Letters

Letters 07-21-2014

Disheartened

While observing Fox News, it was disheartening to see what their viewers were subjected to. It seems the Republicans’ far right wing extremists are conveying their idealistic visions against various nationalities, social diversities or political beliefs with an absence of emotion concerning women’s health issues, children’s rights, voter suppression, Seniors, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid...

Things That Matter

All of us in small towns and large not only have the right to speak on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves, we have the duty and responsibility to do so -- and 238 years ago, we made a clear Declaration to do just that...

An Anecdote Driven Mind

So, is Thomas Kachadurian now the Northern Express’ official resident ranter? His recent factfree, hard-hearted column suggests it. While others complain about the poor condition of Michigan’s roads and highways, he rants against those we employ to fix them...

No On Prop 1

Are we being conned? Are those urging us to say “yes” to supposedly ”revenue neutral” ballot proposal 1 on August 5 telling us all the pertinent facts? Proposal 1 would eliminate the personal property tax businesses pay to local governments, replacing its revenue with a share of Michigan’s 6 percent use tax paid by us all on out-of-state purchases, hotel accommodations, some equipment rentals, and telecommunications...

Fix VA Tragedy

The problems within the Veterans Administration identified under former President Bush continue to hinder the delivery of quality health care to the influx of physically wounded and emotionally damaged young men and women...

Women Take Note

I find an interesting link between the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby and the crisis on the southern border. Angry protesters shout at children to go home. These children are scared, tired, hungry and thirsty, sent to US prisons awaiting deportation to a country where they may very likely be killed...


Home · Articles · News · Music · Reggae meets Finland
. . . .

Reggae meets Finland

Kristi Kates - August 16th, 2010
Reggae meets Finland, eh? Take a multicultural vacation with Conga Se Menne
By Kristi Kates
It’s one thing to try and describe your average band to readers. One generally narrows down the band’s genre to something easy to describe, like “funk-rock group” or “folk four-piece.”
It’s another thing entirely to attempt a translation of Upper Peninsula band Conga Se Menne.
Formed in 1994 by Derrell Syria, Conga Se Menne takes Syria’s original compositions and songs, arranges them utilizing elements of both Finnish traditional music and Jamaican reggae, adds in comedy lyrics about “Yoopers” and other facets of U.P. life, and performs them on guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion instruments (and occasionally horns). Whew. So how did they get to this admittedly zany mix of musical styles?
“I am 100 percent Finnish - second generation American - and I’m influenced by many different genres of music,” Derrell Syria explains. “Our aim when Conga Se Menne was founded was to perform my tunes in a reggae-slash-traditional Finnish style. The name of the band is a play on words taken from the Finnish phrase ‘kuinka se mene,’ meaning ‘how are you doing?’”
Syria says that the band started out as a three-piece, but today has evolved into a “floating cast” of musicians, ranging from two to seven, depending on the gig and venue. They include Syria, Dave Ziegner, John Kumjian, Jerry Kippola, Gary Parkonnen, Paul Neumann, and Kay Smith.

HELLO YOOPERS!
Living along the chilly shores of Lake Superior has kept this band focused on their music - and the remote location hasn’t kept them from being noticed. Beat Magazine tapped them for one of their “Best Of” lists, and the musicians’ excellent skills often surprise those who arrive expecting to hear nothing more than a novelty act. But these are serious musicians who simply enjoy being... well, quirky.
“The Yooper influences were intentional when I wrote my lyrics,” Syria says. “They’re based on the lifestyles of the people who live in the North - not only in the U.P. - so I threw in some subtle humor.”
Subtle, perhaps, to the Yoopers who live directly within Syria’s tales of life in the North country. But to those based elsewhere, the songs sing of scenarios only seen in movies, or shows like the Alaskan-based comedy/drama television series Northern Exposure.
“I write humorous lyrics about taking saunas then jumping into the snow, or drinking a couple of beers and playing a little cribbage,” Syria chuckles.
Other Conga Se Menne tunes delve even further into U.P./Finnish culture, relating tales of working in the woods or the mines, trapping and fishing, and even the legend of Heikki Lunta, a mythological Finnish hero of the U.P. who is said to make it snow when he dances.

CARE FOR A VACATION?
Things really get wacky when Conga Se Menne puts music to those lyrics; first, being the Finnish influence.
“The story lines about the culture and geography in the U.P. are blended with the Finnish Schodisch and Polka,” Syria explains.
Then, he says, reggae rhythms and melodies are added in, taking both the band and audience on a musical vacation... to your choice of Finland or Jamaica, depending on which musical elements you choose to focus on.
“I’ve always been fond of music from the islands, so I’ve used that tropical musical feeling with help from my band mates,” Syria continues, “most of our material is presented with a calypso/reggae feel, with added percussion breaks and some experimental vocals.”
Syria’s unique musical blend is definitely working for Conga Se Menne. They’ve recorded three albums, and are about to release their fourth, and are in-demand as performers around the region, including their upcoming show in Petoskey, for which Syria already has a plan.
“We’ll play some of the songs from our first three albums, a couple from our upcoming CD, and a variety of re-arranged cover tunes, using three vocalists,” Syria smiles, “we’ll kick out the tunes with some energy.”

Conga Se Menne will perform at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey on Wednesday, August 18 at 8 p.m. For tickets, call CTAC at 231-347-4337, or visit them online at www.crookedtree.org.

 
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