Keiko Bonk on fire mountain
Political provocateur Keiko Bonk is set to make headlines once more. But this time, Bonk is spreading her message of global peace through musical means. The former Hawai’i County councilmember (1992-1996)–and the country’s first Green Party elected official–Bonk has traded the electoral pulpit for cabaret-style venues replete with audiences of free thinkers. Keiko Bonk & KAZAN just released their first full CD recording, aptly titled Save the World.
‘Politics (like music) is just the art of working together with others to get things done,’ she says.
And that’s exactly what Bonk has achieved with this new project. Backed by KAZAN, her alternative-indie-punk band, she delivers her message with effusive ideology, soft rock and blues rifts and driving rhythms. Bonk has a lot to say, and with the help of her very capable band mates, she will undoubtedly capture a new generation of loyal followers.
Kazan is Japanese for ‘volcano’ (literally, ‘fire mountain’) and references the Big Island native’s Japanese-haole ethnicity.
‘Kazan comes from the deep connection I have to Hawai’i and the natural environment,’ she says. ‘For me, the volcano’s grandeur has been the backbone and backdrop to my entire life. The mythology and primal emotional connection that surrounds the birth of the land, the lush diversity of life in Hawai’i and, for that matter, the world, is at the core of the lyrical and visual imagery of my songs and paintings.’
Co-produced with her husband/business partner, Michael Christopher, under their own Fragile Flower label, Save the World was recorded and engineered at Sea West Studios Hawai’i in Puna. She also did the cover art.
A study in the sweeping power of imperfection, Bonk’s somewhat off-kilter vocals testify to the unembellished truth that her lyrics speak. This is not just a groovy beat but rather a potent dosage of reality intended to push and provoke.
‘I’m not very interested in idealized versions of reality,’ she says. ‘I prefer to take reality as it really is, full of contradictions, caring and brutal, growing and dying, beautiful but violent. And of course I can’t help but focus on the interconnection of the human manipulation of power and how it alters the primal nature of our existence. Politics pierces poetry, but poetry forgives and guides to a better way.’
All twelve songs on the CD are originals, with Bonk getting solo credit for ‘Down with the Empire, ‘Brave and Bold,’ Little Whole’ and ‘Is God American?’ She wrote ‘Kazan’ while living in New York City with her then-husband, Hawai’i-born Mark Abramson.
Tokyo native and Kazan bassist Michito ‘Gun-so’ Kawai co-wrote ‘House of Fire,’ ‘Wild’ and ‘Van Gogh’s Ear’ (the latter reverberates with Japanese anime undercurrents). Songwriting credit for three tracks go to former band mates from her old band–Puna’s Monkey Wrench Gang.
In the studio, Bonk (on lead vocals) was joined by Kawai on bass and vocals, Morey ‘Mojo’ Kooistra on guitar and vocals and Dave Fernholz on drums, percussions and vocals. On stage, Blaine Rodgers (a young environmental lawyer) jumps in on guitar.
For those who knew her as a tireless proponent of the people of Puna and Ka’u, and a former City Council chair and mayoral candidate, she remains true to her voice, ‘as a spiritual person, someone who is engaged in connecting things. I don’t believe that it is possible to separate art, work and politics…. Music, painting, writing, politics, you name it, it’s all the same thing–a way to celebrate life, have a good time and make a difference.’
Catch Keiko Bonk and Kazan every first Friday at Amy’s Place, 49 N. Hotel St., 8pm-12am; for more information or to order the CD, call 734-4234 or send an email to [email: cbonk].