“America has no right to point fingers at another nation because our history textbooks are brimming with stories of bloodshed.” This strong statement was made by John Cannon, a member of the New Orleans-based The Stooges Brass Band (TSBB) that is visiting Pakistan. The band from Louisiana arrived here hoping to contribute to the growing musical rapport between Pakistan and America and increase awareness about different American musical styles. Their blend of traditional New Orleans brass with contemporary urban beats has put them in the category of powerful performers. Last week, the band played at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and also at the Alhamra Art Center in Lahore in the presence of 100 music lovers.
A bond with Pakistan
TSBB’s easy-going attitude and the ability to connect with the audience seem to be their driving point as well as the edge of their band philosophy. As opposed to the notions the media promotes, TSBB are not bothered about the political strain between Pakistan and the US. “If I were worried about that it would not be here right now,” says trumpet player, John Perkins with his signature cheerfulness. “Though the world paints a horrific picture of Pakistan, people still live here and we’d like to believe there is some good in every place,” he adds. “A school here with children’s drawings pasted on its walls made us realise that people everywhere are eager to make the world a better place to live,” he adds.
How it all started
The band was born in 1996, when nine members came together after performing in various cities. “First, it was the love of music that brought us together. But New Orleans has high poverty levels like Pakistan,” says Cannon. “If a person in New Orleans owns an instrument, they don’t have to pay cover charges to enter a night club; so a nightclub is where most musicians often ended up.”
What started off as a hobby became a profession when their music was appreciated in competitions. Winning the 2010 Red Bull Street Kings Competition gave them the opportunity to go to California to record a song at the Red Bull studio with producer Mannie Fresh.
Their sound continued to evolve as they fused the brass band traditions with modern genres such as the R&B and hip-hop. It was through these local live performances that TSBB rose to fame and eventually ended up performing with an array of leading musicians such as Ray Charles, Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli), Jessica Simpson and Jadakiss.
Although the original line-up of the band disbanded years ago, the group that is in Pakistan comprises trombone player Larry Brown, tuba player John Cannon, drummer Bernell Edwards, trombone player Lamar Heard, saxophone player Cameron Johnson, drummer Errol Marchand and John Perkins.
Cheers to the future
Even though the band is busy touring the world these days, they will be releasing around four singles in the coming year. Their new sound will be a concoction of pop, hip-hop and other genres that inspire them during their travels. Perkins, who has been associated with the band for 17 years, explains that touring allows the band to experience different cultures and helps them connect with the world in a better way. “I really believe music, entertainment or art is a remedy for our sorrows, poverty and lack of privileges,” states Perkins. “It gives the consolation that we still have reasons to smile.”
Published In The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.
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