By Kat Stevenson
This is Part One of two in a series. Keno Mapp, singer for Heart Touch, put on a show at The Great American Music Hall that featured Katdelic, Heart Touch with Keno Mapp, A Band Called Pain, and The Broun Fellinis.
Keno Mapp is the star of Part One. Keno is a consummate renaissance man: singer, poet, performance artist, record label owner, author, book publisher. With all these accomplishments, it’s a wonder he doesn’t have an identical twin stashed somewhere! With his new band Heart Touch, Keno has a message, and with Heart Touch he puts his poetry to music. He has a unique singing style -- the deliberate, passionate, emphatical phrasing of a poet put to groovy, edgy rock music. Vocal styles may have entered into a new evolution; it’s something completely new and different.
Keno’s story is so broad-ranging, it is much better told in his own words. So ladies and gentlemen, I give you Keno Mapp...
BAM: Please tell us about your self-titled album, Heart Touch. We'd also like to know how you came up with your unique style.
Keno: Heart Touch is a reminder that your heart can always stay in the light. We all have so many different questions about life, about our individual parts to play. And my CD Heart Touch is positively sharing my gifts, through words and some kick-ass, funky rock and roll! It's a simple reminder of how beautiful we all are and that we can do it every day, whatever it may be, as long as it's good and we keep believing in ourselves.
Doing reggae, R&B, gospel, and growing up with James Brown and opera, that sort of twisted things around for me with music. After living in Berlin, I starting getting more into the classic rock side and blending the funk with those screaming guitars. Funk to rock, and rock to roll, you know [laughter].
I have some amazing musician friends who dig my stuff, so they jammed on the CD to help make it hot. [BAM note: The CD features Angelo Moore (a.k.a. Dr. Madd Vibe) of Fishbone; Durga McBroom, formerly with Pink Floyd; Uriah Duffy, formerly with Lyrics Born and Whitesnake; Atma Anur, formerly with David Bowie and Journey; Ira Black, formerly with Lizzy Borden; Bnai’ Rebelfront of Lyrics Born; Myron Glasper, formerly with Blackalicious; Grammy nominee Ricardo Scales; Jila Alajhamandan of Rabbit in the Moon; Stefania from The Vau de Vire Society; Azalove; and ever the main dog, Butch from Hyde Street Studios.]
BAM: You are a very prolific writer and poet. You have published a book or two of your poetry, as well as children’s books, and now have established a book publishing company, Kenosworld. Tell us about all of this.
Keno: I love words, so books are simply another way to positively communicate to the world and help, like with music. I felt that book publishing needed to be put in place as another tool for us. Not just for me, but for us all, because waiting on the phone to ring is just not fun or realistic. I just learned how to do it myself, and started my own publishing company [www.kenosworld.com] to provide another option for artists to be able to share their words with the world.
My book Senseless Murder is things that I had to tell myself to keep going with my heart in one piece. Life can be so crazy, but you can never give up, so I wrote about it. My kids' book, Windter, is a beautiful fable about how to care for the earth and everything on it...Simple reminders, you know, Kat.
BAM: You also have a record company, Mooremapp Records, formed with longtime friend Angelo Moore, a.k.a. Dr. Madd Vibe of Fishbone. Can you tell us how that came about, and what artists you currently have signed? What are your plans for the future of the label?
Keno: Making Music All Around the World is the plan. Again, putting options out there for all artists, not just the ones that TV and media say are good. Angelo and I believe in the music that has been buried in no-man’s land and kicked to the side. It's sad to see good artists and know of good music that will never be released because of all the red tape. We formed the label to provide a window for artists to be able to release their works, yet still have control of their music that they worked so hard on and bleed over to produce. Angelo and I just don't want other artists to learn the hard way like us, so we put Mooremapp Records in place so artists can release their works without signing away their first-born. Already on the label we have Punk Funk Mob [punk/rock], Durga McBroom [R&B], Blane Lyon [world music], Tony Gits [reggae], Kent Craig [blues], Hana [ambiance], Qiensave [latin rock], Sonic Valium [pop], Steady Studio Music Crew [kids music], Princess [gospel], and Azalove [folk]. We like all types of music, so we represent it all. You can check everyone out at www.mooremapprecords.com.
BAM: You also perform with the theater companies Vau de Vire Society and The Punany Poets. Please tell us more about them.
Keno: Vau de Vire Society spawned from the depths of San Francisco’s thriving dance and circus sub-cultures. The Vau de Vire Society has ravaged and titillated live entertainment, causing jaws to drop in awe and admiration around the world. Our avant-cabaret community consists of classically-trained dancers, some of the nation's most acclaimed acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists and circus side-show acts, an array of unique fire-performers, a handful of thespians, and a barrage of the most enticing go-go’s! My Vau de Vire family are all individually amazing! You have to come and play with us some time, Kat. I’m sure you will love it. Check the website for more info at www.vaudeviresociety.com
The other group that I am a part of is The Punany Poets, an erotica poetry group that has been spotlighted on HBO's Real Sex for many years. We call it Sex Education Theater -- verbal penetration -- and it focuses on getting couples to communicate about sex with each other rather than hiding behind closed doors. We have found that most couples have split up because of dishonesty, and lives have been ruined from lies that lead to HIV infection. So through our erotic poetry, we get people to feel more comfortable talking about sex with their partners. It’s a very moving performance that truly changes lives. We hope through our theatrical performances, we can give couples a better chance at being successful within their own relationships, as well as remain safe with their sex and taking care of the one body that they have. You can find out more at www.punanysplayhouse.com.
I’m totally honored to be in all of the groups that I am in, and to play a direct part in adding some positivity to this crazy world we live in. Love is the master, and through music and literary works, I can really communicate this to others. So yeah, I think it’s pretty cool [laughter].
This is the end of Part One…Stay tuned for next week's offering, where we feature this tremendous funk, progressive jazz, metal show at The Great American Music Hall!