Tosin and Hallelujazz Project
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Tosin and Hallelujazz Project

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Interview with Tosin Aribisala
By Leon James of DC Bebop[www.dcbebop.com]

Music - Drummer, Songwriter and Musical Producer: Tosin Aribisala

Nigerian-born Tosin Aribisala, moved to the U.S. in 2001. Since his arrival, Tosin has been involved in numerous on-going musical projects, one of which was the "Red Hot & Riot" CD, a tribute to the legendary Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer Fela Anikulapo Kuti who died in 1997. Kuti pioneered Afrobeat music, was a human rights activist and political maverick.

From his musical experiences, Tosin has developed a wide range of drumming styles, which include fusion, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, Latin, afrobeat, gospel, juju and the traditional African drumming patterns associated with the "Konkolo" style.

In addition to playing, writing and producing music, Tosin is also a teacher of the drumming art from which he derives a great deal of satisfaction. The passing on of traditional art styles is tied to the evolution of both man and music.

Tosin is currently the lead for a group he organized in 2002, the Hallelujazz Project. Some key members of the band are Cheikh Ndoye on Bass, Ben Bokor on Sax and vocalist Monica Ssali.

The following are a few questions I posed to Tosin and his responses:

DCB: At what age did you begin to play and when did you get your first set of
drums?

TOSIN: Before i started playing the American drum set i began by playing [at about 3 or 4] African percussions like congas, cowbell, shekere, woodblock e.t.c. And then in 1987 when i went to a local church in Lagos, Nigeria, i saw that they had drum set and decided to give it a try. That was how my drumming life took off.

DCB: From your writing, your father was a strong influence in your music
learning. What other persons associated with your learning music were most influential in your life?

TOSIN: Other influential person in my music learning was a man named Kunle Pinmiloye, a great teacher and drummer. He was the first person who taught how to read and interpret musical notations and drum rudiments. Another good teacher of mine was a Paris-based drummer called Moktar Samba, who gave me some lessons whenever i met him in France some years ago. Moktar actually expatiated on what Kunle taught me in Nigeria.

DCB: When did you begin performing with a band?

TOSIN: I started performing in a professional band in 1996. The band [Sunny Neji Band] was led by a guy called Sunny Neji - a Nigerian-based pop singer - who recently toured the U.S. Initially i was with the band for about 2 months and i was fired because i wasn't disciplined enough in keeping to time - always late for rehearsals and gigs and overplaying instead of keeping a steady flow of rhythm. It was quite disappointing, but fortunately for me they called me back a few weeks later. At that time i had learned a big lesson about being more professional and disciplined on a gig. However, i was only there for less than a year before another opportunity came my way.

DCB: What was the first song you wrote and do you still play it and do you ever update songs you have written in the past and perform them anew?

TOSIN: The first song i wrote is called "Harvester", which was written 11 years ago. I still perform it live; actually, i just started performing it with my band about a year ago, and it's been rearranged for both vocal and instrumental versions. I always update my songs with new arrangements. It's like painting; you sketch out what you want to paint and you keep going back to the board to add this and that line or color. I learned that from a Ghanaian painter who worked for my dad and applied that to my music. Besides, i have come across some composers' works that have been rearranged by themselves; the funny thing is that the rearrangement always takes me by surprise, and that just inspires me to rework some of my compositions, which sometimes gives birth to 2 versions of the same song. That way the band doesn't get bored of playing the same song over and over.

DCB: As you were growing up, how were you influenced by the music of the church?

TOSIN: Before the advent of Christianity in Nigeria we had traditional music, so the music of the church has its roots in the traditional or folk music of the land. Looking at it from that angle, it's impossible to separate the two: secular and church(gospel) music. The main differences are the lyrics and the hymns. Thus, i absorbed everything equally: church music and secular music at the same time.

DCB: Some comments on your website reference the "Universal Language" of music. Where do you see Hallelujazz Project within this framework?

TOSIN: Well, besides my native Yoruba language that some listeners may not understand, the instrumental aspect of the music is what brings about the connection or attraction for the general listeners. Because the
instrumentation of my music is not so traditionally African but a m - By Leon James, DC Bebop [www.dcbebop.com]


Discography

Tosin's Debut Album 2006: "what's on your mind".

Tosin and his band are doing some promotional gigs for the CD.

CD available at CDbaby.com/aribisala

Photos

Bio

About hallelujazz project

hallelujazz project was organized in 2002 by Tosin Aribisala. With band members from different parts of Africa and the United States, the band consists of well-talented and professional musicians with great passion for music.

According to Tosin, he is trying to bring forth a cross-cultural musical spectrum with his band by merging his traditional African musical concept with a blend of jazz elements and other contemporary music genres in order to thrill and inspire the 21st century music listeners with his original compositions.

Currently, the band performs at various venues around Maryland, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Virginia and around the U.S.

Tosin’s Bio.

Nigerian-born drummer, Tosin Aribisala moved to the U.S in 2001 after completing a two-and-a-half year project touring the world with the Nigerian afrobeat exponent ?Femi Kuti. Upon his arrival in the U.S. he was soon called by musical producer ?Andres Levin ?and asked to participate in a project which resulted in the “Red Hot Riot?CD ?a tribute to the late legendary Nigerian musician and composer ?Fela Kuti. Fela pioneered Afrobeat music. The CD featured such notable musicians as, Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, D?Angelo, Sade, Baba Maal, and Taj Mahal, to name a few. Since the “Red Hot Riot?CD, Tosin has performed and recorded with Julie Dexter Conscious, Yerba Buena President Alien, and numerous other groups.

From his musical experiences, Tosin has developed a wide range of drumming styles, which include fusion, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, Latin, afrobeat, gospel, juju and the traditional African drumming patterns associated with the “Konkolo?style. Tosin is noted for his own unique “drum monologue??a web of polyrhythmic, melodic, jazzy, poetic, and groovy patterns on the drum set.

In addition to playing, writing, and producing music, Tosin is also a teacher of the drumming art from which he derives a great deal of satisfaction. The passing on of traditional art styles is tied to the evolution of both man and music.

While there are many notable musicians that have influenced Tosin’s style of playing, some have exercised a greater influence. Tosin is moved by the musical styles of Fela Kuti, John Coltrane, Fela Sowande, Art Blakey, Dennis Chambers, Steve Smith, Peter Erskine, Manu Katche, Haruna Ishola, Jack DeJohnette, Bob Marley and Bobby McFerrin. Tosin acknowledges being influenced by the musical sounds of both Cuba and Brazil.

Tosin is currently the lead of a group he organized in 2002, hallelujazz project. Some key members of the band are Cheikh Ndoye on bass, Ben Bokor on sax and vocalist Monica Ssali. hallelujazz project performs mostly original compositions of Tosin. The drummer/writer amalgamates his African traditional musical concepts and contemporary African musical idiom with some jazz elements and other contemporary forms of musical expression.

Academically, Tosin is concurrently a student at the University of Maryland, University College and Montgomery College studying Business Administration and Music Theory/Piano.