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The Daily Tar Heel

Local musicians perform in unlikely places

Chapel Hill musician Robert Gelblum performs inside of Lanza's Cafe.
Photo Courtesy of Robert Gelblum.

Surrounded by the whispers of students and cafe patrons, the gentle yet uplifting sounds of a harp guitar accompanied the relaxed atmosphere at Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews last Friday. 

Andrew Kasab, a musician based in the Triangle, worked with the ambiance, matching the swell of his music to the conversation around him.

Kasab has taught music in Cary for about two decades, and he has performed locally and nationally for over 30 years.

“I have a really great standing with the community in Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Kasab said. “And the venues there and the patrons have been just outstanding through the years.”

Kasab said he enjoys playing at non-traditional venues such as local libraries, festivals, cafes and taprooms. As a musician, he works to adapt his music to each setting.

At outdoor venues, he said he coordinates the tempo of the song with the rhythm of the crickets, mirroring the rise and fall of their chirps. 

In college, Kasab said he studied a little marketing and developed an understanding of how to cater to different audiences, which is why he tries to make his playing complement his performance environment.  

“And to me, that's kind of like playing to the wonderment of the world around you," he said. "Where the audience may not really recognize all of those elements that are happening, but that's my job."

Kasab is just one of many musicians in the area who perform in public spaces such as cafes, bars and farmers markets. 

Robert Gelblum, another local musician, said he first joined the Chapel Hill music scene in the mid-1970s. Throughout his musical life, Gelblum has performed at several sites in the area, including the Carrboro Farmers' Market and Craftboro Brewing Depot.

Gelblum said he started returning to music as his main profession a few years ago, after 35 years in environmental law.

He said he was first drawn to music during his childhood in Philadelphia, where he was introduced to rhythm and blues and soul music. This later influenced his musical style, which was also inspired by folk.

Gelblum immediately noticed the love for music in the area after moving to North Carolina with his family in 1968, he said.

"The musical scene, as you know, around here is vibrant and full of great musicians and different types of music,” Gelblum said.

Gelblum said he has loved music his whole life and has remained very excited and devoted to the art.

“It's hard to think of moments when I'm happier than when I'm playing music," he said.

Rabbi Sandra Lawson, the director of racial diversity, equity and inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism, is a local musician who performs at locations like Lanza’s Cafe in Carrboro. She began learning to play music and write songs while studying to become a rabbi, she said. 

After moving to North Carolina in 2018, Lawson said she decided to start playing at local venues such as cafes and farmers markets. This past weekend, she performed on a radio program in Hillsborough.

“The best way you can play better is playing more in front of people,” she said.

For Lawson, music is a way for people to connect with their community. She said music can help people share stories and understand others through a different lens.

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"It goes to your heart and not your head," Lawson said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the venues Lawson plays music and her thoughts on music's role in the community. These mistakes have since been corrected. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

@dthlifestyle |