As Essential As Breathing: An Interview with Ke Nova on Musicality, Humanity, and More

Interview and article by Laura Conning

A few weeks ago I walked into The Barn Co-op (in Meaford) on a Sunday afternoon, to partake in their weekly open mic.  The music was already happening, and there was standing space only in the audience.  I couldn’t see the person performing amongst the crowd and behind the pillars of this big renovated barn, but I heard beautiful female vocals paired with exceptional piano playing.  This woman kept singing and playing as I grabbed some food and headed to the open concept second floor to try and get a better view over the railing.  It became clear that this woman breathes music.  It was beautiful.  The audience was totally enthralled.  Later, after all the performers had finished, I introduced myself to her.  Her name is Dr. Kati Gleiser, and her artist name is Ke Nova.  I jumped on the chance to learn more about her, this very interesting woman exploding with musicality.

Kati holds a Doctorate of Music in Piano Performance from Indiana University, and has achieved international recognition and exposure, performing on small and large stages alike, including The Kennedy Centre.  She has performed as a soloist with orchestras across North America.  Her full biography can be found at www.kenova.org .  This classical and professional background allows for the music of Ke Nova to sound simultaneously effortless and powerful.  Ke Nova’s music speaks to the truths and threats of life, Earth, and the universe with precision and soul.

I’ve been so excited to share this special interview with you guys.

Ke Nova

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LC:  How do you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?

KN:  World Soul. 

       A voice for Earth Mother. 

       Truth. 

       Light / Shadow.

       Authentic, sincere.

The lyrics are about human's relationship to our Earth Mother, ranging the spectrum of grief (of pollution, greed, and devastation), to the shining light of Universal Soul, of compassion, connection, and gratitude.
 

LC:  How has your classical training affected your original music?

KN:  My classical training forms the foundation of my musical expression. It expands me. 

Constantly demands that I open wider, sensitize deeper, become ever more attuned.
 

LC:  Can you tell me about your world travels and how they’ve inspired your work?

KN:  I am so privileged to be able to travel. To open to the Heart of a place, to meet and work with people indigenous to that region, to learn their dreams, their struggles. We are truly One, swimming in this vast ocean.

What's inspired me: the experience of human universality, the common ground we share. Generosity and kindness. I've also been deeply inspired and moved by the incredible beauty I've experienced. Both in natural world and in human realm.
 

LC:  Can you tell me about some of the musicians and poets that inspire you?  How did you come across Linda Hogan’s poetry, which is used for some of the lyrics on your new album, Ke Nova?

KN:  Actually I rarely listen to music ... I listen deeply to nature, and love attuning to Natures symphony. If I do listen to music it is wolf howls and whale calls, and if it is human made music it is Tibetan monks chanting (at full volume), songs from the Amazon, or music by my dear friends.

Foundational influences are Bjork, Ravel, and Rachmaninov.

Linda Hogan, Pulitzer Prize nominated poet. Represented all Native Tribes at a UN meeting some years ago. I discovered her book "Medicine" in the public library in USA. She transported me to a deep interior realm, of indigenous wisdom, connection, and love of the natural world, within the relationship of conventional contemporary human made world. When I found her work it nourished something deep in my Soul. She was the portal to the indigenous (inspired) beliefs and literature I came to deeply love. 
 

LC:  What else inspired this self-titled album?

KN:  What inspired the album was sitting with my (now) husband each morning, sipping coffee, hearing him summarize that days world news at a striking depth. Around this time we learned that our physical home, that we converted into a sanctuary of organic permaculture food and medicine, was ONE mile from one of the most polluted areas in USA. We neighbor an EPA superfund site for PCB disposal 1940's - 1970's, where some 2 million pounds of PCBs were dumped. The city gave the sludge to citizens and farmers to spread as fertilizer on their fields. It is a global disaster. And the city, which promotes itself as "green" college town is, in effect, sitting on top one of the most polluted sites in the world. It was heartbreaking. That's how most of these songs emerged.

LC:  Can you speak to the healing effects of participating in music?

KN:  For me, music is essential as breathing. It helps to move energies, to communicate to some of the deepest levels of existence. 


LC:  Your music is powerfully personal, but also speaks to universal truths.  Would you agree? 

KN:  Thanks, that is my intention.

In essence it is all personal and it is all universal, you know?

We exist in a seemingly isolated energetic and electrical water bag, through which we experience life. Yet at the deepest reality, we are all One living breathing force of consciousness. We share this human experience of life, consciousness experiencing consciousness; our essence is universal.
 

LC:  The proceeds for your album go towards “serving the Earth”, details of which can be found on your website.  Can you tell me more about how you came to finding and working with these organizations?

KN:  A. 50% of all proceeds go towards kenova's kin, a community medicine garden that I founded. Inspired by Keith Johnson, partner of Peter Bane and permaculture mvt. in NA. Sharing the abundance, teaching people how beautiful and easy it is to grow food and medicine, this is key to nourishing and educating this community. 

B. Linda Hogan's granddaughter was mauled by dogs on Pine ridge reservation around the time of completing the album. Her daughter created an animal shelter in her memory, in Pine Ridge, one of the poorest reservations in NA. We sent her 25% of all proceeds of the first CD pressing.

C. The third component, sponsoring a Tibetan monk, we are still working in that. It is a tribute to the engineer and producer I worked with on this album, who so generously donated his time and skills and support.

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Kati currently lives outside of Owen Sound, and travels often, having recently returned from a meditation retreat in Quebec, and one month in Peru.

Explore more about Ke Nova at www.kenova.org, and find her new album Ke Nova at www.kenova.bandcamp.com.

P.S.  I’ve been reflecting on the music of Ke Nova and Kati’s answers to these questions, and I keep thinking it’s funny how we say “play music” (i.e. “I play music”, “We were playing music”, etc.).  Sometimes it’s more serious than the word “play” would suggest.  With visual artists, we don’t say “I play art”; we say “I make art”, “I create art”, or “I paint”, etc.  Only in the music world do we use the word “play” in place of “create” so regularly and with such ease.