Local musician brings his unique sound to KSU

Jennifer Shore

Local musician Hal Walker

A YouTube search of the uncommonly known word “Banakulas” leads to dozens of videos featuring local musician Hal Walker.

A YouTube search of the uncommonly known word “Banakulas” leads to dozens of videos featuring local musician Hal Walker.

“The Banakulas is a very unique instrument,” Walker said. “It’s two balls tied together with a string that you shake and juggle.”

If that seems tricky enough to master, in many of the videos, Walker plays the harmonica simultaneously with the Banakulas. Walker said he was given a harmonica in third grade and learned to play the ancient hand whistle, which is played by cupping the hands together and blowing different melodies to make sound.

“It was kind of something I was born with, a desire to make music in a lot of different ways,” Walker said.

Walker plays many other instruments, but he said his favorite is the Khaen, which is a mouth organ made out of bamboo pipe from Southeast Asia. He said he plays music in a very nontraditional way, which was shown to him in Thailand when he was playing the Khaen and the people there kept saying “foreigner, foreigner.”

“Over the years, I’ve come across very unique instruments, and I had kind of a natural ability that made good-sounding music with them,” Walker said.

Walker currently does outreach work for the Wick Poetry Center. His past musical background paved the way, and around the time Walker received his harmonica, he became friends with David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center. Hassler said they grew up together, left Kent and came back for various periods of time in their 20s.

“At that time, even, we collaborated in fun, creative work,” Hassler said. “I was writing poetry, and he was writing songs. We had a good sense of each other’s artistic sensibility and a great appreciation for each other’s artistic work.”

Hassler said when he began working for the Wick Center, he brought Walker into the outreach work as a songwriter and educator to expand on poetry with children.

“I think Hal Walker and his music is a great asset to our community, and I don’t take it for granted that we have such a song bird who can sing the stories of our own community,” Hassler said.

Walker said his newest CD, “Home in Ohio,” is a celebration of Ohio life and all the songs are about community, connection and the creative process.

Walker said one of his major selling points is the vast audience his music attracts.

“I could play to a group of children in the same audience as university professors and grandparents and frat boys,” he said.

Contact arts and sciences reporter Jennifer Shore at [email protected].