The Opposition Party
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The Opposition Party

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Band World Afropop

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The Opposition Party is a 10-piece ensemble comprised of talented music aficionados John Knecht (percussion), Danny Howard (percussion), Bryan "Rez" Resendiz (drums), Michael Weimann (bass), Jason Kaulas (guitar), Joshua Siegal (keys), Jake Worley-Hood (trumpet), Joshua "Shap" Shapiro (tenor sax), Andy Peplinski (trombone) and Joshua Therriault (baritone sax). For the past year they've worked tirelessly toward synthesizing African rhythms with reggae and dub influences, and so far the results have been sublime. Their brand of afrobeat clearly pulls from legends like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Tony Allen and Thomas Mapfumo (in addition to many others), but as a whole they've continued to impress with a sound all unto themselves.

They've performed at a number of venues throughout Chicago (Martyrs, Chopin Theatre, The Whistler and Reggie's, to name a few), and with a live album already under their belt it appears they're already looking to make a permanent stamp on the local music scene. They'll also play a free show at The Whistler on October 7 for a show. Centerstage corresponded with The Opposition Party via e-mail to chat about everything from the band's brief history together to its take on how powerful a genre afrobeat can be.

You have quite an ensemble, how did you all meet?
We formed a few years back when a bunch of us had been in another project, working on learning some Fela and Thomas Mapfumo material. We went different ways, but eventually a few of us found ourselves without a project at the same time, and all still interested in playing African and reggae music. So it was just kind of continuing what we'd been up to before, and gradually adding pieces that fit.

For example, our bass player and keyboard player met in an African band years before and randomly ran into each other in the music wing of the Harold Washington Library downtown. One of our percussionists joined the project after a band member tried to buy his talking drum at a store performance, only to realize that not only was the drum not for sale, but the drummer was a familiar face as well.

Can you take me back to your first performance together?
Our first performance as the full ensemble was a fundraiser in April 2009, playing to help raise money for the Cause & Affect Foundation. We set up in a wing of the Primitive Gallery in the West Loop, which was hosting the event. It was a really nice night – great cause, beautiful space full of all of these artifacts from all over the world, a Buddhist meditation room - lots of wood and gorgeous shapes, which made for a really pretty acoustic environment, and that worked out well because we brought a mobile multi-track recording rig and put down the tracks for our album/demo, "Live at Primitive" (which you can download here). In retrospect, it’s kind of hard to believe we decided to multitrack our first performance, but it helps when you have a guitar player who is also a sound engineer and can tweak levels while playing guitar, so it worked out.

You all have deep resumes and extensive knowledge in your respective crafts, what was it about the genre of afrobeat that spoke to you guys?
When we were starting to get into these tunes as what would become the nexus of the group, it seems like there was a bit of a growing awareness of Fela in particular, especially with groups like Antibalas and Chicago Afrobeat Project coming out. But the more you get into it, the more you realize that, for example, James Brown was influenced by Fela. Talking Heads were influenced by Fela. The list goes on. And one thing that we have been really into is the way that the influence goes both ways, with African and Jamaican musicians very aware of what was going on in the states during those periods. So, possibly what's real is the inspiration and musical ideas transferring around the world, and what's artificial is this idea that things fit into categories or labels. With afrobeat, it's so closely tied with some aesthetics that our ears are used to – and Fela sings many of his songs in English, so possibly afrobeat is like a gateway drug. But at the same time, we were also delving into Mapfumo and things like that.

You cite Fela Kuti and Tony Allen (amongst others) as sources of inspiration. Do you think Fela's political message still resonates today?
Well, the name of our band is The Opposition Party, and when we're together and not playing, we're usually talking politics. It would be hard to envision a period in history where a message of wariness of the government, wariness of those in power would not resonate. Most of us in the U.S. are not living in a situation where the government is throwing our family members out of windows (as happened to Fela in Nigeria), but consider that after the financial meltdown in 2008, Nigeria put the heads of its banks in jail, while we put ours in the government. So yeah, maybe the message gets more important all the time.

What do you think about Fela on Broadw - Centerstage Chicago


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Guests who have sat in / played with The Opposition Party:

Gil Alexander Percussion
Victor Garcia Trumpet
John Knecht Percussion (alumnus)
Mamadou Mbengue Talking Drum
Typhanie Monique Vocal
Ryan Nyther Trumpet
Chris Paquette Percussion
Alejo Poveda Percussion
Michael Riendeau Percussion
Wolfy Percussion

The Opposition Party Membership:

Mark Ford - Marks diverse singing career includes long Broadway stints in Rent (as Tom Collins) and Lennon, touring and recording with Elton John, several offBroadway and regional musical productions and performing with Queen Esther Marrow and the Harlem Gospel Singers.d

Danny Howard - Percussion
Born in Buffalo, raised in Chicagoland, studied Cuba and Brazil. While living in the UK he was the Band leader of Son Salsa, The Latin Experince, Johhny & the Checkers, and the Howard Quartet.

Bryan Rez Resendiz - Drums
A natural feel drummer with a penchant for polyrhythm, Rez has toured all over the globe and can lay down complex afrobeat rhythms as well as simple, soulful grooves.

Michael Weimann - Bass
For years, Mike has added his smooth, round sound to funk and African projects throughout Chicago.

Jason Kaulas - Guitar
Strictly rhythm. You dont see many guitarists with these chops layin down just the scratch, the skank, and the rub a dub. Watch out, he might take a solo one of these days, and you wouldnt want to miss it.

Joshua Siegal - Keyboards
Serving up the bubble on the organ, synth, and electric piano. Josh also creates sound for theater and produces multimedia in his spare time.

Jake Worley-Hood - Trumpet
Whether conducting a sound-painting group or blowing trumpet for us, Jake possesses a great feel for groove and improvisation.

Joshua Shap Shapiro - Tenor Sax
The soulful virtuoso. Shap is in demand all over town, and were glad to have his formidable horn sweetening our sound.

Andy Peplinski - Trombone
A multitalented bass player who digs on funk, we get him on his first love, the slide trombone.

Joshua Therriault - Baritone Sax
Josh has been playing saxophone, clarinet and flute professionally in Chicago since 1996. Heavily influenced by the blues, Josh lends his gritty sound to various projects throughout the city. In 2013, Josh completed a nine month stint as the primary saxophone player for the award-winning "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at The Royal George Theater. You can catch Josh performing on a regular basis with The Opposition Party, ContraBanda and, of course, The Morphtet. Josh also co-leads an original songwriting project called Willy Dynomite in which you can see him perform on lead vocals and keyboards.

Band Members