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Profile & Interview: Yaka

yaka

The vocalist from the original group, The Flippers, came to fame to be known simply as Yaka, and is currently in Minnesota to debut his first ever live full concert at the Aldridge Arena in Maplewood, MN this July 2nd, 2009.

For many who did not know—emphasizing not—Hmong singer extraordinaire Yaka has been featured as a guest singer during many live concerts before, but unlike past events Yaka’s the main headliner in this soon to be sold out concert, the showstopper if you will, and this year’s crème de la crème of all musical gigs this festive July 4th in Minnesota.

Just for this special event, an eclectic group of musicians was contrived solely to mimic as improvisational band-mates for Hmong singer extraordinaire Yaka while in town from France, which included: a guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist, and a drummer.

Everything is falling into plan as the venue is booked, and the managing gatekeeper Mr. Pao Vang, as head director of Yaka Productions was able to steal Yaka away from his busy time to meet with Jabb and I of Hmoodle.com for a face to face interview with this living legend at Queen Asian Village in St. Paul, MN.

Jerry: Uncommon to a lot of Hmong artists and musicians these days your lyrics have bonded with a deeper impact on the older in addition to the younger generation emotionally while listening to your songs. Are all your songs based from personal experiences?

Yaka: I grew up in the old country having a thirst for writing, reading, and education is the key to anyone’s success. After learning how to read and write this had just begun to spark my curiosity in getting the chance to express myself on paper. In this world we’re living in today, if you want anything in life you need to educate yourself whether it’s self-education.

Which leads me to say yes, all my songs are from personal experiences, situations that I’ve encountered in life, and simple life ordeals that I’ve gained from relationships, conversations, and sometimes it could be simple phrases or words that I’ve heard from someone else’s conversation from afar. Perhaps it was a child talking gibberish that didn’t make sense to me at that present time, but would later reveal a larger picture, a revelation igniting the light bulbs in my head that would afterward become the making of a great hit song. Everything you do in life plays an important factor in getting your lyrics started in a song.

As a coincidence all my favorite songs were purely effortless lyrics written in sporadic short phases of five minutes or so, which would later turn into a final product of pure bliss for my audience. On the other hand, songs that I’ve tried to create while actually sitting down and writing usually turns into long burdened assignments that would later end up being improvised or tweaked. Usually those lyrics in my songs are always the unsatisfied songs at the end. So, from luck and jotting down information while hearing something comes the best songs I’ve ever written.

Jerry: Behind each of the songs, lyrically, while devising or composing a song, is there a purpose behind the message that you’re trying to convey to your audience?

Yaka: In every song that I’ve put out, I’ve embedded messages from my own personal life experiences. I understand that we’re all just human beings having experienced at a time or two the same or similar emotions that give us the qualities or characteristics of being human. My music comes from the inner workings of my heart and soul, spilling the contents of myself to the world to see, literally when using one’s imagination. I want everyone who’s listening to my music to align directly in sync to my thoughts, seizing you in the moment, as in taking a hold of you to turn back in time to reflect and reminisce about things that could’ve been, good or bad.

Jerry: What is the core audience that you are aiming for while writing your lyrics, in addition what genre of music do you play?

Yaka: My music is mostly pop and heavy metal with a combination of every genre mixed into it. In a way it’s a melting pot, if you will, incorporating all kinds of music into one. I like all music of the world that energizes and entices the young and the old, everything amalgamated into one. I want to share my songs to the world and hopefully one of the many songs would restore, heal, or make the world a better place. Every song is a journey, in a sense, which tells a story with a moral, kind of like a folktale or fable.

Also, I want to share my passion to everyone who wants to listen to my music. This is my offering to the world, to share them a gift of who I am and hopefully the person listening to my music can take something away from it.

Jerry: As a music legend in the business, what is your advice from a respected musician to a novice or apprentice that’s just starting up?

Yaka: I want everyone to respect one another, regardless of your fame or fortune. We Hmong people have a tendency to stir into a flaming pot with jealousy over someone’s success or on the other side of the spectrum, as being the thriving party, becoming too arrogant to lend a helping hand because of your newfound status. Instead of being cocky, why not just lend a helping hand to another colleague to build strength in the community.

I’ve seen so many talents in the Hmong community, the older guys and in the youths today that it’s ridiculous. If you can take every Hmong talent in a band from best guitarist, lead singer, drummer, bassist, and pianist and merge them into one, just imagine the endless possibilities.

We are all Hmongs whether you like it or not. I’ve worked in my lifetime with many different ethnic groups and I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t have the talent that I have. Initially no one knew that I was Hmong, but later would take notice only after an explanation. Without this talent, I would be just another Hmong person out there because that’s where my roots are and I’m bonded by that regardless of where I go in life.

Also, just because you’re old you’re never always right about everything in life. Respect each other’s opinion regardless of age!

Lastly, be original. I’ve seen cover bands or tribute bands out there mimicking only to songs from other groups to later tweak it to their liking. Simply, just mark your own territories and stamp your individuality amongst the growing musicians and in no time you’ll definitely be heard, as well as be on top.

Jerry: What encouraged you to get started in the music business?

Yaka: I’ve always had a passion for making music, regardless of the monetary gains and the fame. If I can do it without the money and live freely to survive on a day to day basis I would do it for the rest of my life. The only thing that had stopped me in the past was starting a family with my wife. There was a stage of hiatus, but that all changed as my kids got older now, and so I’m back again in pursuing what I love most, to make music.

Jerry: To all the younger musicians out there, what’s your advice or pointer for them to consider while writing lyrics in a song?

Yaka: Write from your heart and soul. Also, write from your own experiences that you’ve had in life.

Another advice on top of this is that a lot of musicians these days rush to debut their album without taking the time to perfect it. It’s your piece of artwork so tweak it to your liking, don’t sell it short, don’t rush it, and make sure that it’s a song that you love to listen to before releasing it. A lot of times, musicians or groups out there make the mistakes of producing “filler-songs” to package and complement the feature song just so that they can debut their album. Take my advice, perfect it or if it’s something you can’t salvage discard it and start over again. You have a lifetime to write and rewrite if you have to, so be patient.

Jerry: Which younger groups or musicians out there have you seen or heard of having the talent to make it big in the biz?

Yaka: I forget the name of the group, but they’re from Canada. I’m not really sure what their name is, but they have a female vocalist that really outshines the rest of the other groups coming up.

(Hmoodle staff Jabb interjected by saying, “The name of the group is called Sudden Rush.)

Oh yeah, I think that’s what they’re called. Their songs that I’ve heard so far were very well thought out and very well written for such a young group. Very talented is all I could say about this group!

Aside to this group are Watching Leona and Reflection, not because they’re both being featured as guest group during my concert, but because they’re both very talented in their own respected ways. A lot of the younger talents like the two groups that I’ve mentioned earlier tailor their music towards the younger generation these days. I think this is always a good thing, but like I said my music is about entertaining everyone who loves music in general.

Jerry: I want to thank Pao Vang of Yaka Productions to allow us time to meet with the star himself, Yaka. Also a great welcome and thanks goes to Yaka for enduring our onslaught of questions, which turned out to be a miniscule session of thirty minutes of intense grueling interrogations—I guess that goes with the territory concerning interviews, so much appreciated!

To all you Yaka fans out there who are unaware of his concert, please contact Yaka Productions at www.myspace.com/yakaproductions or call for more information to contact number: (651) 216-6198.

In the meantime, Hmoodle readers keep on helping out your community, and if you’d like to be a future feature or know someone worthy of being a future feature please don’t hesitate to contact me at Jerry@hmoodle.com, thanks!

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