Flaunt Premiere | Nina Keith "Kathy"

by Morgan Vickery

Nina Keith is a multi-instrumentalist and trans woman composer hailing from Philadelphia. New to the music scene, Nina begins to release singles leading up to her debut album, MARANASATI 19111. The LP is a translation of her inner conscious, rooted in contemporary classical music. Incorporating electronics, vocals, flute, and found sounds, Nina pays homage to her adolescence. Often, referencing a patch of woods down the street from her childhood home where paranormal and traumatic events took place. We spoke with Nina to discuss her musical journey, “Kathy,” and upcoming album.

Where did your journey with classical music and composing begin?

Only in the past year or so. It's something I've wanted to do forever, though. I got kicked out of my high school when I was 16 around the time when my tourette syndrome had gotten pretty bad, and I haven't had any formal education since then. This placed a lot of self-doubt in me especially trying to make music within a genre that can be perceived as sort of academia adjacent, at least more so than if I were to start a punk band or something. Obviously, this was a misunderstanding, though. It hasn't required any more work than starting a punk band. I don't know any of the names of the chords I'm playing.  

What was the inspiration behind "Kathy"?

This song was inspired by a woman who I saw while walking to school every day as a child. When I was eight years old, something very tragic happened in my neighborhood, and seemingly, everyone was grieving for a long time. She was the person closest to this tragedy, and despite having gone through such a devastating loss, she seemed to be at peace. She was always smiling and comforting strangers who appeared to be far more upset than her. I read a very old interview with her where she described her life as an oasis, sitting in her garden watching flowers grow. I'm sure she had her own grieving process, but regardless, she instilled herself in my memory as this beacon for equanimity around death. 

Tell us about some of your personal histories as it relates to your upcoming album, MARANASATI 19111.

I was in EMDR therapy before making this record, and it taught me the importance of taking inventory of my memory networks, especially those related to trauma. Throughout my life I've kept a pretty erratic and sloppy spiritual practice since I was a child going to catholic church, eventually abandoning that for new age mindfulness, almost falling into a cult, and landing where I am now, someone with a Buddhist adjacent ideology who keeps an app on my phone that sends alerts at random intervals throughout the day saying "don't forget you're going to die". 

The album was inspired by my attempts to untangle my childhood memories around death, which is something I've found to be very therapeutic. There is a sort of magical groundlessness that I think can be felt in keeping a more constant awareness of death. It makes it so much easier to let go of things. During the recording of this album, I started untangling my gender identity, began taking hormones, and made changes to my anatomy through surgery. Staying in touch with that groundlessness has been a lifeline, especially in times when I feel like a vessel between two bodies. 

I recently ran into a homophobic, gun-owning neighbor in my backyard who I'd been avoiding since I started taking hormones. I was expecting the absolute worst from him. While looking past me into my kitchen window, he said, "I haven't seen your husband in a while... I heard ya'll were moving... where to?" (I'm a lesbian who lives alone lol). At that moment I was floating above my body, doing the math in my head that I'd become my wife, I guess. "West Philly... we are moving to West Philly," I said.

Photo by:  Madeleine Bishop