Hello, and welcome to my first “Talent Tuesday” post!
I intend this regular segment to draw attention to either unknown/unsigned artists, or just artists that I feel deserve recognition and are somewhat under the radar. Ie. I won’t be making posts on The Beatles or Britney Spears or whatever, since everyone already knows about them. (Unless I feel like it 😛 In which case, I may find some way to justify that.)
If you haven’t heard of Kaki King yet, go out and educate your fine self! She is an amazing American female guitarist. She’s definitely a ‘somebody’, and has an impressive list of accolades and recognitions, including being the first female named on Rolling Stone’s “guitar gods” list (she was described as ‘Van Halen meets Bootsy’). But I find a lot of people don’t seem to know about her (yet). I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. King perform a while ago in Brisbane. It’s too late for me to write a gig review about that, but I can confirm that she put on a terrific show. She is absolutely as amazing live as she is in her recorded works.
Playing with Pink Noise
Two things: Kaki is pint-size and female, which really shouldn’t affect our perception of her talent. But it must be said, these qualities certainly thwart the ‘typical’ expectations of what a guitarist looks like. Females are sorely underrepresented as instrumentalists. I think, in part, this is because the world is so saturated these days with female pop singers, who often don’t write their own songs or play instruments. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are just so many of them lately, that I think people forget something: women can be super-talented instrumentalists and songwriters in their own right.
I love Kaki’s style of playing guitar; it is uniquely hers, and incorporates varying techniques, like string tapping, percussive slapping and overhand fretting. She’s also been known to toy with many other variations of guitars, including lap guitar (slide), harp guitar, and a hybrid of a guitar and a koto that she made herself!
Kaki playing lap guitar (I love the bassline on this song too!)
I first heard of Kaki upon seeing the fantastic film Into the Wild, starring Emile Hirsch. (This is a must-watch movie, based on the true life story of Christopher McCandless. Chris rejects the expectations of modern ‘success’ after completing college, and, after donating all his savings to Oxfam, embarks on an epic journey across America towards Alaska.) The haunting, beautiful acoustic guitar soundtrack was put together by Kaki King and Eddie Vedder. It perfectly complements the movie’s lush natural landscapes and emotional resonance. I think almost everyone would enjoy this movie; it’s got a great pace and is incredibly inspiring.
Kaki’s “Doing the Wrong Thing” from ‘Into the Wild’
Kaki usually plays an Ovation guitar, which I think is an interesting factoid. I have always loved the warm sound of Ovations, but have weirdly heard their quality pooh-poohed quite a few times by guitarists. It’s nice to see someone making such excellent use of Ovation’s sound. Kaki was even commissioned to design a signature Ovation guitar, called the Adamas 1581-K. (Of course, there are other notable Ovation players too, including Eddie Vedder!).
Kaki commissioned a cool idea in 2009, where 12 different visual artists were asked to create pieces themed after her songs. Kaki gave each of the artists a blank guitar to use as the artistic medium. These guitar art pieces were exhibited at The Littlefield in Brooklyn. At the exhibit, Kaki created the final piece with her own contribution: playing “Playing with Pink Noise” with her hands covered in pink paint. What an awesome idea! You can find some of the results here, but I’ll post a few pics for you guys too busy to click:
That’s some pretty rockin’ art!
I think that perhaps the reason Kaki hasn’t been more recognized worldwide (yet), is that her music doesn’t always follow traditional structures. It is, and probably always will be, considered ‘alternative’ compared with what we consider to be ‘popular’ music. Nevertheless, amazing alternative artists are incredibly important to the world. And the most memorable musicians are definitely not the ones who sound like everyone else.
Hope you have enjoyed hearing about Kaki King, or if you’ve already heard of her, maybe learning some more about her.
Stay tuned for my next ‘Talent Tuesday’! Bye for now, and thanks so much for reading!