Basic Folk: Kaia Kater

I feel very grateful to have Kaia Kater on Basic Folk! Her willingness to talk so openly about the whiteness of folk music had me in awe. I learned a lot about her experience in the world as a biracial person. This is one not to miss.

You might say Grenadian-Canadian, clawhammer banjo player and songwriter, Kaia Kater, grew up in a folk family– her grandpa is a luthier making harpsichords by day and her mother ran a number of the Canada’s major folk festivals while Kaia was growing up. When Kaia was romping around at these folk fests as a kid, she was able to score backstage banjo lessons from many upper echelon clawhammer players like Rhiannon Giddens. This resulted in Kaia’s formidable banjo technique and knowledge. So much so that she was recruited to West Virginian college, Davis & Elkins College, to study appalachian music and play the fancy five strings.

Kaia and I talk about her love of hip-hop, she discusses her hope for more cathartic spaces to play as a woman of color, and reveals how she opens the conversation of race during her shows. In addition to her folk kin, Kaia is a child of an immigrant from Grenada. We explore her inspirations and research for her latest album, Grenades (October 2018 Smithsonian Folkways/Acronym Records), which is a mediation on Grenada and her father’s immigrant experience.

Kaia is an articulate and conscientious musician, and I hope you get as much enjoyment listening to my talk with her as I got recording it.

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