Maya Soleil
Sounds of Africa
 More of this Feature
• Part One
• Part Two
  Related Resources
• Fusion
• African Music
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Maya Soleil: Official Site

They fuse percussion, vocals, and other varied instruments with the sounds of Africa. Maya Soleil is an ensemble of African song and dance. Dance of the New Sun is the band's latest album, and is a totally multicultural experience, with performers from the USA, Africa, Jamaica and beyond. I spoke to several of the band members about how the group got together and what Maya Soleil is all about.

Paula: How and when did Maya Soleil come together?

Rob: Maya Soleil started in late 1996 as a workshop. TJ Morris (our main drummer), Moye Kashimbi (vocals and dance) and I had been working together in an Afro-pop band called Shakata led by Mohammed Shaibu, a great guitarist from Ghana. I learned a tremendous amount working in that group, but was missing the jazz-fusion thing that I grew up with. After TJ left Shakata, I asked him, Abram Marx (guitarist on our CD), and Pamela Ware (African percussion) to participate in an informal workshop built on the concept of combining heavy African percussion with jazz keyboards and electric bass. Well, things took off right away and we started writing songs performing together in early 1997. By late 1998, we had grown a lot, but felt we needed a stronger front-person; you know, someone who can charm the audience with great vocal styling, some stories, and "booty-shaking". Moye was a natural for that part, so we asked her to join the group. Moye not only brought vocals in several African languages, but she had been dancing professionally since age 9, so we could bring that into the act.

The current line-up is:

Moye Kashimbi (Zambia) - Vocals, Dance, Percussion Bob Antolin (Philippines) - Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Flutes, Electric wind instrument (synthesizer) Rob Pastorok (USA) - Keyboards, Balafon, Talking Drum Mohammed Shaibu (Ghana) - Guitar, Percussion, Vocals Lennox Holness (Jamaica) - Electric Bass T.J. Morris (USA) - World Drum Kit, Percussion, Vocals

For some special shows, we also are planning to bring in Lora Chiorah (Zimbabwe) on balafon, vocals, and dance. Lora has her own group, the Sukatai Marimba Ensemble. Vernon Huffman (USA) also sits in on balafon and other percussion.

Paula: What is the significance of the name Maya Soleil?

Rob: We took the term "Maya" from the Nepalese, who use it as a term of endearment . . . . like we would call our girlfriend or boyfriend "Lover". "Soleil" is from the French, their word for "Sun". Together, Maya Soleil means "Lover of Sun", or "Lover of the Inner Light". The name "Maya Soleil" came from a creative moment during a jam session. TJ had a cousin whose Nepalese girlfriend called him "Maya" and during a jam one day, TJ started singing "Maya, . . . .Maya". Someone else added "Soleil" after TJ sang "Maya". We liked the sound of those two words together and built the song Maya Soleil around it. Later we decided to take that name for the band.

Paula: Who or what are your musical influences?

Moye: Miriam Makeba, Mbili Abel, Tshala Mwana, Angelique Kijo, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Koko Taylor

TJ: Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Alex Acuna, Trilok Gurtu, Nat King Cole

Rob: Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Fela

Bob: Charlie Parker, Maceo Parker, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis to name a few.

Mohammed: Fela, I.K. Dairo, O.J. Ekemode and the Nigerian All-Stars, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton

Next page > More with Maya Soleil >