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Authors Posts by Charlie Swanson

Charlie Swanson

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Kitaro takes to the stars in experimental concert experience

Acclaimed composer Kitaro has scored films that include Oliver Stone’s ‘Heaven & Earth,’ and the controversial Chinese film ‘The Soong Sisters.’

By Charlie Swanson

A founding figure in the new age musical movement, internationally acclaimed composer Kitaro masterfully merges traditional Japanese harmonics and modern electronics for a meditative listening experience that radiates inner peace.

“For me, peace comes from the creative process,” says the Japanese-born artist, who has called Sonoma County home for 10 years. This month, he unveils two very different musical projects: Performing the stunning visual concert “Kojiki and The Universe,” on Thursday, April 20, at the Marin Center in San Rafael, and releasing the new album in his ongoing series, Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Vol. 5, on Friday, April 21.

This week’s debut of “Kojiki and the Universe” won’t be the first time Kitaro’s music has been matched with visuals. But this will be Kitaro’s first foray into incorporating original visuals to complement his music, rather than the other way around.

“Kojiki and the Universe” immerses audiences in a visual journey to the stars, featuring time-lapse and real-time footage of distant galaxies and astronomical phenomenon provided by NASA and Kyoto University.

“Ever since I was child I have been very interested in space and the universe. I looked to the stars and wondered what was out there,” Kitaro says. “Now I have an opportunity to explore and work with space by creating sound waves through it.

“It brings me peace to know that my music is a source of enjoyment and relaxation for my fans,” he continues, “which I hope brings them peace.”

Kitaro, Thursday, April 20, Marin Center Showcase Theater, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael; 8pm; $55–$75; $200 VIP; 415/473.6800.

Tim O’Brien revisits roots on new album

Tim O’Brien’s new album, ‘Where The River Meets The Road,’ features covers of songs written by West Virginia natives.

By Charlie Swanson

Grammy-winning bluegrass and folk songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien grew up in the mill and steel town of Wheeling, West Virginia, along the Ohio River. His Leave it to Beaver upbringing included a lot of country music on the radio, but little in the way of local economical options, so O’Brien headed west to Colorado before moving to Nashville.

Since becoming a famed figure in that city’s music scene, O’Brien has released more than a dozen acclaimed albums that have made him a household name for bluegrass fans across the country. He returns to his roots with his new album, Where The River Meets The Road, inspired by his home state. O’Brien will perform off of the new record on Friday, April 7 in Berkeley and on Saturday, April 8 in Sebastopol.

“When I sang bluegrass and country music, people took me more seriously because I was from West Virginia,” O’Brien recalls. “The love of the music kept going, but I kept viewing it from afar.”

The two original tunes on the album are a couple of O’Brien’s most personal songs ever. The title track is the story of his family’s arrival in West Virginia from Ireland in the 1850s, and “Guardian Angel” is the heartbreaking story of the death of O’Brien’s older sister when he was just a toddler.

“If I look at it one way, I’ve been spending my whole artistic life getting ready to make this record,” O’Brien says. “It’s a reflection of where I’m at and what I’ve experienced.”

Tim O’Brien, Friday, April 7, Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley; 8pm; $26-$28; 510/644-2020; Saturday, April 8, Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol; 8pm; $25-$30; 707/823-1511.

Gaby Moreno’s talent is no illusion

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Gaby Moreno says that she was motivated to continue with her work after winning the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2006. Photo by Jose Leon.

By Charlie Swanson

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Gaby Moreno’s earliest memories were on a stage. Growing up in Guatemala, she was encouraged by her parents at a young age to perform. “That’s something that’s been natural to me,” she says. “I feel very comfortable there.”

Today, Moreno is considered one of the premiere voices in Latin pop, singing with tremendous emotional power in both English and Spanish, and mixing together blues, jazz, indie folk and more for a dynamic sound that recently earned her a Grammy nomination.

Moreno will share her songs in an intimate setting when she performs with a trio on Monday, April 3, at Mill Valley’s Sweetwater Music Hall.

The kind of singer whose raw talent became apparent early, Moreno was 18 when Warner Bros. Records discovered her and gave her a deal. “What I wanted to do was surround myself with all kinds of producers, and songwriters,” she says of her decision to attend music school in Hollywood.

While Moreno was happily plugging away in the alternative pop scene, she began to think back on her roots more and more. “I started to embrace my Latin culture,” she says. ”I wanted to tell people where I come from.”

In 2006, Moreno says she started writing in Spanish for the first time. That year, she submitted her song “Escondidos” to the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, established by Yoko Ono in 1997, and won in the Latin category, as well as for Song of the Year. Last year, Moreno released Ilusión, an analog assembly of live takes in the studio, and her most acclaimed album yet. “There’s a very raw sound to this album, but the emotion is there,” she says.

Since becoming a bilingual songwriter, Moreno has seen her audiences grow. “People are affected by music no matter what language they’re being spoken to in,” she says.

Gaby Moreno, Monday, April 3, Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $17-$22; 415/388-3850.

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