Week 10 of the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series will showcase another spin on music culture for audiences on the peninsula.
Philadelphia-based MC Kuf Knotz and New Jersey’s Christine Elise form a rare musical duo that puts a twist on hip-hop and classical melodies. Knotz combines his lyrical penchant for poetry and songwriting to produce words for the classically trained Elise to pluck the harp to.
Tonight’s show will be the central peninsula debut for Knotz and Elise, who are making their second trip to Alaska.
“We’re excited. We’ve heard a lot of good stuff about this event,” Knotz said.
The duo previously performed in Alaska on a winter solstice tour last December, where they made appearances in Anchorage, Palmer, Talkeetna, Fairbanks and Homer.
“When I’m not rapping, she’s singing,” he said. “It’s cool. It’s not a common collaboration, but it works decently.”
This time, the two are joined by Trap Rabbit, a Philadelphia-based jazz duo comprised of Arjun Dube and Logan Roth. The two frequently partner with Knotz and Elise to form a full band that they hope will thrill audiences with an upbeat, spunky setlist.
Born in Philadelphia, Knotz was heavily influenced in his songwriting career living in Brooklyn, but has since returned to his Philly roots.
Elise is classically trained on the harp, guitar and piano, and has spent much of her career working as a music therapist. Elise said joining Knotz in a musical partnership has given audiences a thrill.
“You don’t often see a harpist playing with an MC,” she said. “The beautiful thing is our message really aligns with each other.”
The combination of Knotz and Elise came together in rapid fashion. The two originally met just over a year ago in Philadelphia, where Knotz was playing with his former band for a fundraising event that benefited the nonprofit Beyond the Bars, which Elise worked for. Beyond the Bars provides music lessons for incarcerated individuals and those affected by incarcerated individuals.
Elise admired the music by Knotz and his message of positivity, and met with him after the show to inquire about joining forces.
“I never intended to be a performer,” Elise said. “I was working full time with a music therapy agency, but I was taken aback by his message. I thought If I ever perform live, I want it to be with a band like his.”
Fast forward a few months, the two bump into each other at the store and she took the chance of asking if his band needed a harpist to give it a new sound.
“I was intrigued and curious, so I reached out to her,” Knotz said. “She did some improv work over my music and sent it back, and it sounded really good.”
Elise said her background in improvisational techniques helped provide the impetus for Knotz to ask her to join him, but it was his message of positivity that brought them together. The duo has since released a full album, “Higher Grounds,” this year.
“His music really aligns with my mission,” Elise said. “It works really well with his ‘90s vibe, his hip-hop style … it just clicked.”
Knotz and Elise recently performed at Salmonfest in Ninilchik, and have also done shows in Anchorage and Denali.
Since joining forces, the main theme that Knotz and Elise have tried to reinforce is one of positivity and forward-thinking. Elise said she was raised on “positive, soulful” music, which led to her a career in music therapy. She said she has been drawn to that theme time and again, including when she heard it from Knotz, and hopes to send out a positive message Wednesday at Soldotna Creek Park.
“When I started writing, it was a release and it was therapeutic,” she said. “We want to get to know the locals and community and build a strong bond. When we get to see a community, we usually find that people are really open and willing to embrace that.”