Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew

Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew

After packing the national stadium for performances in their home country of Sierra Leone and contributing music to the Academy Award–nominated film Blood Diamond, African superstars Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew are poised to conquer the global airwaves with their international debut album (due out in fall 2009) and their unique sound, which blends the swagger and funk of hip-hop, the passion and energy of dancehall, and the socially conscious vibe of reggae. The group has generated so much buzz in the hip-hop world that major stars including ?uestlove and Black Thought of the Roots, Talib Kweli, K’Naan, Res, and El-P have contributed their vocal and/or production talents to the upcoming release, helmed by the production team Fyre Department (whose credits include 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, GZA, Talib Kweli, Justin Timberlake). With this great collection of creatives, Bajah’s own star is rising as the Sean Paul of West Africa with the social conscience of Bob Marley and Fela Kuti.

So much more than just another hip-hop outfit, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew have been likened to another band renowned internationally for speaking out against political and social injustices: U2. In Sierra Leone, now emerging from the throes of a brutal 10-year civil war, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew are hailed as “the voice of the voiceless,” speaking truths on behalf of those people who have no political power, spreading messages of peace and reconciliation, outing corrupt politicians, and inspiring the disenfranchised youth to pursue their dreams. “We always speak about real stuff, like the suffering, what is going on,” says the group’s frontman, Bajah. “So most of the youth, the fans, are going crazy over it, because they think it’s the reality—that’s how it is. So they show mad love at times.”

Love is another theme of their music, and the joy and love their legions of fans have shown them comes through in their energetic, powerful live performances. The Crew—which consists of Bajah, A-Klazz, and Dovy Dovy in the U.S. and the Jungle Leaders (Funky Fred, Dell, and Sly) back in Sierra Leone—started writing, recording, and performing together in 2000, and quickly rose to the heights of fame in their home country, where everyone from young schoolchildren to village elders have come out to support Dry Eye’s music and message—often going to extremes to show these national heroes love and respect. “When we have a show in the national stadium, you see these guys making a long line, taking off their T-shirts and putting them on the floor so we can walk on it as a mat to go on the stage,” says A-Klazz. “Yeah. Red carpet,” Bajah adds with amazement. “A lot of love, man. For real.”

In Sierra Leone, the term dry eye is an expression of boldness. “The kids that always try to ask questions and want to know things are the dry eye. If you always coming up to talk to the elder people, trying to ask them certain questions, they say, ‘Oh, you, you’re dry eye,’ like, ‘You’re bold. You’re too bold!'” Bajah explains. “But we just use dry eye because we decide to talk about the bad things going on. Cause the leaders, we take them as our fathers—but we still gonna say some things, the reality. We just gonna stand, no matter what. No more tears in the eye. We’re just gonna stay dry eye and say something. You understand? That’s strong.

”We talk about different things,” Bajah continues. “We talk about love. We talk about life, social problems. Music is about life.” And now, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew are sharing their unique perspective on life and spreading their message of hope, love, and inspiration across the globe through their vibrant, infectious music and their electrifying live shows. And the world is listening…


Bajah

Bajah

The group’s frontman, Bajah, radiates a star quality. Known for his quick-fire flow, his confrontational lyrics, and his magnetic stage presence, he’s a national hero in Sierra Leone, where more than 30,000 cheering fans greeted his return home from his first trip to the U.S.

Bajah grew up in the Brookfields section of Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital. And though nobody else in his family showed an interest in music (his father was the community’s Imam, or spiritual leader), he started singing at an early age, dreaming of one day becoming a musician… or a soccer star.

When the war started closing in on Freetown, Bajah “went on vacation” to the neighboring country of Guinea to avoid the mounting violence. There, he honed his musical chops and also his athletic talent, playing in various soccer leagues and even representing his country on the Sierra Leonean national team in Guinea. But, he notes, “I was always a rapper. Always rapping with friends, and they loved it. After soccer training, I was always rapping. Everywhere I go, I would be singing, rapping.”

Bajah’s love of music led him to start DJ’ing at local clubs. That’s when he met the reggae group the Jungle Leaders; also Sierra Leonean refugees, they would go on to become his future Dry Eye collaborators. One night, at the club, one of his brother’s friends shoved him onto the stage to showcase his vocal skills. And the rest, as they say, is history: He started recording, moved back to Sierra Leone, and quickly became known as the fastest rapper in the country. So fast, in fact—and so huge was his fame—that a series of motorcycles was even named after him: The “Bajah” was the quickest bike available in West Africa at the time.

Currently living in Brooklyn with A-Klazz and Dovy, Bajah focuses all of his attention on his music these days, leaving little time for much else, except the occasional pickup soccer game in Prospect Park. “For me, I’m a music lover. I just love good vibes,” he says. “I listen to all kinds of music, as long as it’s catchy to me, I love the vibes no matter how it sounds.”

And while he takes his role as a musician incredibly seriously, he’s also acutely aware of the message he’s sending out to the world and passionate about making it a better place, especially for the people back home. “I just want people to know where I’m from—’cause I’m representing my country right now,” Bajah explains. “Through my music, I can make many people come over to my country. Most people don’t know about Sierra Leone. But if they learn that I’m a good musician from Sierra Leone, they might want to go over and see where I’m from.”


A-Klazz

A-Klazz

He’s the gruff-voiced showman of the group, and “A-Klazz got some comedy in him,” Bajah notes. But despite his vibrant, funnyman personality, A-Klazz overcame great odds to achieve his success as a rapper at home and abroad.

Growing up with his police-officer grandfather in Bo, a town in southern Sierra Leone, A-Klazz labored in the diamond mines, sharing $1 a day for food with the group he was working with. Those days were rough, he recalls: “You go in the morning and come back in the evening. You sleep. You eat. You come back. We’d be on that, like, eight months, and I’d never see a diamond.”
The war hit his hometown hard; the fighting was all around him. So the young A-Klazz used to go with his aunt into Freetown, with huge groups of people who made the trip together for safety purposes (“At that time you couldn’t travel by yourself,” he explains. “Every time I go, I have to wait for the convoy—50 or 60 cars.”) He began earning some money by smuggling cartons of cigarettes back to the soldiers fighting in the provinces. One day, at age 13, he went to Freetown with his aunt, and she left him there to stay. All alone in the big city, A-Klazz enrolled in school, earning school fees by working as a “houseboy” for his uncle – cooking, cleaning, and tending to the house.

It was about that time that he started getting into music; lip-synching to Goody Mob’s “Cell Therapy” in 1995 spurred his hip-hop dreams. He was living in the Brookfields section of Freetown, where, he remembers, “There was a beautiful street where everyone would come out and sit on the railings: Bass Street. Dovy was around the neighborhood too. We met there.” The two teenagers soon realized they had the same interests—especially music—and soon formed an alliance, competing together in the rap battles that went on in the various school compounds.

Together, A-Klazz and Dovy became known as the Baw-Waw Society. One day, they stumbled upon a talent show where a guy was performing a Shabba Ranks song. A-Klazz jumped onstage and took over. The crowd went wild—and Baw-Waw’s legend was born. They soon found a promoter and began recording. Before long, they had the No. 1 song on the radio: “City Life,” about boys trying to make it on the street.

Even though he’s reached the peak of fame back home, A-Klazz continues to work hard, striving to spread his music—and tell his story—across the globe. “I want people to know that I came from the slums. I’ve gone through so much, coming up with my age. And no one was there for me. I grew up by myself,” he says, adding some words of inspiration for anyone going through tough times: “It doesn’t matter where you at. You just do what you gotta do.”


Dovy Dovy

Dovy Dovy
Everybody says Dovy Dovy has a pure heart. A rapper with the soul of a reggae singer, he’s the mellow man in the Crew. “I don’t talk much. I observe things,” he says. “I don’t like to interfere in somebody’s business.” Bajah agrees: “Dovy is cool, man. He’s very laid back.”

Dovy grew up in Kabala, in the province of Sierra Leone known to be the most mystical. At age 12, Dovy fell ill, and his mother sent him to Freetown, suspecting that someone from his hometown had cast a spell on him. Once in Freetown, he started attending school, and got into music (“Bob Marley more than anything,” he says. “And some hip-hop stuff: Notorious B.I.G., Naughty By Nature… “). Rhyming came naturally to him and, before long, he was representing his school in the local rap battles held on the school compounds. A-Klazz competed for a different school, but since the two knew each other from the neighborhood, they decided to form an alliance—the Baw-Waw Society.

Dovy had already experienced much loss in the civil war –his elder brother was shot and killed by the rebels in the provinces – and by the time he and A-Klazz came together to perform, the war had spread beyond the provinces and descended upon Freetown. “I seen so many crazy things—blowing up houses, the courthouse,” Dovy recalls. “But we lived in the military area—so many military live in Brookfields. So they [the rebels] don’t go there; they go to the East part of Freetown. When they destroy people in the East, they come to the West for treatment. That’s where I see these people, sometimes with arms cut off, sometimes dying.

“Times become harder during the war,” he adds. “Prices and stuff. And we didn’t have the support to further our education. So we started doing business in the city.” It was at this time that the Baw-Waw Society started getting noticed: they got some promotion, started playing more shows, and their fan base grew. Eventually, they met an American producer who agreed to sponsor them, and Baw-Waw began recording singles and compilations. “That’s how we hooked up with Bajah,” Dovy says. “In the studio.”

These days he lives in Brooklyn, where he tries to say hi to people in the streets, just like they do back home (sadly, the New Yorkers rarely return the greeting). But even though he’s keeping up his African, loving ways, he’s still adapting well to his new country: “Dovy is like an American,” Bajah laughs. “He’s very prompt.”

He’s also the glue that holds the Dry Eye Crew together—which can be tricky, since the bandmates are also roommates, and some tension is bound to erupt occasionally. As A-Klazz explains, “Dovy always wants to talk about everything, because the more we talk, the more we know what’s going on.” For his part, Dovy says that keeping things harmonious is easy: “I know Bajah and A-Klazz. I know what they like, what they don’t like. I know how to deal with people like that. They’re cool,” he adds. “I never had a problem with them since we met.”


Sierra Leone

Kanye West and Leonardo DiCaprio may have lifted Sierra Leone into the international consciousness—filling us in on the blood diamonds and the fighting, the rebels and the poverty. But the war-frenzied media haven’t shown us the whole picture. What’s it like to be there, in this coastal West African nation that’s produced such warm, wonderful people and such powerful, soulful music?
Salone, as the locals call it, is a land of lush tropical jungles and sweeping mountain vistas, of turquoise oceans with white sand beaches and small villages with rusty-red dirt paths leading from hut to hut, where women cook cassava outdoors over coal stoves and men retire to shacks selling poyo, or palm wine, after a hard day’s labor. Indeed, in the 1980’s, Sierra Leone was often referred to as the “African Riviera”, with more than a few luxury resorts lining its coasts.

But Freetown—the country’s only real metropolis, overstuffed with people, traffic, stray dogs—comes alive at night, as its famously beautiful women steal the spotlight at the beat-laden parties that seem to last well past dawn from Monday to Sunday.

“If you are a stranger in Freetown, you have nothing to worry about,” Bajah says. “The people love strangers. They will do all they can to make you feel welcome. It’s just a part of our culture. All you have to do is respect Sierra Leone, and she will respect you right back.”
It’s true that visitors who go there invariably fall in love with the country—her stunning geography, vibrant people, and proud culture that stresses brotherhood and taking care of those around you above all else. “Yes, Sierra Leoneans like to celebrate life, but it’s only to balance out how hard they hustle. Their work ethic—and the tradition of respect that Bajah notes—permeates every aspect of existence here.

One of Freetown’s nerve center, King Jimmy’s market (a.k.a. “Belgium,” because you can get anything you need there), buzzes with constant activity, as business men and women get their daily grinds on, striving toward a better life for their families—selling goods and services to put food on the table, to pay their children’s mandatory school fees, to save up to buy some land. Even the kids in Sierra Leone get a taste of this ambition at an early age, growing up with a strong sense of responsibility and a deep-seeded conviction to make things better.

In so many ways, Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew’s music embodies this culture of respect—for the the elders, for the family, for the community, for the homeland—which may explain why it resonates so profoundly with the nation’s youth. Their lyrics, as well as their offstage personalities, honor the wisdom of those who came before them and merges that with a call to action for those kids coming up. In this sense, Dry Eye is not just a musical group in Salone—they’re a full-fledged movement.

And despite all the chaos and violence so prevalent in the media depictions of the country, the leaders of that movement—Bajah, A-Klazz, and Dovy Dovy—speak about their homeland with so much love and passion, it’s clear they wouldn’t trade Salone for anywhere in the world.

Sierra Leone facts

  • Size: 27,699 sq. mi.
  • Population: approx. 6.4 million
  • Capital: Freetown
  • Official language: English
  • Most commonly used language: Krio (a dialect that combines English with various African languages, as well as a little Spanish and Portuguese)
  • Ethnic groups: There are at least 14 tribes represented in Sierra Leone. The bigger ones include the Mende, Temne, Sherbro, Mandingo, Krio, Limba, Fula, Loco, Kono, Susu, Vai, and Kissi.
  • Religion: 60% Muslim, 30% Christian, 10% indigenous religions
  • Political system: democracy
  • Major exports: diamonds, cacao, coffee
  • Civil War time frame: 1991–2002
  • Geography: Mountains in the east, forests and plains in the center, 250 mi. of Atlantic coastline to the west (including the world’s third-largest natural harbor)
  • Neighboring countries: Guinea (to the north and east), Liberia (to the southeast)
  • Map: View map
  • Origin of the name: A Portuguese explorer called it Sierra Lyoa (which means Lion Mountain) in 1642, either for the shape of the mountains as you come in off the seas, or for the actual lions living in them — to this day, no one is sure. The name eventually evolved into Sierra Leone.
  • Historical context: Sierra Leone was an important center in the transatlantic slave trade. Artifacts from the slave trade can be found in and around the Freetown peninsula.



Jungle Leaders

The Jungle Leaders, Dry Eye Crew’s partner in crime…

The Dry Eye Crew grew out of three separate musical acts: Pupa Bajah (as a solo artist, Bajah was known as the fastest rapper in Sierra Leone), the Baw-Waw Society (A-Klazz and Dovy Dovy hit No. 1 on the charts with their song “City Life”), and the third branch of the Dry Eye family tree: the Jungle Leaders.
The Jungle Leaders—Sly, Funky Fred, and Dell—are a Sierra Leonean rap-reggae group who had already recorded an album when Bajah met them at a club in Guinea in 1998. Sly is the singer of the bunch—the lead vocalist, the master of melody. He’s also the analytical one, wanting to understand everything, with a the mind of a business man. The laid-back Funky Fred, on the other hand, balances out Sly’s strict ways. A rough-voiced rapper, Funky Fred knows how to charm people and tries to make sure everyone stays happy. He’s stylish and wild onstage, but, Bajah says, “When he’s on the mic, he’s really like a preacher, serious about what he’s saying.” Rounding out the threesome is Dell, also known as Captain Feeling… and about a hundred other nicknames. (Dell seems to come up with a new moniker for himself every day.) He’s also the self-described “specialist,” with his unique flow and knack for creating new dance moves. “He’s just like Elephant Man,” Dovy notes, “always dancing with the girls onstage.”

During the war, the Jungle Leaders lived in Guinea in a Sierra Leonean refugee camp. Bajah was also there, in the city of Conakry, deejaying in the nightclub Rumors 2, which his brother owned. That same brother had been working with a musical act—the Jungle Leaders—promoting their album. One night, Sly, Funky Fred, and Dell came into Rumors 2 and met Bajah, who asked if he could do some vocals over one of their dubs. The Jungle Leaders loved what he did, and a beautiful friendship was born. They started collaborating right away; one of their first hit songs featured Bajah’s vocals in the background.

When the war ended in the early ’00s, the Jungle Leaders returned to Freetown and continued making music, generating some buzz. They bumped into Bajah on the street one day; he introduced them to A-Klazz and Dovy Dovy (the Baw-Waw Society). All three acts were becoming big stars in the Sierra Leone music scene at the time, and they were all hanging out together. So, naturally, they decided to form a crew. They chose the name Dry Eye because it implied that they were revolutionary, fighting for the people—they weren’t going to cry anymore. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Currently, the Jungle Leaders divide their time between Sierra Leone and London, but they’re still a key part of the Dry Eye Crew, contributing to some tracks on the upcoming album and performing with Bajah, A-Klazz, and Dovy when they’re all in Sierra Leone. All six treat each other like brothers—different branches on the same family tree. And despite the distance that separates them, Bajah says, “at the end of the day, we all try to get on the same path to a final decision about what we’re gonna do.”


Extended Crew

Abena Koomson – vocalist

Abena is a performer, educator and graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. In addition to working on her own music project, Abena also recently starred in Fela! the musical as Funmilayo, a role which she will continue as understudy this fall when the musical hits Broadway. She is managing director of Actors Stock Company and founding member of Saheli, an a cappella women’s trio where she performs and composes.

Adam Deitch – album producer/drums

Adam Deitch may have been predestined to be a drummer. The son of two professional funk drummers and Berklee grads, Adam first picked up his sticks at the age of two. His first gig was at a school assembly for his kindergarten class. Adam’s career has crossed genres, focusing on hip-hop, funk and jazz, playing the role of both drummer and producer. He then honed his drumming and production skills while attending the Berklee College of Music in 1994.

He has gone on to producer tracks for some of today’s top emcees including 50-Cent, Redman, Talib Kweli, KRS-One, MF Doom, J-Live, Jurassic 5, Breeze Evahflowin, and Immortal Technic and done major session work on drums for artists including Justin Timberlake, Daniel Bedingfield, Anthony Hamilton, DJ Quik and Wyclef, Black Rob and Afu-Ru and the Fugees record.

Adam is a founding member of Lettuce. He now has branched out from hip-hop and funk, recording and touring with jazz legend John Scofield. Adam has recorded on two of John’s latest records (both released on legendary label Verve Records), Up All Night, which he also shares composers credit on many of the tracks and the Grammy nominated Uberjam.

B Satz – music director/bass

Brian currently plays bass and writes music with Pistolera, Tarrah Reynolds, Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew, Blitz The Ambassador, Emil Mcgloin, Doo-Wop Moderno, the Rubi Theater Company. He has recorded with these groups as well as with Pete Rock, Lord Jamar, Tony Touch, Rob Murat, Dan Zanes, and others. Brian is the co-founder and band leader of “Big Luther” which has backed up acts such as Slick Rick, Mobb Deep, Aloe Blacc, Rhymefest, Little Brother and more. Brian teaches songwriting in N.Y.C. public schools and different branches of the Brooklyn public library system and had the honor of playing bass for Jay-Z and the Illadelphonics as part of the Hustla Symphony Orchestra at Radio City Music Hall, for the 10th anniversary of “Reasonable Doubt”. Acts Brian has opened for include The Roots, Common, Wu-Tang, Carlos Santana, The Neville Brothers, Los Lobos, Ben Harper, Citizen Cope, Zap Mama, Spearhead, David Grisman, Hamza el Din, Hot Tuna, JJ Cale, Soul-Live, J-Live, and many more. I work with the NYC Hip-Hop Theater Festival and International Hip-Hop Exchange (IHX) as sort of a resident bassist when acts come to town from all over the world needing bass (Benji Reid, Majisterio, Akil Ammar, Boca Floja, Doble Filo, Anonimo Consejo and more). One time Brian won a raffle at the NYC Latin Funk Festival from a single entry and got two tickets to the Bahamas with hotel stay and food in the middle of winter. Nice.

David Bailis – guitar

David Bailis is a multi-talented musician best known for his skills as a guitarist. Equally accomplished as a composer, songwriter, producer and educator, David has showcased his musical talents throughout the world, performing to sold out crowds at legendary venues from Carnegie Hall in New York City to The House of Blues in L.A. In addition to touring internationally with a variety of artists, David is guitarist and writer/producer of the rock act ELIZABETH the Band, who were recently featured on the Hennessy Artistry Tour, headlined by Common. David is currently musical director and composer for the Off-Broadway show Wanted, which premiered in New York City in May of 2010. He has collaborated, recorded and performed with many great artists including Talib Kweli/Idle Warship, Rudy Gomis (Orchestra Baobab), Jon Scofield, The Roots, George Porter Jr. of the Meters, Ricardo Sanchez, The Superpowers, members of Slightly Stoopid, G Love, Jim Jones and Ceelo of Gnarls Barkley. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, David has been awarded numerous accolades and received enthusiastic attention from the music press including multiple features in the New York Times.

Daniel Soto – choreographer

Danny began studying at Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn under the guidance of Jamel Ganies, Laki Worreral, Kevin Joseph and Shirley Black Brown Coward. After attending Purchase College Dance Conservatory, he went on to perform in various international projects, such as the Spoleto Festival, Essence Awards, Acapulco Film Festival and many more.

Eric Biondo – trumpet

The New York Times had this to say about Eric Biondo: “With rapier wit, stunning musicality and wacky stage antics, Eric Biondo a.k.a. Beyondo performs with music acts ranging from trancey-fusion jazz groups to Monkees reunions, and his association with Davy Jones goes so deep that people have been gossiping if Eric is actually Davy’s “lost” son. You may know him from the afrobeat band Antibalas. But more to the point, he also has written himself the funniest bio ever. You can read it all here.

Mark “Tewar” Tewarson – guitar

Mark “Tewar” Tewarson is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer based out of Brooklyn, New York. His songs have appeared on ABC’s “Men in Trees,” MTV’s “Road Rules” and “The Real World”, HBO ‘s “The Wire”, and Comedy Central’s “The Amazing Johnathan Special”. Mark’s writing and playing spans various styles and genres and he has worked on multiple high-profile projects. Recently he recorded electric sitar for Patti Smith’s new record, “Twelve”, alongside Flea and Tom Verlaine. He is currently playing guitar and drums for the hit Broadway musical “Jersey Boys”. He has recorded with DJ Spinna, N’Dea Davenport (“The Brand New Heavies”), and Tracey Thorn (“Everything but the Girl”). In 2001 he was awarded BMI’s prestigious John Lennon Songwriting award by Yoko Ono.

As guitarist for the band Topaz, Mark toured the United States extensively and has shared the stage with acts like James Brown, Widespread Panic, Norah Jones, The Strokes, The Roots, The Wailers and many others. Mark is presently the guitarist and musical director of Falu, a seven piece band that blends Indian classical and folk traditions with pop songwriting and orchestration. He writes and records with producer Danzy as the group “t1r1” and frequently works with drummer and songwriter Robert Di Pietro (Norah Jones, Jesse Harris) as the duo “Tewar and DP”. They work freely with live and programmed music to create a sound uniquely their own. Mark draws from multiple musical traditions and is known for artfully blending them to create his own sound. He has recorded professionally on guitar, bass, keys, mandolin, ukulele, lap steel, vibraphone, viola, and sitar.

“Moist” Paula Henderson – baritone sax

Baritone saxophonist Moist Paula Henderson is a founding member of New York instrumental rock band Moisturizer and is a regular member of Greg Tate’s conducted improvisational orchestra, Burnt Sugar. She is in the 12th year of a weekly residency with Reverend Vince Anderson & The Love Choir, Brooklyn’s favorite gospel bar band and also released a solo “saxtronica” album under the moniker Secretary. She has also performed with TV On The Radio, The Roots, Gogol Bordello, James Chance & The Contortions and many others.

Sahr Ngaujah – artistic/theatrical director

Sahr stars as Fela Anikulapo Kuti in the new broadway musical Fela!, opening in October ‘09. His career spans work with F. Hendrioks, D. Hamilton and T. Habeger (Atlanta, GA) to G. Timmers (Rotterdam) and F. Richter (Berlin). He is the Theatre Director of Rotterdam’s Lef Act Festival and a collaborator with MC (Amsterdam). A graduate of Dasarts, his most recent creation is Conversations with Ice. Recent films include The Signal and Blood Done Sign My Name.

Swiss Chris – drums

Swiss born, Berklee School of Music Grad, Brooklyn representing, Grammy Award Winning Music Director/ Drummer, Emmy nominated Producer. Swiss has played and/or recorded with John Legend, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Wyclef Jean, Chuck D., DMC and Sir Elton John, among others. Founder of Saving with Instruments, Samples and Soundz (S.W.I.S.S.). Swiss is also a good talker and a healthy jokester.

Teodross ‘Teo’ Avery – tenor sax

Teodross Avery has performed and/or recorded with Amy Winehouse, Leela James, Roy Ayers, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Shakira, Matchbox Twenty, Joss Stone, Talib Kweli, Roy Hargrove, Pat Monehan (of Train) and many others. He has also released five albums under his own name, two of which were on GRP/Impulse Records. He also holds a Masters degree in Music from the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University and a Bachelor’s Degree from Berklee College of Music.

Wynne Bennett – keys

Composer/pianist/keyboardist Wynne Bennett, originally raised in North Bergen, New Jersey, has performed and appeared with diverse artists such as James Carter, Konstantin Lifschitz, Philip Glass, Joan Tower,Akim Funk Buddha, Jennifer Johns, Slick Rick, Little Brother, and Mobb Deep. As a composer, Wynne has co-written arrangements for grammy award winning jazz Vocalist Cassandra Wilson’s Glamoured album which were performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, and her band. Members of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s recently premiered her works ‘Insomnia’ for string quartet and ‘Tiny Chapters’ for flute and clarinet. The New York Times gave the performance of ‘Insomnia’ a favorable review, describing the work as “a quartet in which moments of intense emotionalism are offset by amusing touches and daring scoring effects”, and further compares Wynne’s writing to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’. She is also co-writing and recording songs with vocalist/actress Bridget Barken. Wynne also recorded with Vanessa Daou, Pete Rock, Emil Mc Gloin, and DBR & The Mission.

As a pianist, Wynne made her Kennedy Center debut at the age of 18 and has since performed in concert halls to clubs around the world. Wynne is currently performing internationally with the Tony Award Winning choreographer Bill T, Jones and his company, The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in “Another Evening: I Bow Down” and was commissioned to compose and perform in their next work “A Quarreling Pair.” She also collaborated with choreographer, Erick Montes and his dance company, and is music director for the Francesca Harper Project which premiered their newest work at the Holland Dance Festival in fall of 2007. She also is the keyboardist for Beetroot, who just released their album in Japan and opened up for GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. Wynne is currently a member of DBR & THe Mission and served as Music Director for the internationally acclaimed new music group for three years. She is recently being featured and was commissioned to collaborate in Daniel Bernard Roumain’s newest solo work, One Loss Plus, which will premier at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in fall of 2007.