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Sitali refers to his band as “D.C.’s first African rock outfit,” and as such the diasporic trio—Jean-Francis Varre on vocals and guitar and Jon Laine on drums—has found a niche. At a recent show at Bossa Lounge, the crowd sang along as if it knew “Black Star” by heart. They get the song, says Sitali: “Oh yeah. Without a doubt.” —Ryan Grim

August 4, 2006

- Washington City Paper


I am a Tree (2005)
Stoke the Fire (2008)



Sitali, an explosive rock trio out of Washington DC, adds their eclectic brand of music to the rich D.C. musical legacy.

Sitali’s socially conscious lyrical content is politically charged. With Haitian drummer, Senegalese/Cape Verdian bassist, and Zambian guitarist, their musical influences provide the backdrop for lush harmonic vocals punctuated by raw musical power in an unorthodox stew of intense rock, world and R&B fusion.

Drummer, vocalist Jon Laine sets the pace with a technical proficiency honed from his experience playing with Aretha Franklin, Charlie Byrd, Steve Coleman, and Meshelle Ndegeocello.

Bassist, vocalist Jean-Francis Varre initially cut his teeth playing bass with legendary D.C. rock group Lucy Brown. He later backed up legendary Congolese Rhumba guitarist Raymond Brenk. Jean continues to work as a vocalist for British soul crooner Omar and the D.C. based Cuban Salsa orchestra Ashe.

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Sitali Siyolwe rounds out the trio as the band’s front man. Sitali spent his childhood in Egypt, Russia, and England where at age 13 he had his first recording sessions with veteran Rock & Roll producer Glynn Johns of Led Zepplin and Rolling Stones fame. After stints in New York and Seattle Sitali, settled in Washington D.C. and formed the band christened with his name in 2005. Their first album “I am a Tree” shortly followed.

Sitali are currently in the recording studio working on their sophomore album, Stoke the Fire, due to be released in 2008.