Washington DC based hip hop fusion band Opus Akoben have been chosen as Hip Hop Ambassadors for the State Department’s Rhythm Road – American Music Abroad Program. The band’s quartet featuring emcees Kokayi and Sub Z, drummer Jay Nichols and bassist Ezra Greer will embark on a month long tour exposing hip hop culture in the countries of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Jerusalem. The program selects professional American performers of jazz and urban music to perform where there is limited exposure to live American culture.
The tour kicks off with a performance at the Lincoln Center in New York City on February 18th and will complete with a final performance at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC on April 12. “This is an opportunity for us to provide other people with the truth about hip hop and African-American culture while learning their culture and sharing our musical influences.”, says group member Sub-Z.
Included on their jaunt are workshops at every stop including a DJ Battle, exhibitions in the art of freestyle, music production and the in-depth exploration of vocal improvisation as it relates to both Hip Hop and Jazz music. Opus Akoben’s career spans a solid decade filled with several European tours as a band and as individuals across Africa, Japan, Brazil, Cuba and Australia. This ,however, will be their first trip to the Middle East .
Opus Akoben was formally founded in 1997 by Terence Nicholson (Sub-Z) and Carl Walker (Kokayi) two childhood friends who had a passion for Hip Hop and the culture that it encompassed. As members of the Freestyle Union , which was founded in 1994 by Toni Blackman and Monty Taft, a creative arena was designed as an ongoing workshop dedicated to the elevation of the rhyme. The focus was inventiveness, freedom, efficiency and elevation. Kokayi and Sub-Z thus found themselves within the circle of the initiates (the cipher). When the saxophonist Steve Coleman looked for rappers for his Metrics project his attention was drawn to these two phenomena by Ezra Greer a Washington DC producer with whom he was working. They recorded a Tale of 3 Cities (RCA) in 1994 along side Black Thought of the Roots. After a successful European tour that followed , they continued to make their first live recording at the Hot Brass with Coleman in March 1995. The result measured up to the challenge, since this meeting between hip hop and jazz to this date remains one of the most convincing ones. Following this exceptional adventure, Opus Akoben forged ahead as leaders to produce their first record Art of War for BMG France. In 2001 they produced Raw Life for Label Bleu, this was a soulful genre twisting antithesis to Art of War
Opus Akoben believes that by providing an atmosphere of exchange they can correctly elevate the culture of hip hop and provide a positive impact on fans and practitioners of the art.
The American Music Abroad Program began in 1998 in cooperation with the John F. Kennedy Center for the performing Arts, participants have toured Eurasia, Central Europe, The Balkans, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and East and South Asia. In some years, the program has had a specific theme, including a commemoration of Duke Ellington, the blues, vocal jazz, and Latin jazz.
The theme for 2006 tour is “latin jazz” and, in addition to performances, musicians will conduct educational programming such as master classes, lectures and radio and television appearances.
Opus Akoben’s performance at Jazz at the Lincoln Center takes place February 18, 3pm at Dizzy’s located at 10 Columbus Cir, 5th Fl in New York. For more information on Opus Akoben contact Kokayi at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 202-821-7629. You can also check the groups music out on their websites www.opus-akoben.com or www.myspace.com/opusakoben.