The Fun Family

When Kazuki Kozuru-Salifoska opens the blinds to bring in the morning sun, her daughter, Kharin, protests.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kazuki’s a fashion designer.

Kharin is wearing a new T-shirt that glows in the dark and wants to see it – not the sun – shine.

She’s 8, and she forgets all about making a sartorial statement when her father, Seido Kozuru-Salifoski, distracts her with the drumbeat of the darbuka.

Before long, Kharin’s sneaking up, making bunny ears behind his head.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kharin is 8.

She thinks he’s lost in his music; he knows what she’s up to, but he doesn’t let on.

Kazuki simply surveys the scene and smiles. She knows she’s Kharin’s next target.

Kazuki, who is the epitome of edgy elegance, and Seido, who loves to make everyone laugh, met two decades ago.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Seido’s from Macedonia.

They come from different countries – she’s from Fukui, Japan and he’s a Roma from Prilep, Macedonia – but found each other in New York.

Kazuki, an artistic soul, made her way to America when she was 20.

“I was interested in fashion,” she says. “And I wanted to see the outside of the small city I grew up in.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kazuki’s a native of Japan.

After two years at a community college in Washington, D.C., Kazuki enrolled at Parsons School of Design and embarked upon a career in fashion.

She worked for various labels, from Gap and American Eagle to Theory, and recently joined the startup Gwynnie Bee, a Netflix-like clothing subscription service for plus-size women.

Seido, whose mother was a singer and whose father was a folk dancer, was brought to America when he was Kharin’s age.

Despite the family’s musical heritage, Seido didn’t pick up a drum until he was 16.

He has never put it down.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kharin wants to be a brain surgeon and an astronaut and a lot of other things.

He studied briefly at the Berklee College of Music in Boston before becoming a professional drummer specializing in the Balkan and Middle Eastern style of his homeland.

It was at a concert in New York City that he met Kazuki.

“I had a friend who was a belly dancer in that show,” Kazuki says. “I had started hand drumming to help her practice. When I went backstage to give her a bouquet of flowers, I was introduced to one of the drummers.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Seido posing with a friend.

It was not Seido.

“I was trying to get away from the weirdo, who claimed he could speak Japanese like a native,” she says. “He couldn’t. He was about 6 feet tall and behind him I saw this short man jumping up and down who kept saying, ‘My first name, Seido, is Japanese.’ So I decided to talk to the lesser weirdo.”

Seido smiles. He still takes that as a compliment.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kharin with a favorite doll.

Kazuki joined Seido’s group-drumming lessons. They became friends and then more than friends and moved in together.

“The plan was that I would work full time so he could spend all this time playing music,” she says.

It didn’t work out that way, but that’s OK.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Seido started playing the drums at 16.

Around the time Kharin was born, Kazuki lost her job and started the Creators’ Co-Op on 23rd Avenue. The shop featured jewelry, clothing and other items made by local artists.

When that concept didn’t work, she renamed the business BabyNOIR and began selling children’s clothing.

“I wear black all the time and wanted all-black baby clothes,” she says. “I couldn’t find them, so I started designing my own.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Look at my funny face!

BabyNOIR never grew up, and four years ago, it closed.

Seido, meanwhile, put his drum aside and took a day job: He’s the office manager/chauffeur for a Manhattan real estate agency.

“There aren’t as many places for me to play the drum,” he says. “I really miss playing because I like to see people dance and have a good time.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kharin being silly.

Occasionally, he tours Europe with Matt Dariau’s Paradox Trio and plays local clubs with the Balkan Peppers.

Kharin, who has been listening to her parents and sometimes inserting her own comments, says that she has a big and busy future planned.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Shhh! Don’t tell daddy.

A student at the Academy of the City Charter School in Woodside, she wants to be an astronaut, a police officer, a brain surgeon, a dancer and a singer.

How about a musician?

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Seido with his darbuka.

Oh, that, too. Lately, she and Seido have been practicing Bach’s Minuet in G.

But he keeps messing the duet up, she claims.

He smiles and throws his hands up in the air.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Three makes a family trio.

Listen for yourself, she says.

Daddy and daughter sit down at the piano.

The bouncy notes fill the room with the sweet sound of minor and major mistakes.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at; @nancyruhling on Twitter; nruhling on Instagram;,

Copyright 2017 by Nancy A. Ruhling