Sheriff Ariff & The Wali Sanga
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Sheriff Ariff & The Wali Sanga

Montclair, New Jersey, United States

Montclair, New Jersey, United States
World Funk




"Family Tree, Video Feature"

We finish off with a video that would have fit in very well with the Afrobeat post earlier in the week had I received it in time. It is by an outfit called Sheriff Ariff & The Wali Sanga, the song is called "Family Tree", and it is featured on their new EP "The Kraken" which you can download for free on Soundcloud or Bandcamp. Check it out. - 27 Leggies

"Alex Ariff Singer/Songwriter Interview"

1.What inspired your passion for music and who has been there supporting you from the beginning?

I was inspired naturally by music. I was influenced by my parents to pursue music at a young age with piano lessons and singing songs around the house. My family never offered video games or the other electronic based entertainment so it left more time for my imagination to roam. I have my parents to thank for supporting my musical passion and funding piano and saxophone lessons and supporting my love of the arts. I also attended a magnet arts middle school and performed regularly in high school into college where I studied jazz and now continue to pursue music and musicology side by side.

2. How do you feel about people downloading music rather then buying physical copies?

We cannot avoid people from legally and illegally acquiring music online. Instead of resisting this change, it is the artists responsibility and those who support them, to find new creative ways for the artist to connect with the fan to financially compensate for the loss of people downloading music, a cost that is incredibly cheaper than manufacturing and the consumer is aware of this. They will not pay $15 for an Mp3 album the way they may have spent $15 on a physical CD. Physical copies of CD’s are still necessary but not as important as the past and perhaps they will become obsolete, but not yet…after all people still collect LP’s and love their sound too.

3.How do you feel about the music industry today?

The music industry is an industry first and foremost. It revolves around supply and demand. Right now the music market is flooded, more than ever. Most everyone with a laptop thinks that they have the potential to be the next big star and in a way, they do. With the internet and a number of music production programs, most non-musicians (those who aren’t schooled on music theory or instrumental skills) can make, produce and sell their music. In a way this is good. It creates more opportunities for creative people, thus paving the way for new explorations in sound and music. It also creates a more competitive atmosphere for both musicians and those seeking talented musicians, singer/songwriters, songwriters, etc. It’s hard to predict where things are going but I believe the only way for a musician to survive is to have a strong internet presence, personally connecting with their fans and to be traveling, playing music live and looking for mediums outside of their own niche to sell their music. Those on the industry side have a larger pool of crappy music to deal with but in that pool lies more confident and talented musical gems than ever before. The iPod’s of today are filled with all music, from all periods and all genre’s and that will only create more universal musicianship and open ears. I am optimistic about the musicians but the best ones are rarely heard by the masses these days and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

4.Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I hope to be living as a freelance music journalist in both written and media modes while balancing an academic life in a doctoral program. I also will have my own music being recorded either by myself with other musicians, either studio or a set band.

5. Do you think singer/songwriters are the best interpreters of their own work or do you believe some cover versions can be better then the original?

This depends completely on the quality of the song and the musician performing it.

6.Who have you always dreamt of working with and why? How would you go about accomplishing this?

I would love to work with a number of musicians. If this question were to come to me 4-5 years ago, I would have instantly said Jamiroquai. His music, style and relentless affection for the groove is a complete inspiration to me and I have always wanted to work on music with him. Now, I would say the band Snarky Puppy. They are incredibly rich in texture and savvy in the jazz idiom. They value the groove as much as Jamiroquai or Earth Wind & Fire, etc. They carry the “fusion” era of jazz into the forefront of modern funk, jazz and infuse it with a complexity unlike any other musicianship I’ve ever heard but live or recorded. I would accomplish working with them by approaching them at a gig and offering my affection for their music in the most genuine way. This, I have already done. After they get to know you, ask if they will listen to your music and offer their opinion. The rest should lay in the quality of your work.

7.As you are starting out your career in the music industry what steps do you plan on taking to reach your goal?

Get acquainted with all the social media formats. Also, acquire a relationship with a Performing Rights Organization, publisher, etc. Also, acquire relationships with recording studios that fit the mold to the sound you envision for your recorded music. There are a number of steps but in general, build your musical brand as if it - Creative Spotlighst

"Sheriff Ariff Comes Home, Lays Down Musical Law"

After six months away from Tallahassee, in his first year of studying jazz history & research at Rutgers in Newark, N.J., FSU College of Music alumnus Alex Ariff came home last week to play a potentially final show with his band, Sheriff Ariff and the Wali Sanga. More specifically, the show, which took place Wednesday, June 1, at The Engine Room, was to celebrate the release of the Sanga's debut album, The Sanga Sessions.

I met Ariff just a few hours beforehand, at the next-door All Saints Café, to discuss the show, his studies, his musical crossroads and the Tallahassee lassies who have have shown up in his songwriting. You can download the new record at

FFF: So is this show tonight part of a tour?

AA: I was roadtripping with Sheeva, with my girlfriend. We coordinated the roadtrip so that I could come back, visit my friends here and--I mean, my band [the Wali Sanga] is here. That's the thing, like--I moved out of here in December, we recorded the album [The Sanga Sessions] in October and November, and then I left. So the entire this past semester, we took everything we recorded and I went into the studio in New York and mixed it, like, mastered it and mixed it, basically get it where I wanted it. We recorded some other stuff, like I got some musicians up there to do some keyboarding, some extra s***. But, yeah, the tour--it's not part of a tour. We're just playing a CD release show, just like a show to celebrate. It's cool, though, being with this band, because it's quite--we really never rehearsed. We would always rehearse the day before the show. It was that kind of band. I would throw the music at them, and--but because they've had time to kind of check out the recording--we never really had good recordings of these songs. So I think now they have a clear idea as to what the sound of the band should be. So I think we're at the best phase we've ever been at because of that, now that we have, like--we know our roles. That's kind of what I realized last night.

FFF: Is the Wali Sanga all music majors? Or former music majors?

AA: For the most part, yeah, I say that most of the band is affiliated with the College of Music. Except for the two singers, Misha [Medrano] and Natalia [Aguero]. Natalia's a new addition, and Misha's was the band as of this past fall, but Natalia--so now we have two female singers. They're not in any specific ensembles or music majors, but everyone else. The horns are all in the College of Music, percussionists--Numon, he's a new addition, he's in the College of Music--so, yeah, everyone's affiliated. So that makes it easier to learn the music too, I mean, everyone has a trained ear.

FFF: Well, tell me about the new album.

AA: We recorded six songs. I chose songs that kind of basically display the wide variety of the ensemble, so we've got [...] "It's Not Mexico," which is kind of a skanky, skank-reggae, like, slowed-down reggae, slowed-down ska groove. Like, Jamaican ska, that kind of like [sings a brief ska beat]. Like, early ska. Not, like, Reel Big Fish ska [laughs]. So, it's good--they both are great. But, yeah, we've got that kind of groove down, and then we've got the more jazzy, funk, Steely Dan-influenced tune called "I'm So Cozy with You," that's definitely Steely Dan influenced in the vocals, like, the harmonies. We've kind of got my homage to Billy Joel with a song called "Boomerang," which is kind of like a standard pop chorus, driving pop, like circa 52nd Street Billy Joel. So most of my tunes are just a wide variety of genres--always striving for pop, though. I want each song to have a hook. There needs to be something that someone walks away from the song singing. That's my number-one goal every time I go to write a piece of music, it's like: have a hook, whether it's an instrumental hook or a vocal hook--anything.

FFF: Do you feel like your, I guess, further study of jazz is influencing the way you're doing things now?

AA: The graduate program I'm in right now? I think it's just making me have more perspective of jazz as a--not just one little narrative of, "And then New Orleans happened, and then New York happened." I think it's helping me see that they're all these little pockets of ways that people can incorporate jazz into their music. So I would say it's making me a more well-rounded musician. I haven't really felt it in the Sanga, though. I mean, the Sanga is a separate--I wouldn't say it's had a direct influence on my personal music [....] This past semester, more than anything else, we were given these homework assignments, like, listening to six hours of early Duke Ellington, early Louie Armstrong, all this early s***. And I'd never really, like, really checked that s*** out, and it forced me to--when you're here, this is kind of a tangent, but when you're in a jazz academic setting, there's a lot of pressure to play your best s***, play your baddest s***, play the s*** you've been working on. But not necessari - FSView

"Franklin High Grad Brings Jazz to Baltimore Tonight"

Owings Mills native Alex Ariff grew up around music and took every opportunity in high school to perform. He played saxophone for the jazz band, marching band, wind ensemble, symphonic band and musicals. He sang in the honors chorus and even formed his own a cappella group.

While he certainly blossomed at Franklin High School, it wasn’t until his freshman year at Florida State University in 2006 that he really stepped up his game.

He wasn’t enrolled in the college’s music program, but hung out in the rehearsal spaces, networking and learning everything he could.

“I had never been around that many talented musicians,” he said. “It was a place where I could walk the halls and literally hear the talent.”

It wasn’t long until he started gigging with several bands and formed his own, Sheriff Ariff & The Wali Sanga.

Ariff brings his blend of pop, soul and funk with the improvisational spirit of jazz to Baltimore tonight. The free show is at Joe Squared in the Power Plant, at 30 Market Place, at 10 p.m.

Tonight’s show marks a couple of firsts for Ariff, who lives in Montclair, NJ, these days. It’s his first performance back in his home city, and his first performing his music as a duo.

Ariff keeps a rotating cast of musicians around for Wali Sanga, and his band has been as large as 11 people, as it was at his last show.

“It allows the music to continually change and that’s a beautiful thing,” he said of playing with different musicians at different times. “It allows people to reinterpret my music, and I don’t put a lot of limitations on them.”

Tonight, the music will be stripped down, with Ariff covering vocals, saxophone and keyboards with only the accompaniment of drummer/percussionist Kirk Kubicek.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to completely control where the music goes,” Ariff said.

While the duo will be the core of the band, there will be guests, most notably Ariff’s childhood friend Stephen Mulligan, a Peadbody-trained violinist, and tenor sax player Daniel Wallace, who goes back to middle school with Ariff. He will also be selling his album, The Sanga Sessions, at tonight’s show.

While the stage may fill up with guests – Ariff said several sax players may sit in – tonight’s show will be an experiment for Ariff, who plans to explore the room a duo gives him.

“I’ve never done anything like this before.” - Reisterstown Patch

"Sheriff Ariff interview for The Kraken EP"

Enter the Shell host, Turrtle, intervies Sheriff Ariff about the release of The Kraken. - Enter The Shell

"Irrepressible Groove"

“[Family Tree] is a driving and persuasive tune, finding funk combined with nimble prog rock and so much more that the individual components and categorizations fall secondary to the ultimate musical objective’s irrepressible groove." - What I Do_For Me For You


Still working on that hot first release.



"Take care of the groove, and the groove will take care of you." These are words bandleader Alexander "Sheriff" Ariff lives by. While studying jazz saxophone and composition at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, Sheriff Ariff slapped together a rotating cast of the best groove and jazz musicians in town. From '07-'10, The Wali Sanga grew as a fresh party band, blending funk, jazz, blues, soul, R&B and rock.

The band released their debut EP, “Sanga Sessions” in 2010 and relocated to the NYC area. "Sanga Sessions" was tracked over many months reflects a wide pallet of groove--from skanking reggae to uptempo futuristic disco. The band's follow up live-tracked EP/video session captured the bands massive sound in a snug studio. “The Kraken” is a sensational energized piece of style, individual and collective soul.

Sheriff Ariff & The Wali Sanga have expanded as a polished yet raw group with skills to keep the mind and hips engaged at all times. The collective band rotates from time to time, which has allowed the group to absorb musicianship and style from the USA's greatest musical urban centers (NYC, Philly, New Orleans). They have performed to packed audiences in Philadelphia, Queens, Boston, Baltimore, Montclair, Miami, and of course their birth palace, Tallahassee, Florida.

Collectively, musicians in the group have performed internationally and with numerous incredible artists crossing all genres. Performance credits include: Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Jason Marsalis, David Murray Big Band, Marcus Roberts, Fishbone, Henry Butler, George Clinton and David Wax Museum.