Bios

Band:

Vir McCoy – Sintir and Electric bass, Quarquaba, Vocals
m.j. greenmountain – Lead vocals, Talking drum, Djembe, Congas, Percussion, Quarquaba
Evan Fraser – Keyboards, Kalimba, Berimbau, Pandeiro, Marimbula, & more
Beryl(Brett) Jacobson – Guimbri, Saz, Lap Steel, Guitar, Echoes

Wunmi- Vocals

Yossi Fine – FOH Dub Mix, Bass

Billy “Shoes” Johnson – Drum Kit

Other long time Collaborators!!!

Nikila Badua – Lead vocals, Dance
Ian “Inkx” Herman – Drum Kit
Deja – Lead vocals, Quaraquab
Vir McCoy
Grew up in Venice Beach Ca., Oregon, and Costa Mesa, Ca. Vir plays the Sintir or Hejooj. Inspiration came from the Gnawa of Morocco. A direct connection to healing music of the earth. “2000 year old funk”. Vir also plays guitar and was in notable bands, The Mushroom Helmut, Compost, Sasquatch and You. Currently plays guitar for Foxgluv and does studio work. Vir also put together an children’s album called Kid Kaleidoscope (www.kidkaleidoscope.com) “the coolest kids CD ever”. Music and healing are a major part of Vir’s focus with Hamsa Lila. Special events such as the “Chakra Opera” – a multi-sensory event focused around the 7 chakras have been incorporated into Hamsa Lila shows. Vir works part time as a field biologist with rare and endangered plants and animals. Vir also co-creates medicines which are comprised of a unique combination of herbs, homeopathic treatment, gem and flower essences, star essences, essential oils and other offerings ([email protected]). Vir teaches a style of intuitive medicine, pranayama (breath work) and does intuitive bodywork.

m.j. greenmountain
m.j. greenmountain, lead male vocalist and percussionist for HL, has composed much of the lyrical content and vocal melodies of HL’s material. He comes from a diverse background in music and culture, having traveled the world extensively. m.j.has studied with masters from many different cultures, and has learned sacred songs, root rhythms, and chants from around the globe, while also participating in sacred ceremonies with many indigenous tribes from India to Australia, Egypt to the Americas. He has composed and produced complete original music scores for feature films, and documentaries. m.j. has played with world and other music notables such as Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ozomatli, Hassan Hakmoun, Jai Uttal, Babatunde Olatunji, String Cheese Incident, and many others. He is also a singer/songwriter (reggae-style with rhythm guitar), works with youth and adults teaching rhythms & chants of the world and does direct healing work with people using music as the medium.

Evan Fraser
Originally from Orcas Island, Washington, Evan Fraser is a multi-instrumentalist and recording artist currently based in the Bay Area. 
Evan graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in World Music. 
His teachers include: John Bergamo, Randy Gloss, Alfred Ladzekpo, Kobla Ladzekpo, Sulley Imoro, Nyomen Wenton, Jim Santi Owen, and Mark Growden.
 Evan has played with many bands over the years including Hindugrass, Tabla Rasa, Rub-a-Dub, Dubzilla and the Funnies. With the Funnies, Evan did several tours across North America in a bus that filled up at restaurants on pure recycled vegetable oil.
Evan’s mission is to heal this planet and it’s peoples by elevating the consciousness of each other’s culture and the beauty of this Earth through music.
 Some of the instruments Evan plays are: Jaw Harp, Kalimba, Berimbau, Pandeiro, Marimbula, Melodica, Overtone Flute, Frame Drums, Calabash,
Dumbek, Zabumba, Mouth Bow, Bottle Singing, Harmonica, Bones, Spoons, Keyboards and various global percussion.

Beryl “Brett” Jacobson

Wunmi

In the world of dance music, Wunmi is a one-off, an artist that effortlessly joins the dots between Nigeria’s Afrobeat heritage, New York’s house pedigree and London’s jazz, broken beat and classic street soul sounds. After ten years of classic collaborations working with production heavyweights like Masters At Work, Osunlade, Seiji and Truby Trio; Wunmi is finally flying solo with her acclaimed debut album, entitled A.L.A and now her new album in the works.

Wunmi aka Ibiwunmi Omotayo Olufunke Felicity Olaiya lived in Nigeria for 10 years, returning to the UK at age 14. “Moving back to England, the same feeling of not fitting in haunted me and it was at that point my identity started shifting, like …who am i?” She retreated into a world of her imagination, finding expression in clothes, and in her later teens on the dance floors of London Clubs. “With time I became Wunmigirl!” I became comfortable with me.” The enduring image from Wunmi’s early years in music was in summer 1986 as the dancer silhouetted in Soul II Soul’s ‘Back To Life’ video. As an integral dancer within the Soul II Soul set-up, Wunmi quickly established a bold, self-styled image with flowing braids and her own outrageous clothes which became an invaluable addition to the Funki Dred identity. She was subsequently chosen as an icon of London underground club culture when featured in Kiss FM London’s first advertising campaign as a commercial station.

“I love dancing and love DJs because they can make me travel.“ And travel she did. In the late ‘90s, she teamed up with Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez and Louie Vega for Masters At Work’s classic 1998 re-work of Fela Kuti’s ‘Expensive Sh*t’, ‘M.A.W. Expensive (Tribute To Fela)’ and the equally strong follow-ups, ‘Ekabo’ and ‘Time Is Now’. The tracks paved the way for a slew of Nu Yorican Afro-house workouts from the likes of Dennis Ferrer, Jerome Sydenham and more, and stamped Wunmi’s unique vocal style on dancefloors worldwide. The collab continued on at the Miami Winter Conference and Masters At Work’s legendary Nu Yorican Soul parties in 2000 and 2001 where Wunmi performed through the Havana cigar smoke alongside Stephanie Mills, Jocelyn Brown, Jody Watley, Roy Ayers and more.

More acclaimed collaborations followed: her solo debut, ‘What A See’, brilliantly re-worked by A Guy Called Gerald, and Osunlade’s ‘Rader Du’ for Soul Jazz in 2001. Paper magazine promptly voted Wunmi as one of their ‘50 Beautiful People.’ Premier league producers continued to queue up – King Britt requested some Wunmi spice for his ‘Oba Funke’ album project as well as studio wizard Ras for Germany’s Sonar Kollektiv.

When the Red Hot organization commissioned an ambitious album paying tribute to Afrobeat Godfather Fela Kuti in 2004, Wunmi was at the top of their list. The result, a dynamite version of Fela’s ‘Zombie’ backed by Bugz In The Attic’s razor sharp beats, became the big club track from the project and was accompanied by some memorable live dates. Most memorable of the Red Hot and Riot live shows was at Europe’s largest multi arts venues The world famous Barbican in London. Wunmi shared the stage with Manu Dibago, Cheike lo, Les Nubians and Baaba Maal…to name a few.

On-stage, Wunmi is a revelation. The Wunmi stage show has become known for its explosive energy with her trademark outfits, hi-octane dance moves, a super-tight band and an infectious spirit that draws in crowds wherever she plays. Highlights? A memorable appearance at Out Of Africa’s London Summer street party in 2004, Jump ‘N’ Funk in New York, the legendary Body & Soul parties in NY and Sapporo Japan. In New York, Wunmi has played numerous shows at Joe’s Pub to much acclaim and her fans are notorious at Brooklyn’s BAM café for stampeding the venue every time she appears in front of a standing room only crowd.

651 Arts presents: Live at St Ann’s Dumbo featuring Wunmi & Ameil Lareaux, is a concert still talked about by those fortunate to have been there.

Wunmi ended 2007 at the Setai Hotel in Miami where she was invited to perform as part of their New Year’s Eve celebration party along side Oscar award winner Jennifer Hudson.

2008 saw Wunmi involved in a number of high profile charity events, starting with a headlining performance at the Millennium Promise and Malaria No More Gala at Lincoln Center in New York. She was invited by White Ribbon Alliance, an international coalition, working at grassroots and government levels to save the lives of pregnant women and newborn children in 90 developing countries around the world, to participate in their 10 day musical convoy tour across South Africa. Her song ‘Talk Talk Talk’ was used as their theme music for their short documentary film. At the end of the tour, Wunmi was enlisted to perform at their New York event @ Bar 13.for the delegates who attended the UN Summit in New York. Other highlights of the year was performing at the Mazawine Festival, Rabat Morocco along side Tony Allen and touring Europe with Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley as part of the ‘Still Black, Still Proud” – an African artist tribute to James Brown.

Wunmi has been profiled in numerous media including UK’s Radio One, One Extra, BBC World Service, France’s Radio Nova, and in the US; National Public Radio, WCRW, BET J and the African Channel.

Alongside her music, Wunmi has become a vital link between today’s global dance music culture and the vast musical history of Nigeria. She narrated a potted history of Nigerian music for Strut Records’ ‘Nigeria 70’ anthology in 2001, and would later present a 3 part audio documentary on Fela Kuti for the BBC world service Radio in 2003. She was called back for two further programs in 2004. First, ‘Living the High Life’, on which she hosted live performances by some of the great High Life Musicians including her uncle Dr Victor Olaiya; and from 2007 to 2008, Wunmi’s Urban groove. This program was based on Wunmi’s travels to 3 continents to meet and interview local Artists who were creating their own style and brand of music. For her debut album, Wunmi linked up with many of the top producers that have featured her vocals over the years from Seiji, Truby Trio and Fauna Flash to Pastaboys and Morten Varano. Her influences for the tracks are wide – she draws as much from Kate Bush and Sade as she does from U.S. funk and soul and, of course, the Yoruba styling of Nigerian Afrobeat, highlife and juju. The album entitled ‘A.L.A.’ stands for ‘Africans Living Abroad,’ and behind the trademark Wunmi grooves, she tackles some difficult issues. There are tracks exploring the alienation of living away from home, the stark choices faced by those who fall outside of “the system” and the continuing corruption of governments and fat cats worldwide. It is Wunmi talking from the heart and represents some of her best work, establishing her as one of dance music’s real enigmas. This is not African music, world music or any other genre dreamt up by the marketing men. This is Wunmi’s world and there is nothing else quite like it. Wunmi recently released a remix EP titled A.L.A Revisited in collaboration with Jellybean Soul records. This EP further solidifies Wunmi’s solid pedigree in the Dance music scene. She currently continues to work on her follow up album, to feature more live music and tracks reflecting her physical and spiritual pilgrimage back to Africa.

Yossi Fine

Whether as a producer, arranger or bassist, Yossi Fine’s unique and undeniable talents have made him one of the most in demand names throughout a number of different genres. Throughout his years of playing and recording, he has worked with everyone from David Bowie and Lou Reed to Stanley Jordan and Gil Evans and even as far outreaching as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Naughty By Nature and Gnawa master Hassan Hakmoun.

A career spanning two decades and six continents includes seven gold and platinum CDs, Yossi fully engineered and produced over 25 albums, while contributing the bass on more than 150.

Surrounded by music and musicians ever since the very beginning, Yossi was born in Paris, France to a West Indian vocalist and an Israeli guitar player. By age four he had already picked up a guitar and by his early teens was already an in-demand session artist playing with some of Israel’s top artists.

Yossi’s intercontinental background and undeniable talent on the bass were quickly put to use in 1985 when he entered the New York City scene, working with such legendary artists as Delmar Brown, Kenwood Denard, Gil Evans Orchestra, Kenny Kirkland, John Scofield, salsa great Ruben Blades, and later on, neo-soul artist Me’Shell N’Degeocello.

Yossi went on to achieve national recognition in 1991 when he received a Grammy nomination for his instrumental composition for “Always Know” on Jordan’s Cornucopia. More doors began to open as Yossi was invited by David Bowie and Brian Eno to play on Bowie’s Outside and was also invited to participate in Deepak Chopra’s A Gift of Love featuring Madonna, Demi Moore and others.

Riding high from all of his success, in 1995 Yossi decided to return to Israel where he worked prolifically as a record producer, coaxing the sound of some of the most influential bands in that country over the next 10 years, making a profound impact on the way hip hop and reggae is produced throughout Israel.

With a focus on keeping the bass heavy and groove-oriented deliveries, his production works lent Yossi to be considered by many of his peers in Israel as a ground-breaking producer and the current leading Godfather of Hip-Hop, Reggae and World Music sounds. In 2005, Yossi cemented his recognition receiving Israel’s prestigious Acum Award for his role as Producer of the Year for Hadag Nahash’s hip-hop album, Homer Mekomi (which also went on to win the group band and song of the year).

Since then, Yossi’s influence in the production world has gone global, producing top Jamaican artists including conscious-dancehall master Anthony B to the modern roots sounds of Prezident Brown & Chedizek; mixing Malian blues griot Vieux Farka Toure; to Indian electronic musician Karsh Kale; Fine’s engineering skills remain in high demand.

Yossi’s production style of using traditional African instruments alongside funky grooves and deep bass lines was noticed by the famous hip-hop label LOUD Records in 2000. There, Yossi was to produce modern World Beat music and Jamaican artists into the label as well while developing the reggae division.

That year, Yossi’s world music project ‘Ex-Centric Sound System’ was signed by LOUD and the first CD, Electric Voodooland, was released in 2000 to critical acclaim and became a successful internationally touring band. The progressive world music collective released two additional albums and went on to embark on numerous successful worldwide tours, performing at such prestigious venues as Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl, New York’s Central Park Summerstage and the Montreal Jazz Festival, winning the praise from such publications as Source, Vibe, New York Post and Chicago Reader while gaining fans across the globe.

One of his recent project comes in the form of Live from Jerusalem, an album of his solo bass performance recorded during last year’s tour of Israel. Funky and deep at times, Yossi creates multiple loops live on stage and then layers the brief samples over top of each other: all free style and 100% improvised. Engaging audiences worldwide by building the energy in the room with sheer sonic waves, Fine’s solo bass shows stand as a remarkable accomplishment, a testament to both the places he has been and those that he is still heading.

Fine has frequently worked with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré. After remixing a track for 2008’s Vieux Farka Touré Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako, he took a larger role in Touré’s career, producing and playing bass on his 2009 album, Fondo, as well as remixing a track on the follow-up, Other Roads: Fondo Remixed, at Fine’s studio in Novato, California. Fine plays bass in The Touré-Raichel Collective, a collaboration between Touré and Idan Raichel, which lead to the 2012 album The Tel Aviv SessionsHaaretz singled out his bass playing for being “flexible and dynamic.”

Fine has performed, recorded with and produced music for musicians across the globe, including Naughty By Nature (creating the bassline for their 1993 hit single “Hip Hop Hooray”), Gil Evans,John Scofield, Kenny Kirkland, Lou Reed, Rubén Blades, Stanley Jordan, Me’shell Ndegeocello, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Anthony B, Karsh Kale, Cheb i Sabbah, Antibalas, Hassan Hakmoun,Hadag Nahash, Ofra Haza, Noa and Hamsa Lila.

Considered a pivotal force in the evolution of the bass, Fine has produced over 25 albums, and contributed bass to over 150. In 2005, he received the ACUM Award for music producing, for his work on Hadag Nahash’s 2004 LP, Homer Mekomi. ACUM is Israel’s music and literary rights association.

Billy “Shoes” Johnson

Billy Johnson was born in Philadelphia, and was the beneficiary of the mentoring of fine players like Gerry Brown and Cornell Rochester on the local scene. He spent a lot of time travelling back and forth between Philly and New York, playing at one time in a band with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and his brother, trombonist Robin Eubanks.

It’s easy to see why the guitarist Carlos Santana enlisted Billy Johnson on four different occasions to man the traps for tours and albums. He did his first tour with Santana in 1990 and ’91, and then rejoined the band in the summer of ’94 for about two-and-a-half years, and again in 2000-2001. Johnson is fleet around the kit, but his most spectacular quality might be his grounding. He throws his roots deep into the music, keeps the drive going while leaving room for the percussion to breathe around him. He’s not so much smooth as solid — his grooves have an edge to them. His solos are built around ostinato patterns, repeating a phrase with the feet and adding onto it up top. There’s always a connection to the funk in Johnson’s grooves. Johnson performed on Santana’s Milagro album in 1992, and the Brothers record featuring Carlos and Jorge Santana. He plays the opening cut on Santana’s smash, Supernatural, the spirited romp “(Da Le) Taleo.”

He has played on four albums with Frankie Beverly and Maze, including Joy and PainLive In New OrleansWe Are One, and Back To Basics. He has also been performing with contemporary jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling since late in ’96 (and played one track on her second CD, Keeping Cool), and has been playing with the Bay Area pop band Pablo Cruise when time permits. Some of the other names Johnson has performed with are Patti Austin, Patti LaBelle, MC Hammer, and Robin Ford.

Other long time collaborators…

Nikila Badua
Originally from the Hawaiian Islands, Nikila’s family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she expanded her love for cultural diversity. Acknowledged for her ability as an aspiring visual artist throughout growing up, after finishing high school, she worked as a freelance artist (designing: billboards for Tower Records, murals, magazine, book and cd covers, and illustrating two books on the healing arts), while studying eastern holistic practices at the School of Healing Arts in Pacific Beach, California. It wasn’t until she became overwhelmed by early motherhood that Nikila chose to dabble in music, dance, and spoken word poetry as a means of spiritual grounding and self development. Her experience as a vocalist began in San Diego with Panamanian reggae singer/activist, Elijah Emanuel of The Revelations; who also encouraged her to pick up guitar. Around the same time, she became involved with the Congolese dance community. This all opened up doors to a whole new world of cultural expansion, and since then, Nikila has worked with master teachers from around the globe, including dancers, musicians and choreographers from: Olodum, Bale Folclorico da Bahia, Raices Profundas, Nacional Conjunto Folklorico de Cuba, and Fua Dia Congo. Other past projects: studied extensively in Salvador, Bahia and danced for Brasilian bloco “Male Debale” in Carnaval 2000; founder, choreographer, and performer of The H.U.M. (Human Unity Movement); world acoustic music project with Paris-based Congolese singer/dancer Borrina Mapaka; TranceZenDance; Fasso Barra; Ebo Okokan; Nevada City Dance Community; and Kumbaka. Currently, Nikila also sings in a hip hop project called “DragonHouse” with Abai (Kumbaka) and Suga (Jahi and the Life); she is a co-founding member of the West Oakland Noodle Factory Warehouse Arts Project and Freestyle Union – bringing the arts and conscious hip hop culture to the community. Nikila continues her works as a visual/graphic artist, while co-raising and homeschooling her eight year old son, Elijah Sage (previously a dancer for the Sacramento Kings’ hip hop group “Show Biz Kids” and starred in the abstract theater piece “Peter Plan B”).

Ian “Inkx” Herman
Ian “Inkx” Herman was the house-drummer at the legendary Shifty Records in Johannesburg, South Africa during the Anti-Apartheid uprising of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Shifty Records recorded mostly anti-establishment and politically active artists who the mainstream media wanted silenced such as Mzwake Mbuli, Lesego Rampolokeng with the Kalahari Surfers, The Genuines and Vusi Mahlasela. In 1994, Ian left South Africa for New York City. At that time he was working with Ray Phiri, a South African producer who co-wrote and produced some of Paul Simon’s Graceland album. Ray hooked him up with Paul and he spent the next 3 years living in New York working with Paul Simon, Aster Aweke, Dominic Kanza and Baghiti Khumalo. In 1997, he relocated once again, this time to San Francisco where, among many other gigs, he began working with The Post Junk Trio, Shabaz and Foxgluv. Ian has been touring internationally with the WOMAD festival playing with Tananas, a band from South Africa and Mozambique. Some of the other artists Ian has worked include Abdullah Ibrahim Dollar Brand, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Duran Duran, Sting, Manfred Mann and Sebongile Khumalo. Ian has written and produced music for film and television and has done remix projects including Hamsa Lila’s Inkx Remix.

Deja Solis
Originally from Northern California, Deja has traveled to many foreign countries where she participated in indigenous ceremonies of song and dance. Her travels have taken her through Central and South America, into Europe, and as far as India and Nepal. Deja has always had a soulful sound and it was in India and Nepal where she developed her Middle Eastern singing style and love for the ancient stringed instrument called a tanpura. In addition to singing with Hamsa Lila, she also plays the quarakab (large metal castanets from Morocco) used for the trance aspect of the music. She lived in Nevada City, where she is one of the founding members of the land restoration and sustainable living community called Earth Om. There she was in many bands such as Solid Space, LSJ Trio, and Fanna Fi Allah. (Fanna Fi. Allah Sufi based Qualli party recently released their first album with Deja.) She worked with many MC’s (master of ceremonies) in the Reggae and HipHop world such as Soul Medic, Sista Kat and Johnny D. Deja was featured on several tracks on the recently released album by Living Alliance of Love with Johnny D and will be featured on Sista Kat’s upcoming album. She also performs with the collective ensemble of the One World Orchestra. In her free time, Deja is working on a compilation album with various artists.

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