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Letters 09-29-2014

Benishek Doesn’t Understand

Congressman Benishek claims to understand the needs of families, yet he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause about 10 million people to lose their health insurance. He must think as long as families can hold fundraisers they don’t need insurance...

(Un)Truth In Advertising

Constant political candidate ads on TV are getting to be too much to bear 45 days before the election...

Rare Tuttle Rebuttal

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Say No To Fluoride

Do you or your child’s teeth have white, yellow, orange, brown, stains, spots, streaks, cloudy splotches or pitting? If so, you may be among millions of Americans who now have a condition called dental fluorosis...

Questions Of Freedom

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Stop The Insults & Talk

I found it interesting that Ms. Minervini used the Northern Express to push the Safe Harbor agenda for a 90-bed homeless shelter in Traverse City with a tactic that is also being utilized by members of the city commission. Those of us who oppose the project are being labeled as uncompassionate citizens...

Roads and Republicans

Each time you hit a road crater while driving, thank the “nerd” and the Tea Party controlled Republican legislature.

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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