Monday, March 17, 2008

Blues Guitar: Kappa

Kappa playing and original tune

Kappa playing jazzed up covers

Interview with Kappa

Artist: Kappa
Medium: Guitar
Location: Union Square on the downtown Q platform

My friend is always telling me that the Japanese are taught English rather rigorously in school and that they all speak more than I think and Kappa has proven him right. The first Japanese musician I’ve interview who isn’t in a group with some fluent English speaker, Kappa has been in New York for only one month but had very little trouble understanding my questions and only a little more difficulty finding his answers.

Kappa is from Hiroshima and came all the way to the Big Apple to play guitar. He’s been playing for 10 years and, while he has a band back in Japan and enjoys busking there, he’s decided to try his luck overseas. Kappa has been enjoying himself in NY and enjoys sharing his music with its people. As in Hiroshima he continues to enjoy busking but is also looking to play gigs in the city.

Kappa’s style is heavily influenced by African-American music. “I love black music. For example, jazz and blues and R&B, soul…”

Kappa doesn’t know how long he’ll stay in NY but let’s hope it’s a while, his smooth R&B guitar and jazzed up covers are a great thing to run into on a boring Sunday in the subway.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Guitar and vocals: Christiana Lynn

Christiana playing

Christiana playing an original

Interview with Christiana

Artist: Christiana Lynn
Medium: Guitar, vocals
Location: Union Square downtown Q platform

When Christiana told me she was going to sing a Joni Mitchell song for me I found it particularly apt. I remember, a long time ago, listening to my mother play Jodi Mitchell in the car and her melodic but continuously high voice was almost identical. Of course, Jodi is a folk rock legend and Christiana is a sign language interpreter playing in the subway after work, at least for now.

Christiana, born in Massachusetts, has lived in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and, most recently, Brooklyn, NY. Christiana came to the city because she's always been drawn to the musical theater world. However, she's also passionate about social work and thinks the city is a great place to use music as a social and communicative device. Hence the playing in the subway. For the skeptics out there, Christiana has been in the city for five years now and is as cynical as she's ever going to get.

Although she had guitar lessons when she was eleven, Christiana says she never practiced. But even so, she got into the guitar deeply because even though she's "not very good at practicing, [it's] easier to carry than a piano" (which she also plays). Christiana noted that she's still not great at practicing and picks easy songs to play, although I would never have guessed. Aside from instrumenting, Christiana also sings. How she got into that, though, is a very simple story. "My mother said I screamed until I was three and then I started singing." It's that simple.

If you're wondering what gave Christiana the initial idea to sing in the subway it's actually quite interesting. For all of you who have seen the accordion player in Union Square who sits at the back of the Q train platform and, generally, wears a large russian hat with the ear flaps, that's who convinced Christiana to play in public. She saw him playing the Godfather song one day, started singing with him and decided to strike out on a solo act thereafter. And now she takes the time to play whenever she's not occupied with her day job - communicating with the deaf as a sign language interpreter.

Christiana surely does enjoy playing in the subway. She says it teaches a person not to be afraid of how other people will react and, when people react positively, which they often do, gives a warm sense of accomplishment.

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