Tamar-Kali is no novice at conveying profoundly worldly messages in the forms of dizzying aural experiences matched with daring visuals. Her newest performance piece and project Pseudoacoustic debuted at The Kitchen this past Thursday (Dec.2) and Friday (Dec. 3) showing a more soft and sensual side of Tamar-Kali backed with a “pseudo” acoustic band, including Vijay Iyer (piano) and Somi (vocals) on the first night, and aerialist Kiebpoli Calnek on the second, and Mariel Berger on both (accordion), though there was no shortage of metal drum rhythms, and electric guitars.


Opening for her was the still fairly fresh faced singer/songwriter Valerie June, a Kickstarter sensation, garnering twice as much in donations than her projected amount to fund her music. And it’s no wonder that she did. June’s bone-chilling voice, and her compelling storytelling through nursery rhyme-like anecdotes between songs, and her array of stringed instruments, ranging from guitar to mandolin and banjo are picked intentionally for the song of the right humor. Her set entitled “Valerie June and The Old Wives’ Tales” was a collection of oral tradition, original insight, and folklore:

Valerie June

The Storyteller

Tell your tale and listen too,

As others tell their tale to you,

Find a point at which you meet,

& Form a bond that’s strong and sweet,

But if your life’s a tale of woe,

Be slow to let bad feelings show.

Somewhere between the blues, country, blue grass, and soul. June’s singing is dictated by matters-of-the-heart, and she appears deeply compelled to share with you. June’s music is less concerned with genre type, but she clearly gets most of her musical influences from her deep Tennessee roots. Her stories are almost as heartbreaking as her voice. She told the story about the woman who taught her the bottleneck guitar and soon after passed away. It’s not certain if it was the story, the intensely focused spotlight on June as the rest of the venue was left pitch black, or some ethereal element, but it seems possible that that woman was present when June’s played the bottleneck with the woman’s handkerchief.


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Next was Tamar-Kali. The genre-bending woman who got her long overdue accolades after the Afro-Punk movement began to take off following the cult uprising of James Spooner’s film of the same name, Tamar-Kali took her extraordinary live performance to yet another level.

The media never has been able to succinctly describe Tamar-Kali’s sound. Her deeply resonating earth toned voice, though soulful, can often be described as screeching if heard from the opposite end of the spectrum. Her earlier days brought together the hard and adrenaline inducing death metal instrumentals with sometimes a range of other genres of the African Diaspora, ranging from reggae to soul. Much of her contribution to the Afro-Punk movement is the direct connectedness between African traditions that have been passed down throughout the transatlantic slave trade and into the punk aesthetic (mohawks, leather adornments), but has been detached from it’s original context.



Tamar-Kali’s all black-outfitted ensemble, comprised of an acoustic string section of bass, cello and violin, as well as a jazz/rock rhythm section of piano, bass, and guitar, with a killer metal drummer and two background vocalists created a sonically resonating experience for an interestingly mixed audience. Though not quite metal, punk, jazz, classical, soul, or reggae, yet encompassing them all, Tamar-Kali perfectly articulated exactly what her music is. It is all, and yet it is nothing. The highlight of the second night’s show was the reggae/rockified cover of Labelle’s “Space Children” reenvisioned (and in my opinion improved) with Tamar-Kali’s booming and deeply vibrational voice. Another notable mention was the avant-garde dance performance of aerialist Kiebpoli Calnek who defied gravity and convention with acrobatics off of two ribbons hanging from the ceiling accompanied by an detonation of sounds.

It is no mystery how an Afro-Punk icon was paired in the same show as an up-and-coming country/blues singer. Both have so audaciously, yet so gently defied the boundaries of music to create something authentic and true. This is the true meaning of future soul.

Words by Boyuan Gao


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