It’s impossible not to be drawn to Natasha Kozaily, the Cayman Island grown songstress is a powerful force. Her music is melodic and beautiful, and it’s easy to be swept away in her live performance. Natasha is more than just her music though, she is conviction and heart, she is spirit and intelligence, and all of her power and beauty is not only present in her music, but also in the way she lives her life.
Natasha recently opened Kalabash School of Music and Arts in La Jolla, a hip and inviting school for creatives to develop their budding talents. She also embarked on her Golden 30 Tour, a year long event to raise money for Syrian Refugees. We caught up with the wildly talented musician to talk to her about what influences her music, growing up in Cayman, and changing the world.
When did your passion and love of music start?
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t obsessed with music. When I was little I used to rewind movies just so I could hear the songs that I liked play again and again until I memorized the whole soundtrack. I’ve been lucky in life to have had parents who recognized my passions at a young age and did everything they could to provide me with opportunities to learn and explore. At 6 years old I started studying the piano and to be honest, I haven’t stopped learning since.
How did growing up on Cayman influence your style?
Growing up in the Cayman Islands was beautiful but it was my multi-cultural upbringing, more than the physical place that have confused and inspired my artistic styles over time. I think the first group of songs that I wrote and recorded sound like some kind of tropical-arabian pop party on the beach and it really bums me out that I printed like a thousand copies of that CD. Most of them are still in boxes under my bed to remind me of being in my early twenties and in the midst of my “third culture” identity crisis. Even though I always felt deeply connected to my Lebanese and Caymanian heritage I also felt like I never truly belonged to either place and I always struggled to define myself between those two opposing worlds. Now I’ve learned to live without the need of a singular geographical “home”. I don’t feel like I belong to just one place or people and I think my music has evolved into something more authentic to me then any ideas I was chasing before.
You’ve lived in a number of countries and cities, what brought you to California?
While studying music at Cardiff University in Wales, I had come up with the crazy idea that I needed to record all these songs I had been writing and pursue the path of a true artist! I had no idea how to even begin this process as I spent my whole musical education up until then playing stuffy classical music and reading ethnomusicology books instead of learning about music technology and production. So I decided to reach out to Chad Farran, a music producer I kinda knew about and ask him for advice. I heard his music one day while watching the surf TV show On Surfari which he had composed the soundtrack for. After stalking him on the internet we got to talking and after I graduated from Cardiff I moved to San Diego to record my first CD with him. We’ve become great friends since then.
What do you find inspiring about the West Coast?
I love how it kinda feels like the edge of the world with the wild Pacific on one side, the desert on the other, the Mexican border at the bottom and the Redwoods at the top. Being close to the sea makes me feel at home and there are so many places to explore from a close distance. In that way it gives me this feeling of freedom that I’ve always desired in a place. I always felt too trapped or stuck in the other places that I lived. But if I want to get out of my comfort zone and adventure somewhere near the options are endless and attainable here.
You recently opened a music school in La Jolla, how did that come about?
I had been teaching piano and voice at a studio in Bird Rock for the last few years and over the summer the owners asked me if I wanted to take it over. I said yes and invited my friend Chad to partner with me. We bought the school in August and spent the following four weeks renovating the space and dreaming up the new name and vision of Kalabash School of Music + the Arts. It all happened super fast and in September we opened our doors. Our goal is to build a community of artists and creators who want to share their knowledge and inspiration with students of all ages and so far it’s been an amazing journey! This has been a dream of mine since I was 15 to have a place like this so it just feels amazing how everything has transpired.
Are you happier working on your own music or teaching others?
They both fulfill me in different ways and I couldn’t imagine my life without either. Making music is a natural act for me that I can’t live without but it can also feel quite self-indulgent and pointless sometimes in the larger scheme of things. Teaching keeps me grounded. It’s important to me that I feel like I’m contributing in a big way to the lives of others around me. I think education is the only real hope we have for a better world and it’s something I’m deeply passionate about. But what good am I as a teacher if I’m not continually creating and pushing my own boundaries as an artist? So you see they are one in the same.
You are working on the Golden 30 tour this year, tell us about that project.
On Oct 30th I turned 30 and it was an important milestone for me that I felt needed to be celebrated by doing something creative and good and so this project manifested itself. Between Oct 30th, 2015 and Oct 30th 2016 I’ll be playing 30 house concerts in 30 different cities around the world with the goal of raising $30,000 for the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The tour officially kicks off in San Diego in a few weeks on Feb 20th with the first of thirty house concerts and will continue onto Cayman a week later, Europe in April and so far that’s all I’ve got planned. It’s a work in progress that requires a bit of spontaneity and a lot of faith in the goodness and generosity of strangers.
What else do you have in store for 2016?
I’m currently working on a new EP for my project NATULA which I hope to release this year. Besides that my hands are pretty much full with the Golden 30 Tour!
Where can people find you and support your projects?
All my sounds and sights can be found at www.natulamusic.com. You can donate to the Golden 30 Tour at www.thegolden30.com and if you want to check out my school or take a lesson with me go to www.KalabashArts.com :)