What I love the most about Music is the enormous amount of depth. You can listen to music only and spend your whole life digging into it and finding hidden treasures. Or, you can go into music theory, start to analyse what you have been done, and explain it by rules of relations. Or, use Max or Chuck to generate music. Or, just play music with people, stay in the flow, and use your empathy to connect with other participants. I’m pretty sure that no matter what character and abilities you have, this place could be a home for you.
My name is Konstantin Reka Alekseevich, and I’m a .Net developer. I’m currently living and working in Tallinn, Estonia, but only for the last 5 years. I’m originally from Arkhangelsk, Russia. It’s near the White Sea and is quite a fun place to live (there are only 4 hours of daylight in December, but for the whole summer, all nights are as bright as day!).
A career in technology was a natural choice for me. I got a computer when I was relatively young, but I only used it for games. After years, it was getting older and older, so new games weren’t working well on it. I had to deal with a lack of computing power by overclocking the CPU, disabling windows services, and disabling sound in games. So, year after year, I became more and more acquainted with the guts of a computer. I started to help people around me: reinstalling OS or properly setting up video drivers.
One day, my neighbour accidentally gave me a pack of floppy disks with his homework from college. There were sources of Pascal programs, picturing fractals. Growing up playing games, I wasn’t really fascinated by those fractals, but it was bizarre to think that this was code that I was able to change. Without the Internet and using only a manual in a foreign language, I was hardly able to understand how those programs worked. But after some time, I discovered console interactions and started to write my own stuff. So from that moment to when I finished school, I already knew what area I wanted to study.
Outside of work, I love Music. I first became interested in music when I was a teenager – I borrowed a guitar from my friend and tried to learn a couple of songs; it didn’t last for more than two weeks. But one day, around ten years ago, I did a jump with a parachute and broke my leg horribly. I had to have surgery and spent several months at home. I was working remotely for two companies, but still had some free time. That was a perfect moment to start learning something new. So, I ordered an electric guitar, an amp, and (by mistake) a bass pick instead of a normal guitar pick. This was the start of my musical journey.
Initially, I played guitar only, but I soon figured out that learning an instrument and learning music is not the same thing. When switching from one instrument to another, you can continue to learn music from different perspectives. For example, playing trumpet and saxophone will connect your voice with the instrument more easily than playing guitar. Or, piano is better for understanding harmony. Playing drums and bass will force you into the importance of the groove. A great benefit is having the ability to switch instruments, which works really well in jam sessions.
On guitar, my favourite genre is always gypsy jazz, but it’s difficult to fit it into a jam format. This genre is really demanding of your skills – always super-fast and really hard to improvise. But for the rest, one-chord funk is always the way to connect to the groove and let your thoughts go. This could be a really good starting point to put harmony on top.
There is a great jam community in Tallinn, Estonia. One in which I participate started from a small bar near a bus station on the edge of the city centre. The owner of the bar installed drums, an electric guitar, bass, and several amps, and started to call Wednesday the jam night. In the beginning, there were not that many participants. You could come and play solo there, sitting with an instrument in front of several visitors and trying to recall all riffs, licks, and melodies that you have learned on your couch at home.
Later in the evening, maybe two or three people would join in. None of them were professional musicians, just people trying to play something. But that was okay. Even if you are just able to play some chords on guitar or some groove on drums, you are invited to play with no restrictions. Nobody was forcing you – no pressure, no expectations.
To understand how strange the result could be, I was once jamming with a guy who was playing one note over and over: just one note, with the same tempo and feel. Initially, it drove me crazy; it took me some time to understand that I could do music around it – the idea was challenging, but doable. We keep it easy and don’t throw people out if they are making mistakes or are unable to follow. Probably because we filled that gap between playing at home and jamming at Jazz Jam, more and more musicians have started to come. It’s great to have different people with different skills meeting in one place every Wednesday and sharing one passion – to play music together.
Eventually, the bar closed down. Without organisation and a venue, everything started to fall apart with the jam group. But one of the jammers took this organisational role on himself. He was continuously inviting people, writing messages on Facebook, and making calls. Through his effort, we first moved the jams to a private studio, and then found a new bar to play, closer to the city centre and touristic routes.
Because of the position of the bar, the jams started to become a public event. People from outside were just passing by to drink some beer and accidentally got into this strange music-creating process. Once, I was playing on the stage, looking at the drummer and trying to catch the groove. Somebody started to sing; the music was going really well and started to rise slowly. When I turned to the public, there was already a huge crowd of people dancing. The whole place was packed and this was happening because of us – it was an amazing feeling.
At the moment, we have 126 musicians in a Jam chat and our own summer festival – Forest Rock. I think it’s a pretty good result for a community started by several people. Aside from private jams, some of our projects include preparing our own material, playing gigs, and recording EPs. I’m also glad to say that we collect donations from jams for fellow musicians to help them in hard situations, such as losing a job, losing a parent, or having health issues. So, this is more than just the music.
Looking at my other activity, I also love Sailing. My interest began several years ago, when I finished a motorcycle journey through India. After that ended, I wanted to continue but maybe try some other type of transport. Old fishing boats grabbed my attention, so I told my friend that we should try to get one. I currently own a Nord 80 MKII designed by Olle Enderlein. It is almost 90 metres long with an MD7a Volvo Penta diesel engine – I think the manufacture date is around 1978-1980.
I have sailed in Greece, Spain, Portuguese, and France. But my favourite place to visit on a sailboat is the southern Finnish archipelago, because of the water passages between small islands, the random morning places near rocks, and the amazing nature.
What I love the most about sailing are the possibilities that it gives to you. Your life will never be the same if you will buy your own sailboat and start sailing: new friends, new responsibilities, and a lot of new knowledge that will shift your mindset.
I made the mistake of thinking that my skill-set as a developer would not be useful on a sailboat at all. But now, I have an onboard computer there, based on Raspberry Pi and Openplotter OS. There are several sensors installed on the sailboat, so I can collect all this data and share it through NMEA on my iPad, show statistics in Grafana, or just send an alarm through a telegram bot in case my main battery charge is too low. In other words, it’s a lot of fun.
But there are other things that you have to do, and you will have to learn them all. If there is an old diesel engine on the boat, then you have to know how to fix it on the way in case of danger. Or what size wires need to be connected to a new radio, and what fuses you need to use. Or how to varnish wooden doors properly, so that they will survive several years more.
And here I only mentioned one side of sailing, but there are others: being a skipper, for example. It’s not only about giving orders and drawing a route on a map, but educating people, managing conflicts, delegating, and taking responsibility while being in constant exhaustion.
I’ve had some great experiences and magical moments while sailing:
- Sailing along Portugal on a dark night and seeing all this bright green plankton that start to glow around the sailboat.
- Swimming with dolphins, holding the ladder of the sailboat at 5-6 knots speed.
- Seeing how one of your sailing teammates accidentally sprayed a two-billion-dollar neighbouring yacht with waste from the black water tank because of a clogged toilet!
- My friend recently asked me to join him on a cross-Atlantic journey on his sailboat this December. I think it could be a nice milestone to achieve and would create another magic moment.
I’ve recently combined my Music & Sailing. We were doing food and equipment delivery for a special kids camp. First, the organisers invited us as musicians, but as soon as the ferry tickets were out, they asked us to also help with the delivery: 200kgs of potatoes, fruits and vegetables, a couple of cameras, a full drum-set, and surfing gear that took almost all the inner space of my small sailboat.
Arranging the band for the performance was also fun. We just gathered the people who were around from the jam group – no rehearsals, just straight to playing after 5 hours of the sailing trip.
People were very inspired, especially when they realised that we just creating music on the spot and were never supposed to play with this line-up. Kids immediately created a name for a band: ChupaChups band, which was really fun and fit us well, because we had those lollipops in our mouths while we were playing that part of the performance!
I think that both my pastimes have been a benefit to my technological career. They give me a new perspective, especially when communicating with other people. In IT, we are sometimes in closed circles of technical fellows. Music and Sailing give me the ability to meet other people and make new friends who see the world in a different way.
My advice to anyone interested in music or sailing is that a constant learning process will lead to amazing results, but don’t forget to have some fun along the way!
There is always more than tech. Trying something new from different fields is a healthy way of living. By sharing our passions, we are helping other people to see new opportunities and also helping society itself, which I think is really important.