Caz Gardiner, 2019 Wammie (Washington DC Area Music Association) nominee for best Soul Artist/Group, grew up listening to jazz, Caribbean music, soul, blues, rock, mod, and punk. Caz has shared the stage with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Lee Fields and the Impressions, the London Souls, the Selecter, Don Bryant, and Nikki Hill. Starting her music career in the 1990s as the front woman of the soul/ska band the Checkered Cabs, Caz was later the lead singer of the rock/soul band the Ambitions, as well as for the rocksteady band Caz and the Day Laborers, before deciding that she wanted to break free of the band dynamic by starting her own self-titled band. In addition to her own current band, Caz Gardiner has performed with the BandHouse Gigs, Newmyer Flyer productions, Beat Hotel, Soul Crackers, Caz Gardiner and the Badasonics, Caz and the Commotions, Victor Rice Octet, and the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble. Caz has recorded and performed throughout the U.S., South America, and parts of Europe.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/30/2020.
Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson is a singer and guitarist based in Washington, D.C. Johnson is the lead guitarist and founding member of D.C. go-go band Rare Essence. In 1976, Johnson co-founded Rare Essence with friends in elementary school. Originally the Young Dynamos, they later changed their name and expanded their lineup, becoming one of the city’s premiere go-go institutions, putting on marathon shows that ran until 5 a.m. and performing regularly six to seven nights a week. Since the 1980s, the band has released dozens of studio albums, mixtape albums, live albums, compilations, and singles. They have performed with Run DMC, Wale, DJ Kool, LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Ice Cube, Heavy D and the Boyz, Wu Tang Clan, Redman and Method Man, French Montana, Scarface, TLC, Eric B and Rakim, YoYo, Shabba Ranks, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Thievery Corporation, KRS-1, and go-go icons Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, The Junk Yard Band, and EU.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 11/02/2020.
Originally from Mumbai, India, Tissa began his musical and professional life in Tallahassee, Florida as a student. Gravitating to the baritone saxophone from a young age, he remains in pursuit of its deep and moving sound, which he believes coincides with his own voice and philosophy of music. Khosla can be heard alongside the Modern Jazz Generation on a recording entitled United We Play, featuring the American Symphony Orchestra. Along with a thorough practice schedule and teaching lessons, he is the Digital Developer at the D.C. nonprofit Casey Trees, whose mission is to restore, enhance, and protect the tree canopy of Washington, DC. This position has given him the opportunity to write code, work on music technology, and develop accessible web design.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/29/2020.
Montanette “Mooody” Miller is a singer based in Washington, D.C. In addition to her solo musical projects, she is a singer in the go-go band Suttle Squad. Forming as Suttle Thoughts in 1994, the band later became known as Suttle, Suttle Squad, or Squad Suttle. Suttle has opened for national recording artists such as The Isley Brothers, Jay Holiday, and Anthony David. The band has held weekly performances every Friday night at the Historical Takoma Station, one of the longest running Friday night happy hours for any go-go band. The Squad has also performed for local events and community rallies such as the Safeway Barbecue Battle, the Howard Theater, A Tribute to the Legendary Father of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, MPD Beat the Streets Annual Event, Six Annual Chuck Brown Day Virtual Party, and Bethesda Blues & Jazz. In addition to performing locally, Suttle Squad has toured as far as Cancun, Puerto Rico, Dallas, and Miami.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 10/31/2020.
Kamalakiran Vinjamuri started learning the Indian carnatic violin tradition from his grandfather, Sri. Parthasarathy Iyengar. He then received training from Smt. Malladi Vijayalakshmi. His father, Sri. Subhash Vinjamuri, started teaching him the violin at the age of seven and followed with a tutelage from Sangeethakalanidhi A. Kanyakumari. Kamalakiran has won several prizes in different music competitions, both in India as well as in the U.S. In December 2010 and 2013, Kamalakiran received the Best Performer Award from Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Chennai. Kamalakiran was also awarded the Lalgudi G. Jayaraman Award for Best Violinist in the 2014 Gokulashtami Series in Krishna Gana Sabha. Kamalakiran has been performing in major venues in India and the US since 2009, including the Kennedy Center. In the 2014 Spirit of Youth series, and the 2016 and 2017 Music Seasons, Kamalakiran was selected as Best Violinist in the prestigious Music Academy in Chennai.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/29/2020.
Kumera Zekarias is a multilingual singer-songwriter, producer, and the band leader of Kino Musica, a five-piece group based in Washington, D.C. Originally from Austin, Texas, Kumera’s diverse and reflective music is rooted in the soulful expression of blues and the bilingual traditions of the southwestern United States. Kumera founded Kino Musica in 2014 to explore his own East African musical heritage. Recently he conducted ethnomusicological research at the Library of Congress, exploring the relationship between music from the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and Afro-Colombian music from the Pacific coast, culminating in a concert at the 2019 Library of Congress Archive Challenge. He recorded an EP in Bogota, Colombia in late 2018 titled Biyya Chonta. Kumera has also worked as an educator in the Washington, D.C., area for twelve years, designing inclusive programs focused on supporting immigrant youth and their families.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 10/01/2020.