mayia”(accent on the I). We are editing a new video and looking to book my own personal concerts in Vegas on my days off. This would allow me to perform a few times a month with my own music and still work with Criss in his show.

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