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Interview w/ Kahimi Karie
By Holly Day
(more articles from this author)
1999-05-20
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Kahimi KarieYou know the gag about two people trying to communicate to each other via translator, and both people are obviously saying many, many words to each other, and the translator babbles back and forth as well, but when it comes time to actually translating the dialog for one of the parties, the translations are one-two sentences of "yes" and "No?" This was one of those interviews-the interview with Kahimi Karie actually took nearly half an hour, but I think I got maybe ten minutes of translated dialog from our mediator. The nice thing was: Kahimi Karie has one of the most beautiful speaking voices I have ever heard, and it was kind of nice to just kick back and listen to her sweet, high-pitched voice babble in indecipherable Japanese, punctuated by giggles to private jokes exchanged between her and her translator and some very serious-sounding exclamatory phrases.

Karie's music ranges from '60's borderline psychedelic bubblegum pop (think Austin Powers) to futuristic space-lounge. Paired with Kahimi Karie's amazing vocals and some truly strange lyrics-penned by luminaries ranging from Momus to Cornelius-the result is both exactly like what you've already heard a million times before and yet entirely new. It's the familiar warped and twisted into something strange and beautiful and just a little crazy. Her American debut, "Kahimi Karie," is actually a collection of work previous released in Europe and Japan, some of which have reached gold and platinum status.

By the way, if you speak Japanese and are curious about what was actually said by Ms. Karie, don't bother trying to contact me-I've already taped over the phone conversation after fruitlessly trying to find someone who spoke Japanese in my own neighborhood. Maybe I can catch her next time 'round….

[Holly] What were you like growing up and what were you like as a teenager?

[Karie] I wanted to be an interior designer. That was when I was very small. And I also wanted to do something related to animals. I loved music the whole time, but I never expected I was going to be performing myself. Since high school,. I started an interest in photography and I started taking photo.

[Holly] Did you get a lot of support from your family when you started performing as a musician or did they want to pursue a more professional career instead?

[Karie] I haven't so much about my family, but since I was 18, I have not seen or spoken to my parents.

[Holly] Who is your favorite songwriting partner or partners and why?

[Karie] I think Momus is the best partner. The reason why is because his music is so mysterious, it has such an unusual feeling to it. And he also says the same things that I am thinking when we are composing together. Sometimes I'm not so sure because of the language barrier between us, but the songs always end up saying what we are both thinking and feeling at the time, what we were trying to communicate during the composing process is suddenly very clear. He uses my voice in his songs in different ways than I usually do. Every song he makes, I can sing so well.

[Holly] Is there any particular musician that you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't had the opportunity to yet?

[Karie] I haven't yet, but it's been a dream of mine to work with Belle & Sebastian.

[Holly] How is playing for US audiences different than playing for audiences in Europe and Japan?

[Karie] For example, Japanese audiences are seldom performed before. There is, like, almost a wall between the artist and the audience, and even thought they are very polite, I always feel like there is a wall between me and my audience. In the US, I got a very distinct impression that there was a connection between me and my audience. It was very comfortable to perform. The reactions to my music was so obvious-when I was singing well, the reaction was so good, and when I was singing not so well, the reaction was not as good. It is so easy to see an audience's reaction to a good or bad performance here. In Europe, when I last played there, there were some people dancing and enjoying the music, but the reaction was not as strong.

[Holly] What do you like to do when you have some free time to yourself?

[Karie] I live in Paris with my boyfriend, and we have a dog and a cat and some other pets. I like mostly spending time with him and the animals. I love walking down the streets in Paris with my dog and my boyfriend. Small things like that are important to me.

Read a review of Kahimi Karie's new release.


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