Something Else! Interview: Singer Kosi

Akosua Gyebi is a singer with a wondrous voice and range. Her latest release One More Cup Of Coffee received some great reviews, and she is steadfastly making inroads into the music industry. Using the name “Kosi,” she is intriguing and her background interesting. She sings of dark shadows, the sinister and moving characters of New York — and always of hope amidst the darkness.

Kosi grew up singing in the church choir in a little country church in southeast Queens. When she was small, ironically, Kosi was very shy and quiet so rarely took on solos. However, some of the older people in the church realized her potential and encouraged (Kosi says forced) her to take part in performances. Kosi became part of a band of performers who sang, danced, acted and ushered; the youngsters became deacons and little tiny preachers. She gravitated towards music naturally because she realized at some point that she was pretty good at it.

Later, she sang outside of the church community. Kosi’s first performance was when she reached tenth grade in high school and she sang “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” as part of the junior jazz band concert performance.

When Kosi sings she says, of her emotions, that it is difficult to describe how she feels. She says: “I can’t, in fact, describe the emotions when I perform! They’re pretty all encompassing and tend to fluctuate widely, but most of the time when I’m performing, I’m in the zone. I don’t know how to describe ‘the zone,’ except to say that nobody exists inside of it except for me, the music, and the other musicians. The reaction I’ve noticed most from audiences is: ‘Where is that sound coming from?’ People have a tendency to be shocked by the largeness and insistence of my sound, compared to the smallness and fragility of my body.”

Kosi listens to a range of music and she says: “I love Gregory Porter. He is my idol. Also, I have three stations on Pandora, which is an R&B-type station created based on Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, a jazz station based on Bill Evans and Abbey Lincoln’s album with Hank Jones, and a classical/flamenco guitar station built on Enrique Granados and Issac Albeniz.” Her main musical influences are Nina Simone, Lincoln, Sarah Vaughan, Porter and Salim Washington.

One of the things Kosi believes in with a passion is realism and authenticity: “I believe in authenticity above everything,” she says. “Authenticity trumps innovation and novelty; it trumps homage to ancestors and idols and genre, correctness and rules. Authenticity trumps political correctness. Also, I posted a quote on my blog once that said: ‘The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.’ And I still believe that. I’m all about going for it, regardless of what haters and naysayers want to believe.” Kosi is unfailing in her belief in realism.

Of playing to audiences and her feelings about how her music is received, Kosi says: “When I play, I tend to be more aware of the other musicians on stage than I am of the audience. Sometimes, I fear that the experience of watching me perform is an exercise in voyeurism. I do, however, tend to have a very deep connection with the other musicians. It has on occasion become so intense that the musicians’ wives have raised their eyebrows. Audience members will naturally be sucked into the drama, even though I’m not addressing them directly.” One of the reasons for this is that when Kosi sings, she becomes a story teller — narrating the lives and trials of street people of New York, transposing her keen observations into emotional and evocative songs.

Kosi is busy planning her second solo album and tells me to look out for her Crowdsourcing campaign next spring. This will be a much larger project than the last one. Also, there might a possibility of an EP with an R&B/hip hop producer coming relatively soon.

One thing about Kosi is her developing confidence. No longer the shy, retiring crowd pleaser, Kosi now has found her direction. She is confident enough to have made the decision that she will bring to the audience an authentic, heartfelt performance and realism and she knows where she wants her music to take her. She is also blessed with a powerful weapon, and she is willing to work with it to woo audiences. Her voice has power, emotion and a musicality which is rare and she now has the confidence to use it fully. Kosi’s star is on the rise and she perhaps has those insistent church going adults to thank for it.

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Sammy Stein

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