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Vaja : The Kotori Interview
by Wasim Muklashy
"I'm telling you right now, Metallica changed my life."
Now, before you look back and forth and wonder if we placed the wrong text with the accompanying pictures (get a hold of yourself boys), consider this: some of her biggest sponsors include Mesa Boogie and Paul Reed Smith Guitars, who also happen to sponsor some cat who calls himself Carlos Santana. Not bad company eh? Oh yah, she's also represented by one of the top modeling and commercial agencies in the country and her ego is the size of...the size of...uh...woah...waitÃ¢â‚¬Â¦what ego?
Born in Tacoma, Washington, and spending much of her youth in Carmel, Indiana, Vaja had been exposed to music every step of the way. "My father is a singer, my brother plays classical guitar, and my mother used to take me to a whole bunch of concerts," she tells me. "That just inspired me so much. My parents told me the first things that came out of my mouth were songs from the radio...they were freaking out because I wasn't even saying 'mommy' or 'daddy' yet."
All the pieces were in place, destiny just needed a catalyst, and it wasn't long before Vaja recognized it. It was when she was 12 years old that "my mother took me to the Faith No More / Guns n' Roses / Metallica concert...I was like, 'I want to be just like them!' Ever since then, I started playing guitar."
Soon after, she moved to Orlando, Florida to pursue her musical calling. But even after performing two years in a row in front of over 50,000 heads at Miami's Ultra Music Festival, the apex of the city's annual Winter Music Conference, there was still something missing. "I had DJs and a live drummer," she remembers, "but I didn't have the rock band that I dreamed of." And that, of course, prompted her move to La La Land.
"I made a list of my goals. It was: move to L.A., find place, find rock band, rehearse rehearse rehearse, make CD, get a record deal, tour the world, be the biggest selling rock band in the world." And after a single year, she's already recorded and played with Adrian Young (No Doubt) and got her face plastered across Guitar Center Hollywood's Rock Walk holding the latest addition to her Paul Reed Smith collection. "My picture's been going up at all 150 stores next to big guitar icons like Zack Wild, and Dimebag Darrell, and I don't even have a record deal!" she exclaims. "Do you see the angels that are falling around me? I'm checking off everything that is in my goals," she says, "and it feels great!"
While her imminent success beckons her name and her look, the game does not come without its skeptics. "When people find out that I'm a musician, they're like 'oh ok, you do R&B? Hip-Hop?' They automatically stereotype," she muses with a grin before reassuring, "But I'm a rock girl!" And that she is! All you'd have to do is lay eyes on the couture collection of outfits she dons on stage. "I think it's the inner metal queen in me that comes out. I try to give my femininity to the masculinity of the guitar."
If there's one thing that struck me about Vaja, it was her unwavering genuine dedication - an almost naive persistence - a refreshing quality that will undoubtedly continue to play to her advantage. "I'm a very firm believer that God has given me this gift and I would never give that up for anything no matter what. I will work hard until I make my dreams come true and I'm not going to let anyone take that away from me," she states with great conviction.
"If it's not worth dying for...then it's not worth living for."
While she's paying her dues, we'll be paying attention.
Check 'er out at:
and for God's sake...someone sign this woman!