Kaki King Discusses Guitars, Inspiration And Her Middle East Debut

Nov 07,2019

Hailed by Rolling Stone as “a genre unto herself,” Brooklyn-based composer and guitarist Kaki King is considered one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, known both for her technical mastery and for her constant quest to push the boundaries of the instrument.

In 2015 Kaki launched “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body”, a groundbreaking multimedia performance that used her guitar as a projection screen to explore the genesis of the instrument and her relationship to it. The show toured extensively throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Turkey, Japan and Brazil, marking her first foray into multimedia and experimental theater.

We spoke to King ahead of her sold out show at New York University Abu Dhabi and asked her about her unique approach to guitar playing, her influences and what to expect from her upcoming show.


Which guitarists inspired you to take up the instrument?

My parents started me on guitar at age 5. I got more interested in it on my own listening to Nick Drake, Johnny Marr, and PJ Harvey. 


What are you listening to these days?

My children demand “Africa” by Toto, “Rock Lobster” by B52’s, and “Let It Go” from Frozen on repeat. That’s my playlist. 


How did audiences first react when they heard your style of music?

I think a lot of people said things like they were “blown away” and they had never seen someone play guitar like that. But honestly, there are a group of solo guitarists that play like me. No one else writes like me though and that is what they were actually reacting to. 


Can you tell us a little about your upcoming show at New York University Abu Dhabi?

It’s a show about data and the things that data outlines, but from a philosophical standpoint. There is a lot of great tech allowing me to control things that you see and hear with drums and guitars. A lot of projection of images on the floor and walls of a tent onstage. It’s a multimedia show in every sense of the word, but we are making every attempt to push that media into realms that haven’t been seen before. It’s going to be interesting and beautiful and like nothing anyone has done before no matter what. 


Whats next for you? Any projects you are working on?

I’m working on several things, yes. As the music industry has changed I’ve found myself more interested in long term research and development of how to push the guitar beyond its natural borders with both playing technique and composition as well as adding complex technologies to the mix. I want this process to result in performances and recordings, but I’m starting to appreciate the process as much as I do the results. Hopefully, this will define the next decade or so of my creative work. 


Any advice for young upcoming musicians?

Work hard, as much as you can. Get to know people who lift you up. Figure out a social media strategy but don’t overthink it. Keep pushing yourself. Let go of whatever you think the outcome should be and enjoy yourself. 


Kaki King’s Data Not Found will run from Nov 13-15 at New York University Abu Dhabi. For bookings and inquiries visit www.nyuad-artscenter.org