Kwame Binea is a self-proclaimed rocker to the core, but he has peppered his own brand of “Roots Rock” which embodies his fertile and cultural diverse personal saga; growing up in West London (his birth place) and his native origins in Ghana, moving later to Cherry Hill, NJ as a teenager before setting up home in New York City to unearth his artistic aspirations as a burgeoning singer/songwriter.
On first look, Kwame’s low-key aura and presence exudes pure rock n’ roll. He’s a lithe and fit 6′ 5″, muscular cut arms, vivacious smile, with a full head of dreadlocks cascading to his mid-back that have been a staple of his identity for the past eight years. He has an array of nearly a dozen special spiritual and musically inspired tattoos engraved on his arms and body. They range from an Arabic saying “Live, Love, and Cherish the gift of life” as a reminder of watching his Muslin grandfather pray, to “Love, Strength, and Dreams,” flags from Ghana and England and musical excerpts from two of his favorite artists and songs, Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” and Sam Cooke’s soul classic, “Change Is Going To Come,” that has carried him through some rough times.
Looks can sometimes be deceiving, but it only takes one listen to realize Kwame is every bit legit. His “Roots Rock” is a fusion of rhythmic rock n’ roll, a tad of folk and reggae, ample dosages of infectious funk, silky soul, screaming blues and enough full throttle energy and unbridled passion to light up a city block for a night. Now four years in development, Kwame is putting the final touches on his eponymous debut album “Kwame Binea Shakedown”.
The album features 15 tracks written and produced by Binea with his principal co-writer/collaborator Justin Wilcox. The project also introduces a couple of tracks (“Let Go” & “Back To You”) that fuse indigenous West African/Ghanaian instruments, the kora and djembe with the flavor of core rock n’ roll instruments like electric guitar, bass, horns, drums and keyboards.
“My music is organic,” says Kwame. “this album embodies my roots, love and life’s struggles. I’m driven by my mantra of Peace, Love & Positivity so that propels and drives the messages for most of my lyrical content. It’s also party music and danceable, so if our music moves you and makes you move, that’s a great night” he added.
Kwame has come a long way from his childhood days in Ghana and London where he was raised by his single Ghanaian mother in West London and for a stint by his grandparents in Ghana. His birth name, Nana Kwame Biney Asiedu Agyemfra has been shortened considerably and saved him from numerous botched staged introductions. And he’s also adopted and built a band of “Shakedown” musicians to add to his moniker.
The genesis and musical origins for Kwame were jettisoned during high school in Cherry Hill, NJ. He started writing poetry and song lyrics while devoting the lion share of his time to varsity basketball stardom and singing in the choir. Later while attending William Patterson University (recognized for having one of the most prestigious jazz and contemporary music programs in the country) he surmised his basketball dreams were about to expire, so he picked up an acoustic guitar and immersed himself into his love for music.
While still in college, Kwame and some fellow students formed “The Kause”, a classic rock, blues and soul band. However, it wasn’t until 2009, when he teamed up with songwriter/guitarist Justin Wilcox that his artistic identity began to really surface and flourish. They started performing covers and a few originals as an acoustic duo in clubs and coffee houses around New York City. Kwame later transplanted himself into Harlem and started moonlighting as a bartender to help finance all his musical endeavors.
They built up some decent credibility with their guitar driven acoustic live performances and also drew some attention from other struggling musicians that were doing the same circuit of venues. Initially drummer Medley Shabazz joined the duo, then bassist Phil Bassaragh and guitarist Art Vanterpool. The core 5-piece band started playing in clubs throughout the city in 2011. At times the band also featured horn players Michael Quigley (saxophone), Brian Varneke (trumpet), Daron Wright (keys), Kengo Yamada (saxophone) and occasionally guest vocalist, Dietrice Bolden among others.
According to legend or myth (depending on who tells the story) the band earned its name Uptown Shakedown because the walls in Kwame’s apartment in Harlem used to shake when they rehearsed there. It was later truncated to just Shakedown. Kwame infuses a lot of the British rock elements of the legendary rockers that inspired him to become a rocker such as Rod Stewart, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zepplin. He was also heavily influenced by soul singer Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, then by the iconic Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, (both whom were revered in England), blues greats Buddy Guy and Robert Johnson, southern blues rockers Black Crowes and the Allman Brothers, funk pioneers Sly and the Family Stone, Parlament Funkadelic and South African world music giant Fela Kuti.
He has fed his recording and live endeavors with an unyielding spirit and intestinal fortitude that is strikingly visible in his artistic growth. He continues to draw a legion of loyal fans with electrifying and inspirational performances at most of New York City’s most celebrated venues including Brooklyn Bowl, Joe’s Pub, Mercury Lounge, Rockwood Music Hall, Sullivan Hall, The Bitter End and Hard Rock Cafe. He also had a Summer Residency at Arlene’s Grocery and he’s continually expanding into other major markets on the East Coast.
Simultaneously, he also has incrementally built his growing fan base digitally with several well-received videos helmed by noted Director Jamal Joseph and couple he self-produced/directed with Joel Davenport (“Little Lady” and “Hang On”). He has accumulated nearly 2 million hits via all his social media sites (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter) in the past several years and has netted a cumulative 800,000 views on Youtube from a handful of videos over the past year alone.
Kwame Binea Shakedown…are primed and ready to really SHAKE UP things…break through some walls…and you heard it here first.
Submitted by francesca spinosi at Fri 10 Apr, 2015 3:12 am