One of the world’s most innovative guitarists comes to the University of Rhode Island Guitar Festival on October 14e-17e. Kaki King, who in 2006 was declared “the new god of the guitar” by Rolling stone magazine (the only woman on the list at the time), is one of the many pioneering artists participating in the Festival this year.
King, whose career began around 20 years ago, is highly regarded in musical circles for his innovative technique as well as his revolutionary multimedia approach to performance. She has released several albums and composed scores for television and films, including that of Sean Penn In nature, where, along with Eddie Vedder and Michael Brooke, she received a 2008 Golden Globe nomination for “Best Original Score”.
I spoke to King last week from her home in New York City as she worked on post-pandemic plans. During a heated conversation, she spoke a bit about her work and the state of the music industry over the past year and a half.
She is certainly looking forward to being part of the Festival, where many talented colleagues will perform. “You have to bring your ‘game’, right? She chuckled. “It’s funny, at this point so many people are my friends, and so many people that I haven’t played with but admire… never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be in. company of some of these names. It’s a very big honor and you get to laugh and complain about the same things. It’s really lovely.
King’s music defies genres and often leaves critics stunned. (Rolling Stone calls it “a genre in its own right.”) She had no classical training, started playing drums and then switched to guitar. “I had amazing teachers who guided me on my musical path… It was just something I did for fun,” she explained.
The URI Guitar Festival started out as a primarily classical music event, but the Festival has evolved and expanded its program. I was wondering how King fits in with the more traditional players.
“I’m a guitarist, man,” she joked. “The classic isn’t what it used to be, the repertoire has changed dramatically, people are so much more open to playing contemporary compositions these days. It might not be that kind of pissing contest anymore. The field of players has changed dramatically over the past few years, and it’s so cool!
King has waited for much of the pandemic but is getting very busy, very quickly.
“It wasn’t great, but I’m a mom and I played with my kids and I make sure they find joy,” she explained. “At some point things changed to the point where life is now livable, we just have to discover new things. I did workshops and I’m launching two new shows… suddenly everything was happening at the same time.
As mentioned, King’s style defies convention and his multimedia shows are much more than a typical recital.
“This new show called ‘Modern Yesterdays’ is kind of a response to what existed before the pandemic. It’s a very technical show involving guitar and drums and all kinds of samples and videos and it’s very cool and interactive. It’s like I built this giant beast and now I have to figure out what it’s doing.
“I debuted at Lincoln Center this summer in their outdoor program,” she continued, “and then I worked on a show called ‘SEI’ with a friend of mine, Tamar Eisenman, who has about 16 guitars on stage. We move around them as a duo, play with them and pick them up, and that creates the music, and the movement creates that relationship between her and me that encompasses different levels of intimacy. is very different from anything I have done before.
King will be presented twice at the Festival. She will be there Sunday October 17the conduct a Master Class from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then later that evening she will perform as part of the 7:00 p.m. awards show at the URI Fine Arts Center with Derek Gripper and Mike Block. It is a sight not to be missed!