Kids Corner


In Selfless Service of Music:
Weber Iago's Music Seva





Pianist/composer Weber Iago's latest project is the band Seva.

"Seva is a Punjabi word, meaning 'selfless service,' " said Iago, a Sikh-American of Brazilian descent who studies and practices Sikhism.

"It applies to how we want to present ourselves to the world. As an artist, my desire, as much as it is to present good music, things that are technically and artistically evolved, is also .. to convey a message to society. Even if the song has no lyrics, the energy behind the notes and the titles may contain a message of love and compassion and acceptance and gratitude and enlightenment."

Iago, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, U.S.A., and San Jose-based guitarist Hristo Vitchev founded Seva in 2010. But they had been collaborating for a couple of years prior to that. They have recorded four CDs together - two with Vitchev's combos and two duo projects.

They met while accompanying an Italian singer. "In that context," Iago explained, "we weren't playing jazz and didn't have space for improvisation. But in our breaks, we would play around. I started checking out his sound and his ideas and the more I heard him, the more I appreciated Hristo's talent. I was very much impressed when he later invited me to be part of his quartet, recording his first CD. Then I had an opportunity to fully realize how accomplished he was, both as a guitar player and a composer.

"From all those collaborations, it evolved into the desire to do something together, as co-leaders. So we began composing music together and we finally decided to put Seva together to perform that music."

Vitchev said, "Weber is one of the most amazing musicians and human beings I have ever met. His harmonic and melodic language is so rich that at times you feel like you are surrounded by a stream of never-ending dreamlike sonic textures. Working together over the past few years has been a truly life-changing experience for me, and now, with the birth of our band Seva, I feel only the sky is the limit."

Rounding out the Seva lineup are bassist Dan Robbins and drummer/percussionist Mike Shannon. The group draws from Iago's musical influences, including classical, jazz, pop, folk and Brazilian, as well as Vitchev's Bulgarian roots.

Iago is from Brazil. "It is a very musical country. They breathe music there, every day, all day. When it comes to Brazilian music, there seems to be a stereotype, usually involving bossa nova and samba. There's actually so much more to the music that comes from that country. The music is, by nature, a synthesis of what goes on in the world, because of the immigration that we have there, all the elements we have present."

He began studying piano at age 7 and worked toward becoming a concert pianist. But his musical interests were so diverse that he didn't want to focus solely on one type of music. His inspirations included Ravel, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Brazilian composers.

After attending Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and accumulating experience and impressive credits in his homeland, Iago moved to the U.S. in 1987. Since then, he has toured and recorded with countless artists. After recording as Weber Drummond, he chose the stage name Weber Iago, "Iago is a gypsy name, meaning 'child of the wind.' "

He earned a Latin Grammy nomination for "Live in Caramoor," a collaboration with fellow Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto.

Iago loves to explore a variety of styles. "One thing I always mention to my students in workshops is that the so-called borders in music, to me, seem very artificial.

"The only reason they exist is to be crossed over. That's why we see so many artists, especially these days, experimenting with different genres. I always liked the idea of combining different elements.

"So even though Seva is presented as a jazz group, I never disguise my multi-faceted foundation. Sometimes, in the same song, if the music wants to present different elements, we won't fight that. That's why it's so important to me to be exposed to different types of music and to play with different artists. Musically, I try to be aware of everything that's going on and if the music resonates with me, it becomes automatically, an influence and an inspiration."

Now 49, with an 18-year-old daughter from a first marriage and a 6-year-old son from his current marriage, Iago continues to seek creative challenges. Another of his new projects teams him with noted saxophonist David Valdez in a Portland chamber jazz ensemble.

Adventure Music has just released a new Iago solo album, "Piano Masters, Volume 3." The label's name is appropriate for this artist.

"I like to keep music adventurous, experimental, open, always eager to go to different places."

Iago concedes that an artist's life is even more challenging in the current economic climate. "I keep on doing what I love to do, regardless of the difficulty, because I don't have a choice. It's something that I must do. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I don't choose music, music chooses me."

The rewards are unique. In addition to meeting people and traveling around the world, Iago appreciates the effect his sounds can have on people.

"The ultimate goal of any artist, particularly a musician, is to inspire people to be in the moment, in the now. The older I get, the more I play music, the more I realize that all we have is the now. No matter how much we make plans for the future, what's happening right now -- that's all we have. When I play music, that's one of the times in my life when I feel like I'm really able to be in the now. So if I'm able to inspire people to be like that, to me, that's a great accomplishment.

"There are people who use music to convey negative messages. But the artists I admire the most use music to express joy and beauty and peace ... and that's what I try to do."


You can catch Seva featuring Weber Iago Hristo Vitchev at Club Fox, 2209 Broadway, Redwood City, California, on December 1, 2011 at 8.00 pm. 650-369-7770;

[Courtesy: Mercury News. Edited for]

November 25, 2011


Conversation about this article

1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), November 25, 2011, 9:20 AM.

A neat dastaar too! Music in Sikhism is used to exalt the One and this is the greatest way to use it. All types of music convey a message or some form of expression of pleasure, but gurbani provides the greatest ecstasy.

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), November 25, 2011, 7:38 PM.

Once a renowned musician of his time came to Guru Arjan's court to demonstrate his virtuosity and played his stringed instrument so impeccably that he astounded everyone. At the end he was rewarded only Rs.5/- as his 'bhayta'. Someone commented: "Only Rs.5/- for such an outstanding performance?" "Yes," said Guru Arjan, "but if he had combined a shabad with it, then I wouldn't have had enough to give him!" Seva without Naam, however sublime, becomes a manual chore, and has seeds of ego in it: "I am doing it and seen to be doing it." "Jab ih jaanai mai kichh kartaa tab lag garab jon meh firtaa" [GGS:278.17] - "As long as this mortal thinks that he is the one who does things, he shall wander in reincarnation through the womb."

3: Jaskaran Singh (Florida, U.S.A.), November 26, 2011, 7:38 AM.

Have heard him a couple of times. Love his music. He'll go far ...

4: Lyall (Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A.), November 26, 2011, 9:54 AM.

I too have heard him a few times and really enjoyed him each time. Would give a lot to hear him play with a mix of gurbani ... maybe a shabad in jazz mode! That would be awesome.

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Weber Iago's Music Seva"

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