Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kai Altair: the divine feminine

By Meredith Deliso

For an artist who draws very much on the visual and the creative, Brooklyn is the perfect place for Kai Altair.

“Living in New York is inspiring as an artist. Every sort of thing that can help to create imagery and fantasy that you could ever want is in New York,” says the Sunset Park-based musician, who plays Matchless in Greenpoint October 10. “Brooklyn is so good for an artist. It leaves a little more space for your creative mind.”

For Altair, music was her ticket to New York, studying opera at the Manhattan School of Music and then electronic composition at the Brooklyn Conservancy of Music.

“I love opera, but in my heart I always knew I wanted to do a band and write my own music,” says Altair. “At Manhattan School of Music you’re being groomed for the top opera houses in the world, but I really wanted to be drinking whisky and smoking cigarettes with my friends in the West Village.”

Finding her own voice, Altair has developed entrancing, hypnotic music with heavy synth that often focuses on another passion of hers: ocean conservancy. Growing up in the Northeast, as well as the Caribbean, water is something the musician feels a close connection with, and explores in her music.

“It’s kind of unavoidable for me to mention the ocean in my music,” says Altair, whose debut EP, out this month, is called “Star of the Sea” and includes singles like “Mama Ocean,” where she sings, “There’s a hole in my soul that’s lost at sea.” “Not just in a physical sense but also a metaphorical sense – it’s the place where our dreams come from.”

The imaginative realm is an endless source of inspiration for Altair, who’s drawn to the land of “fantasy, stars, oceans, mermaids, fairies and vampires.”

“These are things artists have been interpreting for society for thousands of years,” says Altair. “As a modern day artist, I feel the need to bring a modern day idea to these ideas of mythology.”

Another area of interest for Altair is goddess imagery and “bringing the divine feminine into our culture again.”

“I’m trying to imagine what the goddess image is today through my music and the images I create,” she says.

Through performance, she does just that, with costumes and tribal dance, a modern form of belly dancing, incorporated into her act.

Although she’s just getting started, with her EP out, fittingly, on Halloween, and her musical debut at Matchless in a bill put together by Resonator Magazine, Altair has big plans. She’s looking to amp up her live performance by adding backup singers and dancers, as well as organize a benefit for the ocean conservancy group Sea Shepherds.

And, with a sultry, gypsy-esque video just out for the single “Here She Comes,” she’s ready to get behind the camera once again and add to the iconography.

“I love the act of being a visual performer,” she says.

Kai Altair plays Matchless (557 Manhattan Ave.) October 10 at 10 p.m. With Bears Repeating, The Swear and Tealights, starting at 8 p.m. For more information, 718-383-5333.


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