Pacifika. The name is at once familiar and mysterious, implying endless seascapes and tropical beaches, golden sunsets and endless summers, warm tides and mighty tsunamis. "Words are powerful," says the band’s lead singer and chief lyricist Silvana Kane. "We wanted a word that described the music and our feelings. Pacifika sounds warm and eternal, like the ocean itself, open to limitless possibilities.
Pacifika is the multi-talented Silvana Kane, a Peruvian born singer, re-formed pop sensation (West End Girls), and accomplished actress with a love of flamenco, electronica, and textured percussion; Adam Popowitz a Canadian bred guitarist adept at new wave, classical, and pop, and a skilled producer responsible for a catalogue that includes indie rock and Armenian folk music; and Toby Peter, a dub wise bassist born in Canada and raised in Barbados, explorer of jazz, hip-hop, Latin, metal and Caribbean grooves. Together the Vancouver based trio is making a new kind of global pop, music that nods to its diverse international influences, while forging its own unique voice. Latin tinged, marked by gently flowing melodies, deep grooves, waves of cracking percussion and the occasional burst of exhilarating guitar noise, Pacifika’s comfortable, complex sound defies categories, creating soothing soundscapes held together by Kane's smooth, intimate vocals.
Pacifika produced Asunción in 2006, with the three partners working all night, eating, playing and writing together. Arrangements were done on the fly, as the songs evolved, and the trio’s multifaceted influences came into play to create their own singular style. “We have a clear vision of our sound,” Peter explains. “And we all have the experience and know how to fulfill the vision. We shared creative duties with minimal friction. We’d try different things until we caught a wave, then let it take us wherever it wanted to go.” The freewheeling music of Pacifika borrows from Latin America, Spain, North America and the United Kingdom to generate a positive vibe guaranteed to relax your nerves and uplift your spirit.
"We look at Asunción as a body of work, an album that takes you on a journey," Kane explains. "The songs flow and tell you a story, starting with 'Sol,' the rising sun, and ending with 'Las Olas,' the waves, lifting you up and floating away with you. Asunción is the journey we all take back into the light."
"Sol (Sun)" sets the spiritual tone of Asunción with its introduction. Soft, sustained organ-like guitars slowly build in volume and intensity, hovering in the background as Kane’s lilting vocal drifts through the air supported by chiming guitar chords, a sexy, throbbing bass line and crisp snare accents.
"Me Caí (I Fell)" opens with a guitar line Peter plays on the bass, adding some low-end melody over Peter's booming, dance hall inspired drum loop. Kane's smoky vocal is full of youthful yearning. "The song is an inner dialogue," Kane says. "It's about coming of age and falling in love for the first time, with words, with nature, with life." A mellow drum'n'bass rhythm anchors "Sweet," a gentle ballad about the delirious sensations of falling in love. "Paloma (Dove)" features Popowitz on flamenco guitar, a gypsy rumba beat, a synthesizer emulating the sound of an Andean flute, subtle dub effects and Kane's double tracked harmony vocals. "We spontaneously wrote that song one night at the end of a show when we were told we had to play another whole set," Kane says laughing quietly. "It was a 10 minute jam at first, but we trimmed it when we got into the studio."
One of the album's most dramatic tracks, "Mas y Mas (More and More)," tells the story of a butterfly flying across the ocean to an inevitable end. The song is a duet between Kane's voice, representing the butterfly, and Popowitz's electric guitar, conjuring up a storm with a flurry of Hendrix-influenced waves of feedback. Other standouts include "Chiquita," a gentle samba that dances with a Cuban rhythm tapped out on the clave, "Oyeme (Hear Me)," a rock in Español tune that rides a fractured Latin rhythm laid down by electronic and acoustic percussion and "Libertad (Freedom)" a melancholy, late night ballad that echoes the sophistication of writers like Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer with its classic lyric of unconditional love and longing. Sparse guitar, subtle background rhythms and Kane's double tracked harmonies move the tune into a huge, echoing sonic landscape. "'Libertad' was the last song we cut for the album," Popowitz says. "At that point, we felt complete freedom to experiment with textures and sounds. It shows what we can do, and where we'll be going on the next record." With such a wide palette of musical tastes Pacifika is poised to be Canada's freshest musical export.
Silvana Kane was born in Lima, Peru. Her family moved to Milwaukee when she was 11, then on to Vancouver BC. Her father is a composer and accordion player, her mother a singer, and her extended family included her in the performances they organized. By the time she was two, she was singing at church services; she also studied classical violin. "I begged my parents for a violin," Kane recalls. "Then tried everything I knew to get out of practicing. The lessons did teach me how to be disciplined, which is a good thing to know if you want to succeed." Kane met Adam Popowitz when they were 14 and she joined Big Bottom Swing. When the band played a showcase gig, Kane was offered a slot in an all female harmony trio called West End Girls. Thinking a higher profile would bring attention to Big Bottom Swing, Kane signed on. West End Girls had three Top 40 hits and a #1 single, but Kane soon left to write her own songs and experiment with sounds outside the mainstream. She sang in Ibiza with DJs, learned to play percussion and returned to Canada to sing with Toronto's Mambo Urbano. Back in Vancouver to visit family, she reconnected with Popowitz and started writing the songs that would become the repertoire of Pacifika. Kane is also an actress and has appeared in films and on TV. Her credits include Showtime's The L Word, Tim Matheson's Augusta, Gone, and Amy Heckerling's The Loser.
Adam Popowitz was born and raised in New Westminster, just outside of Vancouver. He started classical guitar at five, but wasn't planning on a musical career until he discovered Van Halen. His older brother then turned him onto The Cure and The Smiths and he soon joined the band that became Big Bottom Swing where he met Silvana Kane. Kane left to sing with West End Girls and Popowitz joined Mollies Revenge, a progressive hard rock band. They got signed to a major label, but eventually dissolved into a two-person group between Yvette, the lead singer and Popowitz making music as Yve Adam. They won critical acclaim and placed songs on movie soundtracks and TV shows but also disbanded. Popowitz became a successful producer and songwriter, working with a wide variety of pop, rock and folk artists. He founded Rear Window Sound in 2000, a collective art space and recording studio that helps artists hone their songwriting, recording and producing skills. When Kane returned to Vancouver in 2003, she reconnected with Popowitz and they started writing together, and named their collaboration Pacifika.
Toby Peter was born in Canada and spent his teen years in Barbados where he subconsciously picked up the rhythms of soca, calypso and dub reggae. He studied classical violin for eight years and picked up electric guitar when he was 13. "I was in a band with four guitar players, none of us very good, so I volunteered to play bass. There was something about the low frequencies that resonated with me. I’ve played and loved it ever since." Peter studied jazz performance in college, but quit before graduation when his band, Salvador Dream, landed a major label deal. Their fusion of jazz and grunge never found a market and they morphed into Namedropper, blending jazz and electronica. He also played briefly in an extreme metal outfit called Human Resistance Program. Namedropper jammed with a rapper named K-Os and then became his backing band when he landed a record deal. After two K-Os albums and years of touring, Peter was planning some time off, but at a live Pacifika gig, he was captivated by the music and signed on. When Peter joined in 2005, the trio was complete and they began writing the shimmering gems that make up Asuncion.