When world music duo FoxyKoshka takes to the stage, they aim to bring the audience on a journey. Whether they’re playing in a bar, restaurant or at a private event, attendees travel around the world.
Guitarist Vincent Ziegelbaum and bassist Annette Morrison sing songs in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Russian, and the name of their duo itself combines two languages, “koshka” being the Russian word for “cat.” They’ve both traveled far to end up in Flagstaff, too. Morrison grew up in Wisconsin and Ziegelbaum in Aix-en-Provence in Southern France.
FoxyKoshka began as a guitar and dance duo, then a duet with Ziegelbaum providing the music before Morrison taught herself how to play the bass two years ago. Now, nearly five years since they began the project, the two have honed their act to offer songs ranging from mellow blues and swing to soulful cumbia and rumba pieces.
“We’re really attracted to all different types of music; we don’t want to just do one,” Morrison said. “You never know what’s going to come next which keeps it interesting for us.”
That means nothing is guaranteed at any given show. With a repertoire of nearly 100 songs, they choose what to play next based more on the feel of the room in which they’re playing than on a written set.
“We usually don’t have a list,” Ziegelbaum explained. “The experience is if we use a list ... ”
“We don’t follow it,” Morrison finished with a laugh. “We just go with the flow and we try to vary the mood.”
By introducing people to new sounds, they hope to connect with many different types of fans. Morrison said that while most people might not know what a cumbia is based on the name, they tend to find familiarity when they hear a couple measures and start nodding their head along.
At any given show, attendees can find the two singing to each other as much as to the audience, Ziegelbaum’s deep baritone blending seamlessly with Morrison’s clear, sweet voice, and the chemistry doesn’t end when they leave the stage either. After they recount a brief history of how the duo came together, Morrison said to Ziegelbaum, “You forgot the part where we fall in love.”
Morrison had been a dancer with the Gypsy Chicks when Ziegelbaum approached the belly dance troupe to inquire about a potential collaboration.
“The first time we met there was a connection,” Morrison said. “He just showed up with his guitar and started playing this incredible gypsy music and all of us were dancing, but there was something between the two of us that was very powerful.”
While the partnership with the troupe didn’t pan out, Morrison continued to show up at Ziegelbaum’s solo shows until eventually he asked her if she wanted to work with him as a duo. They had their first official business meeting to discuss each of their visions for the project in October 2013. They became a couple that December.
The duo tries to book at least three performances a week at various venues around town, providing either gentle ambiance for diners or a soundtrack to get the evening started for attendees. At a recent performance at The State Bar, their multilingual set included a cover of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and Osvaldo Farrés’s 1947 song “Quizás, quizás, quizás (Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps).”
“The idea is to provide music that would be very present but not invasive, so it’s a lot about finding a tone to basically wrap each and every table if it’s a restaurant,” Ziegelbaum said. “But also, if you catch us in a bar, we try to make people dance. We can definitely let lots of energy out.”
During some of their more energetic sets, Morrison likes to return to her roots as a dancer.
“I still bring elements of dance to our shows, but I show up first as a musician,” she said. “It’s almost like the dance part is a secret until it’s spontaneously revealed in the moment.”
“It’s quite an experience because she cannot just stay on stage,” Ziegelbaum said.
The two agree they are both performers first and foremost. Morrison has been a dancer for nearly 20 years while Ziegelbaum has been making a name for himself in Flagstaff for almost 25 years and has performed as an established musician both in solo acts and with previous duos or trios. While he has the stage presence to entertain a room on his own, he said he enjoys playing off of the energy other people.
“I love playing with musicians that are better, stronger than I am, and I’m lucky that it’s happening (with FoxyKoshka),” Ziegelbaum said.
“We just have really joyful energy,” Morrison added. “We’re happy to be doing what we’re doing and we want to share that with others.”
UPCOMING FOXYKOSHKA SHOWS
Sunday, May 20: Tourist Home, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Friday, May 25: Blendz Winery, 7-9 p.m.
Saturday, May 26: Switchback Bar at Whole Foods, 5-7 p.m.
Friday, June 1: The McMillan, 6-9 p.m.
Thursday, June 21: The State Bar, 7-10 p.m.
Visit www.foxykoshkamusic.com for more information.