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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He(ART): Koku Gonza—Ushering In The Neo-Soul World Music Movement

((  Written By:  Staff Writer  ))  With the release of her third CD, Radiozophrenic, Koku Gonza brought together elements of her Tanzanian heritage as well as her unique aesthetic for genre blending, to create a sound that is filled with passion, love, and neo-soul.    MIMI sat down with the artist to talk music, style and inspiration.

MIMI:  How were you discovered and put on the path to becoming a recording artist?
Koku Gonza:   I was discovered by playing everywhere I could. I started singing in church and city choirs as a child and I continued discovering various aspects of music as a teenager. I was put on the path of recording at a young age. As a kid, I used to watch my father write and record songs on tape. (Her father is Tanzanian guitarist Longfellow Mugarula.) I knew at the age of 4 I was interested in creating my own music. I recorded my first song at the age of 9. I sang and played piano.

MIMI:  What place do you call home?
Koku Gonza:  My third floor apartment in Chicago in Hyde Park by the lake front.

MIMIWhat is your definition of "Radiozophrenic"?
Koku Gonza:  Radiozophrenic is the concept of turning the dial on my personal creative radio as a songwriter. I love to listen to different genres of music. Sometimes its Jazz, Funk, Fusion, Pop, Hip-Hop, Soul, R&B, Brazilian Style-Bossa Nova or the Bongo Music of East Africa that tickles my musical pallet within a span of one hour.

MIMI: Where do you find inspiration for your music?
Koku Gonza:  I draw from a variety of sources for inspiration. People, places, experiences and imagination all fuel my inspiration beyond writing. I am inspired by the story of a person or my own personal experiences. Sometimes I will have a brief thought about a moment I've experienced and within an hour I have a full song. Other times a full thought becomes a month long process of trying to identify the feeling of inspiration while wiring a series of songs about a topic.

MIMI:  What's your favorite place to sing?
Koku Gonza:  My music room in my house.

MIMI:  What song is on heavy rotation for you at the moment?
Koku Gonza:  Hand Up Your Hang Ups by Herbie Hancock from his 1975 Man-Child album. 

MIMI:  How do you feel about being recognized by the media for your sense of styleespecially your hairas much as you are recognized for your music?
Koku Gonza:  My hair has its own audience that connects with my music. I have fans simply because of the hair on my head, its kind of strange but I love it. When I was younger, I was often harassed and teased about the amount and texture of my hair, now, the thing I was a burden growing up has become the key to my fortune. I have been in several magazines such as Jet, Ebony, and Time-Out because of my style and hair. I appreciate the conversion of something viewed upon as negative being my catalyst of success.

MIMI:  Speaking of style, what is your definition of style?
Koku Gonza:  My definition of style is the personal attribute that reflects from the inside to your admires on the outside. Style can only be conceived from experience and self-knowledge with preservation. My style does not follow a trend but displays my confidence in choice to be me.

MIMI:  What's your personal motto?
Koku Gonza:  Always walk on water without looking down.

MIMI:  What's next?
Koku Gonza:  Koku Gonza Kult meetings on the east coast. These Kult meetings will be disguised as live performances so stay in the know!

Listen to Koku's music by visiting her official website,, and get her latest updates by following her on Facebook and Twitter @GOGOKOKU.

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You may also like these articles from MIMI Magazine:  (( 1 )) Living Out Loud: Zama Dube, (( 2 )) Just A Band: The Cool Kids, (( 3 )) MPHO: Music's Fiesty Brown Girl

((  Photo Credits:  Koku Gonza  ))