Violinist is happy to lift your spirits

CorrespondentMarch 14, 2013 

Kishi Bashi.

COURTESY OF JENNIFER LEIGH PHOTOGRAPHY

  • More information

    What: Kishi Bashi with Elizabeth & the Catapult and Prypyat

    Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham

    When: 9 p.m. Friday

    Cost: $12 Details: motorcomusic.com/kishi-bashi

Violinist, singer and composer Kishi Bashi is seriously dedicated to creating beautiful music that makes people happy.

It appears he’s onto something. His 2012 album “151a” (Joyful Noise) has earned him a lot of new fans, and that includes some prominent critics.

Bob Boilen, host of National Public Radio’s “All Songs Considered” called Kishi Bashi his favorite new artist of 2012, and described “151a” as “a radiant, uplifting soundscape.”

Kishi Bashi, who performs Friday at Motorco Music Hall in Durham, says the NPR endorsement was “huge” for him. And he likes that description of his music – especially the “uplifting” part.

“For this album, I definitely took a positive approach,” he says. “Because I could have taken it to a really dark place, but I also, like, wanted it to be beautiful and happy, and kind of uplifting. It makes me really happy when people write to me, and they’re like, ‘Thank you for the music – this got me through the hard times.’ That’s kind of like, my job now.”

His job is also supposed to be a moneymaking proposition, and that’s become more and more elusive for recording artists in the Internet age. That’s not so much of a problem for 37-year-old Kaoru Ishibashi (his real name, but he often goes by just K), a classically trained musician with a background in commercial music.

“I used to make jingles and sound-alikes and stuff,” he says. So when his latest album came out, he had contacts and know-how when it comes to commercial licensing. Before long, Microsoft came to him with an offer to use the irresistible tune “Bright Whites” in a Windows 8 commercial.

It’s easy to imagine a lot of soon-to-be new fans aiming smartphones at the TV, pulling up the Shazam app, and discovering the artist behind the happily strummed acoustic guitar, dreamy synthesizers and catchy melodies sung all over the place by layered angelic voices.

Kishi Bashi has a couple of other songs off “151a” featured in recent ads for Sony tablets and Smart cars. He says that fan acceptance of indie music in advertising has come a long way. People grow up, and they come around to the idea that artists have to eat and sometimes support families.

Still, he’s aware that there’s a fine line, and that’s why he’s glad he’s not credited for the song in the ad.

“You put your name on something, you look like you’re selling out too much,” he says.

“It doesn’t look very cool. I’d rather have people kind of wonder about it.”

His growing success as a solo artist has forced all of the other bands he’d been playing with recently off his schedule. Those include Of Montreal, Regina Spektor, and his own band, Jupiter One.

“I’m just focusing on my solo project right now,” he says. “It’s kind of, really, taking off.”

For the rest of the year, there will be some touring – here, in Europe, in Japan and Australia. He also wants to finish his next album, which he hopes will be ready by the beginning of 2014.

“I think music will never get old,” Kishi Bashi says. “It’s so important to people. It really helps people feel better, or like, fall in love. It’s a really powerful thing. I’m glad to be involved in it.”

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