Chris Berry & Panjea

Chris Berry & Panjea

BandWorldPop

As a composer, arranger, musician, and dynamic performer (he has been compared with everyone from Sting to Bob Marley to James Brown), Chris Berry is part hip-hop, part Southern soul all rolled into one, an inspirational poster boy for the joyful unification of music and cultures.

Biography

Bombastic Beats and Phat Brass: Chris Berry Takes America by Storm

“He possesses a unique and reedy voice like Sting, a stage presence like James Brown, and lyrical content reminiscent of Bob Marley.” - New York Press

“Bombastic Beats, Phat Brass and Revolutionary lyrics. If you don't dance you will.” – L.A. Times

Berry’s story “sounds like it was written by a Hollywood script writer” (Steve Leggett, All Music Guide). Maybe that is because it is hard to believe that a California White boy moved to Africa, became a spirit caller, and went on to sell over a million records in Southern Africa, where he still sells out stadiums. Now he is positioned to do the same in America.

A lot of small-town American kids flee home as soon as they hit legal age, in search of something. Many find their way back home, but few journeys match those taken by Berry. After over a decade living in Africa, Berry has now settled back in America following the edict given to him by African ancestor spirits to make a difference here, launching a slew of new activities to convey his message of justice and peace. His renewed American mission launches when Chris Berry and his band Panjea release Dancemakers, on Wrasse Records on April 18, 2006. Berry has drafted String Cheese’s Michael Kang for new collaborations in Africa and for a May 2006 American tour supporting the new album.

But Berry is keeping busy with other efforts as well. He recently composed a 13-song CD accompanying Mine & Yours, Human Rights for Kids, Amnesty International’s first illustrated guide for young children, consisting of one song for each of the thirteen Children’s rights. Saxophonist and global consort leader Paul Winter has recruited Berry for Flyways, a musical celebration CD of the great annual bird migrations from Eurasia to Africa. Berry is creating a massive pan-African orchestra consisting of musicians from each country that the birds pass over, from Germany to South Africa.

His own winding and unexpected journey took flight at age 18, when Berry and his mentor—expat-African drum master Titos Sompa, with whom Berry had been studying since age 13—boarded a plane for Congo’s Brazzaville. After a ten-day boat trip up the Congo River, Berry arrived in a remote village and immersed himself in the culture and music. His fascination of Zimbabwean mbira (thumb piano) music eventually lured him to Harare, where he settled and studied under legendary mbira master Monderek Muchena for ten years. During that time, Berry put together his band Panjea, whose pioneering blend of indigenous music, dance hall, and hip-hop earned platinum album sales throughout Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and beyond.

While studying in Zimbabwe, Berry became one of the first Westerners to be accepted among the elder mbira masters as one of their own. “I played for a lot of ceremonies where people would become possessed,” said Berry. “Some of the old ancestors who came back spoke to me through these people: ‘What are you doing here? There are lots of misguided people, lost and confused people, in your country. They’re killing each other there. It’s time for you to take what you’ve learned and bring it to your own country because they need it more than we need it here. That’s your job. You’re the bridge maker.’” And so back on his native soil we find him today, preaching an uplifting transcontinental message of hope to contagious, dance beats based in the Zimbabwean mbira and sacred Congolese ngoma drum rhythms.

Berry has been deemed a master of both mbira and ngoma drum, earning the title of gwenyambira (“one whose music calls the spirits”), a distinction reserved only for those who have achieved the highest fusion of the technical and the magical in music from the elder with whom he lived and studied during his years abroad.

Berry and the kids he knew in Sebastopol, CA grew up on Rush, the Scorpions; your standard rock & roll diet. In junior high he fell in with “a bunch of hoodlums,” in his words, who sought amusement through shoplifting. One day, when he was around twelve, one of the guys pocketed a cassette from a local music store and hurried out to join Berry and the gang in their van. That tape changed his life. “It was a Fela Kuti album,” he remembers. “We started playing it and it was like I had gone home. For hours I listened to it again and again. I couldn’t stop playing it… and I couldn’t stop dancing.”

The onetime child hooligan has made good on his years of experience. Panjea, which over the years has developed into a multicultural ensemble united by his commitment to heal through music and “fighting racism with love.” Their new release, Dancemakers, is a testament to their philosophy, with a catchy but thought-provoking number that asks, “Why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong?”

Panjea has grown from a band to a full-fledged non-profit institution: the Panjea Foundation for Cultural Education. “Panjea bel

Lyrics

Break Free

Written By: Chris Berry

Break Free

Verse 1

No where to hide no where to run, here they come.

Here comes those clouds again and I begin to spin.
Im out of control.
If I wanna get out of this hole I better stop digin.

No where to hide no where to run, here they come.
From behind me now
No where to hide no where to run, here they come.

There gos my mind again and I begin to spin.
Im out of control.
If I wanna get out of this hole I better stop digin.

I gotta change the way Ive been livin.
Respect the gifts Ive been given.
Cause it?s a blessing to be livin.

Chorus 1

I gotta get out, Break free.
From these thoughts of negativity
I gotta get out, Break free.
From these things that defeat me
I gotta get out, Break free.
But these phantoms keep on haunting me.
Oh no here they come.

Verse 2

No where to hide no where to run, here they come.

Here comes those clouds again and I begin to spin.
Im out of control.
If I wanna get out of this hole I better stop digin.

No where to hide no where to run, here they come.

There gos my mind again and I begin to spin.
Im out of control.
If I wanna get out of this hole I better stop digin.

I gotta change the way Ive been livin.
Respect the gifts Ive been given.
Cause it?s a blessing to be livin.

Chorus 2

I gotta get out, Break free.
From these thoughts that defeat me
I gotta get out, Break free.
From this cage that I put on me.
I gotta get out, Break free.

Verse 3

Sabotage, sabotage, self sabotage, I ran past the water chasing a
mirage.
But I shall not take another step bearing this burden of self doubt.
I gotta get out.
No more self deceiving, unbelieving playing the game of blame
Break free
All the answers and the power.
Now is the hour and here I come here we come.

Chorus 3

I gotta get out, Break free. (repeat to end)

Why Do We?

Written By: Chris Berry

If anger and violence are one how can violence end what angers begun?
For how long shall we sing the same song?
You can't right a wrong with another wrong.

Chorus:

Why do we kill people, who kill people, to show people, that killing
people is wrong. x 3

You cant right a wrong with another wrong.

Verse 2:

Decided by the thrown, cries unheard by hearts of stone.
Freedom is something you can force one to own as these times have shown
Hopelessness begets frustration and fear, fear to hate, hate to rage.
Don't even turn the page we know how the story goes.

Chorus:

Why do we kill people, who kill people, to show people, that killing
people is wrong. x 2

Why do we, do we? x 4

Verse 3:

To decide death as another mans fate, is to forget only compassion can
quench this fire of hate.
Oh what state of mind, demands an eye for an eye and leaves the whole
world blind.

Discography

Vanhu Vamwe (1992), Panjea (1993), Songs (1995), Shona Songs (1995), Marimba Ava Murewa (1997), Knowledge Devoid of Wisdom (1999), Live in Oz (2000), and a best-of, Roots, which collects material from 1996 to 2002

Dancemakers - 2006

Set List

two sets
3 hour show