Comprised of musicians from Africa and the Caribbean, Socaholix burst on the Minneapolis scene with the fury of a tropical hurricane in 2010. As the only live band in the Twin Cities area that plays calypso and soca music (a hybrid genre that blends soul and calypso music), they have carved out a special niche playing for community events from Elk River to the Minnesota State Fair.
Lead by Prince Jabba of Westmoreland, Jamaica, his vocal range and dynamics allow him to not only sing soca but to navigate the rhythms of roots reggae and dance hall tunes. The intense and undulating drum and bass rhythms are locked down by drummer Lance Pollonais of Trinidad and Onesmo Kibira of Tanzania, while Tony Paul peppers the holes with percussive accents. Charles “Chilly” Petrus of St. Croix bubbles on the keys while the soukous melodies of Siama Matuzigidi’s magical guitar dance over the pulsating sounds of the Caribbean. The ensemble seamlessly weaves the various musical influences of Africa and the Caribbean into a compelling and delightful tapestry.
Northrop's Music on the Plaza concert series kicked off Wednesday, Jun 6. The second band to perform as part of the series is Sawyer's Dream, starting at noon on Jun 13. We asked guitarist Erik Newman, a University of Minnesota graduate, to tell us about the band. Here's his reply:
Sawyer’s Dream is a rare band. It’s a 7-piece band that contains members who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. It happened that way organically, over time. Members came and went and the ones who stuck chose to because they liked the talent and the collective vibe.
As the senior member, at age 56, I feel pretty lucky to be accepted by the younger band members. I’m sure for Buster and Ryan, in their 20s, it might be a bit weird being in a band with a musical dinosaur. But I think they appreciate the knowledge that myself and Sky (also on the older side) can share. Having been in successful bands in the past, we know the work ethic and attention to detail that it takes to be successful and can show them the ropes. They however, have to put up with our weird musical references. “Who the heck are the Go Gos, Bostonand Spanky and Our Gang?” they wonder.
For me, it’s nice to be around young positive energy and the bright-eyed aspirations of young musicians. It keeps things fresh and fun! And our three female singers--Monique, Tina and Adrianne--are simply amazing. When the harmonies gel, it’s a real honor to be in their presence.With a talented backing band mixed in, the whole thing becomes magical!
All in all, Sawyer’s Dream is a strange rag-tag bunch. Different ages, different walks of life, but we share mutual respect and a common goal to be a great band. Everybody is pretty cool with each other and I think it’s symbolic of where I hope the outside world can get to--a big melting pot of people learning cooperation, developing a spirit of kindness and creating something better.
Northrop's Music on the Plaza weekly noontime concert series kicks off Wed, Jun 6, featuring Siama's Congo Roots. Ahead of that first concert, we invited band member Dallas Johnson to blog about Siama Matuzungidi and his music:
Siama grew up in rural western Democratic Repbulic Congo and remembers his childhood fondly--vividly imagining zombies animating the jungle during the night and growing up an integral part of a community that was so intertwined that decisions were made by first seeking everyone's wisdom and support. In the evenings, his family would gather on a handwoven mat to tell stories and sing together among the chirping crickets, under a canopy of stars.
This is the experience Siama conjures whenever he takes to the stage. Siama and his band invites everyone to participate by singing (in Kikongo, Lingala and Swahili), dancing and letting imaginations soar to faraway places.
Given the media’s negative portrayal of DRC it may seem incongruous that Siama and I named our new kids’ CD “The Land of Yangalele” (which means “happiness” in Kikongo) but a nation isn’t a government. A nation is its people. Siama’s mother always shared with her kids this Bakongo wisdom, “The most important thing in life is something I can’t give you. You need to discover what makes you happy because that is your gift for the world.”