Zyna Bakari: Court Street’s Sweetheart

If you haven’t seen her “butterfly teeth” and black curls bobbing down Court Street on Friday and Saturday nights—meet Zyna Bakari. Her Avett Brothers repertoire, melodic voice, and infectious laugh can be heard from blocks away. Although this is only her ninth week in Athens, she has already become a hit among the music community. Most recently, she was discovered by a student at Red Brick Records, and has agreed to grace the world with her music…or maybe an EP.

And, as she sat on a fuzzy purple rug amidst a motley of Mason Jars full, we talked about her past, her future and her outlook on life.

H.C: How long have you been playing ukulele, and how is the music culture of Athens?

Z: I’ve only been playing uke for a couple of months, actually. In high school I was strictly theatre. I picked up the ukulele in February and never played it. But now, whenever I see someone has a guitar I stop and I have to play with them. There were nights where I was freezing and barefoot, with a lot of homework to do, but I could not leave because I love that feeling….like, I love listening to people play their guitar and I love to add little harmonies in. Surprisingly, what I’m finding now is that I’ve fallen completely in love with acoustic music and that whole ‘scene.’ I wasn’t expecting that.

H.C: Because you’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on your music, do you want to continue with it? Do you want to be a musician when you “grow up”?

Z: What do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t know! I always thought one of my purposes in life was to be that simple…smell. The smell that can take you back to certain times and places, you know? Like when you walk into a certain hallway and you’re like ‘’Woah! This smells like Kindergarden!’’ I strive to be that person you see and you’re like, “I don’t know why, but you remind me of this one lady who made me Godiva hot chocolate in Michigan.” Just a reminder of the precious moments in life. And how will I do that? I don’t know. How will I make money at that? I have no idea! I think I can do that by performing in some way. I would just love to be able to move people.

H.C: That’s such an amazing dream! Have you had the opportunity to move people? Are there any resonant moments that stick out in your head?

Z: God, there are so many! Well, one time, this group of people were raising money for the homeless. They had pitched tents and were sleeping out for the night. It was so cold that night! They were asking people if they had any money, and I actually made $8 playing my uke that night, so when a guy asked me “Do you have any change?” I said, “yeah, I do actually!” And I gave him a dollar. Then he asked me, “can you play something for us?” And, naturally, I was like “uh, yes!” So I started playing, and soon a pretty big crowd was gathered around these people, all trying to give me money. I was just playing a ukulele! This was the first time anything like this has happened to me, so I started shouting, “ah! Please, no, give it to the homeless!” And the fundraiser turned out so great, and they made a lot more money than they anticipated, and they were like “thank you so much!” That was really, really nice. I felt like I made some small difference that night. And then, the other night, a girl who interned at Sony asked me to make a YouTube channel, because she said that she’d share it! So yeah, I’ve been pretty blessed with connections, haha!

H.C: Oh my gosh! Talk to me more about your YouTube Channel!

Z: Honestly? These videos are just a way to stay connected to my friends back home. It’s been that for now. But it would be cool to get some official singing stuff on there. Like all eight of my original songs. But I think I want to do this because it makes people happy and it’s fun for me, and whatever happens, happens. Same goes for recording and playing live shows. I’ve just been writing more than ever, just trying to make sense of it all.

Wanna hear more of Zyna? Check out http://www.youtube.com/user/zynabear.