Rhythm has the power to infuse your bones, clinching the very essence of what it means to be and guiding the listener toward the uncontrollable urge to boogie. One band has dedicated their sound to the sacred art of rhythm and dance by fusing the traditional style of Afrobeat with a bit of their own taste on the West African–born genre of music. Their name is Kumasi. Where Y’at sat down with band leader and drummer Logan Schutts and tenor saxophonist and singer Stefan Poole to see what Kumasi is all about.
WYAT: So, how did you get a 13-piece band to come together?
Logan Schutts: December of last year is when I decided [that] I think now is the time to start this band. The first person I got was Jonathon Solomon on the bass. He and I started working things out, working on original grooves, time signatures and how we could take this really great genre of music and continue it but also take it in a new direction and make it our own. It takes more patience and time to build it up one by one, but at least you know this is going to work.
WYAT: What in your musical past inspired you to create an Afrobeat band?
Schutts: I’ve always been attracted to music that is groove oriented. Then I started listening to Fela Kuti a few years ago. I first attempted to play Fela songs when I was in a funk band in Chicago. Over the years, I was able to pick out the patterns of what’s going on with Tony Allen’s drums, which for any readers who don’t know, Allen was Fela’s drummer until 1978 and helped him create Afrobeat. Then, for Christmas in 2013 my girlfriend surprised me with a trip to Paris to study with Tony Allen himself that May.
WYAT: So now that you’ve delved so far into the roots of the genre, how is it setting egos aside to learn all of these groove-oriented tunes with such a large instrumentation?
Schutts: On our website it says “we play to make you move,” and that’s really what we do. One thing I stressed when I started the group was that this band is not about the soloist. Every song we play has solos in it, but I’m always telling the soloist to just play the song. It’s about making the audience dance with what we can do as a group.
Stefan Poole: I feel like, with the kind of music we're playing, the way everyone's playing a different beat at a different time and linking together like some funky West African Voltron, there’s really no space for ego to fit in. If you start to get beside yourself with this music, you start to throw whole groups of people off and then you’re just a 15-car wreck, and where's your ego then?
WYAT: Do you think this rhythmic aspect of the music helps you stand out in town as far as live performances are concerned?
Poole: I think the caliber and style of music stand out a lot, as well as the fun atmosphere we tend to generate when we’re around each other. Also, there’s the jam element to our Afrobeat that just blows my mind sometimes.
Schutts: Wherever we play, the crowd is always bigger than when we started. I think that really says something. I think people are surprised to see this style of music; people who are not familiar with this style of music like it, dance and ask us about what it is we’re doing.
WYAT: This band seems so passionate about what they’re doing. Can you tell me, what you mission is.
Poole: To pull Afrobeat out of obscurity in one of the greatest musical hubs in the world. To give it legs in a land where it can grow to be a giant, and to have a friggin’ blast while doing it.
Schutts: Our ultimate goal is to get people to dance and have a good time.
Photos by Julie Verlinden