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Wanyama, a funk rock fusion group from Cleveland, hopes to return to its roots at Casa Nueva

Wanyama, a funk rock fusion group from Cleveland, hopes to return to its roots at Casa Nueva

Originally published in The Post.

Funk fusion group Wanyama aims to use its improvised jams and distinct style to create a lively environment at Casa Nueva.

When the band Cleveland Zoo first started out, it ran into some trouble when venues and bars refused to book it based on its name.

The five-member band then decided to keep the animal theme with a new name Wanyama, which translates to “animals” in Swahili, guitarist and vocalist Tim Sawchik said.

“We had started with improv jams, and eventually, we figured we should start solidifying our music,” Sawchik said. “Every member of our band kind of has this musical background which is where we got our sound.”

The funk, hip-hop, alternative collective from Cleveland will return to Casa Nueva’s stage alongside Athens local band Waivada.

“Each individual member is original on their own, in their own life and in their own character,” Shaun Malone, the band’s general manager, said. “When you combine them all into one group, you can hear it in the sound that they’re very true and very authentic, and that resonates throughout their music.”

Sawchik said the band takes its influences from bands such as The Roots, Led Zeppelin and even Sublime.

“We draw inspiration from really all over,” Sawchik said. “Together we like listening to hip-hop, we like listening to the jamband scenes and everything in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Wanyama takes from different genres, but a label that sums up the band’s sound is what it calls “conscious funk.”

“Conscious funk is kind of a cross between conscious hip-hop and funk,” Sawchik said. “Nowadays hip-hop is more assimilated into culture, so a generic rock would work too.”

The band takes pride in its live performances where vocalist and saxophone player Charlie Wilson has many improv jams and interactions with the crowd.

“I think from our live performances, we want to portray ourselves as people that are just having fun making music,” Wilson said. “Everything we do is kind of made up on the spot and we like including the audience in our performances.”

Athens and its various music scenes have had a large influence on the band’s beginnings.

“They’ve been playing Athens for a while now,” Malone said. “They were friends with some pretty influential groups down there years ago. They have long-standing roots in Athens.”

Sawchik said Athens is often looked over by many touring bands because of the competition with major cities such as Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

“I think Athens is one of the hidden gems of Ohio,” Sawchik said. “Athens is definitely one that I usually tell people to look into. It’s a nice little music town in my opinion.”

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