Those who dream of travel often talk about sightseeing, taking in the world as we explore beaten and not-so-beaten paths that lead to eye-opening vistas, cruise down scenic rivers, admire the vast ocean, or simply stroll down beautiful boulevards; the spectacle of travel is, indeed, not lost on us. But what if we explore the world, not via our eyes, but through sound?
That’s a not-so-common yet powerful connection is one that Marriott Bonvoy wants us to embrace, thanks to a collaboration with Amsterdam-based multi-instrumentalists and electronic music composers, Parallelle. The talented duo, consisting of brothers Thomas and Julien De Bie, have put together a five-part video series that allows us to rediscover five popular destinations in Asia Pacific — namely, Java, Fiji, Osaka, Bangkok and Bengaluru — expressed through vibrant, expressive, and authentic sounds.
A unique way to experience travel — through sound, with Marriott Bonvoy and Parallelle
Called ‘A Day In’, this is a film project months in the making, with the duo travelling to various places, remote or otherwise, to capture the unique sonic identity of each destination, often by recording day-to-day sounds in order to express their stories and rich culture. These are then beautifully stitched together in their music studio, the everyday sounds transformed into beats, with melodic traditional instruments weaving in and out of the compositions. The music videos are accompanied by just-as-vivid cinematography by French filmmaker Amaud Moro.
“There is so much more to travel than meets the eye. Through sound, we can experience places and cultures like nothing you’ve ever known,” said Parallelle. “Our music transcends borders and infuses the richness of destinations, traditional music and from time to time, spotlights local musicians. We hope that our music can inspire people to explore new destinations and cultures.”
Close your eyes, and give each of these videos a listen. A journey through the streets of Bangkok tells of endless bustle, especially when weaved in with the distinct honks of tuk-tuks, though the rings of temple bells bring forth moments of serenity as well; fellow city Bengaluru treats us to a mesmerising symphony of street vendors and the whirring of fabric machines, alongside the melodic whistling of the traditional South Indian flute Nadaswaram.
Fiji comprises of acapella choirs among Fijian drum beats; the sound of the Japanese Taiko drum is unmistakable when channelling Osaka; while the sounds of the traditional gamelan and atmospheric echoes of volcanoes are invoked to amplify Java’s astounding beauty.
All these represent some of Marriott International’s exciting properties, out of an impressive portfolio of over 1,000 by the way, whether we’re talking about the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay in Fiji, W Osaka in Japan or W Bangkok in Thailand, JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru in India, or the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa in Indonesia.
Parallelle’s epic adventures; and how they’ve faithfully brought the sounds to life
When asked about the biggest takeaway from producing the series however, Parallelle, for all their sophisticated studio equipment and wealth of experience, have distilled their expansive journeys into something simple, pure: child-like discovery.
“The best part about it was that we got to go out there and experience all these encounters and stories — just discovering and learning things that we didn’t know. We were like little kids all the time! When you are a kid, you are discovering things for the first time and you are super excited about everything, which is also what life is about. The more you travel, the more you learn, and the more you stay curious as well,” Parallelle shared.
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Another inspiring aspect would have to be the opportunity to meet local musicians from each region as well, where, as Thomas described, they can “share notes” and learn from “how they perceive music, the rhythm they go through, what harmony they take, what melodies they play”. “Music is a language that is felt by everyone in this world, maybe even animals to be honest,” he said.
“Some of the musicians we met might not know the name of the notes, but they know how it sounds. It’s like we could play something, and they would know exactly, oh yeah, this is the scale. It’s crazy to see,” shared Julien, echoing the same sentiments. Thomas further elaborated: “It feels right in your heart and in your body when you’re pushing a note, and then the note that should come after, you sort of feel that it’s going to be a good one. As a musician, you don’t really need to know the theory of what you’re playing — it’s a feeling.”
Since our interview was conducted at a breezy balcony overlooking the beach at W Bali, we were also interested to know about the duo’s experiences in Indonesia, where, for the sake of sound, they’ve travelled from Jakarta all the way to Yogyakarta (called “Jogja” for short).
At Java, they got introduced to the Gamelan, a traditional instrumental ensemble native to the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese peoples of Indonesia; these mostly percussive instruments consist of metallophones, of sweet melodies brought out by the striking of mallets, often accompanied by angklungs, hand-played drums, and gongs.
“It was interesting to see that even though in Indonesia they use the Gamelan, the same instrument, in Java, would be played differently than, say, in Bali,” said Julien when describing their experience after having met, and jammed, with local musicians who were familiar with their craft.
They also waxed on about what they described as the “Mission Impossible-style” experience of filming for the series, and the “insane” awe of hearing the rumbling of Mount Bromo, an active volcano, up close for the first time.
You see, other than Gamelan instruments, they’ve put their recorder up to the most curious collection of sounds, including but not limited to: the low bass of a volcano; raindrop sounds from the cave they had to literally rappel down into; rice terraces; the process of batik, from paintbrush on fabric to the quiet hum of sewing; stone carving; sifting through Kopi Luwak beans; and the cacophony of traffic and marketplaces of Jakarta.
And just like travel, Parallelle also shared that they’ve left room for spontaneity to thrive, keeping both their schedules and minds open in order to be authentic to the cultures they’re aiming to represent — to essentially, let the unexpected happen.
“You don’t want it to be too planned, otherwise it becomes staged. You want to really explore as if you’re a tourist who’s coming for the first time, where you’d be impressed by everything that is around you,” said Thomas. Parallelle’s genuine curiosity and strife for authenticity in their work, have certainly granted us insights that are just as inspiring as the sounds they’ve uncovered.
An exclusive Marriott Bonvoy Moment experience with Parallelle
As part of the collaboration, the hotel brand has also curated a music-focused Marriott Bonvoy Moments experience with Prrallelle, one of many in a unique programme where Marriott Bonvoy members can bid points on or redeem one-of-a-kind experiences during their vacations. The hotel group’s loyalty programme allows travellers to earn points whenever we stay at properties that include The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Sheraton, W Hotels, Aloft and more.
Held earlier in May this year, it involved an exclusive masterclass with Parallelle at the W Sound Suite, a private music studio at W Bali, where members get to create personalised electronic music samples, along with VIP Access to Dissolve Weekend, where, against the backdrop of the ocean and salty air, Parallelle put on a live performance of EDM music, which also weaved in some of the unique sounds discovered on their sonic travels.
Watch the full five-part A Day In series on Marriott Bonvoy’s YouTube channel. More on Marriott Bonvoy, and Marriott International’s portfolio of 31 hotel brands