music

Say the name "Les Paul" to anybody born after 1960, and they'll probably think you're talking about an electric guitar. But the musician and inventor, who was born 100 years ago Tuesday, was also an accomplished jazz guitarist. Paul was never happier than when playing for a live audience.

Making Seattle Beats Since He Was 8 Years Old

Jun 1, 2015
Upendo Moore makes beats.
Courtesy of Upendo Moore

"Music is my life."

Upendo Moore finds it hard to go a day without wearing his headphones. He'll often put them on and make beats in class at Garfield High School, where he's a junior. 

Don't be fooled, though - Moore gets A's and B's. He is a very dedicated person, especially when it comes to music. "I wouldn't be able to live without it," he explained.

Dumi Maraire, the hip hop artist better known as Draze, will be performing at Northwest Folklife Festival this weekend.
Facebook Photo/Draze

Some of the roots of Seattle hip hop go back to Zimbabwe.

In 1968, Dumisani Maraire came to the University of Washington as an artist in residence to share the music of the Shona people. He was supposed to stay a year, but stayed and raised a family here. 

Now his two sons are active in Seattle’s hip hop scene: Tendai is half of Shabazz Palaces and Dumi Jr. is the hip hop artist “Draze.” Music was life for the Maraire family. 

Eli and Oliver Abrahamson at home in 2012.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

Memorial Day weekend in the Seattle area means barbecues, camping trips and the annual Northwest Folklife Festival.

This four-day festival of folk traditions convenes again Friday, May 22, at the Seattle Center. Attendees can experience everything from do-it-yourself drum circles to square dancing to a bevy of string bands.

Three years ago, we introduced audiences to the Oliver and Eli Abrahamson, two boys who got their musical start busking at Folklife. At the time, they and their parents performed together as the Smalltime String Band.

When Sam Swiller used hearing aids, his musical tastes ran to AC/DC and Nirvana — loud bands with lots of drums and bass. But after Swiller got a cochlear implant in 2005, he found that sort of music less appealing.

"I was getting pushed away from sounds I used to love," he says, "but also being more attracted to sounds that I never appreciated before." So he began listening to folk and alternative music, including the Icelandic singer Bjork.

It seemed as if he'd go on forever — and B.B. King was working right up until the end. It's what he loved to do: playing music, and fishing. Even late in life, living with diabetes, he spent about half the year on the road. King died Thursday night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.

Flickr Photo/Dr Case (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Moms have been canonized in song long before Taylor Swift’s “The Best Day,” The Backstreet Boys’ “The Perfect Fan” and Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama.”

During the Swing Era, these songs included the wistful WWII soldier’s ballad “Dear Mom” and Spike Jones and The City Slickers’ rendition of Milton Berle’s comical tune “Leave The Dishes In The Sink, Ma.”

Kurt Cobain, front man of the rock group Nirvana, is shown during a benefit concert at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., April 9, 1993.
AP Photo/Sam Morris

Marcie Sillman talks with author and journalist Charles R. Cross about the new Kurt Cobain documentary, "Montage of Heck." 

Alex Guy stands in the kitchen of her South Lake Union apartment, one of the last affordable apartments in the neighborhood.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle can be a frustrating place to live. There’s the rising rents, and the constant noise from construction sites and traffic. Despite all that, we choose to live here.

Alex Guy is a musician with the band Led To Sea. One of the things that keeps her here is the vibrant music scene.

A still from the music video Mississippi Misfit by Seattle band INLY.
INLY / Vimeo

The camera pans across four bathroom stall doors, revealing a set of legs in each.

It stops at the last stall, where no legs are visible. Instead, a muscular arm reaches down, and Seattle musician Mindie Lind lowers her body to the floor, to the beat of the tune she wrote, “Mississippi Misfit,” performed by her band INLY.

It’s part of Lind’s not-so-secret strategy to create a public conversation about what she calls “Crip Culture” – the issues that people with physical disabilities face every day.

Newlywed bride and groom stepping into car, circa 1955.  Sign in front passenger side window reads "Hold Her Tight."
MOHAI, Al Smith Collection, 2014.49

Seattle is a young city, young enough that most of its history can be traced through photographs.

Until recently though, most of those photos have been official portraits or documentation of public works projects like the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

Musician Kim Gordon at La Route du Rock 2007
Flickr Photo/Guillaume (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Seattleites turned out in force recently to hear from and ask questions of alt-rock deity Kim Gordon. Gordon is a musician, artist, record producer and one of the founders of the band Sonic Youth.

Inspired by post-punk, avant-garde and no wave bands of the 1970s, Sonic Youth created an unconventional sound marked by dissonance, feedback and alternate tunings that helped change how rock was defined.

Jimi Hendrix in 1967.
Wikipedia Photo

Jeannie Yandel talks with music historian and Jimi Hendrix biographer Charles Cross about a collection of early songs featuring Hendrix getting an official re-release.

Pianist Arthur Migliazza performs in the KUOW studios on Jan. 30, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Ross Reynolds interviews blues and boogie pianist Arthur Migliazza, who then treats a live audience to a performance in the KUOW studios.

Migliazza began playing the piano professionally at the age of 13. His tutors included the blind master New Orleans pianist, Henry Butler. 

Charles Corey of the University of Washington plays the chromelodeon, one of 57 instruments that composer Harry Partch created for his music.
KUOW Photo/Daniel Berman

The door to room 5 at the University of Washington School of Music is solid wood, nothing to distinguish it from other classrooms.

But inside this cramped space is a collection of unusual instruments, handcrafted to play one man’s music.

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