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Kharma Zhu: Ricky Martin Minus the Silicone Smile
By Daina Kazmaier
(more articles from this author)
2000-03-25
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They've got attitude, charm, and style...and they're as easy on the eye as their music is on the ear. (And, no, they didn't tell me to say that, either). Kharma Zhu, an up-and-coming band from New York City, play a funky-jazzy-pop-rock style flavored with spicy Latin undertones. In a recent interview, I discovered that the eclectic melodies and catchy tones they create are a total reflection of their personalities, which makes their music even more addicting.

[Daina Kazmaier] How long have you been together as a band?

[Kharma Zhu] About ten months. We got together in April of last year.

[DK] That's rather young. So tell me, where did the name Kharma Zhu come from?

[KZ] Well, we were pretty desperate to find a name. It turns out that our original name was already taken by about three bands in the city. We started brainstorming and came up with Kharma. You know, a collection of energy. It sounded cool and different, and then we added Zhu to the end. That shows the chaos (as in zoo). Basically, the name means that the energy we create as a whole is greater than that of a single person.

[DK] Wow, interesting. Deep...do your lyrics reflect the band members directly? Were they written from personal experiences?

[KZ] Yeah, the lyrics are basically a collection of what we go through everyday. Mostly memories and past experiences.

[DK] How about your songwriting process? Do the songs come easy?

[KZ] Each song is different. We could have one done in less than two hours, while others are a struggle and take weeks. In that case, we usually rehearse and bang it out until we get it right. It's always a total band experience. The initial idea ends with all four of us giving feedback. One of our new songs, "Believe," took us a total of two hours to write and record. It came out magically. We also have two kinds of songs- the intimate romantic type and the explosive Latin/dance type where the crowd goes wild and random articles of clothing are thrown onstage.

[DK] Two hours to write and record...I'm impressed. So who are your main musical influences?

[Mehrdad (bass guitar)] I listen to a lot of jazz and instrumental pieces. Miles Davis is among one of my main influences. Hip-hop is in there too, as well as electronic stuff.

[KZ] Our main influences are a combo of song-oriented bands. U2 and Dave Matthews...mostly musically eclectic acts bridging the two worlds. We like the songwriting/lyrical focus, but we incorporate a sophisticated new sound and a lot of Latin guitar playing.

[DK] How would you describe your music to listeners?

[KZ] We don't want to define ourselves with other groups. We would say that we've got a Latin influence with hip-hop style funky-bouncy beats. You can definitely sing along with our songs, it's mostly catchy melodic music. It's Latin rock with a funk and hip-hop influence. Pop without the bubblegum flavor...we're the real thing, the balls behind it all. Maybe even Ricky Martin with attitude (and without the fake smile).

[DK] That's a great description...enough to convince me to listen right there. So, where is your main fan-base located?

[KZ] Definitely in New York City. We've got about six or seven hundred fans. We sold out the Mercury Lounge. We're also totally into self-promotion. Check out our website at www.kz2000.com. Our fans also reflect our music. We have a very diverse following; there's not a specific type of person who likes our music (other than cool people and women).

[DK] That's always good for you guys. Who do you feel have been your biggest supporters? Who has helped you get where you are today?

[KZ] Matt Marcus! And everyone here at Major League Entertainment. And of course our families and friends who have been there from the very beginning. They spread the Kharma Zhu gospel!

[DK] What can we expect from Kharma Zhu in the future? Any tours planned?

[KZ] Huge explosions. Nothing short of world domination. We like the New York City night life, it's not like we're going to be locking ourselves in some rehersal studio in Brooklyn. We want to increase our visual presence in the city. Sell our CD, promote ourselves. By the way, you can pick up our cd at amazon.com and cdnow.com.

[DK] So what do you guys like to do when you're not jamming?

[KZ] Promote! Talk about the band. But we play very often...it gives us an excuse to go out.

Okay, so if there's one thing I've learned from Kharma Zhu, it's that shameless self-promotion works. They're not afraid to sell themselves and get their music heard, and I respect them for all that they have accomplished in such a short time. Check out their website at www.kz2000.com.


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