Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with Day to Day. In the hands of a virtuoso, music becomes a universal language. Imagine a cellist who can play both Handel and Hendrix. Producer, Derek Rath spoke with one such musician, Rufus Cappadocia.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. RUFUS CAPPADOCIA (Cellist): Can you hear me? Yes I can.

DEREK RATH: Musicians speak to us with their music, and Rufus Cappadocia is no exception. The moment he joined me from NPR's New York studios it was clear that his cello was going to be doing a lot of the talking.

(Soundbite of cello music)

RATH: Cappadocia has always been a nomadic soul. And in this warm-up you can hear a multitude of influences in his music. This could be from Marley.

(Soundbite of cello music)

RATH: Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Cappadocia started on the cello when he was just three. Pursuing traditional classical training, he went to McGill University in Montreal. John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King and McGill's ethnomusicology library were expanding his world. And he found classical music too confining.

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: As long as I was playing for my teachers I was fine to play classical music because that was their language that they spoke, and we spoke this together. The minute I actually got up on stage and to start representing myself it just didn't feel right.

(Soundbite of cello music)

RATH: Not only that, but the cello itself wasn't able to express the music he was feeling so he modified it, adding a fifth bass string and pickups gave him the flexibility to play in many settings with other musicians.

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: When I started putting pickups on the cello, you know I realized that - well, suddenly down in - if I play for a second...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: When you're down in "C"...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: Right, you're the bass player, but now you go to "B" and...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: And you're missing that bottom end. And now the bass player's got you trumped and that kind of bugged me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: So I added the low end.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: So that I would - you know - be able to keep my cello and ad the bass register to it.

(Soundbite of cello music)

RATH: Rufus traveled around Europe busking for change, and he ended up in Seville, Spain. It wasn't easy holding his own on the cello with the local flamenco street musicians.

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: So, I was on the street and there's Gypsy guitar players coming up to you, and they, you know man, "Joder, hombre, tio, dame la musica" - you better play something to make them happy. So, initially what started out as like I'll play a little bit with my thumb...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: You know, and then over time being a cello player, you're like - well you know, I want to do that with a bow.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: And that was sort of me being a flamenco guitar player.

RATH: And it evolved into this.

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: I've been blessed to work in all these different lineages and they just sort of somehow naturally assimilate in my instrument, and also because I'm playing a unique instrument. It lends itself incredibly well to speaking all these different languages.

(Soundbite of cello music)

RATH: Rufus Cappadocia draws on the similarities between seemingly diverse music forms such as blues, Sufi, Middle Eastern and even Gregorian chant. They are all just quarter-tone modal music. So to him, Jimi Hendrix and Arab classical music have a lot in common.

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: Yeah, well I always love that, you know that...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: Between that and the Middle Eastern boat sound...

(Soundbite of cello music)

Mr. CAPPADOCIA: You know, it's not just similar, it's the same stuff, and you really see it when you play it on the cello because it's all there. I love playing - there's a little blues at the end of Hendrix, at Woodstock...

(Soundbite of cello playing Hendrix)

RATH: The cello gets the last word after all, and somehow I think Jimi would approve.

(Soundbite of cello playing Hendrix)

RATH: For NPR News, this is Derek Rath.

(Soundbite of cello playing Hendrix)

CHADWICK: There's a video of Rufus Cappadocia and you can hear cuts from his new album "Songs for Cello" at our music Website, that's npr.org/music.

(Soundbite of cello playing Hendrix)

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.