Artist Spotlight: Joe Kye talks about Identity in his new album “Migrants”

The power of music lies in its ability to transcend man-made barriers. Unfortunately, as humans, we have forgotten that we all belong to one category of species called “homo sapiens”.

Instead of embracing our differences as a part of our unique traits and adopting a unified worldview, we have created an environment of hostility that works on the principle of “binary identities”.That is, be it our names, diction or our appearances, the ideology of acceptance carries with it the segments “us” and “others”.

The powerful or say the majority then, governs the center (“us”) while the rest are shifted to the corner as “others”.

Voicing out Disillusionment with “Migrants”

Joe Kye’s parents moved to Seattle when he was just six years old. Even after being brought up in the city, he never felt the place to be his own “entirely”. Over the period of time, Kye encountered situations which made him question his space in the country he adopted and accepted as his own.

Within his heart then, resides a dilemma as well as a confusion for his identity, that immigrants often face. In his new album Migrants, the artist tries to give voice to this disillusionment. But at the same time, he tries to create a space where his cultural & religious identity and his present state can be brought together in harmony. 

Creating a “Space” for His Kind of Music

Joe Kye might be a violinist but neither he wanted to limit himself nor he wanted his instrument to produce what it was ‘intended’ to produce. While he perfected the instrument during his days as a student at Yale, Kye started exploring ways to do more with violin.

“So many of the objects and sounds around us can be a musical instrument if we let our ears lead the way. The violin can sometimes feel limited in terms of its range and in its classical playing customs,” reflects Kye. “If you’re a looping artist and one-person band, you have to find the snare without using a sample or having to hire a drummer. I love inventing and the pedal allowed me to dive into that,” bridging Kye’s indie rock, a cappella, pop, jazz, and classical fascinations.

In his new album, the artist collaborated with various artist to further his vision for music.

While Kye has adopted exploratory mode for his music, allowing himself to experiment, he has set a singular objective for his vision:

“For me, over the past few years leading up to Migrants, the mission has been to leave some positive energy before I go. One of my central life experiences is my migrant life. Granted, it led to issues that I could discuss in therapy, but it’s given me perspective on how to understand the equality of humanity.”

Migrants – Narrative and Musicality

Migrants comprises of eight tracks. While the whole album talks about different aspects of an immigrant’s life which binds it together thematically, each track carries a narrative of its own. The album begins with “Bambam’s Lullaby”. The character of the album is found in between the two worlds he’s living in and he calls to his loved ones to understand the complexities behind their distance.

“Bambam’s Lullaby,” a song from the perspective of Kye’s 100-pound Akita. “I imagine how she feels when I leave the house, wondering where I’ve gone and why,” explains Kye. “But Bambam is also an avatar for myself. My parents moved back to Korea in 2008, and while I understand why they left, it’s a difficult emotional, linguistic, and geographic obstacle in our relationship. The song is a cry to them that stretches over the Pacific Ocean.”

While the album begins with a note of loss and disillusionment, it culminates with a positive note. “Stick On Me” conveys the message of hope. Kye wishes to create art that would help bridge two worlds and create a single and coherent identity.


Kye has often used music as a therapy. It gave him the control and allowed him to create new worlds through his imagination. The journey to adulthood has been difficult for the artist and he aims to bring forth the imperfect side of his life to help give voice and space to experiences like his.

“It’s easy to fall into the trope that everyone is wonderful! No, we’re all human, with our selfishness, insecurities, and issues,” muses Kye. “I’m striving, like a lot of artists, to bridge isolated spheres, to provide avenues of expression so we can understand them and belong to a greater whole.”

Through his album, Joe Kye is attempting to transition from a fragmented self to a coherent one and end his existence as an in -between.

“Migrants” has a unique flavour in terms of musicality. While Jazz and Violin dominates, each track within the album carries a unique sound. In terms of narrative, the album allows the listener to look into the psyche of an immigrant and understand the world from his or her perspective, something majority of people deliberately choose to ignore.

We loved the album and hope you will too. Do you plan to give it a try? Share your thoughts via tweet @Fuzzable.

Written by ayushi

Hello! I am Ayushi from India. I love writing poetry, listening to K-POP and spending time alone. Writing is what defines me and I am on the journey to make the definition as good as possible.

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