Introductory Notes

Mark Roberts (Digest, 5/14/98):  The concepts require some imagination to appreciate.  A steam powered car with aScottish frame and instrumentation from Bali!!!.  A theme park ride which allows you to recall and re experience past emotions.  Counter moonbeams causing people to fall out of love!.  Whatever your opinions on the concepts, I find them fascinating.... I just love the whole thing,  Perhaps it's the post ironic flavor it gives, I'm not sure.

Bob Tedde (GB, 9/5/96):  It has a coldness to it.  Maybe because it's based in science fiction, rather than human emotion like The Nightfly.

Dr. Mu (GB, 7/28/98):  The scenes flow in the songs in a disjointed way kinda like a dream--much more limbic system [than] SD.

fezo (GB, 7/28/98):  I recently scrolled through the lyrics for Kamakiriad.  Even without the benefit of music, the words tell a coherent seamless story, both inter- and intra-song.  While this is obviously partly because it's a concept album, i think it goes beyond that.  The writing seems more thoughtout, developed, almost poetic.

Randall (GB, 6/27/99):Kamakiriad = journey of the Kamakiri (referring to Homer's Iliad).So far so good. Now kamakiri is japanese for mantis.
     The Japanese are infamous for their inability to differentiate between /l/ and /r/ and a typical mispronunciation of 'Iliad'  would be 'iriad'- so is it conceivable that Fagen is punning ?
    In Bach's last fugue he spelt his name in the music ( 'h' at the time stood for c natural) so a precedent of sorts exists.
     Or maybe I've been working too hard.

Blaise (GB, 6/29/00):  Kamikiriad is an album by the depressed for the depressed.

Dr. Mu (GB, 6/30/00):  Kama has a unique otherwordly/dreamy/surreal/off kilter soundscape that fits in well with the black and white illustrations in the liner note jacket.  As The Nightfly was a modern man looking wistfully at his past, the bookend Kamakiriad was a apprehensive, quirky, clever, near future subconscious look at an uncertain future. Notice how the 2-dimensional eerie sound slowly melts away during the 2nd half of the album. Compare the sound, the flavor of first 3 songs (Trans-Island Skyway, Countermoon, and Springtime) with the last 3 (Florida Room, On the Dunes, and Teahouse on the Tracks) a series of dreams with the last being a decision to fish or cut bait with the new day.
    ... After an aborted attempt in the mid 80's could Donald Fage and Walter Becker work together fruitfully?  Could he get his creative juices flowing again? NYR&SR, touring, and this album were part of the Dan in artistic rehab. essentially. The answer is given at the end of Kama - back on the adventure trail.
    The soundscape is strange or I should say different than the Dan albums of The Nightfly...but it's on purpose mostly just as 11 ToW. Becker could have easily made the album sound like China Crisis, but that was not what he was after.

The March Hare (Newsgroup, 7/16/00):  I noticed an odd little lyrical device favored by D.F. He seems to like coupling words with "time," as in "lantern time" from Tomorrow's Girls.  Thing is, I don't remember any songs from the seventies era that had this time-fixation. It happened three times on Kamakiriad, though,  and once on 2VN, which, I think, constitutes a legitimate trend.
    And but so, realizing these things are always open for interpretation, what do you imagine these to mean?
    "Crying time" (Trans-Island Skyway) I suppose to be the brief interlude between having your heart wrenched and the subsequent rationalization that invariably involves multiple expletives.
    "Lantern time": the period when the street lamps come on but it's still light out, which can vary from, like, a period of fifteen minutes to three and a half hours, depending on things like daylight savings time or the mental accumen of the people who set the timers on the things.
    "Nervous time"(Snowbound): the time it takes to decide between hitting the town for the evening or yet another *&^#ing night of Letterman.
    "Gospel time" (Almost Gothic, and the sole occurence on 2VN): As it pertains to any activity X, the exact wrong moment to be performing X.  e.g. doing the laundry at 3 a.m., sleeping at 5:45 p.m., etc.

El Supremo (Newsgroup, 7/17/00):  During the 1996 tour, the song "Wet Side Story" featured another one: Animal Time.

Ti BonAnge (Newsgroup, 7/17/00):  And you should be aware of this, El Supremo--just exactly when did the protagonist "detect the El Supremo?"
    "After closing time/at the Guernsey Fair"
    I imagine there are numerous others, and will do a search through my lyrics files to see what I can come up with.
    There are repeated motifs in all Steely Dan songs. Malcolm Morrison and I were noodling about this a while back, thinking of a webpage where these commonalities were outlined. Like, how often did they use the word love? And of those occurrences, how many related to romantic love, as opposed to other forms of love?
    How often did they use numbers and why? On Fagen's solo projects, he uses "seven seconds" in two disparate songs: The title track from Nightfly: "Respect the seven-second delay we use," and "For seven seconds it's like Christmas Day," from Snowbound on Kamakiriad.
    Time out of mind.

Mal (Newsgroup, 7/17/00):  you got in 2 minutes before me, seems like the time of our time has come and gone or maybe our little wild time has just begun. Still if you post the same thing as me again it's stomping time.

Miz Ducky (Newsgroup, 7/17/00):  Re the "time" phrases in Kamakiriad: I interpret them as part of the science-fictional world-building Donald was doing in this album.
    It's a standard ploy of SF writers to dream up various bits of slang, colloquialisms, and other cultural artifacts to help deepen the authenticity of whatever near- or far-future society they're portraying in their story. Interviews have revealed that Donald is a pretty well-read SF fan (and of course he was a lit major, not to mention being a voaracious reader to this day). So Donald would be familiar with this SFnal ploy of world-building, enough so to use it in his own writing.
    So as part of this world-building, he supplied this near-future dystopia in which Kamakiriad takes place with some colorful and evocative expressions for time of day. The fictional placenames Donald dreamed up for the Kamakiriad world also tend to evoke a culture slightly different from our own--not to mention a whole bunch of poetic imagery. Think of Key Plantain and Cape Sincere; the Smokehouse in the Sand and the Teahouse on the Tracks; the Sprangle and Five Zoos; and on and on and on.
    Walter apparently is well-read in science fiction too--and you can see that influence show up in any number of songs that he wrote with Donald as well as on his own.

  Time for someone to get on that Ti Bone tip!  Both of Mr. Fagen's solo releases are delicious theme pieces.  IMHO.

Schwinn:  The Truth About Kamakiriad (6/20/99)

    Theme:  This is the de-evolutionary Donny.  Steam powered?  Wood-trimmed accents on the dash?  DF's face in the glove box tells us that he's looking at himself while he's driving.  Conscientious.
    TIS:  The Kamakiri symbolizes"'birth"' itself.  The car was"'brought" to him.  The Chinese consider the"'Kamakiri" i.e. the Praying Mantis, as the most human-like of insects.  Someone "handed" him the keys to his humanity--in this case, his father.  Donald is saying that he has come to terms with his past and is going to show us that he IS a human being.  Notice that the Eastern themes evident in Countdown and Aja continue on a calmer, less tempestuous wave.  The "tech is Balinese" indicates, like Krakatoa, the power of this craft is primordial.  Hey, we should all have a volcano to heat the water in our steam-powered craft.  The wreck on the side of the road is Donald looking back.  The beautiful survivor is he, himself.  He is also the " kid that drove too fast."  He is becoming his "father."  The "Five Zoos" are the five administrations that have occupied the White House since "Can't Buy a Thrill."
    Countermoon: Donny's natal Moon position is in Capricorn.  Every July he experiences his own personal "Countermoon."  This occurs around 7/4 of every year.  i.e., "It's nasty weather for July."  Further evidence that this song is written about his natal moon in opposition to the July moon can be found in these lyrics:  "A counter moonbeam comes sweeping OFF the water..."  As stated previously, the theme of this album is "Self-examination and reflection."  Whether consciously or unconsciously, DF wrote a wonderfully insightful song about the nature of his insight.  (Blue Ray)
    Springtime:  Wow!  We just jumped back from July to April!  Actually, we even go back a few days earlier to Easter '66.  Donald's really reminiscing now--or is it Lake Nostalgia?  He's "learning to love all over again."  Sounds like an Easter theme to me even if he is a Jew.  (Ok, we'll call it the Vernal Equinox....)  And there's that number "5" again.  Five names, five zoos, route 5...)  But I'll agree it's even better this time AROUND.
    Snowbound: Ok, let's continue the "counter-clockwise" movement of these songs.  Club "Hi Ho" is a reference to "Slapstick" by Kurt Vonnegut.  And there's that allusion to the color blue again.  The opposite of a red-shift ,(something moving away from the viewer), the "blue" or "blue-white" supports my view that Donald is moving counter-clockwise or TOWARDS the listener--and in effect--venturing deeper into himself.

Dunks has come up with some mind-popping ideas about "Kama" songs.  Start here and follow him through the whole album.

Dunks (10/00):  Kamakiriad
        *       Given that DF is evidently well-read in sci-fi, "Kamakiriad" could be an oblique reference to Stanislaw Lem's classic cybernetic comedy novel "The Cyberiad". It too is a futuristic story cycle, with lots of anachronistic elements,  documenting the adventures of two "master constructors", Trurl and Klapaucius (who are presumably robots themselves).  N.B. one adventure involves Trurl's attempt to cure a prince of a hopeless infatuation by placing him inside a specially-constructed "femfatalatron" (cf. Springtime, Tomorrow's Girls - well maybe.)
        *       the Japanese word kamakiri calls up a vague association with kamikaze
        *       kama means 'love' in Sanskrit
        *       the back cover photo shows DF standing in a boarded-up doorway of a derelict building. He has a scarf and aviator goggles slung around his neck, and is carrying two dark bundles. The one on his right hand could be a helmet of some kind, and on his left probably a radio - there is an antenna protruding from it. Is he about to leave, has he just arrived? Is this a holiday snap along the way? A smaller, wider view of the same building and the surrounding streetscape (Bleak Street?) appears on the lyric insert, just under the end of the lyrics of Teahouse On The Tracks, but DF does not appear in this second photo.
        *       opposing motifs: North-South, East-West, winter-summer, night-day,  appearance/dream/memory vs. reality
        *       lots of water / waterside images - ocean, sea, lake, tidepools, capes, keys, rivers, snow, rain ...
        *       "heavy weather" images - snow, hurricane
        *       images of enclosure, separation
        *       images of escape
        *       prominent use of samples and synthetic textures

Slapstick, by Kurt Vonnegut.  If you've missed this seminal cynical farcical heretical inimitable writer, stop NOW, log off, and
                        go read something, anything by him.  My favorite has always been Cat's Cradle, maybe because it was my first.
                    The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, a kind of interesting recent sci fi/ interplanetary cultural anthropology tale
                        which features space vehicles fashioned from asteroids, fueled by mining the minerals of the 'roids.  OK, it's a stretch;
                        just thinking about energy sources.
                    Back To The Future (1985, Zemeckis):  worth seeing if only for Mr. Fusion, another alternative energy source.

"Trans-Island Skyway"