Kari Hohne is a multi-talented composer, dream analyzer, author, Tai-Chi teacher, master diver, and pursues other endeavors as well. Kari is always teetering back and forth from reality and fantasy in her creative works, whether she's writing poems... composing music... studying foreign cultures... or analyzing dreams... her arts will stimulate your imagination. She takes this well rounded knowledge and composes electronic music with an emphasis on drums. Her latest CD "God of Drum" is a wonderful collection of 10 empowering songs. With song titles such as "Lei Shan, China" (Sea of Qi), Xango, Africa (The Flow of Expression), Indra, India (Endless Reflection), you will feel like you are traveling the world in a relaxed and transcending state, as you are carried away by the drums. I recently conducted this in depth interview with the very talented Kari Hohne.
R.V.B. - Hi Kari, this is Robert von Bernewitz from New York, how are you today?
K.H. - I'm fine, how are you?
R.V.B. - I'm doing pretty good. Are you in Lake Tahoe?
K.H. - I'm in San Francisco right now but I live in Lake Tahoe.
R.V.B. - Do you live in close proximity to the lake?
K.H. - Yeah, but I'm up above in the mountains. It's pretty remote where I live. I love it because there's wild animals everywhere but the drawback is my cell service is not so good.
R.V.B. - What kind of animals do you see there?
K.H. - There's coyote, deer, and I had a bear break in last year. When I leave, I have to put Pine-Sol by the door and windows. Up in Tahoe we have very secure containers for the garbage, so it's actually easier for the bears to break into the houses. (haha)
R.V.B. - Oh, how exciting. I guess you have to be careful when you come home at night.
K.H. - The bears would never attack a human, they're just hungry. All they are looking for is easy access to food. I see them when I'm hiking, but when they come in the house they can really make a mess.
R.V.B. - I can imagine. (haha) Thank you for taking this time to speak with me. Congratulations on your hot off the presses CD "Radio God".
K.H. - Thank you.
R.V.B. - I gave it a listen and I enjoyed it. I found it very relaxing. Although I liked them all, one of the songs that reached out and grabbed me was "The Gift of Fire". It had kind of a marching beat to it.
K.H. - Well the whole album is really about incorporating diverse elements. Every track is one culture meeting another. One unlikely culture being in the same place as another. The name of the cut is "Keok", and the inspiration was "what if musical instruments were to replace weapons? When the Celtic people came to meet the Indians." I like to incorporate different drums in my music. Everything I do is about the drums. In this case, I wanted to blend together the Celtic snare with the tom of the American Indians. I don't sit down and say "This is what I'm going to do." It just kind of puts itself together. In my vision of unity in that composition, that was the picture. The inspiration for that package is being the light for everybody in their times of darkness.
R.V.B. - You put a lot of genre's and thought on top of drum beats. Do you find these different beats in your world travels and incorporate them into a drum machine?
K.H. - I study a lot with Shamans and I studied drumming. In all of my music... the first album "God of Drum" as well as my second album, there's always an ethnic beat that is the foundation of the song. I'm an electronic composer and I use various plug in devices. I use the keyboards for all the different voices. There's a reason that I'm using a certain rhythm in a song. When you said "it was relaxing"... that's the purpose of the music that I'm composing. It's creating some kind of shift. The first album that I did "God of Drum" was about awakening Chakra. If you listen to that album, you can feel the tonality moving from the root all the way to the crown. The new album is more like yoga. When you're doing yoga, you're basically forcing the body into submission with very intricate and exhausting poses. The idea is to let the higher spirit to have more consciousness. In "Radio God" I used a lot of drumming to sort of put the body into submission. The melodies are based on actual religious songs... they're very inspirational. It has a similar purpose in bringing one part of us to a higher awareness.
R.V.B. - You are originally from Ohio... did you grow up in Ohio?
K.H. - Yes, and that's where I get my deep connection to the native Americans. Everything was named after the Indians and we had a lot of exposure to them. The tribes were gone but the area still had the echo of the Indian spirit... I felt it. All of our parks were named after Indians. You have the Cleveland Indian's baseball team.(haha)
R.V.B. - On Long Island, there are a lot of towns and hamlets named after Indian names and words. We have Patchogue, Montauk, Setauket, which are all Indian names.
K.H. - I felt a higher spirit. I'm always standing between reality and the artificial world of fantasy. Maybe I had more of a sense of it still being alive and very vibrant around me.
R.V.B. - Was it a coincidence that you started with the flute, which was basically a native American instrument?
K.H. - Yes, it was a coincidence. It was an instrument that I liked at the time but I bought a guitar with my first income tax return when I was about 18. The guitar became my best friend. I felt I was playing other peoples songs with the flute but once I got the guitar, it was leading me through the compositions. I loved singing with it and it was my favorite instrument.
K.H. - I bet you get the same answers all the time from this question. One of the first songs I tried to play was "Smoke on the Water", and also "Stairway to Heaven".
R.V.B. - I see that you were very into the "glam-rock" scene. Was it the makeup and the general shock factor attracted you?
K.H. - It was that it engaged in imagination. I do a lot of writing about dreams, Carl Jung archetypes, and the collective unconscious. At the time I believed in it. It was fascinating to me to take over as an alter reality and you had to wonder if Ziggy Stardust and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was a real person. I have an imagination that can just run wild. I was really influenced by how larger than life it was. It was like a big television show to music. It was so imaginative and engaging. I just loved it.
R.V.B. - Were you writing poetry at the same time period?
K.H. - Yes. I'm a very well known dream analyst and I always look at dreams like poetry. It's like a metaphorical language. In a poem, you try to say something with a word that captures the whole idea. Yes, I wrote poetry and I tried to understand dreams and to me it seemed like it was the same thing. I was also writing music. I wrote my first song when I was 6. I remember lying on a boat and listening to the motor, and the motor was making a melody. Then I put words to it. I can be in San Francisco and hear fog horns and a bus horn and all of a sudden it's a symphony. the sounds that were going on around me always seemed to reign themselves into musical fashion. Poetry was part of making the lyrics and writing the songs that were coming.
R.V.B. - I'm by no means an expert on dreams but a dream while your sleeping can be different than a dream while you're awake... such as a daydream. Do these factors come out in your music?
K.H. - Yes, I really believe there's no line separating that. I think we are a walking, organic, spiritual, imaginative, daydream conscious... making decisions. I think that we compartmentalize that, but I don't. I think the more open we become, the more inspired... the more creative we are. Dismissing one part of what's going through our mind as being irrelevant is not necessarily in our best interest. I believe if you work with dreams, you can engage in that part of yourself that has a message. Dreams know more about you than you do. A lot of people would agree with me. We learn a lot from our dreams. Yes, our mind goes into fantasy but it's an expression of us... it's an expression of our journey.
R.V.B. - Now you do work with dreams and "myths". A myth is kind of more of a story than a dream. How do they correlate together?
K.H. - They both would be called fantasy. If you look at myth's... that's one of the books I have written "The Mythology of Sleep"... it looks at culture regions and their myths. It looks at the similarity between dreams. In Joseph Campbell's works, he writes about a lot of this as well. He writes about the hero's journey in myths, I write about the hero's journey in dreams. There's a hero and he's trying to achieve something. There's a conflict and he's having some sort of awakening... a confrontation... direction on whatever it is that he's working through. Myths actually have a lot good material for dream work. You have to slay the dragon and that could be shadow work in dreams. It's not like you want to kill the dragon. The dragon is a vibrant part of you that may be sent underground. To me, they are both speaking in the same language. We call one part a reality... this is where we need to be focused and we dismiss all the things that we call fantasy. Fantasy can be a pathway to resolving some of the situations that we create for ourselves.
R.V.B. - You do a lot of traveling to learn a lot of different aspects on Shamanism. In your travels, was there any place that you went to that really blew your mind, where you said "Wow, this is something I haven't experienced before?
K.H. - In a lot of places there's energy that is associated with the geography. I was in Africa and there was a Maasai tribe. I had met 2 different Shamans down there and they had different techniques. They were keeping some really ancient medicine techniques. That was kind of fascinating. This one guy had grandfather after grandfather and had a lot of jars of healing concoctions. When I'm with the Shamans... like for example, you might be with a South American Shaman and you drink something called "Ayahuasca", but if you're with the African Shamans, they snort this dirt tobacco kind of weird thing. For me, when I'm in different cultures... it's not just about the Shamanism... certainly I like learning about the different drumming and the healing, but it's about watching how the past and present are fused. When I was in Africa, they were worshiping a God that seemed like it was the Enki from ancient Sumeria. They are basically from the same region. When I was with the Mayans down in south Chichen Itza, they were having this festival that was very much part of their Mayan heritage with a mix of Catholicism. For me, as I'm traveling around and watching how the past is still alive in the present, even though sometime we feel that they've abandoned it all from all of the conquistadors and missionaries. There is still some very ancient ideas that are still alive, and to me that's the most fascinating thing.
R.V.B. - You mentioned the Mayans... do you document their language?
K.H. - In order to keep ancient text and wisdom in tact... for example the Daoist ideas from the ancient Chinese, is not what those people are practicing today. It was all overthrown during the Marxist revolution. If they were more Daoist, it would be a much cleaner world. In the Mayan world they have their Popol Vuh and their text. If the Mayan language dies, those beliefs die with it. What happens down in the Yucatan, is that you have a lot of the children coming out of the jungle and going to the coast... south of Cancun... Tulum. As they leave the jungle, they're living on the coast... having children... the grandparents aren't around. The kids are learning Spanish and English and they dismiss their Mayan language as unnecessary. Since they are not with their grandparents in the jungle, there's nobody to teach the new generation the Mayan language. In one generation, it can literally be lost. I know they have efforts in Guatamala and on the gulf side of the Yucatan. There are initiatives to bring the language back into the school so that the kids can retain their heritage. When I look at a lot of the stuff that comes out of the Mayan world... they were geniuses' in technology... in astronomy... in architecture... in so many ways. Now they're fisherman and tour guides and I wonder if they kept their heritage alive that they might be the technologists of the future.
R.V.B. - The Mayans were obviously a large group of people. I guess they extended far into Mexico and probably are some of the people we see in America today.
K.H. - Mexico has many roots. If you go to Mexico today you'll see Toltec... the Olmec...the Maya's. There are about 7 different roots to it. Once you get into the Yukatan, you start to get into the Mayan world which goes down into Central America. The Mayan people have a completely different look and attitude. The people from Mexico city are more Aztec. Mexico is a large country that embraces many different cultures.
R.V.B. - As you said, your music is drum orientated. Your songs have a variety of drum beats. Do the beats have an effect on you as you're writing the songs?
K.H. - Yes. I went from flute to guitar to the M1. When I got into the Midi M1 electronic world, that's when the electronic world really opened up for me. There may have been other drum machines available and even though I used synthesized voices, I have to put the drum beat in by hand. It's a very organic, rhythm driven process for me. The drums have such a big part of my music and I'll lay down a very ethnic... rustic drum and it just all starts coming together. In "Radio God"... more than "God of Drum", I have very modern beats going on that album. It's fun for me to take something that has a sort of Shaman gathering and take that ethnic rhythm and weave in some hip hop beats and bring the two cultures together. The last track "Kved" on Radio God Has a Hindu feel mixed with a reggae blues thing. I have the most fun creating music by creating spirit drums and mixing modern and ancient styles in with it.
R.V.B. - I hear keyboards dominating the music, does the guitar take kind of a back seat in this music?
K.H. - There is guitar, but one of the other things that I'm always doing with my music is that... like in track 9... I take my guitar and make it sound like bells. Even though I start with a certain voice, a lot of times I change it. I am using the guitar a lot but I'm just putting a lot of effects on it. I definitely have it in that Chinese track that turns into sort of a spaghetti western. I'm not a performer, I'm more of a producer or an electronic composer. I don’t bring a lot of outside voices into the environment. I compose inside Logic Pro. Guitar for me is more of a hobby for unwinding and meditating. I always start with the drums. I don't know why but I just love drums. I love everything that they do.
R.V.B. - How long of a process was it to make "Radio God"?
K.H. - I started in December of 2014 and it was completed in March. Then it went to mastering. I kind of had a vision for it. It should sound like a mixed up radio show... like what is this? Is it the past... is it the future? It has a playfulness to it. As I put each track together, It was kind of like writing a book. You start with a character, and the character tells a story. That's kind of like how the music happens. When I start doing a track it's fun... I walk along with it. Why is there a snare in American Indian music... "This is fun". It gave it a peacefulness. It felt peaceful to get rid of all of the hurt and suffering. It's like a radio. (haha)
R.V.B. - It is a very beautiful, peaceful and relaxing piece of music to listen to. It flowed very nicely from one song to the next. It's a nice collection of songs. You do a lot of things in your life and I saw on your webpage that you are a master diver? Do you get inspiration from being in a different environment?
K.H - Absolutely! There's a person that I do a little collaboration with... we went out on a dive and we were watching the lighting on a reef underwater. I came back and captured it all on piano. Everything is coming from those types of experiences. Scuba diving is like a Zen process. I've been diving for many years and I'm pretty good at finding my way around down there. I feel like the person that goes into diving and likes it, and stays with it... you have to cross a threshold that tells your mind just to shut up. You have these people that say "I'm afraid, I'm claustrophobic... I'm so far down." It's a Zen process... "It's all going to be ok. Let go... let's starting flipping your flippers... you can breathe." It start's calming the mind of this chatter. It's a very meditative process. I feel fish are as smart as birds or dogs. I think fish should have any right that any animal should have. It's a different world down there. One time I was at 45 feet and about 100 dolphins shoot over this ledge, and all of a sudden I'm surrounded by dolphins. This little one is looking at me, and I'm on my knees holding my regulator, and I'm so excited. We were both saying "You're so cute". The mom snickers, and they all go off. Where do you get an experience like that? You don't just go walking down the street and have a flock of egrets come out from behind a tree.
R.V.B. - How did you wind up in Lake Tahoe?
K.H. - Oh man... I guess I did some work up there. I've left and gone into many other areas but once you get to a place like Lake Tahoe... the air quality is so good and the lake is so clear. You see animals daily on your hikes. Then it's hard to go back to a place like Los Angeles. It's has a very small town feeling. I always seem to come back to it. When we get a snowfall... it can be about 10 feet. We get big time snow. There is a lot of hardships living there, but then you take up skiing and it's all good again. It's the quality of life that makes it an inspiring place to live.
R.V.B. - I have to ask you about the current events that is going on about Star Wars. It's such a huge phenomenon and it's basically a myth and a dream. It all ties in together.
K.H. - Exactly... It's like what inspired me in music as a kid with music. That's how I see British glam. When those guys started creating this other reality... children and adults are excited to go and see Star Wars. There's some part of us that's bigger than this. I'm not saying that these stories are real but they give us life in some other side of us. I think it's important to have that. It's great to be hearing that loud noise at the same time were hearing all the hate on the television. Republican hating the Democrats, terrorism and all this bad stuff. It's nice that it can be balanced with this other worldly hope... a message of unity. It's fascinating though how much the children like it... you probably remember watching Batman as a kid... Lost in Space.
K.H. - We are always evolving and changing. How would you look at the difference of an artist and a non artist? The artist seems to have some part of them that's inspiring, with the images and the things that they're creating. The person who is not creative... all they have is peer pressure... all they have is judgment... projection... "We should be doing it because that one's doing it." It's a shame that they're cutting the arts in education, because it's not about creating things that are going to be sold. It's about letting some side of us live. That's where I tie it to dreams. I think the dream side of us is a little more of a mission than our conscious side of us is... It guides us. I did do some programs in LA with gang members. I got companies to fund this project where I would bring different art classes into these schools that were in East LA. These kids were at risk of going into gangs. The class would last six weeks and when they would first get into the class, they wouldn't talk to each other. They had their chains around their neck. I would trick them into expressing themselves. I had ways in the creative process to get them to start writing 3 line poems. All of a sudden they're sharing... "I'm not the only one alone on an Island? You also feel alone and misunderstood?" It was so empowering for them and it was a very rewarding thing for me. The arts are a way to give a kid inner direction. If you give them a blank piece of paper, what's inspiration? How do you get going? We tend to dismiss the arts as being non essential. It's not going to pay the electricity bill or whatever. Life is bigger than that. There's a lot of direction that can come from creativity, if we teach it to kids.
R.V.B. - I agree with you 100%. The arts are very important. It's what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
K.H. - If you look at it historically, in the 10th century Islam was the more tolerant religion while the west was in the dark ages... now it's reversed. What is missing when cultures go in the dark ages, is that creativity. Even though one group of people at a given time might be considered very innovative... like we are with all of this technology that we have. Another point that is interesting is that the Arabic world was keeping alive the works of the Greek's. We came out of the dark ages because they translated it. Times change and it would be nice if people allowed more freedom, then maybe we wouldn't be having the problems that we have today.
R.V.B. - I have to crack one little joke before I go. "Thank you for waiting for me." (haha) I read the cute story about how you got your name. (The song "Kari waits for me")
K.H. - (Haha)
R.V.B. - Were your parents musical also?
K.H. - A little bit... my mom sang in the choir. She didn't really play an instrument. My dad played guitar I was hearing music in the world around me. It wasn't really coming from my parents. Every noise that I heard sounded like music. (haha) Everything blended together harmoniously.
R.V.B. - Well you are doing fantastic work in a lot of different aspects - writing books, working with children, and making music. What do you have going on currently?
K.H. - Right now I'm in the middle of promoting "Radio God". I just got into The Recording Academy... so that's kind of exciting. I've linked up through Facebook with tons of other artists, and that's opening up a new world for me. I'm getting classified in the category of "New Age" and I'm trying to break out of it a little bit. I'm taking one step further into a mainstream sound.
R.V.B. - Thank you very much for taking this time with me... I appreciate it and I enjoyed it.
K.H. - I appreciate your time and it was really nice to meet you.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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To learn more about Kari visit her website www.cafeausoul.com
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