Save the World
Kazan is the latest rock and roll band led by Keiko Bonk. Keiko first made her name in the 1980s in the East Village of NYC, where she became known for her music, her painting, and her ability to organize one-of-a-kind events. Her paintings hang in private and public collections around the world. Previous bands included His Masters Voice, Cosmic Oven, and the Monkey Wrench Gang. She has been called everything from a "slum goddess of the East Village" (back when it was a slum), to 'one of rock's great living poets.' Save the World is her first release after 10 years of work in electoral politics. She is the first person elected to a partisan level political office as a member of the Green Party. She continues to be very active in environmental and social change politics, but has recently begun to turn her legendary talents back to music. Rather than talking more about her, and her band and her music, I will simply attach a few recent reviews of 'Save the World.' Keiko Bonk on Fire Mountain: The politics of one group that thinks the world can still be saved by Desiree Moana Cruz /Hawaii Island Journal 02-21-2007 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 -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 her Big Island native 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. Keiko 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, it is 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, Hawaii-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. Mojo's place on guitar has been taken by Blaine Rodgers (a young environmental lawyer) since the CD was recorded. For those who knew her as a tireless proponent of the people of Puna and Ka'u, and a former County 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." If you are in Hawaii you can catch Catch Keiko Bonk and Kazan in different clubs on the different islands as there schedule permits, but you can always catch them the first Friday of every month at Amy's Place, 49 N. Hotel St., 8pm-12am, a "little whole" that they are loyal to because it is a place were everyone from the elite to the homeless can be found mingling together. There is no cover and every performance Bonk gives away free stuff (brought in by fans) to people who can answer trivia questions or perform certain acts. Imagine this ... By Coomulay I can't tell you what Keiko Bonk and Kazan sound like, because they don't sound like any other band.... The best way I can think of to give you some sense of the music they make is to try to give you a profile of this unique and diverse band. ... Ok, let's start with the boys that make up Kazan. On drums, you've got Dave, a good ol white boy rock-n-roller from Texas. He's ex-army, but he's more super dad than GI Joe. He keeps the band in touch with the heart of simple American rock. On bass you have Gunzo, Mr. cool gangsta jazz bass player, whose absence from his native Japan undoubtedly has all the innocent bad girl wannabes in Tokyo pining over his absence. On guitar you have, Blaine, a nice do-good California environmental lawyer, who can make a guitar sound like it's possessed by spirits from another world. Now, standing in front of this odd group, imagine a Hawaiian Betty Crocker with a whip and a recipe for changing the world. She sings with the raw passion of Janis Joplin, the revolutionary seriousness of Che Guevara, and a faith in the goodness of people that is normally reserved for small children. Now, add in a bit of world weariness that comes from decades of hard ball politics and activism, and a basic Buddhist sensibility about the nature of life. Finally, rather than trying to imagine how the music sounds, try to imagine how it makes you feel. Imagine the boring days are gone. You cry, you laugh, you rage, you love, but you never whine, because life's too short to whine. Imagine you wake up every morning unsure whether the world is on the verge of one last orgy of self-destruction on the path to extinction, or the beginning of a new path of enlightenment and justice. So you figure, although it looks like the end is near, there is just too much beauty not to enjoy the struggle. So you decide to march to the front line of the battle and have a party. Well, Bonk's music makes you feel like that. You feel like you live on that edge with the bloodied, but happy, warriors of enlightenment.