As we near the Solstice and Make Music NY’s city wide celebration, we wanted to share some insights from one of our new artists on the event he is leading.
Kevin Raczka is a very accomplished drummer and percussionist, having performed with some of the most vibrant talent on the “World Music” and Soul scenes, including Antibalas, Valerie June, and Lee Fields. Here he answers some questions from his Antibalas bandmate and MMNY Deputy Director, Jordan McLean about the new Greenwich Village event, Off The Afrobeaten Path.
JM: Is there an event or transition point in your life that has put you on the path to the work you do as an artist?
KR: I’ve been making music for most of my life but the turning point was when I decided to start playing drums when I was 18 years old and shortly after discovered the music of Fela Kuti, Youssou N’Dour, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Lady Smith Black Mambazo, Ali Farka Toure, Manu Dibango, Orchestra Baobab, Toumani Diabate and the list kept growing. The music felt so good to me and I needed to find out why. The more that I started to play this music the more that I felt connected to the ancestors of everyone on this planet that have been creating for many thousands of generations. After realizing that these are the true roots of humanity, as discovered by Genetecist Dr. Spencer Wells with the Genographic project, and the true roots of universal rhythm on this side of the cosmos I realized that this would be the path that I’m undoubtedly going to be taking for a while.
JM: What experiences as an artist has led you to this collaboration with Make Music NY?
Besides all the great collaborations and musical artists that i’ve been fortunate to work with in New York and travel the world with there’s one experience that has led me to have the desire to collaborate with Make Music NY. In the process of my journey to becoming a full time musician, performing in the NYC subway system with brass bands for MUNY has had a significant impact on the way that I perceive music being performed in public spaces and how it can uplift and bring community together. Scientifically speaking when we play music or experience it together its known that Oxytocin is released in the body. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide thats affiliated with breast-feeding and sexual contact, and is known to play an important role in increasing bonding and trust between people and the research on this gets deeper and deeper if you already don’t know. I would experience people from all over ny and the world coming out of their shells laughing, dancing, singing, and in some cases undressing! When my good friend Jordan McLean who I work with in Antibalas asked me to lead a parade of Afrobeat percussion I of course said absolutely count me in.
JM: What aspect of your Make Music Winter event has you most excited about December 21st?
KR: Getting to share musical Gifts alongside my Afrobeat Brothers and Sisters to random human beings on the streets of New York. You never know who you’ll run into on a parade down the street in the middle of the day in New York City. It’s always exciting and a joy to see people’s faces of surprise or excitement that there’s this random act of communal joyful noise and rhythm marching by them. It’s always sure to be an uplifting experience, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Off The Afrobeaten Path is a bevy of handheld percussion, creating a web of West African derived rhythm, blazing a trail through Greenwich Village (and let us not forget to mention free Two Boots pizza at the end!).
Whether you join this or any other of our unique events on our Winter Solstice schedule, we wish you a very happy, safe and healthy Solstice Season!