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SOTA dance: What the Frack?

Q&A with jazz saxophonist Kareem Kandi about his original score

Jazz saxophonist Kareem Kandi scored the new dance performance at SOTA. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Fracking isn't magic. What the Frack? is. Friday, magic takes the form of music, dance and thought-provoking performance when Tacoma School of Arts Theater (SOTA) stages What the Frack? - a social commentary about fracking, which is the controversial use of hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from the earth. The topic is portrayed through dance, choreographed by SOTA's Robin Jaecklein, with original music by local jazz saxophonist and SOTA instructor Kareem Kandi.

I tossed a couple questions at Kandi for insight on the collaborative project, and why SOTA is import to kids and the Tacoma community.

NIKKI MCCOY: What was the inspiration for this project? What do you hope the audience will gain?

KAREEM KANDI: Robin Jaecklein asked if I would be interested in collaborating with her on a project about fracking. She had an idea of what she wanted to depict and asked if I would compose the music. I went in with no preconceived ideas. I asked her to describe in detail what she wanted to convey in each piece of the production. In particular I wanted to know what she had in mind regarding mood, tone, tempo and subject matter. After I had a better picture of what she envisioned, I began the process of composing and trying to depict these ideas with sound. Some of the polyrhythmic and harmonic ideas were a bit challenging at first, but with a little rehearsal they came out just fine. I hope that the audience will get a sense of what Robin is trying to depict through her choreography and the accompanying music.

MCCOY: Sounds like another creative way to learn, integrating the arts as an essential aspect of the school curriculum.

KANDI: Many talented artists and students have spent a lot of time and energy developing this production. Robin has done a splendid job collaborating with everyone involved on choreography, costume design, lighting, staging, music and every other tiny detail. She is a wonderful artist human being, and a super mom to four kids. I hold her and her work in very high regard. Go see the show.

MCCOY: Do you think Tacoma is a better place with SOTA in its backyard?

KANDI: I think SOTA is important to Tacoma because it is unique in its approach regarding the arts. It is very comprehensive in what it offers students, particularly if they themselves are aspiring artists. The faculty members are all very talented knowledgeable artists in their own right. Many of SOTA's faculty, outside of teaching, are practicing artists in their given genre. In conjunction with the regular instructors, SOTA also has an adjunct artist program, which I am a part of. SOTA hires practicing artists to come teach specialized courses for the students to take advantage of. These courses allow students to learn from and have access to professional practicing artists who can give the students first hand knowledge of their craft and experience. I teach at SOTA as an artist in residence, and have been teaching the jazz improvisation course for 11 years. 

WHAT THE FRACK?, 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 3, Tacoma School of the Arts Theatre, 1118 Commerce Ave., Tacoma, $5, 253.571.7900

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