They say the world is flat now, that globalization and the Internet have closed the culture gap once and for all. Or that xenophobia and exploitation are ancient relics from a more naive time when people thought Commies were hiding in their kitchen cupboards. Of course, these eternal optimists are half-wrong — at least until Lou Dobbs' head explodes — but they're half-right too. Citizens of any nation tend to value immigrant culture exactly as much as the art it offers.
"The States `are` doing their part in supporting our difference in culture and style," relates singer K-G, of Winter Park's island-meets-big-band K-G and the Band. "But it only correlates to the immigrants themselves having shown love for their ancestry."
Headed by first-generation East African immigrant K-G and his own U.N. of a backing group — with nationalities ranging from the Caribbean Islands to Europe to Latin America — the band takes its musical cues from the Platonist's view of migration: warm and endlessly danceable celebrations of tribal ebullience that practically demand the gods to give us a hot summer night and a scantily clad novia to samba with.
"It's always a thrill when we do the song ‘Hakuna,' when we ask the audience to say ‘Africa! Africa!' and they all do," says the 25-year-old.
Despite the good vibrations, reality is never more than a sax note away. On "Mamaland," K-G blends a heartfelt nostalgia for home with an urgency of message. "Now how can we fight the epidemic killing our sons and daughters?" he pleads to his continent. One can't help smiling even as K-G delivers these sobering questions because, in one of local music's biggest disconnects, when Nebraskan Geoff Melvin's batty drums and Mexican-born Erik De La Cruz's congas kick in, furrowed brows are as welcome as Dick Cheney at Señor Frog's on ladies' night.
"It's never an easy choice to abandon your native home and become an immigrant," K-G says. "We want to keep using our music as a tool to rally up people to support positive causes, `like ending` the genocide in Darfur. We want to appeal to the youth as our future leaders."
The band calls this marriage of lyrical awareness and crowd-pleasing funk "Afro-urban" music, but that doesn't quite capture the surreal feeling of singing and clapping along to one's own Western guilt. Better to call it "feel-good protest." Whatever it's called, it's a decent soundtrack to our new flat world, and you can't build a fence around that.
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