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Mikanic: Not-So-Routine Soul Maintenance

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Ever since I have known him, Shirzad has been involved in some kind of musical activity. From threatening blows to defend the Beatles' early years in the fifth or sixth grade, to singing Herman's Hermits' “Leaning on a Lamp Post” in the eighth-grade talent contest, to conducting his school-house choir singing Billy Joel's “For the Longest Time” soon after his twelfth grade. His love of music ranges from classical to pop, from jazz-rock fusion to Indo-jazz fusion. And I should also mention that he has an opinion on everything in between. If by chance, you tap your plate with your fork while eating dinner, there's a good chance that he'll tell you it was slightly off, and proceed to demonstrate the correct note.

Mikanic at Symphony Space

Almost a decade ago, he focused his musical energies and took up to playing the bass guitar seriously. Taking lessons from a professional musician, I saw him practice diligently for more than a few hours a day. This might not seem like a big deal, but Shirzad had a full time job as a consultant. Ultimately, his diligence paid off when he met Michael Rennie and Nick Turner, two South African musicians, and founders of Mikanic. They asked him to join as bassist for the band.

Mike and Nick, respectively, a violinist and an acoustic guitarist (both are also vocalists), formed Mikanic in 2003, and were fairly well-known on the South African music circuit. In fact, "well-known" might be an under-statement, since they founded Sons of Trout and with that act, headlined every major music festival in the country as well as releasing four albums and opening for various international acts. They released their first album as Mikanic, Swimming with the Women, to critical acclaim and it served to help them hop over to this side of the Atlantic, to New York City.

Mikanic's music is difficult to box using conventional labels, and is hard to describe with words. But I consider this to be a Good Thing. Their sound is without boundaries, and dances around from reggae to rock to African to bossa to jazz. In fact, probably the only word that gets close to describing their style is 'upbeat'. Their website says, their "universal appeal lies in the sincerity and positive energy of their music." You better believe it.

The line-up is like their music – boundary-free – with Mike and Nick from South Africa, Shirzad Khusrokhan from India, Yasuhito Sasaki from Japan on lead guitar, and Alex Beckmann from the USA on drums. Certainly, the international flavor seeps right into their music and enhances the universality. Their cultural differences serve to enrich their music by giving it a wonderful sense of humor. One could say that the music almost has a twinkle in its metaphorical eye. Their tunes help you to relax and take it easy, but at the same time make you want to groove to the beat. If that doesn't make any sense, go ahead and take a listen. Or better yet, see them live.

Watch a video of Mike and Nick talk about the band, along with some neat concert clips.

Mikanic plays at the Leonard Minoy Thalia at Symphony Space (Broadway and 95th, in Manhattan) on August 9th at 8pm. Get more event info, or visit the Mikanic website.

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