I Anbassa
Gig Seeker Pro

I Anbassa

Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States

Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Band World Reggae




"Grand Band Slam - Best Reggae"

It may not have been a dark and stormy night, but the birth of I Anbassa still possesses the qualities necessary for an intriguing tale. One evening last summer, lead singer Ras N’gosi Anbassa was invited to sing with Irie Feelings at the Chef’s Table in Westport. The groove was right, the stars aligned, and by his recollection, it was a magical night. This was his first time playing with this ensemble, but as he sang and gave the band the chord changes, the performance fell into place. Days later, he was in touch with guitarist Mark Lyon talking about putting together a band. It “came together mystically,” as Anbassa puts it, in less than a week.

Anbassa is the driving force behind I Anbassa. His roots stretch back to his mother’s music collection, which was filled with exotic and rare French and Haitian music. He spent his early childhood singing in his church and went on to discover different kinds of music, particularly roots reggae. Since graduating from the University of Bridgeport with a B.A. in music, Anbassa has enjoyed a rewarding career, with reggae bands like Chronic and Respect Due as well as playing and touring with Ini Souljahs.

In embarking on this new venture, Anbassa contacted a few other artists with whom he’d worked over the years. Now this nine-member ensemble is a force to be reckoned with. With Anbassa taking the lead, the group features percussionist Kalile I Dan, bassist Mike Tepper, drummer Mike Paolucci and lead and rhythm guitarist Mike Lyon. “Empresses” Katie, Claire and Katrese provide the rich backup vocals that both underlie and complement Anbassa’s energetic performances. And poet Isidu’s spoken words add another layer to the work, resulting in a unique and intriguing texture.

The band is currently in the studio working on their first full-length album. According to Anbassa, ten instrumental tracks have been recorded and the band is in the process of laying down the vocals. The album, titled Bezu Fehker (which translates from Amharic as “more love”) is due to be released early this fall.

With only a year under their collective belt, I Anbassa has come a long way in a short amount of time. If their brief history is any indication — to date, they’ve opened for Mighty Diamonds, Mutti Lewis and Mystic Bowie — the outlook for the future is bright and blessed.

- Fairfield Weekly

"Local Roots Run Deep by Nick Doniger"

Guitarist Mark Lyon of Trumbull unpacks his guitar and deftly tunes it. Having lugged in their heavy equipment, he and fellow band members warm up their instruments in the languid summer air in anticipation of an Aug. 27 performance at the Acoustic Café in Black Rock.
No matter how many times they go through the ritual, it always unleashes a flood of emotions they harness to pump energy and excitement into their playing. They look out into the sea of expectant faces and let loose their driving reggae sound.

It all started a year ago July when four musicians got together for a jam session, one of whom had a few song ideas. By the end of their first practice in Trumbull, a nine-piece reggae band was fully formed, and 10 songs were completed.

N’Gosi is the vocalist and songwriter of that band, I Anbassa, and those three other musicians are guitarist Lyon, drummer Mike Paolucci, and vocalist Katie Wilson. To round out the group, the four of them brought aboard bassist Mike Tepper, percussionist Kalile Dan “Kali”, vocalist Claire Barber, vocalist Katrese Weaver, and dub poet isIdu.

It did not take much time for the members of I Anbassa to become familiar and comfortable with their music, and they soon began performing throughout Connecticut and New York. Early this year, they assembled a reggae workshop at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport. Students learned about reggae and Rastafari culture with N’Gosi and the band. Concluding the day was a full set, incorporating poetry performed by some of the students.

I Anbassa’s presence in the Connecticut music scene has become quickly iconic, having performed at local venues such as Daniel Street in Milford and Marisa’s in Trumbull. This summer in Fairfield Weekly’s “Grand Band Slam” contest, I Anbassa received the honor of being voted “Best Reggae” in Fairfield County, and was runner up for “Best Band.”

When asked about favorite venues to perform at, every member seems to share a love for Bridgeport’s Acoustic Café on Fairfield Avenue. I Anbassa performs there regularly, and N’Gosi said that the venue is “always packed” for their shows.

“The Bridgeport area is a supportive scene,” said Weaver, “and the people who are in it are way in it.”
There are always plenty of attendees at the band’s Acoustic Café performances, though Weaver follows up her previous statement saying that, “there’s a happening scene, but a lot of people don’t know about it.”

A new genre

I Anbassa members describe Bridgeport’s music scene as “reggae-centric.” As much as they promote reggae culture, however, they perceive it as inaccurate to label themselves. “I think they’d have to make a new genre just for us,” said percussionist Kali.

Every band member has something to say on the topic. Summing it up, Weaver said, “Good music is good music, no matter what it’s called.”

“We all have diverse musical backgrounds,” Lyon said. He notes that they derive influences from “everyone from Bob Marley, to funk bands, to Fela Kuti, to Herbie Hancock.”

I Anbassa’s music is created on a foundation of reggae, but builds upon it with traditional African rhythms and influence from funk, world music, and even hard rock. Much of the music features tempo changes, key changes, and different textures within each song. Many songs also tend to be slightly faster paced than typical reggae, giving them a driving energy that excites the crowd at every show.

“We try to touch on different aspects of life, thinking, love, happiness and balance,” said N’Gosi, who writes all the song lyrics for the band. Lyon adds, “also awareness,” as the band expresses certain cathartic themes amidst its usually uplifting words.
N’Gosi writes about the grief of a mother he never met in their song, “Gunned Down,” based on an experience in which he witnessed a young man being murdered. Even in these somewhat less upbeat songs, he hopes to offer the audience a positive message.

Most lyrics, however, are about love and Rastafari culture. Almost every song includes the word “Rastafari,” with a strong emphasis on the “I” sound at the end. The word “I” is representative of the creator in Rastafari language. The word “anbassa,” the second part of the band’s name, translates literally to “lion.” N’Gosi said that for him, the word is symbolic for his reverence toward the late Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.

“For others,” N’Gosi said, “it can represent strength, honor, courage, and royalty.”

These words, along with the title of the band’s upcoming album, Bezu Fehker, are in Amharic, a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia. The title translates roughly to “More Love.”

The 10-song album is being recorded locally, at Mutti Lewis’s Gravity Bridge recording studio in Bridgeport.

“This band is totally love based,” said vocalist Weaver. She and Wilson and Barber, the three female vocalists of the band, are never referred to as back-up singers. As N’Gosi always introduces the band at the end of each set, he refers to the three as “Empress Katrese,” “Empress Katie,” and “Empress Claire” — his three forward singers. To say anything else would diminish their role in the band, he said.

Musician backgrounds

N’Gosi was born in Haiti and attributes much of his love for music to his mother, who raised him listening to Haitian and French music. His dedication to I Anbassa is strong enough that he travels to rehearsals in Trumbull and shows throughout the Connecticut and New York metropolitan area all the way from Nyack, N.Y. where he resides. In addition to performing, he also teaches music.

Tepper, also known as “Tep,” is a bassist, composer, and educator based out of Stamford. He has been playing professionally since the age of 17, and has performed around the country with several internationally renowned musicians of various genres.

He currently performs regularly with I Anbassa and master guitarist Renard Boissiere. Tepper also performs and records with artists in the New York City area on an as-needed basis. His Web site is myspace.com/tepperbass.

Paolucci has been performing in and around Connecticut for almost 15 years. He has played in many types of bands, including rock, funk, experimental/noise, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and reggae.

A graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, Paolucci also took classes at the New Haven School of African Drum and Dance and studied privately with Kwaku Kwakye Obeng of Ghana. He teaches general music full-time at Bridgeport’s Tisdale Elementary School.

Lyon is a guitarist, performer, composer, and teacher from Trumbull. He also teaches at Fairfield Guitar Center with Al Ferrante. He has been a member of reggae, funk, R&B, and metal bands who have played all over New York City, New York State, and Connecticut.

Aside from I Anbassa, Lyon also plays with Bridgeport-based R&B singer Mr. Council, plus New Haven-based progressive metal band Xenosis.

Barber is a life-long artist from Stratford with a passion for painting and music. She first broke onto the music scene in June 2009 when Mr. Council needed a backing vocalist to fill in last minute for a gig. Barber learned Mr. Council’s set of R&B originals in one week. She performed with Mr. Council, and then also filled in for Reggae band, Green Stripe, on harmony vocals that night. One week later, she helped form I Anbassa.

The band member known as isIdu performs spoken word poetry during I Anbassa’s sets, which is often referred to in reggae culture as “dub poetry.” He is also the host of WPKN’s radio show “Paradise Roots Session” on Wednesdays from 2 to 6 a.m. In addition to working with WPKN and I Anbassa, isIdu brews and sells a drinkable, all-natural tonic called Paradise Roots.

Weaver, a Bridgeport native, attended Howard University for theater arts dance. In addition to doing choreography with local performing artists, she has given dance lessons for camps and after-school programs in the greater Bridgeport area. Weaver also sings with Mr. Council. One day, she hopes to open a performing arts/business high school in the Park City.

In addition to singing with I Anbassa, Wilson is a violinist and songwriter with a folk/bluegrass background. She released her own solo album in 2009.

Kali is a trained percussionist with several years of experience and has performed in other reggae bands. He resides in Bridgeport.

Getting noticed
In the short amount of time it has been a band, I Anbassa has already wracked up some notable achievements. Recently, it was featured as part of Stamford’s “Alive at Five” concert series, and it opened for the legendary funk group George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.

In November 2009, I Anbassa opened for the Jamaican reggae trio Mighty Diamonds at Toad’s Place in New Haven.

One achievement that I Anbassa is particularly proud of was making it to the finals at a national battle of the bands contest called Emergenza in New York City. The band praises its Connecticut supporters for its success in the contest.

“It was the local audience that supported us at Emergenza, where we got fourth place,” said N’Gosi.
- Bridgeport news, Trumbull Times, Fairfield

"Rastafarian Invasion"

Local reggae phenomenon I Anbassa will conduct a free concert at the Performing Arts Center in Lafayette Hall at 7pm on Thursday, March 11th. If you haven’t added this to your schedule yet, you should, cause’ you’re in for a course in modern reggae.

I Anbassa will also hold a reggae culture workshop at 2pm earlier that day.

"I'm going to speak about Rastafarian culture and where the roots reggae is from," says Front Man Ras N'gosi. "I want us to have a small discussion on topics in our world..., environment..., [and] society that mean a lot."

I Anbassa, an all original roots reggae group, features extremely talented musicians from diverse musical backgrounds: progressive rock, jazz, folk, blues, metal, soul, and bluegrass- to name a few. “It's plain to see we're all from different backgrounds...different genres of music, yet we come together for a purpose. We have like minds. We have like ambitions." says N'Gosi.

* * *

The group came together in July 2009 after a chance encounter between N'Gosi and a local Bob Marley cover band, Green Stripe. Green Stripe had been backing local reggae performer Irei Feelinz, for a two month contract at the Chef's table in Fairfield.

"Irie would feature different reggae artists, and one of the artists that he featured was N'Gosi. He was by far the best. We all really wanted to play with him. A couple of months after the Irie Feelinz gig, he contacted me," said Lead Guitarist Mark Lyon.

"It was instant chemistry. A week later we had a 9-piece band." N'Gosi recollected.

Since then I Anbassa has wasted no time accumulating both a respectable fan base and reputation.

At their most recent performance on February 20th, the crowd was amazed by their incredibly entertaining performance.

Julia Hymans, director of premiums and promotions for WPKN said "They're a great local band...one of the better ones around here, and they're great people. I've been supporting them for a while."

And Julia wasn't the only member of the crowd who was impressed.

Throughout their impressive long sets, the audience is constantly engaged.

The performance began with a thought provoking narrative courtesy of dub poet and Tonic Brewer IsIdu. After priming the room, IsIdu bowed out, and handed the reins to N'Gosi. As soon as the music began, the crowd erupted into celebration. Few who stood remained sedentary. The venue was intoxicated with laughter, dance, and positivity. Two hours later, nothing had changed.

The show ended at 1:30am, but the crowd wanted more.

"The music was great, their presence was phenomenal, the energy was beautiful- the whole thing was beautiful," said spectator Mike as he stood curb side smoking a cigarette.

Mike's friend Jose added "They had the energy level. They killed it." Rahz, a spectator, jokingly added “I have cancer. After viewing that show, it’s cured.”

I Anbassa's performance was not a onetime success. "They've played for us five or six times," co-owner of the Acoustic Cafe, Jessica Apple said, "They usually turn out around one hundred people, which is about capacity for us." - Housatonic Horizons


Still working on that hot first release.



I Anbassa delivers high energy, all original Roots Reggae grounded in traditional island music and laced with rock, funk, nyabinghi, and afro-beat. Bringing forward a fresh, new and infectious sound, they explode on stage with irresistible hooks and bubbling rhythms that instantly get the crowd grooving and singing along. With over three hours of original music and a vast catalog of classic Reggae covers, this band can accommodate any crowd; large or small, young or old. Their songs promote self-awareness, consciousness, healthy living, positivity and, of course, Jah love.

Based out of Southern Connecticut, I Anbassa formed in the summer of 2009 and matured quickly. To date, they have played with Steel Pulse, Stephen Marley, the Mighty Diamonds, Tribal Seeds, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Lettuce, and Deep Banana Blackout. I Anbassa has headlined at Toad's Place in New Haven, CT and Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom in NYC, among others.  They have played in every kind of venue, from weddings to radio stations to large scale audiences in the thousands. I Anbassa also performed at many non-profit events such as Art&Struggle and Black Rock Rocks Mardi Gras, and has so far spearheaded two very successful Hope for Haiti benefits. In 2010, they were voted "Best Reggae Band in CT" and runner-up for "Best CT Band."  

In short, I Anbassa offers quality, interactive music, rich with conscious lyrics and driving grooves that resonate in the hearts and minds of each audience member, leaving every crowd chanting for more!