Natasha Kozaily’s new EP is a stunning step forward both musically and thematically.
A Tale of One Fish is a five-track collection that builds on the quality of long-player Between Shores, which won the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association’s album of the year award. But while the album was an exuberant explosion of positivity at times, A Tale of One Fish takes more of an introspective view of life, with the singer, songwriter, pianist and artist exploring some darker corners.
Natasha, however, points out that light is meaningless without dark to contrast it. We venture that love is equally meaningless without the possibility of its absence.
What is evident here is that rather than describe this loveless state as a void, an emptiness, Natasha’s new work communicates that there is a cruel beauty to life that is as important to human existence as the palm-tree smiles of the Sunday sun. And that the downbeat, spidery times are also a richly creative experience.
“I felt like this year has been a huge journey for me with a lot of transformation in my life, especially creatively,” she tells Weekender. “Everyone has their stories and this is my tale.”
“I really dug deep inside myself creatively and took a lot of risks. And I do feel more vulnerable with this. Some of the songs on Between Shores were written when I was 18 (Natasha is 25) but the songs on the EP were written in the past six to eight months. It’s a lot more mature
and evolved from where I started. I feel a lot more rounded and a lot more grounded as an artist,” she tells us.
As ever with Natasha’s music, the influences come from far and wide; tango rhythms, Middle Eastern orchestration, a hint of klezmer and gypsy jumpiness, dreamy, late-evening Californian guitar lines, a highly developed jazz sensibility and – as you’d expect – those sweepingly beautiful vocals (and vocalisations). It’s smart stuff that flirts with the output of Coco Rosie one moment and the Pierces the next. But the difference here is that nobody involved with those acts – great though they are – can play the piano quite like Natasha. The inspired cracked-up classicism of Letter to Beirut is testament to the depth of talent on show here.
“I play with a lot of time signatures and am using unusual harmonies. I decided I was not going to stick to a formula, I experimented with music that fit my emotions,” she says.
Living in San Diego, California
, has given her the opportunity to experience different styles of music. She says she feels she has opened up a whole new world of music and inspiration to add to the Caymanian musician’s melange of influences – already evident on Between Shores, which often nodded to her Lebanese heritage (through her father).
“There are several Middle Eastern influences as far as the vocals are concerned and the harmonies are exotic. On Between Shores I opened my arms out to all types of music,
but here I focused on certain ideas, certain feelings.”
Dark and light
So what is the tale we’re talking about here?
“This fish’s tale is about love
, but in a deeper sense it is about embracing both the dark and the light. I was afraid before of addressing the dark side. It was too sad, too dark, I wanted to write about happy things that make people feel good. Between Shores was very hopeful and positive.
“In my tale now, I decided to embrace that darkness. It’s all part of what makes life beautiful, so I decided to face it. Ruins, in particular, is about the beautiful ruins of loving somebody. People are usually afraid of getting their heart broken, of being in ruins, and this song is basically about calling them beautiful; whether you feel pain, love, happiness, it’s all part of being alive and being human. If you didn’t feel those emotions you’d be dead,
and at the end of the day you should be happy you have had those memories. The whole EP is about the dramatic embrace of dark and light,” she muses.
Lest you think it’s a doomy release, don’t be fooled: the very act of exploring these emotions is positive in itself, and there is a great hope and freedom inherent in the process.
Indeed, to acknowledge life in its multifarious hues demands the ability to see all the colours of the spectrum. Natasha Kozaily here has shown her willingness to explore not just music and technique, but all facets of the human experience. A journey does not end; but the path has some unexpected turns.
Just one fish? Sure. But, as Orwell nearly said, some fish are more equal than others.
A Tale of One Fish is available at iTunes, cdbaby and Natasha’s website www.natashakozaily.com