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Yuzima: Soulful Rocker

Ernest Barteldes By

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New York-born Yuzima is not your average singer-songwriter. For starters, it's hard to pigeonhole exactly what kind of influences he has, as he incorporates various genres and makes them his own, as can be heard on his self-titled debut.

Live, Yuzima is very charismatic, and has a fiery stage presence, as witnessed firsthand, by playing with him at New York's Brooklyn Bowl on January 16th, during the annual Beatless on Ukulele event (I played bass; he sang "The Long And Winding Road" and "We Can Work It Out.").

All About Jazz: You are not exactly an R&B artist per se, correct?

Yuzima: I'm definitely not strictly an R&B artist, but I'm really influenced by soul music. What I do is a broader blend of genres. I'm working on my follow-up record now, which is to be called Glasnost. It's going more in a rock direction. I'm sort of pulling things in to focus on rock, but it's still going to have that influence from the other things that influence my tunes. It's getting a bit complicated, but it's going into an interesting direction.

AAJ: You started out rapping, according to your bio.

Y: Yes, I started out rapping [laughs]. When I was a kid, that was kind of the revolutionary thing to do. When I was little, I was into classic rock, but after a while I wanted to be popular with my friends, so I got into rap, but as I progressed something in me just decided it wasn't the right thing for me. I had always been working with bands, doing a rap-rock mixture, and that kind of pulled me into other things, like punk, hip-hop, mixing everything together. It was around that point that I kind of stopped rapping and went into singing completely and have been doing that ever since. Every once in a while I have a song that sounds like a rap, I have a tune called "Science Project," that kind of has a rap kind of thing, but it's not a rap.

AAJ: You state that your father was a steel drummer and your mother a "nomadic school teacher"; what exactly does that mean?

Y: She traveled a lot. I went to boarding school particularly because she was out in Africa teaching, so I went to boarding school in my junior years, and by my senior year I had my own apartment—I put myself through my senior year, so my mom was always traveling. That certainly affected me in a certain kind of way.

AAJ: So you decided to move back to New York....

Y: I moved back after I graduated high school in the late '90s.

AAJ: You mention U2 and Smashing Pumpkins as influences, but you also mention Michael Jackson and Parliament Funkadelic . How do those blend, in your view?

Y: If you listen to my earliest recordings they have a bit of a folky-urban kind of thing—sort of cosmopolitan. U2 affected my sound as far as reaching for the sky. My sound is kind of on the ground, but reaching for the sky. There's earth to it, but always reaching for higher and higher. That's pretty much what U2 has, and Michael Jackson is his perfectionism as an over- the- top kind of thing. I have incorporated much of that into my music.

AAJ: You sound like you do pretty much everything on the record.

Y: I record on a Mac, I have a recording program on my laptop, and I have studio equipment and a guitar. Everything I pick comes from those basic things, and then I tweak them into a certain direction. It's the kind of thing that you have the impression of hearing the whole band play, or at least a certain organic impression. I do play everything. I enjoy doing that, because it allows me to advance my sound. Many performing artists don't mix their own albums, but I do mix all my music. Through doing that I've gotten better, and that gives me the ability to give the listener a good piece of art because I have my finger on every aspect of it.

AAJ: Tell us about your Church of Rock and Roll project.

Y: I've been playing for awhile now, doing shows and putting out records, and that's great and I have a following and all, but when it comes to talent, I know that things are not exactly black and white, like when you get on stage and sing a high note, everybody has a great impression. But you really have to make the contacts, you have to have Twitter and this and that. I don't do Twitter—I'm really not into that, but I was doing the show one night, and I asked the crowd, "are you ready to go to church?" and they really responded to that, so when I finished, I thought I should call my blog, The Church of Rock and Roll. I can do an album, I can do a song, but the Church of Rock and Roll keeps the spirit that really pushes it—my art, to talk about my music, to talk about pop culture, and that whole kind of thing.


Selected Discography

Yuzima, It's Wonderful (Self Produced, 2010)

Yuzima, The Cosmonaut (Self Produced, 2009)

Yuzima, Yuzima—The EP (Self Produced, 2008)

Photo Credit
Photo Courtesy of Yuzima

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