Highlight Read: Karikatura

February 19, 2015

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With a natural flair for creating feel good music is a NY-based band by the name of Karikatura. The six-man band who formed on the road, have a unique sound that dances across the globe. Karikatura prove themselves adept at mastering a diverse range of styles and blending them skillfully. It would be a dishonor to categorize Karikatura to a specific genre. Their sound transcends from a fusion of styles including: cumbia, salsa, hip-hop, reggae, indie-rock and more― it is clear to see that they are consumed by wanderlust.

We explore their inclinations behind their travels, music, movies and even their sweet tooth. Karikatura knows no borders, they only know adventure. If you want to listen to a band that can intrigue your senses and transport you to a different place in the world, other than the dance floor, look no further.

When did you begin working together?

Dima started forming the band in 2009 while living in India before returning to his native Brooklyn to fill out the lineup. Ryan joined in early 2010 and one Craigslist ad after another this lineup solidified around 2011. Our newest addition this year is Dan on trombone.

What inspired your name “Karikatura”?

We wanted to use a word that could be understood in many languages without needing to be translated. Dima is from Ukraine and speaks Russian so that’s where it originates for him. Whether they spell it caricature, caricatura, or karikatura, people in most countries immediately understand the word as one from their language, and then we belong to them as much as we belong to anyone else.

We hope people leave our shows dreaming of ways to be better to each other and motivated to explore the world and help whoever they find.


 

Who is Karikatura?

Members: Ryan Acquaotta – Vocals/percussion, Dima Kay – Guitar/backing vocals, Eric Legaspi – Electric Bass, Joe Wilson – Saxophones/Melodica, Daniel Lehner- Trombone/backing vocals, Morgan Greenstreet – Drums/backing vocals….we’re a bunch of guys who share a love of music from various diasporas, hustling and surviving together in NYC while getting out and seeing more of the world at the same time.

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Yes, we play within and alongside lots of new bands and draw lots of inspiration from all kinds of incredible musicians locally and globally. Part of what excites us and keep us in NYC is that spirit of pushing the envelope that we find in so many of our peers.


 

How would you describe your sound?

We call it Transglobal Soul…lyrical/melodic messages and emotions from deep down in our hearts combined with grooves and structures from a wide mix of global musical traditions that seeks to make connections between peoples, cultures, and musical genres, finding unity in our diversity and diversity in our unity.

What message do you hope people receive from listening to your music?

We hope people leave our shows dreaming of ways to be better to each other and motivated to explore the world and help whoever they find.

Are you influenced by new music from other bands/musicians?

Yes, we play within and alongside lots of new bands and draw lots of inspiration from all kinds of incredible musicians locally and globally. Part of what excites us and keep us in NYC is that spirit of pushing the envelope that we find in so many of our peers. In a more specific sense, I know the whole band is digging the latest D’Angelo record Black Messiah pretty hard these days.

Where do you find inspiration?

Dima: I find my inspiration in this city, my family, my friends, the internet and my wife who goes through it all with me. Most of it is circling around in the back of my brain and then interrupts me when I’m supposed to be doing something else like taking a shower, writing long e-mails or other office work, it comes bubbling through the sub-conscious and reminds me that I can always make time to create.

Ryan: I find inspiration in the simple act of trying to fit words together in a clever way, in the constant feeling that the world is never quite as good as I feel it should be, in the everyday friction of urban life in a metropolis like NYC, and in the practice of being in relationship to other people.

Morgan: I find musical inspiration in powerful popular and ritual dance music, in music that is based on rhythm and human voice. Through travel, I am filled with new ideas, new experiences and new energy to create, but I am also inspired by the manic energy of New York City. I also find that inspiration must be cultivated and shaped: I have many small musical and lyrical ideas all the time, but it takes a different sort of focus and attention to them seriously and take the time to develop them and turn them into music that can be shared with the group.

Joe: All kinds of other music, art, and life experiences.

Dan: I find inspiration in brief moments and small things – one character in a book, a single musical phrase, a piece of street art, etc. Basically, anything I can distill down and flesh out another story from. I’m also inspired by the unexpected, the things that change suddenly in radical ways or depart from your expectations of it.

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Are you guys movie buffs? If so, what’s the most awe-inspiring film you’ve watched?

Dima: Not really. For most my life, I would rather just listen to music. Lately, with the advent of Netflix, I find I’m catching up more and more. I must say that the Bollywood movies tend to be the most awe-inspiring. They are 3 hours long and have action, drama, romance, comedy, singing, dancing and spirituality all in one. Latest favorite Bollywood movies would have to be Jodha Akbar and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

Ryan: I’m not a movie buff. I go and see movies when Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross compose the soundtrack. Gone Girl led to some interesting convos with my wife about failed attempts at feminism in film.

Morgan: I couldn’t claim that I’m a movie buff, because I almost never watch movies alone, unless I’m sick or on an airplane. But I do love watching movies with other people as a social activity. The Big Lebowski, while not exactly awe-inspiring, remains a constant frame of reference for me. Night On Earth by Jim Jarmusch gives me a special feeling of humanity and joy. Orpheu Negro (Black Orpheus) is probably my favorite movie related to music.

Joe: Somewhat of a buff. Some I love include “Wings of Desire”, “Eternal Sunshine”, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Boyhood”, and “Punch Drunk Love”.

Dan: I’d like to say I’m a huge fan of film, if perhaps not a “buff”. There are too many to name, but a recent film that I found inspiring both as a film fan and musician was “Birdman” and one of my favorite films, for it’s amazing depiction of dream and memory, is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”.

“When I’m not making music I’m ___________________.”

Dima: Spending time with my family, doing Bikram Yoga, cooking & thinking about music.

Ryan: Listening to it.

Morgan: Listening to music, reading books about music, writing about music, going to see other artists perform, producing radio shows about music for Afropop Worldwide, running around like a headless chicken between gigs, or relaxing in a van on tour. Occasionally reading novels, occasionally traveling for experience and study. Also, spending time with family and friends, although most of my friends and family are involved in music, so many of these activities overlap.

Joe: Spending time with people important to me, or dealing with life’s challenges.

Dan: Watching my peers perform and make art, educating myself on race, politics, etc., reading fiction.

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We are all in an ongoing processes of learning how to be more aware of and more involved in what’s going on around us socio-politically. Sometimes when you’ve done a whole lot of learning in a short amount of time, you suddenly notice the block you’ve walked down a thousand times in a totally different way.


 

Describe your most memorable moment while touring thus far.

Dima: There have been so many amazing moments on tour, but if I had to pick one it would be when we played the Red Bull Sounderground Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil back in 2012. It was an international buskers festival and they had us playing in the Sao Paulo Metro where normally musicians aren’t allowed. On the 2nd day we played one of the biggest stations in the system. We set up and instantly there were 200 people surrounding us. From the first notes they were dancing & clapping along. Officially, we weren’t allowed to sell CD’s in the metro, but people would come up and ask, so between songs 1-2 of us would quietly cell CD’s as if they were illegal drugs on the side, making sure it wasn’t seen. Here we were in a foreign country playing our music and connecting with complete strangers and hustling just as hard as ever. It solidified in my mind that this music was truly universal. Incidentally, Hurricane Sandy ended up hitting NYC a day before we were scheduled to return. We ended up being stranded in Brazil for an extra 5 days which wasn’t the worst thing except we were really worried about our friends and family back home especially the first few days when some phones were still down.

Ryan: On our last tour to Europe we played in a small city in the Netherlands called Delft where we have a lot of friends and fans. We’d played there in the past but it had been two years since the last time, and we’d released our debut album since then. When the packed room started singing the words to songs from that album that I knew we’d never played live for them before, I kind of lost my mind. It was a whole new kind of experience. We (Karikatura) weren’t just performing for the audience, we were all singing the songs together, sharing in the words and the meaning. That was really special and memorable for me.

Morgan: There have been many, but one that stays with me because it was so electrifying: We were playing a show in Prague in 2012. We had reached the last song of the set, a cumbia/reggae version of ‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials. In the middle of a climactic moment of frenetic jamming, the lights and power went out, leaving just the drums, horns and acoustic vocals. We continued playing in the dark, and the crowd was right there with us, cheering and clapping. The lights came back just in time for us to finish the song all together.

Joe: Too many decent memories, and few that stand above the rest. One that comes to mind is the absolutely wild enthusiasm we received our first time in Slovakia. That was the first time I felt the potential for this band to make a sort of primal, powerful, and timeless connection with humans that I believe only real life (not recorded) experiences can create.

Dan: Being in Berlin for the 25th anniversary of reunification was pretty great; you got to see both the historic and present side of Berlin and its people, which was just a wonderful city in general.

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“Eyes Wide Open” really hits home to the changes we are seeing in neighborhoods across NYC. Why was it important for you to create this song?

We are all in an ongoing processes of learning how to be more aware of and more involved in what’s going on around us socio-politically. Sometimes when you’ve done a whole lot of learning in a short amount of time, you suddenly notice the block you’ve walked down a thousand times in a totally different way. Eyes Wide is about this feeling, and about knowing that if you didn’t notice these things before, there must be a whole lot more you’re still not noticing. It’s about embracing the fact that no matter how aware you become, you will always have more ignorance to work with, and you should keep working with it. We all live here, some of us were even raised here and we are all a part of this.

What are you working on right now?

We have a big batch of new songs that we’re finishing up so that we can play them live and let them evolve our style and vibe a bit. With any luck it will make sense to record a bunch of them for a new record sometime this year. We’re booking up some tours for the summer and fall, hoping to return to Europe and more of the US. Collaborations with other artists are things that we’ve talked about a lot and would really like to bring to fruition this year as well.

Mr. Softee Cone or Froyo?

Dima: Frozen Yogurt

Ryan: Froyo

Morgan: Ben & Jerry’s

Joe: Definitely neither

Dan: Softee

By: Astrid SarmientoNicole Callender and Raquel Rodriguez.
Photos: Daniel Kovacs







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