Seattle’s Joe Kye is ‘different’ & that’s a good thing for music fans

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Joe Kye

We’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories. Someone walks up to a person who looks ‘foreign’ and demands that they act/speak/look ‘American’ only to be told that the ‘foreigner’ grew up here and is really just as American as anyone else.

Joe Kye is a Korean-born fellow, who moved to the US at age 6. He experiences some aspect of being told ‘you’re different’ just about every day- even in his hometown of Seattle. But ultimately, the city came to his rescue, presenting the young Joe the opportunity to play violin in the school system. It proved to be his escape, and the songs on Joe’s upcoming album Migrants reflect the immigrant experience, and what it’s like to live stuck between two worlds.

“I’m looking to create a sound and a vision for what might be,” says Kye, a violinist, composer, and vocalist who blew open his diverse musical world when he discovered the magic of the loop pedal in college. That vision has fractures and fragments, wounds and gaps, but it resonates with a bittersweet optimism, a measured hope for change and coming together on Migrants, his debut full-length album and third release.

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Joe Kye’s ‘Migrants’

Kye’s crisp playing, layered in swirls of pizzicato arpeggios and percussive elements, forms the foundation for clever and reflexive lyrics and a tender, urgent voice. He bounces his own distinctive sound around in collaboration with everyone from friend and LA-based MC Jason Chu and Vegas-based MC Rasar (“Fall In”), to NYC composer/percussionist William Catanzaro (“Migrants”), to a full string section (“Joseph Rests His Head”), a lush contrast to Kye’s taut loops.

Music has been a lifelong refuge for Kye. “Music is essential and therapeutic for me, and has been since childhood,” Kye recalls. “I remember in Korea, borrowing my dad’s walkman and putting on the headphones, how powerful and adult that felt. That personal and transportative experience has stayed with me.”

Listen to his single “Stick On Me” below and grab the album at his website.

Alternate version of ‘Wake Me Up’ perfect for the DREAMer cause

Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 12.44.44 PMSometimes a hit dance song can become an ally for a cause.

Wake Me Up” is a song that all of my indoor cycling class instructors at the gym can’t get enough of. Eventually, the song became an earworm and I had to look it up on YouTube. Not surprisingly, it’s a monster club hit by the Swedish electronic dance music giant, Avicii.

The video for it follows a model-like girl who seems to live a not-so-easy life somewhere in rural America, but ends up happy because she rides a horse to an Avicii concert. (It’s as pretty as a fashion magazine spread.)

But the lyrics are deeper than that. And though Avicii made the song a global hit with his EDM production skills, I had to know about the man behind the voice. That’s where the story gets more interesting, as far as I’m concerned.

The vocalist (who is listed as a co-writer the Avicii track) is Aloe Blacc, a singer, songwriter, rapper, and musician from Southern California best known for his single, “I Need A Dollar,” from the short-lived HBO comedy-drama series, “How to Make it in America.”

Turns out Blacc, real name Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, was born to Panamanian parents and that may explain why he recorded a video for the alternate version (acoustic country and folk) of “Wake Me Up.”

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Directed by Alex Rivera from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), an advocacy organization that advocates for day laborers and is staunchly against President Obama’s deportation policies, the video features undocumented immigrants, including DREAMer Hareth Andrade-Ayala, who arrived in America when her father Mario came to the United States in 2004 seeking a brighter future for his family. Mario is now facing deportation.

The song’s poignant lyrics are perfect for what Adrade-Ayala, and millions of other youth affected by the threat of deportation, must be feeling.

They tell me I’m too young to understand
They say I’m caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes
Well that’s fine by me

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

Watch the video below and read more about the director’s thought process behind the video via Buzzfeed.