We couldn't have created RIVERS without the talents of the musicians and artists! Check 'em out:
We can't say enough about the expertise and partnership of Steve Kaul from Wild Sound Studios. This project included so many musical contributors from such completely different genres, each requiring a specific set-up for tracking and a particular EQ and placement in the mix. Before we even began, Steve met with us to help map out a sequence for the recording sessions. He offered so many great ideas that from the beginning it was evident he was filling a substantial and crucial role in making Siama's record what it is. Engineer, Co-Producer, Doula & more! Steve's a magician in the studio and he's also a fantastic guitarist and song-crafter. A few years ago, he invited Siama and Nirmala to share the stage with Brass Kings at the Cedar and the rest, as they say, is history. In a very literal way, he not only birthed the beginning of this project, we're so blessed that he helped us bring it into the world. He's the absolute best. Thank you Steve! (Thanks also to Matt Zimmerman of Wild Sound. So great to be "home" again in your wonderful studio.)
Dallas Johnson is Siama's right hand, i.e. album co-producer, vocalist, manager, agent, promoter, photographer, web designer, grant writer, accountant and content developer. A singer/songwriter in her own right, Dallas has two independent, original jazz albums available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other digital sites. She composed two songs on Grammy award winner Jevetta Steele's last album, she recorded a House single that was released internationally on Om Records and another on electronic jazz duo Keston and Westdal's album. In addition to music, she leads a community arts festival and shenanigrins in her neighborhood, she's shown her photographs professionally, she's a storyteller and a student of Improv theatre. After a lifetime of studying Western music and dabbling in reggae, calypso and other styles, she says Siama's music, "saved my life" because he's so free and encouraging and fun to create with. She quit her 20 year corporate job in August 2015 to work with Siama full time, they married in October 2015 and she looks forward to seeing where music and art will take her next.
We're so blessed that Tony Axtell played bass on the record! He added so much flavor, finesse and funk, it's borderline dangerous. Click the link and check out the endless list of people Tony's worked with, I'm talkin' Prince, Meryl Streep, Vince Gill, Lily Tomlin, Iris Dement, Steve Martin, Arlo Guthrie, Carole King, Nick Lowe and on and on. Everybody who hears the new record exclaims, "WHO is the bass player??" Seriously, his contributions made a massive impact on this music and inspired us all. When we were mixing the music, I kept finding myself wanting to feature isolated Tony tracks in every song. (Dallas and Tony have been friends since they played together back-in-the-day so this project represents a wonderful reunion of kindred spirits.)
Nirmala Rajasekar. Nirmala (Bush Fellow and McKnight Fellow) is a world-renowned Carnatic veena virtuoso of South Indian Music and we’re thrilled she’ll join us at the upcoming concert. When we shared the Cedar stage with her a few years ago we were captivated by how she brings her musical tradition into perfect union with Siama’s traditional sounds from DR Congo. What an inspiration! We can’t wait for you to hear her on Siama’s new CD.Totally. Rock. Star. www.nirmalarajasekar.com
Vocalist/Producer/Songwriter JD Steele is a Bush Fellow and Emmy award-nominee who’s written/performed/recorded with Prince, Donald Fagen, George Clinton, Mavis Staples, The Steeles and many more. His performance in Gospel at Colonus (on Broadway) was legendary, he’s contributed to so many albums and soundtracks, he leads a fantastic choir in Nairobi, Kenya, teaches at MacPhail and does so much other stuff around the clock that his energy is nothing short of Supernatural. We're crazy about JD's musicianship, we enthusiastically love him as a true-blue friend, we're astonished by the lush, layered harmonies he added to Siama’s new album.
We’re honored we got to record and perform with our friend Tenzin Ngawang. Siama met Tenzin (a native Tibetan) when the Ordway hired them to participate in a series where they composed music on-the-spot. Their creativity and open-ness “clicked” and they made a plan to play together again. The time has come! Tenzin played on Siama’s new record and will grace our concert with his transfixing vocals and lilting dranyen (a traditional Tibetan stringed instrument). For 18 years Tenzin studied with the esteemed Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamsala, India, which was founded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to preserve and promote the traditional performing arts of Tibet. Tenzin achieved mastery in Tibetan Opera, folk dances, songs and a number of musical instruments. He’s performed all over the globe and he teaches for the Tibetan American Foundation of MN. He’s also the leader of a Tibetan rock band called Melong. Tenzin adds such beauty to Siama’s music and elevates our spirits to the sky.
We first fell in love with Joe Savage's pedal steel playing when we shared a bill and invited him to join our set. He added so much cool flavor, we just couldn’t make the album without him. Joe’s had an incredible career. He's performed with the late Hank Thompson, Peter Ostroushko, Bonnie Raitt, among a lifetime of others, and he’s recorded with Joey Molland, Vibro Champs, Honeydogs and many more. He’s received two MN Music Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the MN Rock/Country Hall of Fame.
We forged a friendship with Jacqueline at a celebration for McKnight Fellows and we immediately began incubating ideas for combining her masterful and genre-bending cello with Siama's traditional Congolese sounds. She's the recipient of many awards including a MacPhail Commissioning Grant, a McKnight Performing Artist Fellowship, a MN State Arts Board Tour Grant, an ACF Subito Grant and more. Her unique versatility is reflected in the diversity of her artistic collaborations which include storyteller Kevin Kling, Jelloslave, The Starfolk and more. She holds a Master's Degree in Performance from Yale University and she's a dedicated teacher.
Greg Schutte (drummer, producer and sound designer) has performed and recorded with an impressive array of artists, including The Mickey Hart Band, Chastity Brown, Todd Clouser's A Love Electric, The Hornheads, Jelloslave, Lori Line, Empire Brass, Chuchito Valdez, Bernard Allison, Mary Cutrufello and many more. He's currently gearing up for a 2016 summer tour with Ryan Bingham. From 2013-15 Greg was the touring and recording drummer for the Legendary Grateful Dead Drummer Mickey Hart. He’s also performed on B.B. King's '02 US "Summer Blues Fest" with The Shane Henry Group, Ruf Records '04 European "Blues Caravan" Tour with guitarist Sue Foley, and Cyndi Lauper's '06 "Body Acoustic World Tour" with Mpls Reggae Pop group The RULE. In 2010 Greg toured Iraq and Kuwait performing for the US/Coalition Forces with singer/songwriter Keri Noble and 2008-2010 he toured and recorded with Lorie Line and her Pop Chamber Orchestra. In 2011, Greg performed for Todd Clouser's A Love Electric European Tour, with additional dates in Mexico. Greg is currently producing his 7th year of commissioned original compositions for Ananya Dance Theatre, 2009-2016, premiering in Trinidad, Zimbabwe, New York and Minneapolis. Greg also owns and produces music at The Bathtub Shrine Recording Studio in NE Minneapolis. With all he’s got goin' on, we’re so lucky Greg played drums on every song on the new record.
When we were selecting musicians for the record, only one keyboardist came to mind and lucky for us, he was available because his incredibly funky tastiness instantly became integral to the sound. Brian recorded grand piano on all 12 songs and added Hammond B3 on Sisili. He’s a uniquely versatile musician, aptly crossing musical boundaries while being true to his signature style. Brian’s toured with the star-studded funk group FDeluxe and with popular Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer. Using his considerable jazz chops, he’s performed with Kneebody, saxophonist Ben Wendel, pyrotechnic violinist Christian Howes and noted avant garde clarinetist Jean-Brice Godet. He performs locally in his own projects and with a wide range of artists, including acclaimed R&B vocalist Fred Steele, Bruce Henry, Ginger Commodore, Timotha Lanae, and the Peter Vircks Quartet…and now Siama Matuzungidi.
Tim O'Keefe (an award winning percussionist/multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger) has long been a key figure in the MN world music scene and when I say, “world music”, I mean it! Tim’s skilled and knowledgeable about music from Brazil, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, India, Africa and probably a bunch more I don't know about. Besides founding many of the most beloved world music ensembles in the Twin Cities, he’s performed with many internationally renowned artists including Nirmala Rajesekar, Simon Shaheen, Sattar, Siwan Perwar and he recently recorded a duet CD with awarding winning Jordanian musician Sakhar Hattar. Tim has performed at many prestigious concert venues nationally in NYC, DC, Chicago, Houston and at International festivals and he’s composed music for many theater, dance productions and a nationally touring museum exhibit. We have a ball playing music with Tim.
Zacc Harris is a jazz guitarist and composer based in the Twin Cities. When we shared a bill with Zacc at Patrick's Cabaret we fell in love with his playing and knew he had play on Siama's new record. His singular voice on guitar and his stellar instincts are spot-on. Zacc co-leads the group Atlantis Quartet and leads the Zacc Harris Group, while performing as a sideman with a number of artists. He has toured throughout the US and UK and been featured on over twenty albums
Bobby J Marks
We love the subtlety of the trumpet lines Bobby J laid down on Siama's new record. Bobby Jay plays regularly with Brass Messengers and with Malamanya. Click his name to see a lovely video featuring him with Malamanya when the lead singer was our friend and fellow musical experimenter Adriana Lisette, now known as "Lady Midnight".
We're so grateful to Marina Maric for consulting with us about social media and promotion and for referring us to graphic designer Ona Benoit. We're really pleased with the CD artwork and other collateral Ona made for us. She brought lots of great ideas to the table like the logo she created en homage to Congolese Kuba cloth and we love the little river bird she drew next to the bar code on back of the CD case. She also made the text on the CD itself look like running water, it was her idea to increase the gold tones in the photographs (to emphasize Siama's happy disposition) and she surprised us with an old-school fold-out poster in the liner notes. (Bonus!) Ona specializes in brand-building and she's a delight to work with. To check out the artwork, purchase Siama's new CD here
Our beloved KFAI. "Radio Without Boundaries" offers an astonishing diversity of music and there’s never been a bigger supporter of local music. We're super grateful for all of the deejays that've helped Siama launch his solo career over the past year and a half by having us in for live performances and for playing the music and promoting shows:
Brad Wrolstad, Jojo and Deborah (Thursdays noon-2pm)
Dan Rein (Sundays 9-11am)
Harold Tremblay (Wednesdays 4-6:30pm)
Blanche (Fridays 10a-noon)
Tony Paul (Mondays noon-2pm)
Larry Englund (Saturdays 10:30a-noon)
Doug Cain (Wednesdays noon-2pm)
Ryan Dawes (M-F 6-8am) and others.
What'a family! Here's to the big ears and big hearts at KFAI.
Special thanks goes out to fellow musician Mikkel Beckmen for opening KFAI doors to us.
Click the blue link above to check out KFAI's program schedule (and donate too).
During Siama's CD release event (May 2016) we had people bring instruments to donate to Vega Productions so they can help more kids get into music! They've been doing this in MN for a decade and last year they went international by launching Instruments in the Cloud, an online platform anyone in the world can use to donate no-longer-used musical instruments directly to a local school. Amazingness! Every child should be able to participate in music education - not just the ones who can afford it.
Noah Keesecker and Springboard - a fantastic hands-on resource for MN artists. Noah's taught us about social media, financial record-keeping, funding sources, grant-writing tips and marketing…you know, totally game-changing stuff. In additional to 1:1 consultations, Springboard offers free workshops, an incredible resource library and a terrific artist’s handbook. If you’re an artist, check them out pronto.
Receiving a fellowship in 2014 inspired Siama's solo career and changed the course of his life so we'll first honor the McKnight Foundation. They contribute ~$1.7 million/year, proving they mean it when they say, "Minnesota thrives when artists thrive". Click the link to check them out and if you're an artist, we highly recommend you apply!
ADDITIONAL PERFORMERS FROM THE MAY 2016 CD RELEASES SHOW:
We’re delighted that Joe Shalita emcee'd Siama’s CD release show. He’s a charismatic performer and a cherished friend. Born in a village in southern Tanzania, Joe studied with famed percussionist and cultural icon Mzee Morris Nyakyusa. He picked up his first guitar in Uganda and later in Kenya he fell in love with music coming out of DR Congo (then Zaire), which was how he first learned about Siama. Little did he know years later they’d become brothers and musical partners all the way across the world. We can thank Joe for bringing African music to Minneapolis over 30 years ago when he formed Sweet Taste of Africa and later a band called Shalita. In the late 90s, he, Siama and others formed Marimba Africa band and they've packed dance floors ever since.
Fanaka ("blessing" in Swahili) is going to be on-hand to rev up our energy at the beginning of Siama's show. Fanaka is a musical artist, poet, and dancer who's surrounded by enthusiastic fans everywhere he goes. With over 10 years in the entertainment industry, he's been named "Best New Artist" by Torch Light Awards, he's opened up for Sauti Sol, Nameless, Nonini and he's performed all over the US, including the Kenyan Memorial Festival in Dallas. His new EP cd "Plan Be" will be releasing Summer of of 2016. Fanaka is also son of our dear friend Jojo. www.fanakanation.com