Tag Archive for alumni music

Alumni-Led Kitchen Ceilí and Friends Performs Traditional Music Spanning Cultures

Kitchen Ceilí and Friends performed at Russell House on Sunday afternoon of Family Weekend.

Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features private lessons teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD ’94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. A ceilí (English pronunciation: kā’lē) is a traditional Gaelic social dance or gathering with music.

On Sunday, the trio was joined by “Friends”—the Hindustani vocalists of the Rangila Chorus and vocalist/guitarist Sam Scheer—and the group widened their geographic focus, performing not only original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, and Scotland, but also from South Asia.

The event was held in conjunction with the Center for the Arts’ Music at the Russell House Series.

Photos of their concert are below: (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)



 

MGMT’s Goldwasser ’05, VanWyngarden ’05 Release 4th Album

MGMT, a musical group formed in 2002 by Andrew VanWyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, is back on the scene with their fourth album Little Dark Age, released in 2018. This recent release is their first in half a decade and it represents a fresh, but familiar, musical direction.

Unlike their last two albums, which veered towards the eccentric, Little Dark Age exhibits a clear pop influence and psychedelic retro synths with haunting, serious, and dark undertones.

In their eponymous song, “Little Dark Age,” for instance, they hint at a quotidian melancholy in the first verse:

“The ruins of the day/ Painted with a scar/ And the more I straighten out/ The less it wants to try/ The feelings start to rot/ One wink at a time.”

Then, in the chorus, VanWyngarden croons into the mic, “Oh I grieve in stereo/ The stereo sounds strange.”

Like many alumni musicians, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser got their start on campus. At Wes, they went by the name “The Management” and during their four years both dabbled in an eclectic mix of genres like blues, hip-hop, prog rock, and even classic country. The music of the ’80s had a particular influence on their performances during college; as The Management, the two actually performed a 45-minute cover of the “Ghostbusters” song at a campus event.

Watch MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” below:

The Rooks’ Taylor ’12 Releases Single, Collaborates with Dancers

Garth Taylor ’12, a member of The Rooks, is also starting a solo career with “Human Nature.” In the video for the song, he collaborates with alumni he knew as talented artists when they were undergraduates. (Photo by Bennett Taren ’12)

Garth Taylor ’12 is branching out. Over the past five years he has witnessed his Wesleyan band, The Rooks, expand beyond raucous campus concerts. Since graduation, they’ve relocated to New York City and to shows at larger and more established venues. His confidence and skills have grown in tandem with his band’s. And now he feels ready for a new challenge—a solo career, with the song “Human Nature.”

“It was a slow decision. In fact, I don’t even know if it was a decision,” he says. At first he didn’t feel very confident. But the city, so full of creative energy and collaboration, seemed to push him to expand his artistic limits. After arriving, he began to pursue background singing to broaden his skills and to adapt to the music industry.

But of course, he also sang out of necessity: “I’m an artist and I live in New York City—you have to pay some bills, here!”

In 2014, around the same time he took up background singing, he also began to collaborate with a friend from Toronto who had stayed with him in the city. “It was with him that I wrote my first solo song,” he recalls. The two traded tracks and Taylor began to find his own style, drawing upon the R&B and Neo Soul sounds. Some inspirations include D’Angelo, Frank Ocean and Solange.

Riker ’14 Presents Musical Comedy at Summerfest

Simon Riker ’14 (left) with Emerson Sieverts

Simon Riker ’14 (left) with Emerson Sieverts

Composer and musician Simon Riker ’14 showcased the original musical comedy Me Prometheus: Caveman Love Story at this year’s NY Summerfest Theatre Festival over the weekend. Conceived by Riker in 2010 and written in collaboration with friend Emerson Sieverts, the absurd full-length show about the prehistoric discovery of fire was produced first at Wesleyan and again at William and Mary. This summer, Me Prometheus appeared in its third live iteration with four sold-out shows on the New York Theatre Festival stage.

In an article for the Times Square Chronicles, Riker is described as a “composer, music director, singer, and keyboardist.” He developed his interest in music at a young age and continued to hone his skills as an undergrad:

Rapper Latasha Alcindor ’10 Releases New Album

Latasha Alcindor ’10

Latasha Alcindor ’10

Brooklyn rapper Latasha Alcindor ’10, also informally known as LA, is following up the release of her debut album B(LA)K. with her newest project, Teen Nite at Empire. The project is named for the Empire Rolling Skating Center, a former nightlife venue in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, which closed its doors in 2007 due to increasing gentrification in the area. As described on her Bandcamp––where audiences can listen to and purchase the album––it is dedicated to “the around the way ones, 2 for $5 bootlegs and realizing freedom.” Having grown up frequenting and coming of age at Empire’s regularly hosted Teen Night, Alcindor uses music as a platform to remember and resurrect the culture that has been pushed out.

In a recent interview with Noisey, Alcindor discusses the significance of Empire to her experiences as a Caribbean-American teenager coming up in ’90s Brooklyn:

Kini ’13 and Edizel ’14 Direct Music Video about White Privilege

ParkSlope

from ‘Park Slope’

Multimedia artists Aditi Natasha Kini ’13 MALS ’16 and Hanna Edizel ’14 recently premiered the music video for “Park Slope,” a song from rapper, producer and 2010 Wesleyan alumnus OHYUNG. The co-directors were joined by cinematographer Neo Sora ’14 and actor Stephen Acerra ’12 in creating an absurdist accompaniment to OHYUNG’s record, which parodies Brooklyn gentrification and the “lifestyle” it sponsors for white gentrifiers.

Focusing on Park Slope, one of New York City’s most affluent neighborhoods, OHYUNG and his collaborators enter into a larger citywide and national dialogue about the ever-growing problem of gentrification. As Kini explains in an interview with Brokelyn, “Park Slope is a petri dish for everything bad that’s happening in New York.”

Brubeck ’69 Takes His Jazz Quartet on Tour

Darius Brubeck ’69

Darius Brubeck ’69

Jazz pianist, band leader and composer Darius Brubeck ’69 recently toured in Israel with his renowned Darius Brubeck Quartet as part of the Hot Jazz Series. The quartet performed seven shows across the country from June 3 to 10, presenting compositions written by Brubeck and his late father, a legendary jazz pianist best known for his album Time Out.

Before returning to a career as a touring musician, Brubeck spent many years at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa, where he founded the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music. Both an artist and an academic, he has toggled between these identities for many years.

Music by Myhre ’05 To Be Broadcast on NPR’s Mountain Stage in May

Jess Eliot Myhre ’05

Jess Eliot Myhre ’05

Jess Eliot Myhre ’05 is a professional touring musician with the band Bumper Jacksons. Their newest album, “I’ve Never Met a Stranger,” will be broadcast nationally on NPR’s Mountain Stage on May 5. The live performance will air on more than 200 NPR stations around the country, and the band will perform five original songs from the record.

The group originally began as a duo—Jess Myhre (clarinet, vocals, washboard) and Chris Ousley (acoustic and electric guitar, vocals, banjo)—crafting a sound inspired by the jazz clubs of New Orleans and southern Appalachian folk music festivals.

Best ’14 Returns to Campus for Soul and Jazz Performance

Jess Best '14

Jess Best ’14

Singer-songwriter Jess Best ’14 returns to campus on Jan. 29 to perform her original soul and jazz influences at the Russell House, the first performance of the spring Music at The Russell House series.

Best, who was a music major, says she is influenced by Erykah Badu, Joni Mitchell, and Esperanza Spalding, and believes her time at Wesleyan has prepared her for a career in music. She explained, “Although I still constantly feel like I need to work extremely hard to feel at all prepared for being a musician, I’m so grateful I took visual arts classes and writing classes, in addition to being a music major. It’s been so crucial to be able to draw upon those approaches amidst my songwriting practice.”

Since graduation, Best has stayed connected to the Wesleyan music scene. In the past, she gave a songwriting workshop at the Alpha Delta Phi Society and performed with her band at the Earth House. Best said, “I believe in the music community at Wesleyan so much and hope the current student body can foster something as special as what I experienced when I was there.”

Best, now based in Manhattan, will be releasing new music this summer. She released an EP, Kid Again, in 2016, and her debut album, Gone Baby, in 2014, which featured many Wesleyan students and alumni. Additionally, she has a residency in Brooklyn at 61 Local where she performs every Monday night.



Watch the music video for “Tried to Run” from the Kid Again EP.

Sudanese-American Singer Elgadi ’04 Releases New Album

Sarah Mohamed Abunama Elgadi ’04, known by her stage name Alsarah, recently released a new album, Manara, with her band, Alsarah & the Nubatones. Manara, or The Lighthouse, is rooted in the style of Sudan and Nubia, and inspired by East-African music.

KCET.org says Manara “is more fluid and free-flowing than the band’s debut album, lifted by moaning trumpets and humming electronics, broken up by interludes of radio static and bits of the album’s penultimate track ‘Fulani.’”

Alsarah, who was a music major at Wesleyan, is a Sudanese-born singer, songwriter, and ethnomusicologist based in Brooklyn. She is a self-proclaimed practitioner of East-African retro-pop. She has toured both nationally and internationally, and has released one full-length album titled, Aljawal, and two full-length albums with her current band, Alsarah & the Nubatones.

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Watch the full-length music video of “Soukura” from Alsarah & the Nubatone’s sophomore album, Manara.

NPR Previewed SXSW Performers Elion ’15 and Mitchell ’15 of Overcoats

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival.

NPR’s All Songs Considered featured the former Wesleyan band Overcoats in its preview of the 2016 South by Southwest Music festival in Austin Texas. Overcoats, made up of Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, have made the leap from small on-campus concerts to performances in New York City’s Mercury Lounge and the Longitude Festival in Ireland. Currently, Overcoats resides in New York City where they are performing and recording new music in studio.

Overcoats describe their style as “combining electronic backdrops with soaring, harmonic intimacy — a sort of Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkel.” Their songs “draw strength from vulnerability, finding uplifting beauty in simple, honest songwriting,“ the duo write.

In their preview, NPR host Bob Boilen wrote, “The charming East Coast duo Overcoats reminds me of [the Scandinavian folk duo] My bubba — the heart of what these two do is in the playfulness of their vocal performances.”

Rapper Le1f ’11 chooses his American music playlist

Rapper Le1f ’11 discussed the qualities of American music on NPR's 'Here & Now.'  (Photo: Le1f.com)

Rapper Le1f ’11 discussed the qualities of American music on NPR’s ‘Here & Now.’ (Photo: Le1f.com)

New York rapper and music producer Khalif Daoud ’11, known professionally as Le1f, was one of the musicians polled by WBUR-Boston and NPR’s Here & Now with the question “What is American music?”

“Growing up, the idea of ‘Americana’ as a word was intimidating to me,” he told hosts Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. “The patriotism behind it, and the American dream, I always related that to whiteness and I didn’t easily see how I fit into that category, that culture. But I came to understand that blues and jazz and rock and roll, and all these other genres, that’s folk music to me.”

Asked to assemble a playlist, he offered first, “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals (1962, written by Gerry Goffin, Carol King, Phil Spector), explaining, “It feels American to me in the way it expresses such a sad story in such a frank way. It doesn’t condone domestic abuse, but it also doesn’t preach, either. That’s a style that… I’ve only experienced in American folk music and blues music.”

His second song choice, “Unpretty” by TLC (1999, FanMail), was important to him: “They discuss issues of self image and body dysmorphia in this anecdotal way and very empowering way…. That was such a big song for me. I don’t remember taking note to uplifting music in that way until this song happened.”

“Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean (2012, Channel Orange) was third on his playlist: “Having such a beautiful iconic singer tell the story of a same-sex love… it was a big turning point for how R&B and urban America might accept someone who isn’t straight and support their work.”

His own song, “Taxi,” off his latest album, Riot Boi, he explained, is a song “about my personal fears of rejection over my complexion and how that has been met in reality, both romantically and in very small ways… “

All four, he noted, gave voice to the black American dream, describing struggles to which he could relate and with an acceptance of difference in perspective, of moral ambiguity.

To listen to the interview and accompanying music clips, click here.