Tuning in to guitar wizard Kaki King

A while ago, a video started taking Facebook by storm. Posted by UPROXX and promoted by Honda, the video is one of a new series called Uncharted. The video begins with a quote from Dave Grohl saying, “There are some guitar players that are good. There are some guitar players that are really good. And then there is Kaki King.”

The words fade away. The music is already playing. It’s this spellbinding guitar sound that makes you feel like you’re falling in to a trance. It starts off mid-tempo, then gradually gets faster and faster. It then switches screens to someone sitting on a stage, playing what looks to be a guitar with images being flashed across it and scenes behind the person—appearing to be some sort of rainstorm. It’s completely dark other than the images being shown on the guitar and behind the person playing. This dark figure, wearing sunglasses, has obvious talent.

Can't Touch This Or That Or You Or My Face (Arthur Moon remix) youtu.be

The video has been seen nearly 4 million times by the time of this writing. It tells the story of Kaki King, an incredibly gifted guitar player who has found a way to pair the sound of guitar music with lights and color. She has entitled this new project, “The Neck Is a Bridge to The Body.”

In her new show, she uses projectors that are controlled by her guitar and the way it sounds. She uses a computer program that was created for this purpose. It flashes all sorts of images all over the place in a very chaotically beautiful way. It’s being performed all around the world, and Nashville is lucky enough to be hosting two performances at Oz, the local contemporary performance venue.

Kaki told Out & About Nashville that she developed her technique as a teenager, growing up in a suburb of Atlanta. “I was a teenager when I started this. I played drums, and was combining things about playing guitar and playing drums that made sense to me. So the technique kind of grew from that.”

She wasn’t in Atlanta very long, though. She moved to Manhattan to study at NYU in 1998 and now currently resides in Brooklyn. When I asked her if the creativity in Brooklyn inspired her, she said, surprisingly, “Well, you know, Brooklyn is about hustle. I think that maybe a long time ago it was about creativity, but now I think that New York is more about hustle. I don’t meet people who have time to daydream. People come here to work, to make their mark, to develop whatever they’re developing. I think that leads to a lot of incredibly dynamic people who are go-getters. So, while yes, a lot of people are very creative, I think today’s economy, especially the musical economy and the way we operate is a lot more about, ya know, just getting it done.”

Asked what does inspire her musically, she replied, “My music tends to be very busy. I think a lot of people like music that tends to be a bit more pastoral and pretty, and I guess I just don’t have time for that. I think a lot of the music that I write tends to be written at the pace of New York. Even tempo wise, walking down the street I find a beat. So yeah, I guess New York is really inspirational. It’s a giant f---ing melting pot full of wild, crazy people. How can you not be inspired?”

A Musical Escape Into a World of Light and Color | Kaki King | TED Talks youtu.be

Kaki’s sound is so unique that I was wondered how she felt audiences were reacting to her new sound and visual combination. She thinks reception has been pretty positive. “This show is very different. I’ve been doing guitar music for a really long time, but this show has literally changed the type of audience that’s coming to my show,” she explained. “People who are interested in art and technology and something that’s just really cool and trippy looking, I think a lot of people are attracted to this new work that I’m doing. And I’m playing it in different types of places. More galleries and museums. Places that are not traditionally used for a hard rock kind of deal.”

We kept talking, about Nashville, about OZ, the venue where she’s performing, about her wife and new baby— Kaki is married to Jessica and has an eighteen-month old daughter—and the more I thought about it, the more it became obvious that now she was explaining to me where her music comes from. She lives in a fast paced city, where everyone is hustling. No one has time to be a day dreamer. New York is busy. It’s very up tempo. You have to fit so much into the smallest space. She sounded jaded while she was trying to talk about it—like a typical New Yorker. Only when she was telling me these last things did it all start making sense.

Kaki King - Forms of Light and Death (Official Video) youtu.be

Her music is very up tempo and very busy. So much happens in such a small space. Yet her music seems like a daydream. It’s picking up on the small nuances of her day. The sounds she hears. The colors she sees. Kaki King has translated that into guitar music and light. She has found the beauty in her chaos and made an arrangement around it.

She may not see day dreamers, but she is one. She’s found her corner in this market where she fits and flourishes. She is patently herself, is not subtle at all, and is incredibly talented. If our conversation is any indicator, this show is going to be poignant, thought provoking, and meaningful. I have a feeling that the show is destined to be very different from anything Nashville has ever seen before. Just like Kaki King.

Visit Kaki King here.

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