On Christmas day of 2007, few people could be spotted around Old Town Square. Amid lifeless storefronts and bitter cold weather, an individual took the public stage with her drum set. Banging on hi-hats, she screamed and sang, her voice barely audible above the instrument, startling an innocent passer-by every so often.
Known as Christina the Hun, Christina Whitaker, has made a name for herself within the Fort Collins music scene as a singer and drum-soloist.
Rather than limiting herself to playing local venues and house shows, she can also occasionally be spotted setting up her drum set on the Square or the Oak Street Plaza.
“Christina’s music can sound like a Dr. Seuss book — she uses a lot of childlike fantastical imagery,” said Todd Simmons, the founder of Matter Bookstore and a close friend of Whitaker’s. “It’s completely irreverent and beautiful in unexpected ways.”
Whitaker released her first CD in October through the Alphabet Recording Studio, a non-profit project run by local musicians Zach Khan and Ben Thompson. Self-titled, her album contains original songs that she has written over the past two years.
In songs such as “kitty kat,” the lyrics tell a story about kittens who have lost their mother. On this track and many of her others, Whitaker intertwines her vocals with shrieks and volume changes.
“The first time I saw Christina play and every time after, it’s always been completely rewarding to see how much power and emotion a single person can convey,” Simmons said.
Through playing music, her intention is to connect with other people on a more personal level, she said.
“I want to show them I’m here and I want to know how they feel about it,” she said. “I want to connect with them, and wherever it is we go when we die, or wherever the music comes from. I honestly can’t say that I can take full credit for the songs.”
Whitaker grew up in Fort Collins and began playing the drums at the age of 18. Though she attempted to learn how to play guitar it never really stuck, she said.
“With the drums, coordination is involved,” Whitaker said. “It’s like dancing.”
After taking lessons for several years, she and a friend who played guitar collaborated and performed together at the Alley Cat for friends.
“It was energizing and I felt that, now that I’d finally played a show, I didn’t need to play another one again — that was all I needed to do.”
Whitaker eventually began working on her solo project, brainstorming song ideas and experimenting with different drum parts.
In 2008, she performed her work for the first time at a Halloween show in Denver at the small venue Rhinoceropolis. On the day of the show she wrote four songs to play, one of which was a Beatles’ cover.
“Everyone there was really receptive to it,” she said. “It sounded good in there, it was loud and powerful.”
Shortly after, she was asked to play a show at the Bean Cycle. Still without a name for her project, she approached Simmons, who suggested she play as Christina the Hun and Her Magical Drum.
Under the name Christina the Hun, Whitaker has played shows with a number of local bands, including The Good Old Fashioned Sinners and Lil’ Slugger.
All of the bands have brought something unique and vibrant to the Fort Collins music scene, she said.
“Driving into Fort Collins, you couldn’t imagine what it’s really like,” she said. “It’s like you find this underground beating heart of coolness that inspires everyone.”
Whitaker said she hopes to see more people, musically talented or not, become involved locally. Whether it’s handing out instruments to a group of friends, covering the streets in artwork or playing music and dancing together, the creativity she sees in the people she has met is apparent, she said.
“I can just kind of see the swelling creativity in the people that come to my shows and I’m really excited to see it explode.”
Those who attend Christina the Hun’s shows are usually excited to be there for the music rather than to socialize, said Teresa Sosa, of the local band Origami Hands.
“If you really want to play, you get out there and do it,” she said. “If I played a show with Christina, I’d be excited because she’s recognized, and the people who like her music are always a good crowd.”
Aside from her energy onstage, those who know her personally have observed her as a humble person, uninterested in the commercial aspect of the music, Simmons said. He said Whitaker is one example of a musician who plays for her love of music and that she and others like her often “act as a litmus test to the spiritual house of the community.”
“To local music, Christina brings the ability to conquer,” he said.
Staff writer Kate Bennis can be reached at email@example.com.