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Boardman’s Bambo Kino savors art for art’s sake

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of Saturday profiles of area residents and their stories. To suggest a profile, contact features editor Burton Cole at bcole@trib today.com.

BOARDMAN — Bambo Kino may be the best bass player you’ve never seen.

Since 2012, the Boardman resident has recorded and released four critically applauded studio albums of his original compositions without ever performing them live.

While the albums have been well-received in Europe and South America, with a respectable amount of airplay and downloads, he has made little headway in the United States.

And that’s OK with him.

“My stuff does OK in the United States, but there’s no money,” he said. “The whole music business is upside down here. Everybody says you must do the internet and YouTube thing, which is true, but there are millions of other people doing it. People have got to dig through all of it just to find you.

“But I’m glad I do this. I don’t do it for the money, and I don’t do it for the fame. I do it because it’s fun,” he said.

The early 19th century French called it “l’artr pout l’art” — art for art’s sake. It is a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only “true”art” is divorced from any didactic, moral, politic, utilitarian or economic function.

Kino personifies that philosophy.

Born in 1952 in Campbell as Mark Buccilli, Kino also personifies the Youngstown, blue-collar mentality and work ethic.

I worked my whole life,” he said. “I graduated from YSU. My first job after that was with a government agency until 1984, then I went into the bail bond business with my dad until 1997.”

While doing that, Kino also landed a job in 1989 with the Mahoning County Highway Engineer’s Office. For eight years, he worked two jobs and still managed to compose what would eventually become the music for his albums.

“Music was always there,” he said. “There has never been a time in my life when music has not been a major part of my life. I’m always playing, I’m always composing on my bass.

“I can play a guitar. I used to like keyboards, and both my sister and I once played accordion. She was tremendous. I was terrible. My instrument of choice is the bass.”

Like so many working-class kids from Youngstown, Kino’s values are solidly based on family and God.

“The Lord and the upbringing from my family are what helped me to become who I am today. My family gave me the courage to do this music, and the Lord gave me the confidence. I have totally financed my own albums myself. It’s a risk, but no big deal.”

As so many other musicians of his generation did, Kino started his career in music as a teenager after seeing The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” In fact, his professional name is drawn from the Beatles.

“The Beatles in their early years once played a club in Hamburg, Germany called the Indira Club. Next door there was a theater called the Bambi Tino. I thought that was a pretty cool name. I turned it around to become Bambo Kino and adopted it as my professional name. I even have it trademarked.”

Kino’s compositions are primarily built around bass solos. “You lose half of your potential audience with no vocals and most of the rest when most of your music built around bass guitar soloing.”

Not that Kino has not tried traditional songwriting. He has. Twenty years ago, he went to Nashville for a while to try his hand at writing country songs. Reflecting on that period, he admitted that, “Nothing ever developed. Looking back on it, I don’t think my music was what they were looking for.”

He released his most recent album last Fall, titled “The Apostle of Hip.” Produced with and recorded at drummer John Sferra’s studio in Warren, it is an eclectic and musically complex collection of Bambo Kino compositions.

With Sferra on drums, Bob Esterly on tenor and soprano sax, and Dennis Augusta on piano, the album easily stands with any modern mainstream jazz album.

Even if his relative success outside the U.S. were to lure him into touring, Kino remains solidly planted in Mahoning Valley soil.

“I still love this place,” he said. “I love the honesty of the people. I love the whole Youngstown vibe. I’ll never move.”

Interested readers can listen to Bambo Kino music on YouTube and download his albums from www.bambokino.com.

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