Deep soul music with Kazoo and Ukelele

 

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From guitar, to piano, to ukelele, and kazoo, Alfa Garcia, a rising musician, singer and songwriter can play different instruments – and in different genres. Her raspy voice has a wide range, from folk to pop, and has drawn comparisons to Jewel, Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles.

Born in the Philippines, raised in New Jersey, Alfa Garcia, 29, comes from a family of musicians. She is an independent folk-pop artist who produces her own videos and manages her own social media. In her YouTube videos “Let it snow” and “The way you look tonight”, she mixes a kazoo with a ukulele. A kazoo? Who in the world would think mixing a kazoo and a ukulele? Alfa Garcia.

She started playing classical piano at 5, learned to play the violin at 8, taught herself guitar and started writing songs at 13. She cut her first demo at 15.

She calls me “ate”, (a Tagalog word which means older female, it’s a sign of respect). “Come inside,” she said, “I hope you don’t mind, I’m eating noodles while you interview”. She sat with her legs criss crossed. I asked her about the song “God writes happy endings”. What inspired you to write this song? She smiled before answering, and said, “I wrote that song straight after a breakup, I set it aside and revisited later, it’s funny because now that I am over with the pain, sometimes I am challenged to deliver the song”, she said.

She continued, “If you listen to the lyrics, it’s actually saying, what happens to the person who I talk to everyday now that he is gone? I will no longer know what will happen to him, I may not see him again. However, despite the break up or any loss, God writes happy endings. It’s not only about loss for a lover but loss in general. A friend of mine told me that she was touched with the song when her mother passed away”.

Alfa was raised by her single mother when her parents separated. This explains why her songs have a lonely heart’s vibe. She writes songs about the difficulty of loving. She said, “My music is inspired by my life and everything that’s taken course in it. That includes my father leaving, but by no means is that the defining event of my songwriting.” She says she has overcome feelings of abandonment. “I’ve gotten a lot better at writing happy songs, though, promise!. The best writers write what they know, so I’m inspired by events in my life and also by things I read, things I hear about, stories that I know”.

The irony of using the ukulele and kazoo in her soulful music is a unique aspect of her work.  She said, “I think the ukelele and kazoo are fun instruments. I didn’t really think very long and hard about whether or not I’d try playing them.” She added, “I think what makes my music unique is beyond just these instruments…. One would have to really delve into my music to understand”.

Asked what makes her music unique, she said “that is like saying, “there are so many journalists, doctors, or nurses out there, what makes you unique? I don’t think any profession is asked what makes them unique.  If you’re looking for something specific to my music, the best thing is to listen to it – listen to the words, listen to the sounds. I can say what I think makes it unique, but that doesn’t make it true for everyone – my art is there for others to listen and take in; it’s up to you on how it affects you”.

Though she graduated magna cum laude in International Studies at New York University (NYU), and working for a think tank might have been more practical than trying to break into music, Alfa instead followed her heart. “Many Filipino moms suggest becoming a nurse just like my mom because of the money but life isn’t just about making money,” she said.

Alfa loves to perform live. She believes a musician should perform live, and not in a room and upload to YouTube. “I have conflicting feelings about being a YouTube sensation. Sometimes I am surprised at some people who suddenly became famous but can’t even perform live,” she said.

Struggles too, are present, especially financial. “There were many times that I wanted to give up,” she said, “but at the same time I can’t do something and pretend to like what I don’t like.” She also struggled to believe in her talents, doubting whether she was good enough, or if audiences liked her enough to listen to her brand of music. Someone approves. Her YouTube channel has almost 3k subscribers, her fb page 7k likes, and her song “God writes happy endings” has close to 1,500 hits.

Alfa says she will continue to work on her music for the rest of her life. Her message for aspiring musicians is that “when in doubt, go back to music”. Currently, Alfa works as a part time music teacher at a private school while working on her music videos, doing live shows and campus tours at colleges. “There are moments in our life when we get lost and don’t know what we want to do, but if you really want music then just go back to music,” she said.

Comments

  1. efebarker says:

    Reblogged this on effe reports and commented:

    “I have conflicting feelings about being a YouTube sensation. Sometimes I am surprised at some people who suddenly became famous but can’t even perform live.”

    Like

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