Taiyo Na
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Taiyo Na

Band R&B Singer/Songwriter

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Aug
09
Taiyo Na @ Lincoln Center Out of Doors

New York, New York, USA

New York, New York, USA

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Posted on 05/06/2008

Taiyo Na has been a fixture on New York City’s theatre and spoken word scene since his teens, but is just now making his debut as a recording artist. With Love is Growth, the singer/song writer/MC establishes himself as a multidimensional talent with a unique creative voice that fuses the rhythms of the city that raised him with the soul of the Asian immigrant culture that birthed him.



Clearly most at home over sinewy funk jams, Na opens the album with a couple of certified neck snappers, “One More Time� and the title cut, which match pounding drums with sharp guitar licks. The throaty sung/chanted vocals of the latter ride the groove a bit better than the will.i.am-esque flow of the former, but both burst from the speakers with passionate adrenaline. Yet, Na is perhaps at his most compelling when he slows things down a bit, and shifts the focus to the vivid characters who populate his world. Na uses the Asian concept of “Kasama� (rebellion) to frame the growth and ulti-mately demise of a teenage romance, rocking a confessional flow over a mid-tempo neo-soul track. More poignant still, is the guitar and string driven “Lovely To Me (Immi-grant Mother),� the first addition to the canon of single mother tributes to spotlight the challenges of raising a family while negotiating a foreign land (“she’s on the subway, try-ing to learn English/Wishing for her son to be distinguished/There’s lots of things she don’t know how to say/so immigrant mothers, they know how to pray�).


While Na proves himself to be an eclectic and assured producer (the entire pro-ject is self produced), he is not a particularly agile rapper, or refined vocalist. His vocal limitations are particularly prominent on the ballads, where despite lush instrumentation, his falsetto sounds thin and tentative, ultimately keeping any of the slow jams from be-ing show stoppers (imagine Bilal, or even Van Hunt on the bass heavy grind of “4 Your Love�). Still, Love Is Growth is a soulful debut from an artist capable of carving out a unique niche in the music world.



- Jeff Harvey - Okayplayer.com


Na, you “take [our] breath away.�

There’s something undeniably soul-rootsy about Taiyo Na. Na’s debut album, Love is Growth, is storytelling through music at its finest, with all its fragile and spirited nuances. Whether he’s singing a tribute to an immigrant mother (“Lovely to Me�) or serenading a new lover (“Moonlight City (Reprise)�), Na captures the essence of his surroundings, channeling an ethereal honesty that will hook you in from the funktastic first track, “One More Time.� You get the feeling this is a man who’d be just as comfortable with a stripped-down acoustic guitar and spare African drum accompanying his raspy raw voice as he is with bumpin’ beats and a looping track in the background.

Na’s song topics demonstrate the versatility and storytelling prowess he has developed so well over the years, from his 2005 offering, Whole Heart Mixtape. “Lovely to Me (Immigrant Mother)� streams a haunting acoustic guitar melody laced with soft percussion and beats. The lyrics speak from the heart: “She wakes up in the morning when the birds are loudest/Something about her feels like Mary…I’ve got an immigrant mother/Like no other to me.� The song references adobo, a Filipino home-cooked staple. This is a truly beautiful track in that legit-good-old-fashioned-home-grown-back-when-men-were-taught-to-be-gentlemen way. The album also features guest vocals from Koba, Conchita Campos, Kevin So, Vudoo Soul, Emily C. Chang, and others.

Love is Growth combines the earthy undertones of the streets of New York with the urban soul of a man wise beyond his 25 years. The songs got me at equal turns bopping my head and longing for another place and time. 1970’s trip-hop and threadbare, thumping beats provide the rhythm to the showcase: Na’s distinct voice, which alternates from a crooning hush (“Kasama�) to a sandpaper husk (“Troublemaker�). Na’s album transcends geographic boundaries and even time, blending a mélange of rich flavors and aromas to the music mix.

Some more notable tracks:

“Kasama� talks about the daily struggles of a homegirl (“She’s gotta do what she’s gotta do/She’s gotta do what she feels is true/She’s gotta go where she’s gotta go/She’s gotta go where she feels her soul�). Can you dig it?

“Take My Breath Away� is a plaintive tune that reminds me of a more refined version of a wolf howling to his love at the crack of dawn (not that I think Na sounds like a wolf).

“One More Time� channels Jimi Hendrix and The White Stripes laced over groovy old-school beats.

“Let’s Go Back� lends a soothing touch with an appropriate fade-out. At the end of the song, you’ll want to grab your main squeeze and wrap your arms around ‘em as you sway to this slowed down ode to a lover that is just Na and his guitar (“I want to love you/Let me treat you right/Girl, I want to love you/Every day and every night�). Close your eyes and allow yourself to mind-travel through the alleyways of love. Na makes an excellent tour guide.

My personal favorite is the title track, “Love Is Growth,� which pays homage to the Asian American experience, a fresh perspective being explored by more and more artists these days.

Note the front cover design: Na’s pores and scruffy facial hair are fully visible. He doesn’t front about who he is or airbrush his appearance. His expression is fully open and exposed, as if to say: This is me. Think what you will.

Love is Growth is a CD that feels much like a record – there’s a fine quality and cohesion to its compilation, with retro throwbacks galore. This album is well worth an investment and leaves you desiring Part 2 to Na’s growth. Pop in this CD and step inside his world. Be prepared for a journey through the sometimes gum-speckled but always free-flowing avenues of the heart. You may not come back the same. - Boston Progress Radio


Discography

Love Is Growth (March 2008, Issilah Productions) (Available everywhere online and select stores; select independent radio play.)

Photos

Bio

Taiyo Na, a 25-year old renaissance man of word, sound and action, released his first full-length solo album Love Is Growth in March of 2008 through Issilah Productions.

Influenced as much by Curtis Mayfield as it is Nas, Ben Harper or Chris Iijima, Love Is Growth is a blend of gritty New York hip-hop and classic American soul. Featuring collaborations with singers Vudoo Soul, Conchita Campos and Emily C. Chang, rapper/producer Koba, jazz violinist Jason Kao Hwang, guitarists Minimum Tek of Outernational and Mark Concerto of P.I.C. and more, the album is composed, arranged and produced entirely by Taiyo. Socially conscious, often funky and always personal, the album showcases the artist's urgency, scope and depth through songs such as the champion's anthem title track, the pulsating introduction 'One More Time' and the ethereal rock-soul ballad 'Take My Breath Away.'

Born and raised throughout New York City, Taiyo first started writing rhymes at age 13 with the encouragement of high school and neighborhood friends. This passion for language, heart and rhythm led to an early journey into spoken word poetry, performing nationally with the New York-based feedback poets' collective (2000-2003) which featured acclaimed poets Beau Sia and Ishle Park. By the time he was 18 years old, he had shared stages with Maya Angelou, Jessica Hagedorn and Janice Mirikitani, and was selected as one of the '25 Best Emerging Artists Under the Age of 25' by New World Theater's Intersection Conference in 2002.

Increasingly driven by melody and groove, in the next few years Taiyo found himself building a name as an emcee, singer and songwriter within New York City's independent music scene. Having performed for festival crowds of over 10, 000 to intimate venues throughout the East Coast, notable accomplishments include a guest performance for Helen Zia's Asian American Renaissance Conference, a featured night at Lincoln Center, two appearances on Kevin So's celebrated album A Brighter Day, and an opening performance for 9-time Grammy Award-winning Eddie Palmieri.

Like the Latin American soul music of Palmieri and La Lupe generations before, Taiyo Na's Love Is Growth marks the emergence of an Asian American soul music, most notably in songs such as 'Lovely To Me (Immigrant Mother)' and 'Kasama.' It is a distinct American music--African and European in its roots--and now Asian in its perspective. In an American pop culture that often doesn't see Asian people as performing artists, time will only tell if the mainstream is ready for more diversity. Two things, however, are for certain: Taiyo represents an entire movement of young Asian American musicians creating a voice all their own, and Love Is Growth is the latest charge forward.

www.TaiyoNa.com