Puerto Rican vocalist Taína Asili carries on the tradition of her ancestors, fusing past and present struggles into one soulful and defiant voice. Her newest artistic work is with la Banda Rebelde (the Rebel Band), a six piece ensemble based in Albany, NY. This dynamic force brings love, resistance, and ancestral remembrance to venues, festivals, conferences and political events across the globe. Powerful vocals laid over an energetic fusion of Afro-Latin, reggae and rock sounds, Taína Asili’s voice exudes strength of Spirit, filling its listeners with the fervor of freedom and inspiring audiences to dance to the movement of rebellion.
Taína Asili y la Banda Rebelde released their debut album War Cry in 2010. With an uncompromising lyrical integrity and sound that spans continents, the multilingual album War Cry blends the energy of Ojos de Brujo, the soul of Lila Downs and the defiance of Rage Against the Machine. Journalist Josh Potter of the Metroland, Albany, NY’s alternative newsweekly, describes War Cry as “a pan-global roots-musical mélange that appeals to the struggle of tradition to envision a world of social justice.”
Taína Asili [tahy-ee-nah ah-see-lee] hails from Philadelphia, PA and Albany, NY where she has worked as a musician, poet, educator and community organizer for over 10 years. She has shared the stage with renowned artists such as Ursula Rucker, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Pamela Means, Paula Cole, and Tyrone Hill of The Sun Ra Arkestra. Taína was a winner of the 2005 Transformation Award given by the Leeway Foundation each year to a select few of women artists who profoundly use their work towards social change. She was voted “Best Poet” in 2006 and “Best World Music” in 2010 by The Metroland. She has performed from Montreal to San Francisco and from Mexico to Spain capturing the hearts of her listeners.
Taína’s performance history and experience is as eclectic as her artistic work. Her father a Latin-jazz conductor, vocalist and congero, and her mother an Afro-Caribbean dancer, Taína was strongly influenced by the music which surrounded her childhood. She was raised in upstate NY, trained as a European classical vocalist. Taína later found punk rock, and for eight years wrote and sang songs of rage and resistance with Antiproduct, touring the country several times and putting out four albums internationally. Throughout her career, Taína has performed and recorded soulful back-up vocals for numerous bands including jam band Yolk, Puerto Rican punk band Ricanstruction, and hip hop/rock band Broadcast Live.
In her move to Philadelphia, Taína fell in love with spoken word and began writing and performing as a solo poet around the country. Her poetic work has been featured in a number of CD collections. She can also be witnessed in Scene and Not Heard, a documentary about women and hip hop culture in Philadelphia, also featuring Bahamadia and Monie Love.
The folkloric arts of Latin American and Spain have captured her heart in new ways. Currently, Taína Asili and guitarist Gaetano Vaccaro perform folkloric music from Latin America and flamenco from Spain. Together they have studied at Flamenco Latino in NYC, and Taller Flamenco and El Centro de Arte y Flamenco de Sevilla in Seville, Spain.
Taína is dedicated to using her art as a tool for personal and social transformation. “If you look at our history,” she says, “you see over and over that music has played a central role in changing how people think, for the good and bad. How we make change in the larger political landscape starts with how we affect one another individually, and music brings message in a way that opens people—their heart, mind, spirit.”
Taina Asili - Vocalist
Gaetano Vaccaro - Guitar
Kiki Vassilakis - Drums
Gabby Canzieri - Bass Guitar
Dylan Blanchard - Congas
Tonya Abernathy - Back-up-vocals
War Cry features the unique fusion of Afro-Latin, reggae, rock, and hip hop sounds and call to love and rebellion that make up the music of Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde. This debut album features 15 tracks of original music that take you on a journey through their diverse musical, cultural and political landscape with inspiring poetic lyrics and high-energy. It also features several incredible guest artists including Naima Penniman and Alixa Garcia of international renowned spoken word duo Climbing PoeTree, soul vocalist Ayana D, NYC based Brazilian samba percussionists Jessica Sarles and Matt Dinsick, Indian tabla percussionist Sadasat Simran Singh Khalsa, jazz cellist Monica Roach, and album artwork by Montreal painter Monk.e.
Urban Guerrillas: Taína Asili y la Banda Rebelde practice what they preach
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By Josh Potter In an era when irony is often synonymous with artistry and success is determined b...By Josh Potter
In an era when irony is often synonymous with artistry and success is determined by how long bands remain favorable in the blogosphere, it can be a risky move for a musician to espouse the belief that “music can change the world.” But for Taína Asili, leader of la Banda Rebelde (or, the Rebel Band), she doesn’t hesitate.
“If you look at our history,” she says, “you see over and over that music has played a central role in changing how people think, for the good and bad. How we make change in the larger political landscape starts with how we affect one another individually, and music brings message in a way that opens people—their heart, mind, spirit—in a way they might not be opened if they’re just reading an essay or a newspaper.”
A teacher, activist, community organizer, and mother, Asili has specific goals for her music and the language that it carries. It’s been only three years since she moved to Albany, but in this time she’s built a new band, possibly the region’s most diverse; penned a host of politically urgent tunes in a variety of languages; toured the country twice; and, most recently, released War Cry, a pan-global roots-musical mélange that appeals to the struggle of tradition to envision a world of social justice. Just don’t call it “world music.”
“It’s sort of the [category] that fits,” she says, “but I was always really reluctant to use that term. We’re pulling from a lot of different influences, not just the ethnicities of the people in our band. ”
Asili herself is Puerto Rican and grew up in Binghamton speaking both English and Spanish. The daughter of musicians, she grew up with jazz and Latin American music and Broadway musicals as early influences, but she first studied voice in the European classical tradition with an opera singer from Peru. Needless to say, it was a big jump when she started her performing career with punk band Antiproduct. Based in Philadelphia, the group recorded four albums, toured nationally a number of times, and through a European label found a following in Malaysia, Japan and Australia. Not only was it the beginning of Asili’s musical career, but it also launched an interest in politics and the transformative power of language.
When Antiproduct broke up in 2002, Asili transitioned into Philadelphia’s vibrant spoken-word scene, performing her poetry alongside prominent figures like Sonia Sanchez and Ursula Rucker. She started teaching poetry workshops at a Puerto Rican cultural center, a women’s correctional facility and for refugees and union workers. Eventually, she got her MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College and in 2005 won the Transformation Award, given by the Leeway Foundation, a group committed to “art making as an integral part of social change.”
As she says, “Transformative language arts is looking at the ways the spoken, written and sung word is used to make personal and social change manifest. If you look at some of the most ancient forms of poetry and song, they’re used as practices to get through the day—for cooking, cleaning, agriculture, also in ceremony and prayer. The Puerto Rican people have held onto this very strongly. During the time of slavery we had art forms which were used to resist slavery, organize revolt, celebrate humanity and pray for a better day.”
Winning the Transformation Award, she says, was life-changing and put her on track to building what would become la Banda Rebelde. She moved to Albany in 2006 and started singing backing vocals for her brother Victorio Reyes Asili’s hip-hop rock band Broadcast Live. It was with that band that she met guitarist Gaetano Vaccaro, who would become her husband.
Vaccaro is first-generation Sicilian and learned guitar from his father and grandfather. “He and I started doing music,” Asili says, “and I realized I had to let out all this stuff I was experiencing. I had a vision for this new musical group that was really holistic to who I was. I knew I wanted a really diverse group of musicians ethnically, racially, gender-wise, but also musically. I thought that would be pretty challenging, living in a small city, but I ended up finding just that over the course of a year.”
She first found drummer Kiki Vassilakis, who was born and raised in Greece, is queer, and does activist work in the LGBTQ community. Versed in a number of musical styles, she also plays in a traditional Greek band. Next, it was bassist Sean Muniz, who is Brazilian but was born in Australia and raised in India. He comes from a background in rock, metal and reggae, and works in the antiwar movement. Rounding out the rhythm section is Saeed Abbas, a percussionist of the Hausa tribe, who has performed as the master drummer for Ghana’s National Dance Ensemble. Lastly, Alicia Ortiz, of Spanish descent and with a foundation in gospel, sings the bilingual backup vocals.
“One of the strengths of our group,” Asili says, “is that we can touch a lot of people from the cultural, political and musical perspective. We can play a large variety of settings: international and world music festivals, political conferences, hip-hop and rock events.”
While War Cry probably would earn the “world music” label in a record store or on iTunes, the range of styles is startling. “Mama Guerrilla,” a track where Asili describes herself as an “urban Zapatista,” owes to antagonistic political rock in the style of Rage Against the Machine. The title track features a Malian guitar part, a sunny Afropop lilt, and lyrics in five languages, while “Mariposa del Fuego” is a very traditional sounding flamenco, a style Asili and Vaccaro have been studying with local guitarist Maria Zemantauski—and traveled to Spain last year to pursue. “As a Puerto Rican woman,” Asili says, “half of my ancestry is in Spain, but it’s something I never really took a look at.” What she found in the folk music of the Gitano people resonated with other struggle-based Afro-Caribbean art forms.
Indeed, anticolonialism, environmental justice and political-prisoner justice form the bedrock of Asili’s lyrics. In Philadelphia she worked closely on the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, and she currently works with the Albany Political Prisoner Support Committee. “Prison Break” might be the clearest representation of this work: The lyrics come from an experience Asili had exchanging letters with prisoners, realizing through the advice that they were giving her that, in certain ways, she lived a more captive mental and spiritual life than they did physically. In this way, the band’s message of revolution can be taken as much in a psycho-spiritual sense as in concrete political terms.
The band don’t take their rebel identity lightly. “It’s called Banda Rebelde for a reason. I believe in rebellion,” Asili says, true to her punk roots, “but with a vision of something more. [The band members] don’t all have the same political perspective, but there’s a certain set of principles we hang on to.” Before releasing War Cry, the band sat down to draw up and sign a statement of 10 principles that guide their work. Depending on where the band is performing and what may be happening in the news, the material provides a platform to offer social commentary. Using the BP oil spill as an example, she says, “we might find a way to connect that to a song we’ve written like ‘She Lives,’ a song that talks about environmental justice.”
Not only does Asili believe in music’s ability to manifest change, but she’s seen the results. “I still get letters to this day from people telling me that the work I did with [Antiproduct] inspired them to get involved with community organizing and political work,” she says. “To use the metaphor of the matrix, music can be the pill that awakens us to what’s going on.”
Interview with Taina Asili
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Interview with Taina Asili January 22, 2009 Interview and photos by Scott Preston taina asi...Interview with Taina Asili
January 22, 2009
Interview and photos by Scott Preston
taina asili, cincy grooveTaina Asili carries on the tradition of her ancestors, fusing present and past struggles into one poetic song-voice. She is a puertorriquena vocalist, poet, visual artist, educator, activist and mother from Philadelphia, PA and Albany, NY. Her newest artistic work is with her live band, Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde, soulful vocals laid over a unique infusion of hip hop, rock, neo-soul, flamenco and Afro-Caribbean sounds. Taina Asili carries a fire breathing voice of rage and resistance to venues, festivals, conferences and political events across the country. She weaves resistance, anti-colonialist struggle, love, identity, reclamation of the body, ancestral remembrance, and more into an unparalleled vocalization style melding poetry and song.
Cincy Groove: What have been some of the bands highlights over the past year?
Taina Asili: Well, we just came back from a U.S. tour. We started here in Albany, NY, then did some shows in the south and went across the country and into California. It was exciting because it was our first cross country tour with this group.
Cincy Groove: I was able to catch your set at this past years Mid Point Music Festival here in Cincinnati. Did you have a good time at the festival?
Taina Asili: We did have a great time. One of the things we enjoyed the most was when we played out on the street corner before we came in to do our set. A number of neighborhood folks came up to watch us perform. We'll do that from time to time before we play our regular gigs. We even had a chorus of children playing with us. We gave them acoustic instruments to play and they really had a blast.
Cincy Groove: I know you have quite a few interests outside of music, what are some of them?
Taina Asili: I just finished my Masters degree in Transformative Language Arts. That's basically studying how the spoken, written word can be used for personal and social change. What I did was look at the history of Puerto Rico in relationship to poetry. I write poetry and I also teach poetry workshops that look at how poetry can be used for personal and social change. For example, I work with refugees from Burma, Afghanistan and Colombia here in Albany, NY teaching poetry and photography. After they create their work we have this big presentation so they can share their work with their community.
taina asili, cincy groove
Cincy Groove: I understand that Miriam Makeba was a big influence on you.
Taina Asili: Yes she was, we were in Olympia, WA when she past away late last year. I started listening to her right when I got out of college. I moved to Philadelphia and went to this small record shop and found one of her albums and fell in love with her music. After I found out more about who she was , how she worked to fight against apartheid in South Africa, how she lived in exile because of her work, it really inspired me. Miriam was just someone who was phenomenal on so many levels. Instead of being depressed about her passing, I really tried to celebrate her life.
Cincy Groove: Are you working on any recording projects?
Taina Asili: We are currently working on our debut album. I have been performing with a number of groups over the years, but this will be La Banda Rebelde's first full length album. We do have a demo out right now. Our album is going to be called Mama Guerrilla and should be out sometime this year, hopefully by the summer.
Cincy Groove: What kind if music did you listen to growing up?
Taina Asili: I grew up in Binghamton, NY and my parents are of Puerto Rican descent who grew up in NY. I really listened to a wide variety of music. My father is a Latin Jazz musician. He also grew up singing doo wop on street corners in NY and played at The Apollo. He had this doo wop group when he was younger called The Orientals. He grew up in Harlem, so it was very common to have African Americans and Puerto Ricans singing doo wop on the corners. So I listened to a lot of doo wop, oldies, jazz, salsa, a lot of music from the Caribbeans. As I got older I really got into rock music, being inspired by punk rock.
taina asili, cincy grooveCincy Groove: I see that you have had a diverse musical history.
Taina Asili: At the age of 14 I was being trained by a Peruvians opera singer and did that until about the age of 22. When I was 16 I joined this punk band called Anti-Product. It lasted 8 years and became a pretty well known group. We put out 4 albums that were distributed world wide. So at the same time I'm singing punk rock I'm also singing opera music (laughing). After Anti-Product I joined a band called Ricanstruction . They were sort of a Puerto Rican punk band who were pretty popular for a while. It was a mix of punk, salsa, and reggae. Then came my current group La Banda Rebelde. I'm trying to mix all the influences from throughout my life into something original that's my own.
Cincy Groove: I see that your current band members in La Banda Rebelde are from all over the world. How did you end up meeting them?
Taina Asili: Pure luck, praying, and a lot of hoping. My guitarist, Gaetano Vaccaro, (whose family is from Sicily) we met and started dating and then started playing music together. Khadija who sings back up vocals with us is from Tanzania. She was my roommate in Philadelphia. Kiki our drummer was born and raised in Greece. I put up a sign one day for a drummer. She saw the sign and gave us a call. I looked at her myspace page and knew right away she was the one. Our bass player Shawn is of Brazilian origin, was born in Australia, spent part of his life in India and England, and then for some random reason moved to Albany, NY.
Cincy Groove: Are there any big plans coming up this year?
Taina Asili: Well the main thing we want to focus on is getting our new album finished. It looks like we will be planning a tour of Latin America for the Fall. Probably Puerto Rico, Mexico and maybe extending out from there. Our music is influenced by the music of Latin America and I sing in Spanish on some of our songs. We think it will be a great opportunity.
CHOQ FM Montreal, QC Canada Radio Interview and Performance
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CHOQ FM Montreal, QC Canada Radio Interview and Performance Les Contes à rendre - 29 octobre 2009 ...CHOQ FM Montreal, QC Canada Radio Interview and Performance
Les Contes à rendre - 29 octobre 2009 –
Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde, WesLi et Jahnice
Marc-André Lavoie et son équipe de collaborateurs tiennent la barre de l'émission radiophonique Les contes à rendre chaque semaine sur les ondes de CHOQ FM, la station de l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). Cette radio est diffusée en ligne seulement http://web.choq.fm/radio.php.
Émission du jeudi 29 octobre 2009 de 18h30 à 20h www.choq.fm
Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde, soit la poète-chanteuse de Albany, NYC et ses musiciens : Gaetano, Saeed, Kiki, Alicia et Sean
Élizabeth Robert parlera de création, improvisation et performance avec Taina Asili, chanteuse, auteure-compositeure-interprète et improvisatrice, originaire de Albany, NYC et Philadelphia. Il s'agit de la première visite en sol québécois pour cette star du SPOKEN WORD et Flamenco, l'entrevue est une EXCLUSIVITÉ CHOQ.FM; Roger Marchand s'entretient avec WesLi du WesLi Band, et on parle rapidement avec Jahnice dans le cadre de la 4e édition du Fanmi se Fanmi qui approche; Yvon Jean en poésie; J.P. Mortier et sa chronique "La poésie dans le Rock" et David J. Cox en visite rapide. Une superbe improvision entre Taina, la Banda Rebelde et WesLi.
LIVE: Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde @ the Sanctuary for Independent Media
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LIVE: Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde @ the Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3/27/10 Nippertown’s ...LIVE: Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde @ the Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3/27/10
Nippertown’s premier world music warriors Taina Asili Y La Banda Rebelde charged into the Sanctuary For Independent Media last Saturday to celebrate the release of their debut album, “War Cry,” and it was a full-blown, packed-to-the-max party, to be sure. Actually, it was a double-barreled party – not only a CD release party, but also Asili’s birthday bash.
The explosive six-piece outfit fronted by dynamic vocalist Asili brilliantly fused together a plethora of international musical styles – ranging from Afro-Caribbean beats, Jamaican reggae, American rock, Brazilian samba, Spanish flamenco and urban hip-hop – into a performance that simply defied categorization.
Wrapped around the stage and spilling out into the street, the full-house audience danced wildly, rocking with every beat the band conjured up. Highlights of the evening included an aerial trapeze artist and samba band – complete with two additional drummers and a drop-dead gorgeous South American dancer gyrating to the break-neck rhythms.
Off to the side throughout the evening, artist Marcus Anderson was busy painting a huge canvas that he started during DJ Trumastr’s opening set and completed at the end of La Banda Rebelde’s performance.
If you missed this exquisite spectacle, well, fortunately the super-fine folks at the Sanctuary for Independent Media recorded the audio and video of the performance for a future DVD release.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk. See more of Andrzej’s photos from this show at the Nippertown photo archive.
Five Questions: Taina Asili
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By Katie Nowak The Troy Record Five Questions: Taina Asili Born and raised in Binghamton, Ta...By Katie Nowak
The Troy Record
Five Questions: Taina Asili
Born and raised in Binghamton, Taina Asili grew up in a Puerto Rican family, has lived in Philadelphia and now resides in Albany. Asili has been making music for years and is about to release an album with her new group, La Banda Rebelde, on March 27 at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.
Q: Why did you choose Troy for your CD release party?
A: I chose Troy because I feel very connected to the work of the Sanctuary for Independent Media. I wanted to have my release party in the Capital Region at a place that I felt truly represents the work that I do using art as a vehicle for social change and community connection. I could not have found a more perfect venue.
Q: Your music carries messages of social change. Why is that important to you?
A: Growing up a woman and growing up Latina in this country, I’ve been exposed to oppression, and I come from a lineage of people that resisted oppression. That’s a torch I carry on through my art. All of us in the band are activists and community organizers working for change. I’m involved in a lot of different movements, like prisoner justice, environmentalism and indigenous rights, and I bring all those different things into my art.
Q: When did you become interested in music/singing?
A: My family’s history in music and art and my training laid the foundation for my musical career. Both my parents were artists, my mother a dancer and my father a conga drummer and singer. I started singing doo-wop with my father and sister, and was trained by a professional opera singer in classical voice. I was also simultaneously in a punk band.
Q: Poetry is another one of your passions. What inspires you to write?
A: The power of language to transform ourselves and this world is really intriguing to me. I recently got my master’s in transformative language arts from Goddard University, where I looked at Puerto Rican history and how people have used language and poetry to transform the world. My poetry is inspired by everything going on in the world, and my family and my son also inspire what I write. I take my family history and bring it alive through my work.
Q: You’re about to embark on a tour. What’s your favorite thing to do with downtime on the road?
A: We’re all into nature and love to do a lot of exploring. We try to make space in our tour to visit profound places. We see what’s going on in different communities, and bring inspiration back with us to our community.
Taina Asili Interview on Saturday Morning with Joy Keys
Music They Can't Drive Out
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By Alexander Billet Wednesday, November 19, 2008 “The two groups SON was performing with were Br...By Alexander Billet
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
“The two groups SON was performing with were Broadcast Live, and Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde. Both are radical, musically eclectic, and brought an energy to that small community space that lit up the place! Those who doubt the power of music to inspire and organize would do well to hear the work of these two groups.”
“If Broadcast Live were a tidal wave of resistance, then Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde were a hurricane, swirling and weaving rather than blasting open, while not losing one bit of resolve or strength. Like Broadcast Live, their sound is hard to pin, drawing on jazz, reggae, hip-hop, and the incendiary energy of Nuevo Cancion and throwing them into a solid folk-rock. Though the group as a unit wouldn't work if any one member were missing, front-woman Asili is undoubtedly the focus, bringing a proud defiance to her work. Equal parts Lauryn Hill, Ani DiFranco and Lila Downs, the group's songs embodied the kind of power that only ordinary people have when they are able to raise their voices.”
Alexander Biller is a music journalist, writer and activist living in Chicago. Regular contributor to Znet, Dissident Voice and SleptOn.com. Appears in the recently published "At Issue: Should Music Lyrics Be Censored For Violence and Exploitation," from Greenhaven Press. Check out his blog Rebel Frequencies.
Feedback from Fellow Artists
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“Taina’s voice speaks from a place of soul and struggle. Listen closely with your heart and hear wit...“Taina’s voice speaks from a place of soul and struggle. Listen closely with your heart and hear with your spirit; it sounds like rebellion and feels like revolution. She embodies militant machetero medusa mama movement of jah people; and when she screams, Borinquen is free at last.”
- Not4Prophet – Singer of puerto-rock band Ricanstruction
“Taina’s Asili's work is nothing short of dynamite. Asili is a siren whose important messages gracefully demand you to be aware and conscious of the world we live in. Her spoken word repertoire covers a range of expressing the journey of birthing a child and the necessity of revolution and social change. If you know what's good for you, Do not sleep on this powerful artists!”
-Misia Denea – Dancer/Choreographer with Nzinga Arts Collective
“Galvanizing. Your grasp on history and current events are so intricately interwoven that your writing serves as a catalyst for healing and progressive political/social action. Motivational. Illuminating. Grounding. Your clarity of purpose and language anchors us to the beauty and horror that swirls within this world. You're here to make sure we don't continue to stumble blindly about hell bent on self destruction. You rip off the mask of illusion and tell the truth about a system designed to keep us confused and ineffectual. You are amazingly talented and I am always inspired when I witness your gifts.”
-Daviná Stewart - poet with Daughters of the Diaspora
“The first time I saw Taina perform, I was moved by how forceful her voice was-how her calls and chants could fill the entire room. It was clear she had trained as a vocalist and had equal knowledge of the politics she included in her work. Then I was thrilled to see that she had copies of books of her poetry that she had made herself. Every young girl writer, in particular girl of color writer, should see someone like Taína do her art-political work. She's a tremendous example of how we can combine our art with our political passions, and that we can do this work together well.”
-Cassendre Xavier - Singer/songwriter
A typical set is 1 to 3 hours. Most of the songs are from Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde's debut album War Cry, as well as their upcoming album to be released next year:
Reclaim the Thunder
Its In Our Hands
Mira Como Duelo
Mariposa del Fuego
PDF RiderTechnical Requirements
There are no upcoming dates at this time.