Monday, May 17, 2010

KASIA JUNO - artist of words and melodies (and she's my friend)

She is so obviously not from around here.  As I listen to her transform her anguishes and longings into some kind of wild gypsy poetry that winds through captivating and beautiful melody lines, I am lost in some kind of magical past where pirates sail the seas and sorcerers cast love spells over unsuspecting mortals. Her themes are modern and relatable; her use of language is otherworldly.  (Especially sung with Kasia’s unique accent, acquired through a childhood spent mainly in South Africa, but which saw temporary homes in Mexico and New Zealand and travels throughout the world.)  If I had to compare her in an elevator pitch, I might call her a cross between Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell – but not. Kasia Juno is very much Kasia Juno, and since I first heard her sing at 19 years of age, I have been in awe of her mastery of the English language and her vocal creativity.
I must note, that I’m not the only one who realizes Kasia’s aptitude where the written word is concerned – this past spring she graduated from the English Literature program at Montreal’s Concordia University as Valedictorian, and received several awards such as the Irving Layton award for Fiction, The A.G. Hooper prize and the MacGuigan prize for Literature, and recently an award from the Quebec Writing Competition for her story “The Fox.” She did all of this with no melody lines. 
            Wait, there’s more. Not only does Kasia spin together clever words and silky vocal melodies, but she supports them with remarkable competence on both guitar, and piano. The girl can play, and adds the musicianship and solo styling to her own performances; an ability that doesn’t always accompany the skills sets of great songwriters. It’s apparent that Kasia has done her time practicing those slippery minor scales and hand-cramping chords – she leaves no fret unused, no key un-tinkered.
            Despite her accomplishments, Kasia Juno is one of the most casual, friendly and easy-going performers I have seen; clunking notes on the piano as she figures out what to play, interacting with the audience as if they are chums sitting around her livingroom. She doesn’t seem to have a pompous bone in her body, and you may leave her show with not only Kasia’s CD, but with Kasia as a new friend.
            Kasia now lives in Toronto, and is working on a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Hopefully she will find time to enchant the music-lovers of her new home-city with her brilliant works. I’m looking forward to regular listenings. 
Photo by yours truly. 

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