Letters

Letters 08-29-2016

Religious Bigotry President Obama has been roundly criticized for his apparent unwillingness to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” His critics seem to suggest that through the mere use of that terminology, the defeat of ISIS would be assured...

TC DDA: Focus On Your Mission What on earth is the Traverse City DDA thinking? Purchasing land around (not within) its TIF boundaries and then offering it at a discount to developers? That is not its mission. Sadly enough, it is already falling down on the job regarding what is its mission. Crosswalks are deteriorating all around downtown, trees aren’t trimmed, sidewalks are uneven. Why can’t the DDA do a better job of maintaining what it already has? And still no public restrooms downtown, despite all the tax dollars captured since 1997. What a joke...

European-Americans Are Boring “20 Fascinating People” in northern Michigan -- and every single one is European-American? Sorry, but this is journalistically incorrect. It’s easy for editors to assign and reporters to write stories about people who are already within their personal and professional networks. It’s harder to dig up stuff about people you don’t know and have never met. Harder is better...

Be Aware Of Lawsuit While most non-Indians were sleep walking, local Odawa leaders filed a lawsuit seeking to potentially have most of Emmet County and part of Charlevoix County declared within their reservation and thus under their jurisdiction. This assertion of jurisdiction is embedded in their recently constructed constitution as documentation of their intent...

More Parking Headaches I have another comment to make about downtown TC parking following Pat Sullivan’s recent article. My hubby and I parked in a handicap spot (with a meter) behind Mackinaw Brew Pub for lunch. The handicap spot happens to be 8-10 spaces away from the payment center. Now isn’t that interesting...

Demand Change At Women’s Resource Center Change is needed for the Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area (WRCGT). As Patrick Sullivan pointed out in his article, former employees and supporters don’t like the direction WRCGT has taken. As former employees, we are downright terrified at the direction Juliette Schultz and Ralph Soffredine have led the organization...

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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