Candelaria Band Bringing Latin Sound To Eugene


The exotic sound of Candelaria Band is coming to Eugene for the first time.

The Oakland, Calif. based band that has a unique Latin sound will be performing at 10:30 p.m. on November 22 (Friday) at Luckey’s Club.

Photo courtesy: Candelaria Band.
Photo courtesy: Candelaria Band.

Founding member Dan Candelaria said, “It’s mostly cumbia music, and we infuse it with reggae and dub reggae.”

Candelaria said the band’s influences include King Tubby, 1970s reggae, Andres Landero, and Toto la Momposina among others. The band’s lyrics focus on the U.S.-Mexican border and other issues but he said they focus on human stories related to the issues rather than get political.

“We’re really excited,” Candelaria said about coming to Eugene. “We’re doing things I would never have foreseen. We’re coming up to Oregon. I’m playing with my best friends.”

Tayberry Jam 2012 Is Alive and Well


Tayberry Jam 2012 Is Alive and Well

Cougar Mountain Farm has a long history of gatherings–the Eugene-based Hoedads cooperative held mountainside work parties there during the 1970s. Shoshoni and Kalapuya tribes held vision quests and other rituals there, centuries before Western settlers arrived.

One of the Wemples' tayberry bushes. A tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry.

And, more recently, local environmentalists, hippies, and reggae fans have gathered there annually for the Tayberry Jam, a multi-day summer benefit concert, dedicated to raising money towards an educational resort on the mountainside. The farm’s owners, Noah and Anna Wemple, created Tayberry Jam in 2006, and also hold smaller-scale educational summits on their property.

This year, despite brief speculation that it would be cancelled, the seventh annual Tayberry Jam will be held from Aug. 3-5, this year, at Saginaw’s Cougar Mountain Farm. The general public is invited to attend, and camp under a full moon for the entirety of the festival.

“The Tayberry Jam is a representation of the ideals of the back-to-the-land movement that we represent,” Noah said. “We hope to impact the community at large by teaching sustainable living skills.”

The three-day concert will feature more than 55 different musical acts, hip-hop, reggae and rock acts. Headlining Friday will be electro hip-hop artists Lafa Taylor and Medium Troy, the latter of whom has won three consecutive WOW Music Hall awards in various categories.

Also performing on Friday, for the second year in a row, will be the reggae group Sol Seed. Benny Pezzano, bass player and vocalist for the local band, said the venue is a favorite amongst many area artists.

“We’ve played at seven or eight festivals in the northwest, and so far, Tayberry Jam was all of our favorite festivals,” Pezzano said. “Every musician we talk to pretty much agrees that Tayberry Jam is the best vibing festival around.”

On Saturday, Mabrak and Marv Ellis will headline. Mabrak is a well-respected reggae group with some popular 70s releases, led by veteran drummer Leroy Mabrak. Marv Ellis is a local MC who has performed with many notables in the hip-hop community, including KRS-ONE and Chuck D.

Shortly before either of them take the stage, local didgeridoo master Tyler Spencer is scheduled to play. The didgeridoo is a long, wooden wind instrument originally from Australia, that produces a low, rumbling drone sound.

Spencer has put out several CDs, and crafts his own “didges,” often out of Agave wood he harvest himself in Arizona. This will be his second Tayberry Jam.

“It was unfortunate we had some rain come through, but there were some great bands, some amazing musicians, and a good vibe,” Spencer said of his experience in 2011. “I really like what they’re doing up there.”

The view from one of the Tayberry Jam's campsites, overlooking the Cougar Mtn. Farm apple orchard.

On Sunday, the Cottage Grove-based acoustic group The Harmed Brothers will headline, and much of the day will be dedicated to a permaculture summit, when the Wemples will teach their sustainable living techniques.

The Wemples’ vision of setting up an educational resort on the farm is rooted in their history on the mountainside. Cougar Mountain Farm is off the grid, which means that the Wemples have had to provide everything; food, shelter, electricity, and running water, by themselves.

Both Noah and Anna are descendants of the Hoedads, a Eugene-based forester group that became the largest worker-owned cooperative during the 70s. Anna’s father, Hal Hartzell Jr., authored a book about the Hoedads in which he describes worker parties held on Cougar Mountain during that time. Noah’s father, the late Edd Wemple, was an organizer amongst the Hoedads, and acquired the Cougar Mountain property in 1972.

Since then, the Wemples have built their own two-story house, from lumber on their property. Using solar panels, they’ve supplied themselves with water, internet, and TV. They also grow an organic apple orchard, as well as a litany of other fruits and vegetables, and they keep livestock.

“Around 2002, we realized we had a roadmap of how to successfully implement a sustainable homestead, off the grid,” Noah said. “That’s what moves us; for that opportunity to touch other people’s lives.”

Weekend camping passes for Tayberry Jam are $80 for the weekend, or $40 at the gate for just Sunday. “Early bird” discount deals are available through the Tayberry Jam’s website.

Carpooling is encouraged, and pets aren’t allowed. Cougar Mountain Farm is located at: 33737 Witcher Gateway, in Cottage Grove. The Tayberry Jam will be held from August 3-5, 2012.

A Conversation with Jah Sun: Reggae, Hip-Hop, World Music


A Conversation with Jah Sun: Reggae, Hip-Hop, World Music

Nate Gartrell, EDN

A picture of Jah Sun, courtesy of Elliot Blair

Based in Humboldt County, Jason McCommas, aka Jah Sun, is an internationally-known reggae/hip-hop artist, who was nominated for an LA Music Award in 2006, for his single “Fiyah Dance.” But he’s no stranger to the Eugene area, having performed in many Tayberry Jams and Northwest World Reggae Festivals.

Jah Sun will be returning to Eugene on April 19, as part of a tour to promote his recently released album, “Battle the Dragon.” In this exclusive interview with Eugene Daily News, he discusses an upcoming collaboration with international reggae artists and Ethiopian youth, as well as how personal struggles growing up led him to music, and ultimately reggae and Hip-hop.

Eugene Daily News: How did you come up with the name “Jah Sun?” Your real name is “Jason,” did that have anything to do with it?

Jah Sun: Yeah. After I started getting into the Rasta livity and learning about Jah, it seemed like a real easy transition from “Jason” to “Jah Sun.”

EDN: How long have you been involved with reggae, and how did you first get involved with music in general?

JS: I’ve been involved with reggae about 17 years. Music, I’ve been involved with since I was about eight.

To know how I got into music you have to know that I was born to a 15-year-old little girl; my mother was 15 when she got pregnant with me. I never met my father. I grew up on food stamps and government cheese. We were poor, and I had several step-dads. It was a dysfunctional upbringing with divorce, and abuse—it was pretty rough.

And then, when I was about eight or nine years old, my mom married a Black American man—he was really nice to us, and it was the first time I ever had a father figure. I idolized him, and he was a rapper and a breakdancer.

It was 1982-83–breakdancin’ was sweeping over the nation. And I was adopted into this large, southern, Black American family. I was exposed to gospel, and soul, and R&B, and rap music. By the time I was 10, all through my teens, I was a fierce MC. I was into rhymin’ and b-boyin’. At 11, I was singing on a local radio station, and by 12, I was being featured on the local news channel.

At times, in my own personal life, I was running around and being a little hoodlum. That lifestyle almost landed me in trouble, and I knew I had to make a change. Right about that time, I discovered Bob Marely, and was just instantly transformed from where I was, to Jah Sun. I wanted to learn about spirituality and about cultures throughout the world.

EDN: How did you end up in Humboldt County, and what’s the reggae scene like down there?

JS: [Humboldt County] is the home of Reggae on the River. Humboldt County and reggae music go hand-in-hand. Reggae thrives here; it’s a good place for a reggae lover to be.

I moved here from LA (Los Angeles) because my partner of 10 years now, Chrystal, and I were going to have our firstborn child. We wanted to raise our baby in a smaller community; we didn’t want to do it in LA. We wanted to be in a place where people shared our ideas of organic farming and natural livity, so we moved here. It was a great choice—we really love it.

There seems to be a bit of camaraderie between Northern California and Southern and Central Oregon. Do you come up to Eugene a lot, and what do you think of the music scene around here?

JS: Really and truly, Eugene is my second home. My partner is from there, her mother still lives there, and my daughter was born there. I’ve played Northwest World Reggae Fest three or four times, I’ve played Tayberry Jam. I love it there, and all over Oregon.

Why do you think reggae has caught on in these parts, so far away from its place of birth?

Photo courtesy of Elliot Blair

JS: Because the message is a universal feeling that people from all walks of life can relate to. It’s a message of love and unity, and it’s a music that raises awareness towards cultural unification and music that fights against oppression. These are all morals and values that resonate to the core of any person who’s awake.

Along those lines, as a songwriter, what do you like to emphasize in your lyrics?

JS: I think an artist goes through changes and grows, and as a songwriter I just write what I’m feeling at the time. At one point, I felt passionate about veganism and wanted to move that message. I have other songs about organic farming, and I have some songs about herb.  But mostly, what I like to write about is people believing in themselves, and trying to gravitate towards love—I feel like there’s a lack of love in our society.

The world can be such a beautiful place, and life is the ultimate blessing. So many lives are spent in dysfunction, and wasted. I want people to realize their potential and tap into it and shine, and reflect that beauty to the world.

Do you have any upcoming shows lined up?

Yeah, I’m doing a little CD release tour in just a couple weeks. I start off April 18th at the Mateel Center with Midnight. Then I’ll be up at Luckey’s with Marv Ellis, on the 19th. I’ll play 4/20 in Southern Oregon, and then the 21st up in Seattle. Then the 25th, in Bellingham, Washington.

After, I’ll be going to Ethiopia, Africa, for the first time.

What will you be doing there?

I was invited to be a part of this really amazing project called the Youths of Shasha. It’s about Shashemene, a Rasta community. When Haile Selassie I was in power in Ethiopia, he dedicated a large chunk of land to anybody who wanted to compatriot back to Africa. And so, Shashemene has been a community there for the last 40 years.

Youths of Shasha is being funded by a label in Italy. Eleven children from Shashemene were selected, and each was paired up with an international reggae artist. They’ll be a cd, a documentary, and some music videos. I was asked to be a part of it, and I’m going to meet the kids, and speak at some schools.

What are some of the struggles associated with being an independently signed artist? Do you feel that certain messages are favored in the mainstream?

There’s definitely that element; you sing about bling-bling, or you talk about naked girls, and you have a chance to bust out and go much bigger.

I also think that, in our country, we just don’t respect the arts so much. Art programs always get taken from schools. In other countries, if you have a band and you get invited there to play, the government will pay for your ticket and be proud to showcase the talent that region has. We don’t have that kind of support here, and our idea of good music is auto-tuned pop music. So, players of instruments and songwriters and singers are definitely struggling.

But, at the same time, I’m not trying to be a pop star. I’d like to just be able to make a living at it, and take my family around the world.

The struggles are a bit disappointing. It’s tough to make money and it’s a lot of work. Being in the car for hours, going through airports, being on buses, staying at shaggy hotels, being ripped off by promoters. But there’s no greater joy than having someone say, “I got a lot out of that song, it really helped me in my life.”

What was your latest release, and where can people find it?

My new album, “Battle the Dragon,” is available on iTunes and on CD. I want to encourage people to support independent artists and buy the album—don’t bootleg it.

Charity to Hold Concert in Honor of Nima Gibba’s Memory


Charity to Hold Concert in Honor of Nima Gibba’s Memory

Nate Gartrell, EDN

A picture of Nima at age 11. Photo courtesy of Eliman Gibba

Roughly one year ago, the parents of Nima Gibba, the Eugene girl killed in one of the city’s deadliest car crashes, sought to create a charity foundation in her name.

In January, they achieved that goal; Nima’s Wish became a registered non-profit, dedicated to bringing aid to impoverished West Africans. Now, the charity foundation is set to hold its first fundraiser, a concert, on May 3, 2012, from 6:30-Midnight at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene.

The concert, called Spring Forward, will feature popular local acts Eleven Eyes, and The Sugar Beets. Blues player Mike Tracey, and the local duo Bajuana Tea will do sets as well.

Also performing will be the popular local band Sol Seed, which recently returned from a tour in California. A six-person group, Sol Seed produces a reggae/funk sound, and was recently selected as the people’s choice for WOW Hall’s Best New Act in 2001.  NOTE: Local reggae band Sol Seed was scheduled to play, but cancelled Thursday, due to a scheduling conflict. Another reggae band, Fire in the Rootz, has agreed to take their place.

The Denbaya Drum and Dance group will also perform, as well as a Hip-hop dance group from the University of Oregon

“We want to start grassroots and involve as many groups as we can,” Eliman Gibba, Nima’s father, said. “It just makes sense to bring in as many people as possible.”

The Sugar Beets play danceable folk rock and have a strong local following. They’re also scheduled to headline the Burnt Woodstock festival in July. The members of Sugar Beets met at their University of Oregon dorm hall, and and the band has stayed together for the 22 years since, Marty Chilla, guitar player and singer for the band, said.

“We still have so much fun, so we keep on going,” Chilla said. “It’s one of the big bright spots and joys of our lives to play together.”

Eleven Eyes member Tim McLaughlin, who plays mostly trumpet, said that his group plays frequent charity shows, but that the Nima’s Wish founders seemed particularly organized and dedicated.

“When someone’s going to this amount of effort for an event, especially for a good cause, it’s nice to be a part of it,” McLaughlin said.

Some of the money raised from the concert will go towards providing immediate aid to West Africa, and some will be used to organize a larger musical fundraiser during the summer, Nima’s stepmother Alexandra Sianis, who runs the non-profit with Eliman, said.

Nima's tombstone is engraved with the phrase "Hanken nu bom," which in Eliman's language means, "Keep on dancing."

“We’d like to have a big summer event, with workshops,” Sianis said, to educate people about social issues in Gambia. She and Eliman want to raise money to provide impoverished Gambians with efficient wood-burning stoves, solar water pumps, and to teach them to farm more sustainably.

KMTR’s Angela Brauer has agreed to be the event’s emcee. She’s covered the Gibba family for the last couple years, and said she’s most impressed that Eliman and Sianis have publicly emphasized that they harbor no hatred towards the person who was convicted of causing Nima’s death.

“Many families in their position will ask for the worst to happen [to the perpetrator], and understandably so,” Brauer said. “But they haven’t–they’re a special family.”

Nima was 11 years old in 2009 when she was killed, while carpooling home from school, by a drunk driver, who initiated the crash by running a red light. Heather Mulgrave, 36, Connie Vermilyea, 34, and Jaziah Vermilyea, 10, were also killed.

A close friend of Nima’s, Jakobi Mulgrave, then 10, was seriously hurt, but survived and recovered from his physical injuries. Matthew Ellmers, the man responsible for the accident, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence.

The couple dedicated Nima’s Wish to raising money for aid to impoverished Gambians because much of Nima’s ancestry is based there. Eliman is a Gambian citizen, and the couple traveled there in 2010 to visit family and give Nima’s clothing and toys to Gambian schoolchildren.

The Eleven Eyes band. Photo courtesy of Tim McLaughlin

Because Nima attended Kennedy Middle school and was passionate about dancing, students from there will be performing dance routines during the intervals. Some of Nima’s friends will also do dance routines.

All acts on the bill have agreed to donate their time, which has been a great help for Nima’s Wish, Sianis and Eliman said.

“It’s really heartwarming that they’re willing to extend their hearts for the cause,” Sianis said of the bands.

A late scratch to the show was Jah Sun, a well-known reggae artist from Humboldt County. Jah Sun, who also goes by Jason McCommas, was forced to remove his name from the bill because he’d previously agreed to travel to Africa to work on a project with Ethiopian children, called Youths of Shasha.

“No parent should have to go through what the Gibba family is going through,” Jah Sun said, when he was still scheduled to play. “As a father, my heart goes out to them for their loss, and the other families as well.”

Jah Sun’s publicist, Elliot Blair, said that nothing short of an international engagement would have kept Jah Sun from the show, and that they were both sorry he couldn’t make it. Sol Seed has agreed to perform in his place.

The McDonald Theater is located at 1010 Willamette St., in Eugene. Doors will open at 6 p.m. Ticket prices are as follows: $18 if placed in advance, $20 at the door, and $15 with a valid student identification.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-992-TIXX or through TicketsWest


The lineup for Spring Forward. Please note that Sol Seed is now slated to play in Jah Sun's place.

A Conversation With Benny Pezzano of Sol Seed


A Conversation With Benny Pezzano of Sol Seed

Nate Gartrell, EDN

The full cast of Sol Seed. Photo courtesy of Benny Pezzano

Benny Pezzano is a bass player and singer for Sol Seed, a funk-reggae band that originated in Southern Oregon, but is now based in Eugene. Sol Seed has six members, including a saxophonist and didgeridoo player, which Pezzano said puts them apart from other reggae bands. They’re known to frequently play gigs at local clubs and other venues, and have released an EP, called Rising Roots, on iTunes.

Eugene Daily News: Can you explain the background story, of how you all got together?

Benny Pezzano: Sol Seed originated in Medford, between the lead singer Michael Lennon and the drummer Michael Sorensen. They were playing at Jackson Creek Pizza Open Mic Night, hosted by Frankie Hernandez, a local musician who was instrumental in creating Sol Seed. He was like our grandfather; he brought us together at the open mic.

About a year and a half ago, we all transplanted to Eugene at the same time. Here in Eugene, we recently picked up percussionist, MC, and didgeridoo player Sky Guasco. We most recently picked up Greame Pletscher, who’s our sax player. That was a huge step up.

EDN: Not a lot of bands have a didgeridoo player…

BP: Yeah, it’s a pretty unique and original instrument. It’s really cool.

EDN: How’s it been since you came out to Eugene? What’s the music scene like here, in your opinion?

BP: When we were fresh-eared, green musicians in Southern Oregon, we thought: “Eugene, dude! Reggae! Lot’s of reggae, huge of amount of bands, huge amount of music, it’s gonna be the perfect place.”

Then we get to Eugene, and in one sense, it was a perfect place, because there’s a lot of culture. But the music scene is a tough nut to crack, and there’s very little reggae. Even though we don’t play traditional reggae, it’s still really surprising that, aside from Medium Troy and a couple others, we’re the only ones. But now, we’ve figured out how to network. We’ve gotten a name amongst the local bars, local venues. A lot of people know the name “Sol Seed” by now.

EDN: It seems like you’re trying to push the boundaries of reggae a little bit. Can you talk a about your musical influences, and what your group is trying to accomplish musically?

BP: What’s cool about Sol Seed as a whole is that we all draw from really different influences. I draw from a lot of funk. Mike Lennon, our lead singer, he draws from a lot of folk and classic rock. Our lead guitar player, Kenny Lewis, is a huge blues guitar player. Mike Sorensen started out as a jazz drummer, Greame Pletscher has been playing jazz for a while on sax. But reggae serves as kind of a backbone, which comes out naturally. None of us were reggae musicians before we started playing in Sol Seed. It’s the brew that came out of our mesh of musical influences. I couldn’t imagine having more fun playing any other type of music.

We don’t like to fit into a genre. We’ve had to call ourselves a bunch of different genres, like, “Psychedelic Rock-Reggae,” or, “Reggae-Fusion,” but whatever it is, it’s not your typical reggae.

EDN: Anything else you’d like to say?

BP: We’re going on a spring break tour in the Bay Area, and a Northwest tour lined up for summer. And just recently, we were invited to this year’s Tayberry Jam. We got a good slot, and we’re looking forward to it.