Universal Soul
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Universal Soul

Band Hip Hop R&B


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The best kept secret in music


"Musicians embark on provincewide tour"

WHEN SOMETHING'S UNIVERSAL, it's everywhere. So when Halifax hip-hop crew Universal Soul picked its name, it had some heavy work cut out for it.

But the work is paying off. Since the release of its debut CD Time Capsule last year the four-man team has been blessed with awards from the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia and the African Nova Scotian Music Association, three East Coast Music Awards nominations and an ECMA Sneak Peak showcase in St. John's in February.

Most recently Universal Soul nabbed a spot on MIANS' Rising Star tour that spans the province starting tonight in Liverpool and wraps up on April 3 at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay.

"Presumably we're still rising," laughs David Adekayode (a.k.a. Voodoo), after a Gottingen Street photo shoot, accepting the theory that the universe is in fact infinite. Why put a ceiling on things?

Adekayode and fellow Universal Soul members Tracey Williams (Tacktishion), Finley Tolliver (F.I.Z.) and Brian Pellerine (DJ IV) will be the first to tell you they don't want to put a limit on anything they do. Willing to collaborate with several outside acts and anxious to perform beyond the usual round of festivals and clubs, the Rising Star tour with soulful singer-songwriter Ian Janes, Celtic duo Mairi Rankin and Wendy MacIsaac and host Heather Rankin seems tailor-made for the quartet's ambitions.

"Even if we did a tour by ourselves, we probably wouldn't get to play for a lot of the people we'll reach on this tour," says Adekayode, who notes that thanks to the power of MuchMusic and the Internet, hip-hop is in demand everywhere, not just urban centres.

"Most artists when they go on tour only play the capital cities and don't go to the smaller towns, so this is a good opportunity for the people in these places to see something that they wouldn't normally get to see live."

The key for Universal Soul is doing the homework, building a reputation for exciting, no-holds-barred live performances and crafting a savvy blend of beats and rhymes that's true to their own personalities and East Coast roots. The members won't deny it's been a long road - many of them, including associate, producer and former DJ Jo-Run, have been shaping Halifax hip-hop since the '80s - but with a professional attitude and the support of likable, streetwise manager Shelley MacPhail they've managed to score some high profile shows like Keith's Fest and the ECMA Sneak Peek showcase, which impressed Chinese delegates so much they offered Universal Soul an opportunity to tour in the Far East in the fall with another Near East act, Halifax's Jimmy Swift Band

"They came to our Sneak Peek showcase on the first day," recalls Williams. "We were on stage and I looked over to the right and there was this Chinese delegate standing on top of a table, moving his head and gettin' down.

"At the end of the show he comes up to me and shouts 'You come to CHINA!' You hear how loud I'm talking? That's how loud he was. And I said, 'You know what sir? You see that lady in the blue shirt? That's our manager Shelley, you talk to her.' And that was that."

While Universal Soul is still fighting the uphill battle to convince the rest of the country that Halifax is just as viable (if not more viable) a centre for hip-hop as Vancouver or Toronto, the group is eager to perform in a place where it's the music that counts, not preconceived notions of what's hot or in style.

"If we tour China, that will make us the first hip-hop act to tour there. American acts can't play there, but we have great relations with them," says Adekayode.

"But it's been that kind of year, nearly every big show we've played has resulted in a major contact or a lead to something else, it just keeps swinging. 2003-4 has been been very generous to us, the powers that be have been very kind to Universal Soul. We've been working hard trying to get things out there, but the feedback we've been getting from industry people to the street level listeners has been phenomenal."

Universal Soul has also been very conscious of the idea of music industry solidarity, which is why its members have been so keen to collaborate with other artists, like Amelia Curran, Dutch Robinson, King Konqueror, Slowcoaster and the Jimmy Swift Band. The results of some of these meetings of musical minds will surface on the follow-up to Time Capsule which they hope to release later in the summer.

"Cory (Tetford) from Crush gets together with Gordie Sampson and that's a collaboration that gets attention," says Williams. "Well why can't a hip-hop act do the same thing with a rock band or a ska band? Or have a blues artist do something with us? That sort of thing has been done before, but it hasn't been done the way we want to do it."

"Sometimes these artists get together, but it's very cut and paste, with a hip-hop track with some other element laid over top of it or sampled in," adds Adekayode. "We're more interested in working together with another act and blending the styles.

"It's slowing us down, taking this approach, but I think we're going to have a better project in the end." - Stephen Cooke

"The Winners Are...."

Artist/ Group of Year: Universal Soul
Up and Coming: AWOL & T-Bone
Best New Artist: Asia
Best R&B Artist/Group: Dutch Robinson
Best World Music: Edo 'King' & Afro-Musica
Best Gospel Artist/Group: Gilbert Downey
Best Album: Time Capsule by Universal Soul
Best Hip-Hop Artist / Group: Universal Soul
Best Jazz Artist/Group: Ross Anderson
Entertainer of the Year: Dutch Robinson
Pioneer: Coleman Howe
Industry Development: I Homiez Productions
Music Heritage: Wendy Mackey
Honorary ANSMA Board Member: Gary Beals

"Nova Scotia Music Week"

Nova Scotia Music Week 2003
Music Award Winners

Album of the Year -- Charlie A'Court, “Color Me Gone”
Entertainer of the Year -- Charlie A'Court
Female Artist of the Year -- RyLee Madison
Group of the Year -- The Cottars
Male Artist of the Year -- Charlie A'Court
Musician of the Year -- Dave Gunning
New Artist Award of the Year -- Mark Bragg
Songwriter of the Year -- Terry Kelly, “You Can Start Again”
Alternative Artist of the Year -- Buck 65
Aboriginal Group of the Year -- Forever
Children's Group of the Year -- Razzmatazz for Kids
Country/Bluegrass Artist of the Year -- RyLee Madison
Cover Band of the Year -- The Accents
Folk/Traditional Group of the Year -- The Cottars
Francophone Group of the Year -- BLOU
Inspirational Artist of the Year -- Terry Kelly
Jazz/Blues Artist of the Year -- Charlie A'Court
Pop/Rock Artist of the Year -- Matt Mays
Urban Artist of the Year -- Universal Soul - MIANS


LP - Time Capsule
Video - Way Back in the Day
Video - All Night


Feeling a bit camera shy


Universal Soul is like a three-headed dragon. MCs F.I.Z. VooDoo and Tacktishion captivate audience members with their fiery energy and dynamic lyrics, while DJ IV anchors the group with his solid beats and skilled scratches.
Universal Soul's sound is distinctly hip-hop, but the group is determined to push the boundaries of their genre through collaboration and experimentation. “There isn’t anything too diverse, too weird, too wacky, too strange or too unhip-hop that we won’t explore,” says VooDoo (David Adekayode).
The band’s debut album Time Capsule has been recognized with multiple awards, including two Much Music Video Award nominations and a Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia Award for Urban Artist of the Year. Universal Soul's appeal is expanding to match its name. "It's our destiny to do this professionally," says VooDoo (David Adekayode), "to try to reach as many people as possible and express what we're feeling, and to feel what they're feeling."
Lyrically, the group is as diverse as its members, and they layer political, spiritual and fun-loving ideas together. The resulting songs pop with fresh-sounding harmonies and growl with confidence. “We collaborate on the ideas of the songs, but then it’s up to us to write our own spin on it,” says VooDoo. “That’s the beauty to us lyrically - we’re not all wearing the same suits trying to say the same thing in three different voices.”
Universal Soul encourages crowd participation and has earned its broad fan base through their adrenalin-thumping live shows. Thoroughly rooted to their histories in Nova Scotia and their brotherly relationships to each other, the ultimate creative force driving Universal Soul is love. “We all do this for love,” says Tacktishion (Tracey Williams), “we’re socially and emotionally driven to it. Music runs through our veins.”

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