Only in Lawrence 2013The Journal-World asked Lawrenceians to tell us about the unsung heroes in the community, resulting in the annual Only in Lawrence feature.
Rayyan Kamal and Tim Clark are nearly always together, laughing, playing music and probably not wearing shoes.
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The Free State High School graduates and current Kansas University seniors have made a name for themselves on campus and in the community as kind, free-spirited musicians willing to playing just about any instrument, in any genre. From performing in community orchestras and musicals through the Lawrence Arts Center and in multiple bands and ensembles to marching in various parades, Kamal and Clark are busy filling Lawrence with the sounds of jazz, funk, classical, blues — you name it, they play it. The duo even skipped class before spring break to march around the KU campus playing music.
“We thought, ‘School is boring, class is boring, let’s have fun,’” Kamal said.
There’s not a lot the two shy away from. Currently part of a nine-piece funk band called Sharp 9, both have been in a variety of alternative rock and indie bands. Around town they’re best known for appearances in downtown parades — Kamal playing trumpet and Clark playing drums. The annual Mardi Gras parade is their favorite, but they’ve marched in Earth Day parades, Art Tougeau parades, the Occupy KU marches and other events.
“We’ll basically try anything,” he said. “If it’s not challenging, then we don’t like it.”
Kamal said he’s best at guitar and Clark said he’s best at piano, but there’s a laundry list of instruments the two have picked up over the years, including percussion, electric bass guitar, trumpet and French horn.
Whatever they’re playing, there’s a good chance they’re both barefoot. Kamal said they picked up the habit in high school for no particular reason, and now they leave their shoes at home whenever possible.
Wearing shoes “is like blocking one of your senses,” Kamal said. “It’s like wearing ear plugs all the time.”
Sandy Beverly, who has played with Clark and Kamal for four years in an African drum ensemble, said it’s not their bare feet or musical talent that stand out to her. Rather, it’s their positive personalities. Beverly described them as two of the most friendly and kind people she’s met.
“I love their sense of fun and spontaneity,” she said
Music isn’t everything to them. Clark is a computer science major, and Kamal studied math with plans for medical school. Though both their majors are analytical and a certain degree of analysis goes into music, Clark said there isn’t a strong relationship between their interests in math and music.
“It’s definitely an outlet for us,” he said. “There’s just too many interesting things to do.”
Clark and Kamal could easily be mistaken for a couple. The two have been known to hold hands or walk with their arms around each other.
“They just like each other so much and they don’t care,” Beverly said.
Kamal describes their relationship as “heterosexual man partners.” They are inseparable, especially now that they live together at the Olive House cooperative.
“We talk about anything,” Clark said.
But their friendship wasn’t always so strong. They met in high school, when Clark was a sophomore and Kamal was a junior and both tried out for percussion.
As the year went on, they were forced to share a marimba during practice and bonded over a mutual interest in music. Clark hadn’t originally planned to go to KU, but he followed his new friend there.
“He didn’t follow his girlfriend to college, he didn’t follow what his parents wanted, he followed me,” Kamal said.
It’s not just music that the two bond over. From Kamal’s curiosity for molecular gastronomy to Clark’s interest in urban art and graffiti, the two follow each other though any passion.
With Kamal applying to various medical schools, he knows there will come a time when the two won’t be together, but Clark said it’s inevitable the two will eventually end up living near each other.
“Our wives will have to know that we plan to do this,” he said.
“Maybe neighbors or within like a mile of each other,” Kamal said. “Somewhere in the same vicinity.”
When they live far apart, the two plan to stay connected through music, even if they aren’t playing together in the same room.
“We’ll have to Skype each other and play,” Kamal said.