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Q&A: VJ Pogo Helps You Hear the World

Nick Bertke is commonly known as Pogo, the Internet sensation whose music videos have garnered a cult following worldwide.  He was born in South Africa, raised in New Zealand, and now lives in Australia.  As a teenager, he began taking film clips from Disney movies, spliced their sound bites into distinct melodies, and then posted the remixed product onto YouTube. At first they were taken down from the website, presumably for copyright infringement, but with their viral popularity, he was soon commissioned by Disney to make them for the company.  

Now, at age 23, and after a few international tours, he is traversing the globe to work on a more personal project, called World Remix. Using film shot by his own team, he is showing us his travels with an ear for its sounds and an eye for its sights.  I had the opportunity to talk with Nick about this unique career.

Q: What initially inspired you to make these videos?
A: I watched a ton of musicals as a child and became enamored with the way music can capture story and emotion. As I filled a hundred odd cassettes with music from the radio over the next several years, I developed some kind of bizarre sense for small sounds I liked more than the rest of the music. I never intended to make videos for any of my tracks, but one day I just gave it a go and it took off on YouTube like wildfire.

Q: You are now working on the "World Remix" project.  What led you down this new path?
A: Traveling and exploring culture has always appealed to me, and I've always had a certain knack for photography. Traveling to different cultures to film and remix them seems to form the perfect circle of the things I'm good at.

Q: So far, you have done a video for Bhutan and Johannesburg.  What made you choose these places?
A: Bhutan was voted for as part of a poll held on my website. We were seeking public funding at the time through Kickstarter, so it seemed fitting that we gave the people a say in where we went. Johannesburg came about through a deal we struck with a company seeking to commence a mutually beneficial project.

Q: What was your interaction like with the people in the video?  How would you get them to agree to be filmed?
A: We simply approached people that looked interesting. It required some communication as to what we were going to make, and most people have been wonderfully cooperative.

Q: Kids seem to be a prevalent theme in your videos.  Is there a story behind this?
A: No story. Kids just happen to be lively and inspiring. I guess there's something about their voices as well that sits nicer in a mix.

Q: What was your most memorable experience making the Johannesburg video?  The Bhutan video?
A: In South Africa, my most memorable experience was filming a baby lion at my feet that kept gnawing playfully at my microphone. In Bhutan, I'll never forget hiking back down from a monastery and bumping into the beautiful family of a local farmer who welcomed us in to have freshly made milk atop the lush green hills of their land. Entirely without preparation, the farmer's children told us stories in Bhutanese, one of whom ended up at the center of my track.

Q: With all of the traveling you've done, do you have any travel tips for our readers?
A: Absolutely. Put life behind you. Leave everything you're familiar with behind. Take everything you encounter for what it is, and you'll never be disappointed. Keep an open mind and an open heart.

Q: Where will you make your next World Remix video?
A: I've decided not to publicize World Remix projects in future because I really don't need the pressure on my shoulders. When I returned to my studio, it hit me like a brick in the face that it was now more about meeting expectations and justifying hype than doing something I wanted to do. The project had become everyone's passion but my own, so I decided never to publicly fund or announce projects again until they're finished.

To keep up with Pogo’s work and adventures, check out his website here.  
If you would like to donate to the World Remix Project, you can find the Kickstarter page here.


Joe Harper is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure.

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