Chooka James Parker (formerly Ethan James Parker) is a recently turned 17 year old who has amassed a cult like following. He’s gained over 1 million youtube views, has moved the masses to tears and has single-handedly caused a paradigm shift in the field of classical piano. All of this on the back of a single performance on the TV show ‘Australia’s Got Talent.’ Behind the scenes and beneath the moustache, who is the enigmatic child that is Chooka?
Chooka is a product of the diminutive country town of Red Lion, Victoria. With a population of a shade over 300, this appears to be one of those secluded communities that house a population sign that is updated when a local ventures off into the metropolis. Chooka’s prestigious talent will inevitably cause him to ‘minus one’ from Red Lion’s welcome sign as he likely performs on the world stage. As Chooka exclaimed at his ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ maiden performance, pertaining to his home town, “It’s just got an old pub there. Someone’s using it as a house now.”
The name ‘Chooka’ will have the people at the syntax department of the Oxford English Dictionary fuming. Formerly Ethan, this farmhand states “When I was about eleven I think, I wanted to farm a million chooks, so some old lady decided to call me ‘Chooka.’” Chooka was homeschooled and is a fine advertisement of the potential benefits of being raised with no TV or internet. After spending hours working on his family’s farm, he retires to his piano each evening as a leisure activity- A refreshing change from pushy parent syndrome producing musical child prodigies.
His crescent moustache hovers ominously above his upper lip like digits poised aloft a toothy piano. Chooka’s skin radiates with a varnished porcelain veneer, dusky from a lifetime of labour beneath the punishing Australian sun. Stubble, perhaps with more of a semblance to bumfluff, protrudes from his sculptured chin line. An oversized charcoal-black akubra permanently casts a thick shadow across his eyeline, perpetuating this eccentric’s enigmatic expression. Beneath its brim, copper locks cascade freely with a similar texture and entanglement to the fleece that Chooka effortlessly sheers from his family’s sheep. He often sports flannelette or vanilla shirts with elaborate collars reminiscent of the bard. With an exaggerated Aussie country accent, his vernacular is littered with colloquialisms.
When Chooka lopes towards a piano, one senses that two negative magnet ends will rashly repel. As his posterior clunks down onto a wooden frame, his shoulders synchronically arc forward. As his calloused fingertips contact the basswood keys initially, first time Chooka listeners will inevitably cringe until the spectrum of notes in an unbridled manner are released into the heavens. Temporarily, despite the verisimilitude, one ponders whether a Bach CD is releasing such angelic sounds. After marvelling at Chooka’s poetic and spontaneous fingers, the situation becomes vivid- The contradictions, the broken stereotypes, the uniqueness, the impulsiveness. They all amount to a melodic nirvana. With the passion of an Italian footballer, the dissidence of Che Guevara, the incongruousness of a square circle and the aesthetics of a Goddess- Chooka plays the piano.
Piano child prodigies are sparse yet Chooka is a rare breed even within the prodigy cohort. He states, “What I like to do is just make it all up on the spot, play what I feel.” This is doubly impressive as Chooka taught himself to play the piano and read music. “Dad used to teach me drums on an old paint tin. So I’ve always been tapping and Dad eventually said ‘we’ve got to do something about that.’ We bought a piano and I started tapping on the piano and that’s how I learnt piano.” Chooka only plays original pieces and never repeats a performance- some of the greatest compositions ever performed will never be heard again. Despite this, every eclectic yet well-ordered note, every bar that was never written down and each song shall be immortalised in the pantheon of the gods.
Chooka’s occa exterior masquerades a gentle soul, released into the world through the medium for which he will soon be famous. He resembles a morphed product of the fictitious Indiana Jones and a youthful Tom Selleck. This moustached maestro is nonchalant, unassuming and as down to earth as his unpolished boots. As Chooka begins his craft, a chiselled Rodin creation transforms into an animate flame.
The deep iceberg that is Chooka is yet to be fully understood- such is his hasty impression on the public scene however peculiar personal anecdotes have already garnered attention. For instance, after cleaning a companion’s house, Chooka was offered an object remaining within the abode- Chooka chose a Mozart CD. It was 2 years before he obtained a CD player to listen to the CD. He now boasts a collection of hundreds of classical CDs. His recent performance on TV show ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ was his virgin stage performance. He had mainly performed for his family in the past and had only been busking a handful on times in his miniscule town. His family had to borrow a TV to watch Chooka’s audition on the premier episode and as soon as his performance show had concluded, the family reverted back to their standard routine of listening to Chooka manifest music in person.
A literal interpretation of the ultimate line in Frank O’Hara’s ‘The Day Lady Died’ sums up Chooka the best. Chooka… “Whispered a song along the keyboard… and everyone and I stopped breathing.”
Chooka’s first public performance can be viewed below: