Things from life: Kan Wakan

15 September 2016 text Natalia Ivanova
By ID: Georgi Linev, born in Sofia, with current adress in Los Angeles. By vocation: Kan Wakan, trip-hop master and the brain of the project, which is "so sweet, that it’s like a sugar rush pulsing through your system." We read the last sentence at Nylon, together with a bunch of sweet reviews about his new single Molasses. Today we're building a bridge through the ocean, because of some news with local adress - Kan Wakan is coming to Terminal 1 in Sofia, and his newcoming triple album Phantasmagoria is gathering sound even from the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. Meanwhile we're speaking with Georgi about the evenings infront of his home in Sofia, the feeling of standing infront of the audience in LA and the slow breakfast with banitza and boza, which is a moment "very hard to beat".

The beginning
When I was around 7-8 my grandparents on my fathers side felt strongly that I should take music lessons, piano in particular. This was partially inspired because my uncle was a prominent Bulgarian classical conductor at the time, and they somehow felt like I had a musical ear. Literally they told me once that I had gone to the doctor and the doctor told them that because I had big ears I would be good at music.. grandparents are funny. I took lessons and played for a couple of years, and then I stopped. I found the music theory very boring.. I wanted to play rock piano and the teacher was forcing me into this classical stuff. At the time I had a tape player and I would record songs I liked from the radio on to the cassette and make my own playlists. I was really into The Beatles' White Album, Queen, Eric Clapton's MTV Unplugged, Jimi Hendrix' Experience and The Forest Gump soundtrack. My friends in the neighborhood were all listening to Wickeda. Every time I would go to the seaside I would come back with a bunch of pirated tapes from the guys that would sell them on the street. I remember there was one in particular I always went back to -Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.

The memories

I distinctly remember the summers going to the seaside, Old Town Nesebar, playing my grandmothers piano, the food (shopksa salad, banitza and Mimas doner in particular) soccer every day with my friends in Mladost. it was very hard to leave Bulgaria back then, and upon arriving in America it was difficult to adjust, going from the bustling metropolis of Sofia to a tiny town in Idaho with a population of 7,000 people, where if you asked somebody if they could point Bulgaria on a map, they would not be able to. I remember being upset and wishing that we hadn’t left, but in hindsight the change is part of me and helped me gain perspective in some ways.

The turning point

A lot of the important turning points during my childhood happened outside of my control. I would say one in particular that changed everything for me was when I got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when I was 14. I was already in the US at this point and luckily I had access to high quality healthcare and treatment which improved my prognosis. They told my mother at the time that there was only 7 cases of this particular cancer in the world and that it typically occurred in very young children. Because of the treatment I was bedridden and not able to do a lot of things I normally liked doing, like playing soccer and any strenuous physical activity. My folks felt that I needed something else to focus on so they got me an electric guitar. I think this is where everything changed for me. I instantly fell in love with it and played it 7-8 hours a day. I got into Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd and punk rock. It changed my life and got me into playing music again.

The name
Band names are hard. Chances are %90 of whatever ideas you come up with already exist as a band somewhere in the world with a quick Google search. I initially called my project Oren Lyons (named after the Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan) and once the project gained a bit of notoriety in Los Angeles, the real Oren Lyons found out and had his legal team send out a ‘cease and desist’ letter and threaten legal action unless I changed the name. I always liked bands with ambiguous or not overly direct names such as Sigur Ros, Royksopp or Imogen Heap so I wanted to go for something like that. There is a Filipino word called "Kalawakan" which means "deep space", "infinity" or "interstellar" and Kan Wakan is derived from this word. Somehow the sound and look of it felt like it matched my vision of the music. My close friends call me Georgi.

The nightlife
It’s hard to say what kind of music dominates LA. It is a massive city with 4 million people.There is a little bit for everyone. I think right now there is a growing beat scene in LA with a lot of beatmakers, producers and young rappers that are creating something fresh and exciting. Also LA is home to the modern resurgence of jazz with acts such as Kamasi Washington pioneering the genre.
The kinds of clubs I enjoy going to usually have live bands and people playing instruments. Some of my favorites in LA are the Echoplex where I got my start playing live with my project, the Blue Whale where you would normally find exciting national and international jazz acts coming through town and the Hollywood Bowl which is one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in the world.
I would say as far as a difference between the cultures, LA is very difficult to impress. People are overexposed to music and it takes something truly different and special to excite them and get their attention. It’s a great test of character for any musician, because if they can endure the energy of an LA crowd, and if the audience embrace whatever they’re doing and responds positively, then you can be all but certain to have a similar or better response anywhere else you perform in the world.

The home country
The first time I came back after going to America was when I graduated high school, back in 2003 and I loved being back and seeing all my old friends.
Recently I’ve only been in Sofia and I love how much it has grown and changed.
There is a positive energy in the air which is not how I remember it when I left. It seems to be thriving in so many ways - culture, music, art, many great restaurants have opened, people seem generally well and positive. I brought a friend with me, Saigo who will be performing at the Kan Wakan shows in Sofia and he absolutely loves it here and wants to move. Every day we’re finding new treasures and exploring as much as possible.

The single
Molasses is part of my upcoming triple album Phantasmagoria which will be released next spring and feature guest vocalists and collaborations, including the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. I wrote the song last year when I was in Sofia, on my grandmothers piano. She had just been taken into the hospital and fell into a coma which she unfortunately never woke up from. It was a very traumatic time for my family and I was staying with them in the apartment. I had these chords and melody in my head that kept looping and resonating emotionally with what was going on. I captured them on my phone and once I was back in LA I finished the track.

The hobby
I love to cook. In Los Angeles there is no Bulgarian restaurant so I often spend my free time cooking Bulgarian food and I invite friends over for dinners. On weekends I try to get out and go hiking or see some nature. I also love to play chess, although I haven’t done a whole lot of that lately.

The excitement
I would say I was truly happy this morning when I had some Sofiiska Banitza with Boza followed by a cappuccino on the streets of Sofia. Very hard to beat.


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