Brad Barker is JAZZ.FM91’s music director and host of Afternoon Drive.
With a sound that melds jazz, synth-pop, electronic, musical theatre and whatever else, Tara Kannangara is defying genres and carving out her own place in Canadian music.
The trumpet player, composer and vocalist already has quite a resumé. She received the Rising Star Award as part of the TD Montreal Jazz Festival and the Julian Award for excellence in emerging Canadian jazz artists, her 2015 debut album Some Version of the Truth was nominated for a Juno Award, and she has performed with some of the biggest names in jazz.
Her new record It’s Not Mine Anymore came out at the end of May, and she’s touring throughout Canada this summer.
Kannangara came down to the station to chat about her experimental style, the relationship between artist and audience, and taking time off from her career to work on herself.
Brad Barker: What’s making all those sounds in the song we just heard — all computer-generated or are there live instruments in that mix?
Tara Kannangara: There are some live instruments. It’s a lot of manipulation of live instruments, synth keyboard. It’s really just manipulating the raw sound, so you’re getting something that maybe you wouldn’t initially be able to know if it’s a keyboard, if it’s a guitar, or even if it’s trumpet or a vocal loop. It’s a little oblique, which I do appreciate.
Is that part of the goal, to take a real sound and make it something that someone can’t identify, so it’s uniquely your own?
I do like those surprising elements that make you sit up and question. As soon as there’s more questions, I feel like you’re making some good choices.
So you don’t want anything to be too explained, or ordinary?
Well, I do appreciate accessibility. I will never turn my nose up at the ideas of wanting to connect with people in a really direct way. When you can say something in plain-speak to someone, whether it’s through words or through music, and they get you, that is truly valuable. I never want to alienate anybody. The choices I make and the choices I have made are all to reach people in a way that makes sense to me. But I love to think about the audience. I want them to like it.
So as an artist, you can say, “This is what I do. This is my voice. Here it is. And if people like it, that’s their business, but that’s not part of the process for me.” You’re saying that part of your process is that you do want the result to be that people are experiencing it, enjoying it, reacting to it.
Oh, totally. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about that element. I like this energy that’s created between an artist and an audience – the space in between. The artist puts out energy and the audience gives it back, and there’s that space, this beautiful energy that’s created between the two. And I love feeling that. I always think about it whenever I write or play.
Is that relationship you have with the audience something that you’ve experienced in the last while, or has that been there since the beginning?
When I was in jazz school, I think there was an attitude — at least for myself, I’m not going to say everyone was like this — that I really wanted to show people I understood what I was doing. And that was a lot more about me than it was about other people. Even with my fellow players, I was so concerned with people understanding that I took myself seriously and that I could hang, and all the while I was actually missing so much. I was not looking outward; I was only looking inward. And sometimes when you’re practising a more intellectual pursuit — which jazz has kind of become, in its own way — sometimes it forces you inward a little too much.