Katana - Kaotika

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - January 09, 2009
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Q’n A

Katana Kaotika Releases: Jan. 25 Katana

Can you talk about your musical journey and why it’s taken several years to release your album?

I have been signed several times. I grew up just wanting to be a hip-hop and spoken-word artist. It was something that came very natural to me. I began to compose my own poems and rhymes from the moment I could speak. My mom would record that. From when I was 14 to 21, I came across several record deals,and it would always fall through because these were more commercial labels. What was explained to me is that my lyrics were too aggressive or that I wasn’t feeling the formula of radio music. Also they did not know how an Asian girl from Hawaii could be marketed in the Mainland hip-hop or spoken-word community. So I kind of threw in the towel, even though I knew it was my life’s dream.And then, by chance, I met Kamuela Kahoano and we started talking, and I showed him what I did and he was so supportive of me. So once I met him, he gave me full artistic control of the album. I became the executive producer and he did all the technical stuff. After we went into the studio, it took about a year.We were doing the album part time, but it was a full-time labor of love.

Did you write all the songs on the album?

Yes, I did.

Can you talk about your lyrics and what inspires you?

I try not to ever censor myself.What I try to do, like my native Hawaiian ancestors and Ethiopian ancestors, is to be an oral historian and to document whatever is going on around me. Although I might not always be talking about Hawaiian issues or Ethiopian issues, when I write and create music, it’s my own way of processing the world around me and dealing with the things that I see.A lot of people tell me that sexism and racism tend to be a theme of my work.

How did you get the concept for your album cover?

Just through my travels as a spoken-word artist I have found that, because I look a certain way and because I’m an Asian female, people perceive me as being the opposite of what I am. I’m very vocal, and my poetry is very loud, and a lot of times when I would perform people would be shocked by that. So I’m just making fun of all the stereotypes that people have put on me as an Asian female - being subservient or that oversexualized image. So I’m just making fun of that and saying with this album I’m breaking free of that. I’m wearing an uchikake, which is a traditional Japanese wedding kimono. And so the image is of me breaking free of being that good, little Japanese bride, and I’m just being my own person.

What are you plans musically?

After my CD release party I’m going to be touring.And I’ll probably go back and tour the West Coast and then go and perform in Japan.

The 411

Spoken-word artist Katana forcefully breaks all the stereotypes in her newly released album, Kaotica.

Born and raised in Hawaii, Katana says this album is a verbalization of her life, and admits that there was no holding back with the lyrics or the content.

In fact,she spent years searching for the right opportunity that would allow her full freedom on her album and, in the process, her music has taken on even more depth. She thanks producer Kamuela Kahoano for picking up the project.

“The funny thing is, when I met Kamuela, musically and artistically we just clicked,” says Katana. “I had years of music already written, and so some of those we recorded. And it was so inspirational, and I also created new music (based on) what we were doing at the time.”

While Katana will say quickly that this album is her proudest achievement, this 29-year-old has a lot on her resume. She is a veteran on the spoken-word scene, was a ghost writer and backup dancer for other mainstream, and she has opened for acts such as Damien Marley, Mario Africa,Yellow Rage and Public Enemy.

Having spent a lot of her years in the entertainment scene,Katana has witnessed first hand the stereotypes inflicted on women, particularly Asian women. The album is a blend of songs and poems covering controversial topics such as sexism, racism and domestic violence. The lyrics are blunt yet truthful, and speak from Katana’s heart.

“This album was a risk I had to take,“says Katana. “As opposed to writing an album, I tried to verbalize everything that was happening in my life. Listeners of this album will not only hear honest poetry set to memorable tones, they will also hear my soul and passion.”

Kaotica is already available on iTunes, and will be making its hard-copy debut at Katana’s CD release party Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. at Revolutionary Books. For more information on the party or the album, visit http://www.katanamusic.com.

Tuning In

Raiatea Helm

Hawaiian Aloha Tour

It seems only fitting, with a Hawaii-born president taking office, that a few Hawaii musicians also make the trip to Washington, D.C.

The three award-winning artists heading to the chilly East to perform are Raiatea Helm, the Kohala Trio and Keale. Their stop in D.C. is for the Hawaii State Society Presidential Inaugural Ball Jan. 20 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where they will celebrate, Hawaii-style, President Barack Obama taking office. But no aloha shirts, please - this is a black-tie event.

The artists have written a new song for President-elect Obama, titled Hawaii’s Gift, which they will perform at the inaugural ball.

Helm is a two-time Grammy nominee and multiple Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning female vocalist who combines traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music. Kohala blends acoustic guitar trio with island/folk/jazz and features Hawaii’s first Grammy-award recipient, Charles Michael Brotman. Keale, a member of the Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning group Kaukahi, is known for his captivating acoustic vocal style and powerful stage presence reminiscent of his cousin Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

Before their historic trip to D.C., first up on the musicians’ Hawaiian Aloha is a performance at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference at the upscale Manhattan World and Jazz music venue, DROM, in New York City Jan. 12. The day after the inauguration,. they’re back in NYC to perform at the famous B.B. King’s in Times Square.

For tickets to the Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball, call 1-800-664-5056.

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