Video Voyager: Questions with Kao Wonder

Los Angeles-based dance-pop and electronic artist, Kao Wonder, just released his music video for his song “Safe Space” from his album, EVOLUTION. He employed his prior dance experience to guide the videos narrative, with Kao acting as a narrator in the story. Kao’s voice is very much like Neyo and his music is much like Dua Lipa meets Tao Cruz. “Safe Space” makes you want to dance along. We spoke with Kao Wonder and he tells us all about the video below:

Tell us the story of this song, why did you choose to visualize this song specifically?

Funny enough, when I wrote this song, I was actually paying homage to all my female friends who considered the LGTBQ nightlife (bars/clubs) their ‘safe space’. Many of them  would say to me “well this is my safe space, here I don’t have to worry about men and their ancient pick up lines, I don’t have to worry about other women judging me or acting a certain way towards me. There, I can actually have the most fun and be myself and just have the best time ever with in such a free spirited culture.” How could you forget an answer like that?! I couldn’t! So I wanted to take that and turn it into a love song. It wasn’t that easy at first as love songs aren’t my forte lol, but when I was at the airport on my way to Atlanta to record with my Producer(s) (shouts to Tedy P. and Ced Ivory), I couldn’t figure out how to start it out….until I looked up and saw a guy take off his face mask (because he was eating – COVID rules), and he smiled at this female who smiled back at him from across the way. You could feel that type of warmness in the coldest of winters! So I said to myself, “It’s the smile for me,” and the the rest of the song wrote itself out. I would hope that’s one of the things that makes someone feel intricately connected when they meet their soulmate.

Tedy P and I have this thing before he creates each song, he always begins by saying to me “tell me how you’re feeling about this tune”, and I said for this particular track I want to pay homage to the musical decade that helped shape me and my creativity; the 90s! Something like the New Jack Swing, mixed with a little hip hop and up-tempo R&B, and Pop. Make it as if we were in1995. He did just that!! When the song was done and I heard the final mix, I literally shed a tear because it reminded of growing up in Brooklyn and all my friends back home. It reminded me of a time before social media, when we would run outside and play ‘Tag ‘ or ‘Mother May I?’, Double Dutch or Hand-ball in the park or on the side of a building. Just the fun we had outdoors, music would be BOOMING from someone’s boombox, house or car, It gave me this nostalgia that was a balm to my heart, so I knew I had to do a video to project these thoughts to the world, because I know someone in this world wants to take that same trip down memory lane with me. To get away from all these current politics and redundancies and just remember what it was to be a kid playing until the street lights came on. These thoughts are my “safe space”…

What was the inspiration behind this video(visuals, storyline, etc.)?

Well as you know, the concept of the song Safe Space is  someone being their “safe space”, meaning being with someone you are comfortable with, not afraid to be vulnerable with, the person who you can be your honest and truthful self. As fun as that sounds and as great as that concept is…what if we took an alternative look at the premise; suppose there is an object or place that you consider your “safe space”? What if it’s cooking? What if it’s teaching? Or…like me…..what if it’s PERFORMING ? My team and I decided to explore these alternate roads and rather tell the traditional story of’ ‘girl meets boy’, why not make Dance’ the safe space for our protagonist instead? If you look at the video closely, you will see two individuals who met doing what they love to do, which is dancing (shouts to my leads Indo Hayes (who assisted me with the choreography of the video and Malik ‘Gvmby’ Bannister who is also phenomenal). From an innocent viewer’s eyes, during the club scene it looks like as time progresses the two leads in the video separate, which makes our lead male character sad and a bit lonely in his solo scenes, but the element of surprise comes when you see an older version of them in the end still together. So what was he sad about? He actually hurt his leg, which prevented him from dancing alongside his beau (this is why he was at the doctor’s office and this is also he had a horrible limp with his leg up in the club scene) , but still, when he looks to the alley in his older form, he’s reminded of how much dance was his safe space. So the love story is there …..but the ‘subject’ of the love story is what makes it so sweet, and my Creative Director, Joaquin Sagarra, did a fantastic job of telling this story visually. As far as the “setting” of the video goes, that was from my Videographer Jimmy Collier. He knew we wanted to keep the dedication to the decade of the song, but he also reminded us that the Caribbean/Afro culture shouldn’t be forgotten about during these times,..especially with the Caribbean influence in Brooklyn (interestingly enough this also was a HUGE influence on me, shout out to my favorite restaurant still standing back home… the infamous Tower Isle Patty Shop, i can literally taste my favorite chicken patty w/ cocoa bread as I write this and it was literally one block over from where i lived 😉  ) . It was like the icing on a perfectly lined up cake!! 3 tier !!! This is what made this particular video soo monumental for my team and myself? This idea was so big in fact, that it inspired Ced to go BACK and remix the song and create a ‘Riddim Remix” (which basically adds elements of dancehall/afro beats to the song), in which we used for the video and which was released Friday 11/5. All in all, this project was such an experience! 

Watch now:

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