“Music is large, love is large, it’s all about that.” – Meta & the Cornerstones
Catch Meta & the Cornerstones at Black Bear Bar this Friday November 20 – Grab your tickets here!
What’s your band’s name? Where’d the name come from?
Meta and The Cornerstones. My name is Meta and The Cornerstones are literally my backbones, they are the band members who play my music. Besides, The Cornerstones come from different ‘corners’ in the world: Israel, Japan, the Caribbean and Africa and we have some members in Europe as well.
The Yellow Collar Collective is all about the daily grind musicians go through to perfect their craft, what has been your biggest struggle and accomplishment as a musician?
What other instruments can you and your fellow band members play?
I sing and play the guitar, Shahar Mintz is amazing on lead (electric) guitar, but can also sing! Aya Kato is a huge talent on keyboards, she is schooled as a classical pianist a she can also really rock the bass. Rupert McKenzie is the bass master and Abou is strong and steady on drums.
Why’d you start making music and why specifically did you choose your genre?
I’m from a spiritual and nomadic family. I started to sing spiritually at a young age. Growing up in Dakar, Senegal I also got in touch with a lot of different types of music such as latin, salsa, bachata, reggae, Cuban music. All kinds of music actually. Also with popular Western music through MTV like soul, funk, pop and disco. But when hip-hop entered I felt immediately connected. It inspired me and my friends and cousins. From then on I started to write and play hip-hop music. I liked artists like MC Hammer, Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy and Eminem. I started rapping in a hip-hop group with one of my cousins and one of my friends in Senegal and two years later I started another group with two other friends. We were called Yalla Suuren (meaning ‘God Bless’ in Wolof). We played lots of shows around Senegal, and then we won a competition. The French Cultural Center of Dakar named us the best hip-hop group. Unfortunately our album wasn’t released as some of our lyrics were seen as controversial. This is when I decided I wanted to move to the U.S. I wanted to do hip-hop but the reality was pretty different in the U.S. The lifestyle, not being able to speak English when I tried to rap and the lyrics didn’t appeal to me as much when I started to know what they meant exactly. At the same time, I started to recognize a lot of what I wanted to say with music in reggae songs I used to hear back home. I knew how to play guitar and started to play it more and sing songs I knew from my childhood. At one point a famous jazz player named Sean Blackman from Detroit told me, “you can sing very good bro, you should be singing!” From then on it was jam sessions on and on, here and there, directing me more and more to reggae music.
Do you have any memorable musical experiences that have shaped who you guys are?
Listening to Bob Marley a lot as he is part of the development and the vision that I saw as a human and musician as well, Jamaica was one of the places that I really wanted to go. I was lucky enough to cross the band Steel Pulse through Larry McDonald, a great Jamaican percussionist we met and who started playing with us in New York. It was an honor for me to meet Steel Pulse as I heard the band when I was a young boy in Senegal. Sidney Mills (keyboard player and producer of Steel Pulse) heard my first album and I let him listen to some of the songs I built with ProTools. Then he asked me: “you made these?” I said “yes” and he told me we had to record a second album at Tuff Gong in Jamaica. I was overwhelmed, went to Jamaica, we met up with Damian Marley, U-Roy, Capleton and more musicians I didn’t expect to meet and that brought a nice vibration and motivation to all of us. I would say that the trick is to keep believing in what you are doing, and if you get the chance, travel, because when you travel you connect with people, their cultures and their music. Music is large, love is large, it’s all about that.
Have you ever released any albums or are working on any now? Any special projects?
We released our first album ‘Forward Music’ independently in 2008, recorded in New York. Our second album recorded at Tuff Gong called ‘Ancient Power’ was released in 2013 through our own label and with a distribution deal with VP Records. This year, we’ve been and are still working on our third album ‘HIRA’ which we recorded at the Real World Studios of Peter Gabriel in England. This third album is very special to me as I feel it reflects my own growth as an artist, my spirituality and the message I have for the world.
Do you collaborate with other artists? Inside and outside your genre?
Yes I do, inside and outside my genre. I worked with many reggae artists but also with a Norwegian producer called Harald Austad for example, who makes experimental, more electronic music. I have worked with musicians in Japan, New Zealand, Europe, Jamaica, Africa, the U.S., too many to name here.
What venues and events have you performed at in the past five years? Which has been your favorite?
We have toured a lot in the past 3 years following the release of Ancient Power, there are too many venues to mention! I would say in New York the best show we did was in Central Park Summer Stage, we did Reggae on The River and Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in California; we did Festival d’Été in Quebec and the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada; we did Summerjam in Germany, Reggae Sun Ska in France, Mighty Sounds in the Chech Republic, MUSA in Portugal, Mundial in Holland, Afro Latino in Belgium, Afro Pfingsten in Switzerland and Ostroda in Poland. We went to Ivory Coast for the FEMUA festival and to my homeland Senegal to play at the Grand Theatre. One of my favorite festivals was in Essaouira, Morocco the Gnaoua Festival. They really made us feel welcome there and we had a chance to unite a big crowd to sing with us to promote peace. Miles Davis was there as well. We even got the chance to tour in New Zealand early this year and play the famous Rhythm & Vines and Rhtythm and Alps Festivals and the Rotorua festival alongside Fat Freddy’s Drop. All of these shows were amazing and unique in it’s own way and there are many more from intimate club shows to huge festival stages that all have their own vibe. I love them all and can’t wait to tour the world with our new album HIRA again.
How do you acquire shows and promote yourself? Do you have any recommendations for other artists?
We work with two booking agents in Europe and some of the shows are booked directly by my management. We did a lot of work and invested a lot of time and money to promote ourselves and be alert to different opportunities. I did many radio shows and interviews and never said no to a booking or interview request in order to make the most out of promotion, touring and playing shows. First of all, you have to make great music and be very critical towards yourself and your band, surround yourself with people who believe in your music and generate a good buzz on radio, media and social networks. Once you start touring, the word is spread about how you as an artist compose yourself, how you interact with the audience and fans and the way you bring your music to the stages. If you do all of this well, you have a good chance to keep growing.
Do you have any mottos?
What artists inspire you?
What do you do when you’re not listening to or making music?
Be with friends and family, talk about life, observe and help other people.
What’s your favorite song(s) right now?
The songs of our new album ‘HIRA’! Stay tuned!
Thank you Meta & the Cornerstones for taking time to do this interview for all of us!
Check out more of Meta & the Cornerstones through the links below!