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James Gaiters, Robert Mason, Krate Digga, Lee Savory and Eddie Bayard have been playing together as Watu Utungo for about three years. A Swahili term meaning rhythmic people, Watu Utungo is interested in investigating the common thread of black music by fusing elements of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, soul and gospel to create one eclectic sound.

Black Man’s Dawn
“Black Man’s Dawn” is an original composition reminiscent of an Eritrean melody that puts forth messages of hope and promises brighter days ahead for the black community.

 

Things Have Got To Change
“‘Things Have Got To Change’ is very poignant at a time like this. There’s a whole lot going on that needs to change. That was written by Archie Shepp, who is a prolific, legendary saxophonist and a human rights activist,” says drummer James Gaiters

 

Soul Cries Out
“‘Soul Cries Out’ is a lament and a prayer,” Gaiters says. “I wrote that song after Michael Brown was shot and seeing the footage of him lying in the street for hours, you know, just like – and then the riots afterward. I cried that day. I had kind of had enough, you know.”

“And so that feeling, that melody,” he continues, “came about as sort of a prayer to God, like, how much more do we have to take? At the same time, I feel a sense of encouragement from that song, as well. But that’s where that song was going.”

 

Wait
“‘Wait’ sat around for a while,” James Gaiters says. “I didn’t write that for this band, and that song didn’t have a title. But I’ve played it with other musical configurations. And because it didn’t have a title, I called it ‘Wait’ – because I was waiting on a title.”

“But then, I kind of was inspired to the effect of, that tune could be perfect for this group,” he continues, “especially with the addition of [DJ Krate Digga] and the Martin Luther King Jr. samples, in specific the speech where he says ‘Wait’ in the speech. And another key phrase was when Martin Luther King Jr. talked about justice delayed too long is justice denied.”

He finishes, “That seems to be a constant struggle with us. We’re just looking for justice, you know. We’re looking for balance, and we’re always told, it’s coming. So that’s where that tune came from.”

 


Follow The Band

  Jame’s Gaiter’s Watu Utungo Page


Meet The Musicians

Watu Utungo performs

Watu Utungo (from left): Robert Mason (keys), Eddie Bayard (sax), Lee Savory (trumpet), James Gaiters (drums), DJ Krate Digga

Meet the Musicians

James Gaiters
Drums

Fave local acts: Honey and Blue, T.Wong, Bobby Floyd
Fave local venue: Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza

Eddie Bayard
Saxophone

Lee Savory
Trumpet

DJ Krate Digga
Turntables

Robert Mason
Keys


Fill in the Blank

If you like ___, you’ll like Watu Utungo.

James: Gumbo.

When I’m not performing, I’m ___.

Krate: I feel like when I’m not performing, I’m preparing for the next performance.

___ is Central Ohio’s best hidden gem.

Krate: You know, it’s a restaurant – Nida’s Thai on High Street.

Do you get the same thing every time?

Krate: I usually get their duck.

The best food in Columbus is ____.

James: The best food that I’ve had is at Black Point restaurant. They have this butter cake. It’s like a meal and dessert and breakfast, all at the same time. You get that, it’s lights out. But you have to get it after your dinner. Black Point slaps.

Pineapple on pizza is ____.

James: Too much.

Krate: It’s one of the greatest creations known to mankind.

Watu Utungo performs

On the Message of the Music

How does history play into your music?

Krate: You know, history influences and kind of informs the experiences. The experiences then are related, in part, through the music, through the visuals. There’s the visual elements where there’s playing actual musical inspiration, whether it’s the specific genres. All those things kind of are within the lineage.

And then there’s a whole ’nother level of how we kind of interpret those things. So even though we’re all of the same cultural demographic, we’re from different age ranges. Growing up, we had different primary musical influences, so to speak.

So my experience through the scope or the voice of hip-hop is going to be translated a bit differently than that same experience James may have had through a gospel voice or, with Rob, through a jazz voice or through Eddie through a jazz voice.

All those things are different layers that – I don’t want to say “filter” in the context of removing parts – but they kind of all add a flavor, so to speak, through our individual voices, through our life experiences and our musical experiences and how we bring that to the bandstand and then bring them all together as to have a cohesive message when we speak out on the bandstand.

And it’s more than history. You also draw from contemporary visuals and address issues that are rooted in history but are still relevant today. How does that play into what you might want people to take away from seeing you guys play live?

Eddie: For me, it’s a simple, like, spiritual.

Krate: So we speak about these historic beings and these things that were part of history. But like, King was killed in ’68. And then Trayvon in 2012. So like, other than the timestamp, what’s the real difference? So when we talk about history, there’s still that context of like, yeah, some of these things are from years ago and some of these things are from a week ago.

James: We are artistically trying to make sure that we’re aware of what’s going on and, you know, the fact that, the last song we played, “Things Have Got To Change” – will we see it in our lifetime? I don’t know. But we continue to vibrate on that message.

"Black Man's Dawn" by Watu Utungo

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