Listen to Bay Area musician Zena Carlota’s new single “Say You Know,” and you might think what you’re hearing is the violin. But you’d be wrong.
Almost a decade ago, Carlota became interested in the kora, a 21-string harp from West Africa. Though traditionally played only by men, multiple kora players in Los Angeles, Gambia, and Paris, including Malian master player Toumani Diabaté, were willing to teach Carlota how to play the ancient instrument, and it has since become a focal point in both her music and art.
The music video for “Say You Know,” premiered on SF Weekly today, is a stunning, cinematic work, starring ballerina Alexandra Sasha Manuel who tip-toes and pirouettes through a house in the Pacific Northwest. The film’s director, Anderson Wright, says he chose the coastline location because it fit the feel and texture of the delicate, plaintive song.
“[It] felt like the perfect place to set this story, as the region’s reliably moody atmosphere helped us achieve the blue, green, and gray color palette we sought from our exteriors,” he says.
The song itself is a rather meditative composition, based around themes of memory.
“[It] is a reminder that to speak something, to give it voice — whether through words, dance, storytelling, or song — is a powerful way to conjure what we may have lost on our path,” Carlota says.
The track will be on Carlota’s upcoming album The Confidence of Birds, which was funded through a 2015 Investing in Artist grant from San Francisco’s Center for Cultural Innovation.