On this episode of Basic Folk, folk singer Lizzie No hosts the podcast and interviews renowned violinist, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Kaoru Ishibashi, also known as Kishi Bashi. What ensues is a stimulating conversation about Asian immigrants in the U.S., the beauty of cultural crossover, Bashi’s newest EP, and more.
Bashi orginally started as an engineering student at Cornell, but quickly found that his true calling was music. He then transferred to Berklee College of Music to study film scoring and launched his career with original and alternative violin music post-college.
“I wanted to be a burning jazz violinist. That’s what I wanted,” Bashi tells No. “Then I went to New York, and it was like, ‘Oh, everybody’s burning here. Too many fires to kindle.’ Then that’s when I started getting into original music, which I wanted to do inside a band called Jupiter One, which became a rock band, but it started as an instrumental drum, bass, jazz fusion band. Then, not that many people came to see except our friends. And then once I started singing, more and more people came out.”
Nowadays in his solo work, Bashi has been able to explore the history of his heritage as an Asian American. He peers through the eyes of immigrants who lived through WWII internment camps to gain perspective. Delving into this space, Bashi created a “song film” entitled “Omoiyari,” which is also the name of his last album. His newest EP Emigrates serves as an extension of the conversation he relays on Omoiyari.
“When you learn about how different it was back then what I do is I make sure that I’m kind of grateful for how not awful our lives are, but also being firm about change. So it’s kind of a mixture… The one thing is like the more I learn about history, the more grateful I am of just how much safer we are,” Bashi says.
Not only was Bashi intentional about trying to highlight the immigrant experience in the EP but also highlighting female songwriters who are often underrated. He covers Dolly Parton’s “Early Morning Breeze” and Regina Spektor’s “Laughing With” on Emigrates.
Furthermore, the common thread throughout his music and personal outlook lies in the wonder of the interconnectivity we see every day within the human experience. As one of the last topics of conversation in the interview, he frames this idea beautifully in the context of spirituality.
“I hope that there’s a purpose to our existence. Because our world could just be chaotic, and chaos and a bunch of atoms floating in space, but somehow we’re actually here, talking to each other, connecting across thousands of miles. Empathizing with people we don’t even know. We have this incredible experience as human beings that I would hope that there’s a meaning to this and that there’s something after,” Bashi concludes.
Listen to the rest of Lizzie No’s conversation with Kishi Bashi’s conversation here.