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[VIDEO] Daughter helps father recover from stroke with music

Wednesday, Aug. 6 | By Hannah Dellinger
Kiaya and William Abernathy talk in between songs at their CD release party at the Headmaster's Pub in Sperryville.
Photo by Adam Goings
After William Abernathy had a stroke in April, his daughter, Kiaya, brought him his guitar as soon as he came to in the hospital.

She knew that it would not only bring him comfort, but also give him something to focus on during his recovery.

Kiaya, 25, and William, 63, perform together in Fauquier and Rappahanock counties on a regular basis with their groovy, psychedelic rock band.

For Kiaya, her father has always been a source of musical inspiration. When William had his stroke, Kiaya knew that she owed it to him to help him find the music the way that he had helped her to find it when she was a child.
“Everything that he has taught me my whole life, I had to come full circle and reteach to him,” said Kiaya. “I brought him his guitar and I was like, ‘You have to play. You can’t lose this.’”
For the first four days after his stroke, William couldn’t speak or use his right hand.

“I could really only hold the guitar for the first few days,” said William.

Once he regained the use his right arm again, William started playing.

“I didn't know how long it would be before I was playing like normal,” he said. “One week after the stroke, we practiced with the band, and then two weeks after the stroke, we played a gig together.”

William said that he believes that the music helped him to recover his memory and his speech.

“Now his speech is almost back to normal,” said Kiaya. “I truly believe that music helped him come back.”

Kiaya said that working with her father on music was an experience that few other musicians are lucky enough to share.

“It’s almost like we share the same heartbeat,” she said. “It’s really wild because we’ll hit stuff at the same time. The more musicians that I play with, the more that I realize how rare that is.”

Kiaya became interested in music when she saw her father playing at local bars and festivals when she was a child. She remembers getting up on stage with him to belt out Madonna songs.

When she was about 13 years old, Kiaya started playing drums in William’s band.

Since then, she learned to play the guitar, piano and bass. Kiaya also recently started dabbling with the concertina, an instrument similar to an accordion.
Kiaya said that she has always dabbled with song writing, but only recently started showcasing her finished works at live performances.

“Our [current band] started out just jamming, just really free form,” she said. “Then I started getting my songs together and getting brave enough to play them for people. It just sort of took off from there.”
Kiaya describes her band’s sound as an experimental, jammy, psychedelic, creating folky music with a little bit of a country sound in the mix.

“I can get sort of Morrison-esque with my vocals,” said Kiaya. “Sometimes I can be more folky and Joni Mitchell-like.”

Kiaya and William play under the moniker “Kiaya and Sweet Poppa William” with their band-mates Michael Pollack on the drums, Nan Helm on the key board and Jack Doman on the bass. The group has been playing together since 2000, and started playing Kiaya's originals in 2013.

While it would be nice to “make it big,” Kiaya says that she is happy playing music on her home turf with her father.

“Ultimately I just wanna do what I love doing,” she said. “I love writing songs and I love sharing them with people.”

Kiaya said that studying linguistics and anthropology at the University of Virginia helped her to appreciate her home.

“Going to school helped me realize that I grew up in this incredible place,” she said. “That’s where I got a lot of my song ideas. Coming back home after college and embracing where I came from, rather than running off.”

For more information about Kiaya and Sweet Poppa William and to hear more of their music, visit kiaya.bandcamp.com.

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