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Interview with a Street Artist: KAZ, the Jazz Beatboxer

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I don’t usually take the F train, but last week when I did I ran into something pretty interesting.  I heard a pretty sick beat over my headphones and assumed someone was playing some loud hiphop.  While waiting for the train at the 2nd ave stop, I pulled out my earbuds to catch the climax of the beat which was clearly progressing towards a drop.  When it did I couldn’t help but to dance a little and jam out to this incredibly unique beat.  When I turned to look for the source of the music I was surprised to find not a recording, or a DJ, or a rapper, but an edgy asian dude with nothing but a mike and an amp.  His name is KAZ (Kazuo Saito) and he’s a pretty killer jazz beatboxer.  After some lite Facebook stalking I reached out to him and asked about his life as a beatbox performer in the subways of New York.  Here’s what he had to say:

How’d you get into beatboxing?

I started at age 15.  At the time I was living in Tokyo.  I saw a band called Phiew Phiew Live.  I had never seen anything like them before.  They inspired me to learn.  I spent the next two years developing the skill.  Now I consider my skills to be just like an instrument, I can basically take the place of a drummer in a band.  When I’m not performing in the subways I’m a beatboxing member of a jazz band.  It’s the Danny Walsh Band, you should check it out.

What made you become a street artist in New York?

Unlike Tokyo, New York is very open minded to different types of music and art.  They are open to fusion.  In Japan if you like rock, then you buy the ticket to the rock show.  That’s it.  Different tastes and genres in music don’t really mix as much as they do here.  Also, Japan doesn’t have a tipping culture, so street performance isn’t as common in Tokyo.  You wouldn’t make any money if you did it.

Is performing in the subways decent money?

Yeah, honestly on a weekend night I make over $200.

What’s your favorite stop to perform at?

I think I like West 4th the best.

What kind of problems do you run into down there while you’re performing?

Well street performers are actually supposed to have MUNY permit (Musicians under New York).  I don’t have one, so sometime’s I’ll be shooed away by police but often they are nice and let me stay.  Drunk people at night can also be annoying.  Sometimes the homeless will come up to my audience members as they are trying to tip me and I’d have to ask them to stop.  Some time’s I’d pay them a part of my tip to make them stop.

How did you end up mixing jazz and beatboxing?

Unlike most beatboxers I am a musician just like anyone else with an instrument.  I can join a band no different than if I were playing a set of drums.  I’m drawn to jazz because it has more flow.  I perform every week at Matt’s Grill with the Danny Walsh Band (link to his badass jazz set).

What would your advice be to anyone who would want to learn beatboxing?

Start by trying to imitate everyday sounds.  Try mimicking the sound of a squeaking door, or a motorcycle driving by.  Also try to isolate each sound and understand the motion of your mouth that relates to creating it, and then repeat them in practice as training.  YouTube also helps, of course.

What's up!? I'm Katrina. I'm wandering, collecting, witnessing and learning. I'm drawn to all things found at the intersection of art and technology. If I could go back in time, I think I'd be best friends with Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and Cleopatra. When I'm not obsessing about the human endeavor or the nature of time, I'm probably cooking or dancing.

Business

Getting Millennials Involved In Politics

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politics

Since our most recent Presidential election, it has been more important than ever for millennials to use their voice in politics. Millennials make up a large portion of the population, and by getting involved, it can create an impact on society. Since The Great Recession, this generation has experienced unique struggles and are rightfully angry. Unemployment was at an all time high and wages fell once it was all over. Millennials are the most educated generation in American history, both in degrees and college graduates. However, what was once a job promised after graduation is no more. Millennials feel the need for a moral rebirth and are getting involved in issues now more than ever.

We got in touch with Bryan Leib, an activist trying to get more millennials involved in politics. Bryan works with nonprofits in Philly and Camden as a mentor for the youth. We asked him about the importance of politics for millennials and ways to get involved.

 

Why is it important for millennials to be involved in politics?

It’s mission critical for millennials to be actively involved and engaged in politics in order to influence public policy and to improve our communities. Local politics that is. I’m a big believer that the best position to influence change is at the local level. I know Presidential politics excites a lot of millennials but honestly, that isn’t where we can make an impact.   

What is the reason most millennials are not involved in politics?

I think it’s because of voter apathy and an overall frustration for the political process. I find that most millennials are frustrated with the status quo, career politicians and they don’t think their vote can make a difference. Over the last two years in Philadelphia, we have witnessed a United States Congressman, PA Attorney General, PA State Treasurer, State/City Judges and PA State Representatives convicted of corruption/bribery/racketeering charges. The Philadelphia District Attorney was indicted on +20 federal counts of bribery and fraud. A lot of us are numb to the entire political process because of those reasons and because of the current power structure and lack of accountability. How does a millennial get excited about politics with career politicians like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D) and Senator John McCain (R) at the top of the power structure in their respective parties.  Both in their 70’s and have held office for over 30 years. Average age of Member of the U.S. House of Representatives is 57 years and the U.S. Senate is 61 years. https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/c527ba93-dd4a-4ad6-b79d-b1c9865ca076.pdf    

What are ways to get millennials involved in politics?

Well, I’ve always suggested that if one wants to get involved with politics that they should volunteer for a campaign or intern in the office of an elected official. Volunteering for a campaign is a sure fire way to get your feet wet and make a substantial amount of political and community connections. Being involved with a campaign from the ground floor through election day is a pretty good primer for anyone who wants to aspire to run for public office office. Another way to get involved is to start attending local civic and neighborhood association monthly meetings. They are typically open to the public, free and donuts are involved.    

How did you get involved in politics?

I’ve always been involved with civic organizations and nonprofits in Philadelphia and Camden. Public service is in my DNA. I personally believe that politics should be 100% public service. Elected officials should show up to work every day with only one agenda item – how do they improve the community and serve the public at large.  My foray into politics was volunteering in the 2015 Mayoral Race in Philadelphia. I started as a part-time finance intern and within a couple months of proving myself to the candidate and campaign staffers, I was attached to the hip with my Mayoral Candidate as his traveling aide. We went all over the city to build new relationships and talk to community members about the issues that were important to them and their families. Shout out to State Senator Tony Williams – he showed me the ropes, put me on the map and is an amazing public servant. For that, I am eternally grateful.

What would the impact be if more millennials became involved?

Game-changer of epic proportions! We have the opportunity to re-write the entire political landscape as we know it today by 1) Voting and organizing in local elections 2) Supporting our fellow millennials in running for public office. Philadelphia millennials are the largest registered voting bloc in the city with +300,000 registered voters. However, in the 2015 Primary for offices like Mayor and City Council – only 12% of registered millennials went to the polls. I attribute his to voter apathy. To put this in perspective, there are 230,356 registered voters between the ages 35-65 who voted in the 2015 Primary. If millennials increased to a 50% voter turnout in Philadelphia then would make up +40% of the total voting electorate. With percentages like that, we can start changing the political landscape as we know it today. The power to change our future lies in our hands.  

Is it difficult to stay up to date with politics?

I don’t think so. In today’s age of social media, it’s not very difficult to stay up to date on what’s happening in politics. New media organizations like Billy Penn have launched throughout the country focused on keeping our generation informed and engaged. In addition, elected officials are more accessible than ever and if you really want to have a conversation with your elected official, they are probably only a tweet or email away.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in politics?

Start locally by 1) Getting involved in a local campaign or with your local civic association 2) Don’t be afraid to run for public office and fight for your community. We can change the political landscape by 2020 by being involved in local politics – I guarantee it! We can make an immediate impact by voting and running for public office at all levels – Congress, Mayor, State House, City Council and City Commissioners. Sky is the limit.     

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Business

Converting Social Media Followers And Likes Into Dollars And Cents

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social media

We live in an age where every business has a digital footprint. When building a brand, one of the best places to start is social media. But, how can you use social media for a business? We are often consumed with the addiction to the number of followers, but really, it’s about the engagement with your audience that will help you build a loyal audience. It is more beneficial to have 5000 followers that are actively engaging than 50,000 followers with only a few hundred engaged. With the rise of influencer marketing, it’s easy to see who is able to create valuable content and who is posting just to post. When you have a strong personal brand, people will want to connect with you as much as you want to connect with them. We got in touch with Connor Gallic, Marketing Manager for HYPR Brands. Connor was a social media manager when Facebook first started and has over 6 years of marketing experience. Now, he teaches people how to be successful on social media and how to create content that is relevant. He shares his advice on the importance of having a social media presence and how to do it right.

How can businesses convert followers and likes into dollars and cents?

It’s often stated, but one of the sure-fire ways to convert followers into dollars is “Authenticity”.  People follow your brand because they want to know what your business is about and they aren’t going to make purchases if you brand doesn’t seem real. You also have to give your customers content that is beneficial to them. Don’t just overload them with sales materials, give them good content that they can remember you by. Social media is about staying top of mind.

In 2017, how can a strong social media presence be beneficial to a business?

I think at this point, it is a fact that a social media presence is essential to have as a business. Customers are no longer just checking google, they are looking at Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest to know more about your business. Think about when you go to order from a new restaurant, you check out the website first to see what’s on the menu, then you are going to check Instagram or Facebook to see if the food looks good or what the reviews say. If a business isn’t on social media in 2017, they won’t be a business for long.

How can a business tell their story using a social media platform like Instagram?

As a business owner you shouldn’t be asking if you can use Instagram to tell your story. You should be asking what story do you want to tell? What do you want your customers to know about you? Instagram enables them to give customers a glimpse into what is happening behind the scenes and what is really important to the business. Share those pictures of an employee’s birthday event you had, post the goofy photo of the CEO. The key is sharing a story.

No human being is ordinary, so how can you become extraordinary using social media?

If you want to become extraordinary using social media, you are going to ask yourself what do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as a photographer, pick up a camera and start taking pictures and posting. You want to be the best business consultant, you have to start writing. If you want to become extraordinary, you are going to have to work hard. Social media has leveled the playing field, but you still have to hone your craft to become extraordinary.

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Influencers

Irie to Aurora: Van Life with Two Roaming Nomads

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I met Noami and Dustin one hot New Orleans day while moving a piano from one house to another.  Dustin was a project manager for a construction company and Noami was an environmental scientist studying the coastal systems in Louisiana.  They seemed like your average couple, but what I discovered throughout our friendship was that they were anything but average.  Like myself, they also suffered from a particularly strong and itching wanderlust.  For this, they found and created a pretty fascinating solution: why not get a van, hit the road, work remotely, and explore?

Thus was born their adventure, which they interestingly named “Irie to Aurora“.  Their time on the road is now nearing its first year of completion.  Along the way, they’ve amassed over 8,400 followers on Instagram.  Here’s a sneak peak into their #vanlife journey.

Who’s idea was this?  How did you come up with it?

I think the idea to buy a van and live on the road was both ours. When Dustin and I met it was one of the first things we talked about, and throughout our relationship, we fantasized about the idea until we finally took the leap. Best idea ever.

We both love to travel. We’ve taken road trips together as often as we could since before we were even dating. As our relationship grew, these trips became more frequent and for extended periods. We also followed other people on social media who were doing the same thing, living on the road. This inspired us to do what we had always dreamt of and talked about.

How long has this journey been and how long do you plan to continue?

It has been eleven months on the road and we would like to sustain this lifestyle for as long as we can. 

How did you come up with the name “Irie to Aurora”?

Noami is from Trinidad, and the word Irie is slang meaning “powerful and pleasing; a state of feeling great.” Initially, when we planned the trip, our destination was Alaska to see the aurora borealis, hence Irie to Aurora. 

What has been your greatest challenge to date?

Dustin works remotely so this requires us to stay on the grid most of the time and often hunt for wifi. His schedule is fluid, so finding a routine has been challenging.

What do you guys do for work while on the road?

Dustin currently works remotely as a construction estimator.  On the road Noami works odd jobs and freelance gigs online.

What have you been the most homesick for?

Overall, I don’t think we’ve been particularly homesick. There have been moments where we reminisce about New Orleans and miss the little things, like the food, and the music, and the people.

In what ways has this trip changed you individually and as a couple?

Living on the road and sharing 80 square feet has come with its fair share of challenges. But I think it has brought us closer together. We’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses in ways we never thought we could. Living in such close quarters 24/7 has forced us to be more mindful of our attitudes and how we impact each other’s “space” because tempers do flare. We’re more compassionate with each other and with ourselves. We have created a space where simplicity can flourish, a lifestyle we have both come to value. Learning to let go and let be, keeping an open heart and mind is the everyday lesson and this attitude has led to so many new friendships and experiences. Overall, life on the road has been deeply transformative, it has brought us closer to ourselves and to each other. Dustin and I are better people because of this decision and we are so grateful for each other and our life together. 

Plans for another road trip in the future?

I think the journey we’re on is perpetual. There will be a few pit stops along the way but that’s all part of it. However, we do have plans for Canada and maybe Central and South America, after Alaska of course.

What was your favorite place along the way?

Hmm… Choosing a favorite place is tough because each place is so unique with its own beauty, but we love Baja, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon. 

Van life might not be for everyone, but their journey is enough to make you want to buy a one way ticket to a random spot on the globe.  In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to be fluid with your roots was once an impossibility that the internet is now making possible.  Perhaps this is a leap we should all consider, at least once in our lives.  Just like Tolkien said, not all those who wander are lost.

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