A potent mix of folk and Vudoo

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2006, 12:00am

Singer Kevin So has opened for the likes of Joe Cocker, Randy Newman and Ritchie Havens, but the Asian-American says he's more excited about his upcoming gig in Hong Kong.

'I'm being flown out to perform on the other side of the world for the first time in my life,' he says from New York. 'That's probably my career highlight. It's important to my career, and it's also a blessing, to perform whenever and wherever I'm asked.'

His home-town paper, The Boston Globe, has compared the singer, guitarist and pianist to luminaries such as Bob Dylan for the quality of his storytelling lyrics and his knack of pushing the boundaries of musical genres. So studied jazz at the University of Southern California and lists his influences as Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughan, but his style ranges from R&B to jazz, rock, hip-hop and folk-pop.

So has played an average of 200 shows a year across the US for the past decade and put out 10 CDs in as many years, with the latest, A Brighter Day, scheduled for release in July.

This will be So's Hong Kong debut. His only other appearance in the city was on the streets when he chose to busk rather than sightsee during a family holiday with his father and brother in 1999.

'I went busking with my acoustic guitar one brisk Sunday afternoon near the Star Ferry dock in Kowloon,' So says. 'I played Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson - even a little Cyndi Lauper to let the locals know I wasn't that old.'

Joining So will be fellow countryman and former American Idol competitor, Vudoo Soul (aka Chris Vu). Inspired by Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder, Vudoo Soul has a belting, soulful voice that belies his slight stature and took him to the top 150 in the talent competition.

'Participating in American Idol was actually just a fun idea between a couple of friends and I a few years ago,' Vu says. 'The experience was inspiring and humbling. I met so many incredible vocalists and learnt that to be a professional singer you have to invest a lot of hard work, just like any other job.

'You also have to find a unique path for yourself, to be a leader, not a follower.'

Recently, Vu has been honing his craft with extra-curricular singing - he's the only non- black member of the 100-strong Kuumba Gospel Choir, formed at Harvard College more than 35 years ago.

'Something wonderful about growing up in the States has been my exposure to live music of many genres, especially rock, jazz and R&B,' he says.

'Live music is beautiful, because it's creating and communicating music between the artist and the audience, right there in front of your eyes.'

In the US, Vu plays with his R&B ensemble, but in Hong Kong he'll play his own compositions on piano. He says he's not sure what to expect from the audiences. 'I hear audiences in Asia don't clap much, but are screaming on the inside,' he says.

So and Vu will perform two gigs in Central next week - next Friday at the Edge and Saturday at the third HK Live! show.

Supporting the young Americans at the HK Live! gig will be Qiu Hong, who won last year's World Battle of the Band's competition; psychedelic, hypnotic rockers Elf Fatima; and the Darlings, who played the Rockit music festival last year.

Kevin So and Vudoo Soul, Mar 31, 10pm, the Edge, G/F, 60 Wyndham St, Central, $120 (advance), $160 (door). Inquiries: 9464 9399; Apr 1, 10pm, Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Rd, Central, $100 (advance), $150 (door). Inquiries: 2850 5065 or go to www.hk-live.com