Q&A Feature: K. Sankofa

DSC_0367.MOV.00_00_35_09.Still003K. Sankofa isn’t your ordinary music artist. With a dab of hip, a splash of jazz, and a spruce of Caribbean flow, he surely knows how to keep his sound original, while eclectic in the ears of his listeners. That isn’t the norm produced in the music rooted from Wisconsin, or from the stereotype from Wisconsin, but here we are. K. Sankofa isn’t going anywhere else anytime soon. Music isn’t the only knowledge K. Sankofa possesses. He proves that with us in this recent interview with the young man, himself, as well as the song lyrics he creates for his content.

K. Sankofa is such a unique stage name, yet a beautiful name as well. Would you tell us the story of how you came up with that name for your musical presence?

K. Sankofa: For the most part, I learned of the term ‘sankofa’ while in college. It is a proverb from Ghana, Africa that means, “Go back and get it.”

Being involved in many social justice efforts I was able to see how the term was used in fighting for justice. Reclaiming culture and heritage in roots of indigenous, as well as, revitalizing the spirit of justice that swept over those who fought through momentous periods like the Civil Rights Movement.

For me, personally, it has become a motto for continued self-development, while never leaving behind the upbringing that made me who I am. I celebrate every part of my past and every lesson that I have learned. This includes being raised in south central L.A.,  and being raised to reverence God in everything.

I started writing and experimenting with music early on in life. However, when I got to college, I told myself that I’d have to leave music behind to focus on things that I believed to be more important. I soon realized that when times got hard it was music that could make me feel whole and revitalize me in the way that I needed to move forward and carry on. With that I took on the stage under the philosophy of sankofa, going back, and getting the music.

For someone who might not have listened to your music before, can you tell us a small description of what your music is about?

KS: My music is about liberation. For me, I feel a sense of freedom in the creation of my music. Even more, I hope to reflect the struggle of the people who may not have the voice to speak out against injustice. My music is spiritual. I try to keep God in everything I do.

My music reflects my own pain and my own adversity that I have experienced. I feel like it might have a blues feel to it with how saddening the content can be sometimes. My music is about rising up against the forces that are here to keep people in inequitable socioeconomic conditions. My music is about love, hope, truth, and justice.

DSC_0380How did you find your voice for the music industry and how did you find your gift for writing music and your ability to rap?

KS: I started rapping in the 7th grade. I first discovered my love for rap music during that time, because a friend of mine urged me to get into some writing sessions with him. I loved putting the pen to the paper and expressing my thoughts. I try to make sure I let my influences and life philosophy speak through me. I try to stay in tune with God. I think it is a confluence of these thing that helped to develop the voice that I have.

Are there any current musicians who have helped influence your style of music?

KS: Definitely. Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Jay-Z are a few people who influenced me the most, but even today I have been influenced by newer artist like Chance The Rapper.

Even though your music focuses on your life stories, music is actually not your priority goal is it? Care to tell us what is your main goal in life is?

KS: My main life goal is do what I believe is right. I want to do what God has set out for me to do in this world. I believe that encompasses organizing towards justice and being a voice for the oppressed and the unheard. I believe that it is our great mission as a race of humanity to serve our fellow man and put our focus into achieving a well-fare state. I know that the task is endless and bigger than any one individual but I believe that we all have a part to play. My main goal in life is figure out the part that I am best suited for and fulfilling the duties of that role to the best of my ability.

_DSC0008You’re not actually from Wisconsin, but you are originally from California. How did you find yourself in Madison?

KS: I got the Posse Foundation full-tuition scholarship to come to UW-Madison.

Not only are you gifted and talented, but you are a young, well-educated human being. Can you tell us what you are studying and/or majoring in for your Bachelors degree? What drew you to choose your field of study?

KS: Sociology was my major. I chose this, because I had a mentor who opened me up to the major. I fell in love with the pursuit of understanding the development of our world through a societal lens. I was drawn to how interdisciplinary sociology is. You will learn about the law, history, the economy, politics, and so much more. I graduated back in May.

Does Sociology have a part in your influence to make music?

KS: Most definitely. It gives me perspective. If there is one thing that I have learned it is that we are social creatures, and that people are generally a product of their social environment and upbringing. I try to equip a broader lens of understanding of this in my music.

_DSC0250In December, you dropped your first mix-tape album, The Audacity. I must say my top three songs on that album are “Young, Gifted & Black”, “Surrender”, and “Say Less.” What were your top three songs you enjoyed creating the most in the studio process on this album? Why?

KS: I enjoyed creating every song because they are all different and require different approaches in the creation process. But if I had to pick a top three it would be “Sing Sankofa,” “Surrender”, and “Go Down.”

“Sing Sankofa” was the first song I recorded for the tape, so it was exciting to jump into it with full intensity. I got to work with the brother, Lucien Parker, at Strange Oasis Entertainment. Lucien is cold with the audio setup and the vocal production.

“Surrender” was an interesting recording process, because we incorporated live instruments. I was literally rapping the track to the beat while the homie, Mandell, went to work with the saxophone. Then, later on, we brought in the home girl, Jada, to hit a violin outro. So overall, music collaborative process was just powerful in “Surrender.”I can’t forget to mention that I was able to record the first hook with DJ Pain 1 who actually made the beat for the song.

Last, but not least, I gotta go with “Go Down”, because of the intensity of the recording process. I felt like I put my all into the spitting that song in the booth.

With all the access to many independent artists on various music platforms like Spotify, ITunes, SoundCloud, and ReverBNation, I see a transition within the music industry in itself. Do you see or feel a change with the music industry changing or reconstructing?

KS: With social media and a wave of independence it seems like music is in the hands of the people. There is no telling what’s to come. Hopefully major labels don’t get to control what we listen to in the future. Hopefully that power is transferred to the hands of the people.

Do you feel the polarization of modern politics has an influence with the transitions of the music industry? Why or why not?

KS: Not really. I think the music industry changes are because of social media, technology, and massive access to information. However, I think these same factors have shifted modern politics too.

Where do you see the music industry in five years from now? Where do you see yourself?

KS: Nothing new is under the sun. I think the music industry will still reflect a variety of perspectives and thought. However, I do think as we evolve as a society drawing nearer knowledge, purpose our music will reflect that growth. Hopefully we elevate the musical leaders in such a society. I hope to be one of those leaders.

Majority of artists out there, whether it be actors, musicians, painters, singers, or whatever, always has that one role model or influence with their pathway in life and/or artistic missions. Who has been the most significant role model in your life?

KS: My older brother Eric. He was the first in my family to go to college. He was amazing. He lived a life of service and integrity. He was also a rap artist.

If you could write a letter to your younger self in one sentence, what would it say?

KS: Don’t let anyone try to define you and always stay tight with God.

This is simply a challenge, rather than a question. Give us a random playlist with the first ten songs that come to your mind.

  1.     Jay Rock: Win
  2.     Michael Jackson: Human Nature
  3.     Outkast: Ms. Jackson
  4.     Ice Cube: Today was a Good Day
  5.     Kendrick Lamar: Mortal Man
  6.     Tupac: Changes
  7.     Lauryn Hill: Ex-Factor
  8.     Cardi B: I like it
  9.     Beyonce: Halo
  10.     Bob Marley: Get Up Stand Up

Oh, there is plenty more coming from this young individual. Currently on a light tour, just to increase his presence in the scene. K. Sankofa also has a new album in the works! Stay tuned for how the founder of #RebelGang turns up!

For now, enjoy the new single, “State of Emergency.” Make sure to just hit play right down below and check it out.

It’s. That. Simple.

Just. Push. Play.

 

A Non-Fictional Story Of Two Guys & A Girl

*As I start writing this post, my blog still goes untitled.*

Last week was an unexpected event in itself. The unexpectedness was a blessing in disguise. Balancing school and work with hosting two “foreigners” of the Midwest was a challenge, but at the same time it felt natural.

The events took place was assisted by our positive vibes connection at Deuce’s poetry reading event & photo shoot the week prior. Anyways, on to the damn story.

*I just figured out a title for the blog. Go me!*

It happened to be a relaxing day off after my Monday class considering I also had the Tuesday after off as well. I was getting my daily Iced Chai Latte when I got the phone call from Deuce.Apparently there is only one bus route from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to La Crosse, WI and the total ride time was 22 hours, when Cedar Rapids is only three hours away in a personal vehicle.

I was front with the guys, telling them my plan A for the day and Tuesday was a better day for the road trip after my Equestrian Therapy since nothing was planned after. I got off the phone and strolled through the book store for about fifteen more minutes thinking about the opportunities to change my plans for the day to Plan B. You only live once right?

So I basically said, “fuck it” and cancelled plan A and went with plan B for the day. I called Deuce back in the nick of time, considering they were seconds away of buying their hotel room for the night. Phew!

Somehow on the trip back from Iowa, I managed to talk two artists, who are used to the night life, to be morning peeps for me, in return, I would drive them up to the Mall of America. See, Deuce has been to these neck of the woods before, however, Mario has not been this far west before and I felt it was necessary to show him as much as I could while he was here. Both of them also got to meet Sterling, my new therapy horse, as well.

When we got home from our days trip up to the Twin Cities, I figured I cook for them as well, because the host has to go all out for their guests. So, I cooked some spaghetti for the guys for their second night in my crib. Wednesday, I manage to make them my homemade wings that were of three bold flavors, in between school and work & Thursday morning I provided chorizo burritos & hashbrowns for breakfast.

In return of all this hospitality, the boys took turns and assigning each other different chore tasks from dishes to vacuuming the living room floor. Coming home from work Thursday night to prep for my photography gig, opened the door and the house was so clean and refreshing from the abundance of essence candles that have been burning throughout the week. It was refreshing and I didn’t get insecurely upset about them touching my shit.

The results of this experience and strong conversations with the guys had boosts my hope to humanity who are on the same level in life that I am at. What we didn’t have in common, we shared with one another, as in, sharing our cultures and/or others from UK Grime music scene to Quebec’s film industry.  Expressing towards one another openly without judgements, but instead, sharing knowledge of our life experiences was an example that it is possible that people from different worlds can co-exist without hesitations. This is why we don’t judge people by their images or words, but rather by their hearts and intentions. My circle remains small, but the quality of my circle is so valuable, that it’s become priceless.

Poetry, Food, & Wine… Oh, Don’t Forget About The Photography

Photo Credit:
DJ Mario Bee

Today, I was in completely chill mode regardless of the lack of sleep that a combination of my body and my damn dogs did not allow. I was reflecting on my wintery hibernation as I was enjoying our full first spring-like day today with two of the most dope artists I’ve come across in my life this far in my journey.

I am smiling. One of my best friend’s texted me well wishes before last night’s event at a local culinary spot.

I just figured, “Yay! This will be an opportunity to work my photo magic and continue to build my portfolio,” but little did I know getting out of the house, especially to the poetry, food, & wine event, would I get a boost of inspiration.

My best friend couldn’t be more right. I was inspired. Inspired to leave my winter hibernation. Inspired to return to “Open Mic” at a local coffee joint. Inspired to situate some administration tasks for my favorite non-profit organization and my schooling situation for the videography trade. Is that inspired enough? Nah…

A multiple of reasons plays their parts on a successful Sunday & Monday. It was a completely relaxing environment, overall at the Poetry, Food, & Wine night. Oddly, I was also ready to work the moment I got there.

I didn’t hesitate to let Chef Shawn know of graduating honors in the culinary field. He didn’t hesitate to put me on the spot with the opening question, “You got an open hand?!” I raised both hands and assisted with the food before the event.

I clicked with all the artists associated with last night spot on from the introduction. Quick smiles, laughs, stories, photos, and plenty of sarcasm to go around all night, as I met new friends in the local area.

A fan of mine came out for the showing, asked for my autograph. Let’s just say, Deuce was impressed. I joked with him about being a bigger deal than he was in these neck of the woods.

I sold a couple copies of each book, as well as raffled a copy of each to the crowd, as well as a free photo shoot. A long night well worth what money can’t ever buy. That right there inspired me to keep working on my third book.

Today continued the good vibes and memories after my morning class, as I showed the New Yorkers, Deuce Ellis & DJ Mario Bee around this small town, as well as, got some dope photographs of the two at a couple various locations.

The two wanted good food and good beer, so I led them to Dublin’s Irish Pub and had them eat some of the best cheese curds La Crosse has to offer. I also got to witness Deuce & Mario trying our famous/infamous beer cheese soup.

I promised next time they are in town, I would show them a low key dive called River Rat’s, one of my favorites, with some of the best chicken wings in town, and one of the best scenes in town, on the river. I always keep my promises when food is involved.

I have a lot of editing to do between the event photos and the photo shoot from today, but this is the stuff I live for. The artistry of life. The challenge of what we can create with what we have. That’s what I love living for.

"Save the Warehouse" campaign!

 Warehouse Alliance Mission Statement“The Warehouse Alliance will support and promote the growth of the music & arts community of the Greater Coulee Region through events, shows, workshops, classes, volunteerism, and immersive learning opportunities.”   
The Warehouse resides in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It is a non-profit, for all-ages concert venue located in the heart of downtown on the historic Pearl Street. The Warehouse is also known for its long history of concerts since the early 1990s with the likes of Everclear, Fall Out Boy, All-Star Weekend, and Hawthorne Heights, just to name very few bands that have performed here. There have been over 6,000 bands that have performed in this particular venue.  

What is so special about this venue? Well, it stands against the same stigma of the town it resides in that I stand against. As Wisconsin sits at the #3 spot for the most bar per capita in states, La Crosse is well-known for the largest bar per capita city in the United States. Even before the ban of smoking in bars and restaurants was passed in 2010 here in Wisconsin, the Warehouse stayed smoke free.  As I am coming up to my one-year anniversary of sobriety, I am celebrating by reaching out to the Warehouse crew, who are working hard to save this precious historical place. There are not many venues or places in La Crosse, let alone Wisconsin, like the Warehouse.  It truly is a one of a kind.  

I think the coolest part of this concert venue is the availability of soda pops it holds. The Warehouse stocks over 75 types of soda pops from all over the World from countries like Japan, Canada, Ireland, England, etc. It’s almost like the sober-edition of the tavern, Bodega, here in La Crosse.  
As great as the story and history is with the Warehouse, each story has a climax. Right now, the Warehouse is at its own climax with their current financial situation as a non-profit organization. The owners are being threatened by the bank to put up the good fight, so they can turn the venue into condos downtown. Unfortunately, the climax is at the tip of the iceberg, as the deadline of October 19th is coming to a close for donations and the mission to “Save the Warehouse.”   
I talked with Steve Harm and asked him a few questions on the mission and the concert venue:

Please, share with us your story and how the Warehouse got started? 
During high school (in the late 70s, early 80s) I was in a local band, and we had nowhere to play.  So we toured quite a bit, across the US, released some records, and finally put it to rest in the late 80s.  I took a job working for a sound company, doing everything from announcement systems at demolition derbys to auction systems in pig barns at fairgrounds to full concert systems for events.  Between gigs I would hang out in the basement of a building in downtown La Crosse, where a couple buddies had a tanning salon.  One day I asked them if they had keys to the upstairs. I loved old buildings, and thought it would be fun to explore.  Once I got inside I feel in love with the woodwork and the spaciousness, but especially the big open room upstairs.  Then something clicked in my head and a little voice said “How hard could it be to open a venue?”  That little voice was mighty inexperienced. 

1.  When and if the Warehouse is saved and given another chance, do you have a new rendition or plans in the making to draw in more crowds and possibly older crowds, so the kids you draw in has older influences?   We have never really focused on “kids” past the age of 20, because this town grabs kids after high school and chews them up.  The lure of booze, which is EVERYWHERE, is too hard for us to compete with once kids hit that age.  While they are in high school, we can make a difference. But once they move out on their own, the pressure from media, peers, and every business (from grocery store to restaurant), billboards, sporting events…. EVERYTHING tells them to drink.  We can only do so much.  That being said, we DO get plenty of kids over 18 in the venue, and they’re not drunk, because they know we can and will throw them out.  We won’t mix drunks with kids, unlike some other venues that do all-ages and simultaneously sell alcohol.  That has never worked anywhere that I have been — kids are always peer-pressured into drinking, and they find a way.  We bring in big older bands like Meat Puppets, Frank Black, etc., and the crowd can range from 14 to 50.  They’ll have at least two things in common: they love music, and they won’t be drunk. 

2.   As I research your history of concerts, I am aware that majority of the bands you book are of the Rock genre. Do you ever consider booking other artists, of other genres, who support the same mission as you do with the existence of the Warehouse?  That’s another misconception about the Warehouse: its all metal.  We had someone complaining online about that a couple months ago, and I pointed out that within a month of that complaint, we had metal, rock, alternative, ska, punk, acoustic singer songwriter, and Americana bands.  The thing that limits us a bit is that we are at the mercy of whomever is touring.  We can’t just book local bands every week — those locals will burn themselves out, no one will come see them, then we kill the scene instead of growing it.  Left to their own devices, local bands will play 7 nights a week all over town, and destroy themselves quickly.  We try really hard to manage that. Close-minded bands think we’re meddling in their business, but eventually the ones who survive thank us.  In a town this small, managing the scene is critical, and other venues usually could care less about the big picture.  I find it incredibly important.  We like to help up and coming national bands on their tours, and add local bands to the shows.  The local bands (if they have not overplayed) help with the draw, and they get a fantastic opportunity to befriend national touring bands and learn about what it really takes to succeed.  The national bands that come through are everything across the board from That 1 Guy to Born Of Osiris.   

3.  Ever considered also to expand the business to the likes of an “Open Mic” for local artists? Root Note has an open mic.  We can let them deal with that.  Since they’ve opened, we have tended to send a lot of the acoustic type stuff to them anyways.  It just works better there, unless it’s a Teddy Geiger or Ari Herstand etc. 

4.  What other non-profit organizations and/or charities is the Warehouse known to collaborate with? In the past we have donated to WAFER FOOD PANTRY, COULEE REGION HUMANE SOCIETY, CHILDREN’S MIRACLE NETWORK, JAYCEES, UNITED WAY, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY, SALVATION ARMY, SIERRA CLUB, WORLD WILDLIFE FUND, WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO, MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO, YWCA 

5.  Other than donations, what other options are there to help meet your goal in the “Save the Warehouse” campaign?   To meet our goal right now, which is intended to stall the foreclosure proceedings and keep the bank at bay, the ONLY thing that is going to have any significant difference is monetary donations.   

6.  Is there anything we can do between the deadline of October 19th – 31st, i.e. continue donations outside of Pay Pal? If so, where can we send those donations?    At the last bank meeting (yesterday) the Bankers set the next meeting for Nov 6, so we will continue fundraising as long as possible, and try to pay down some of the back taxes and mortgage payments.  There are vulture developers already eyeing this building without any concern whatsoever for the history and impact of the Warehouse.  We’re fighting to save that. 

7.  And last, but in my own eyes, most importantly, remind us, in your own words, why the Warehouse should be saved?   Well in a city full of alcoholics, we are an oasis for kids to not feel any pressure whatsoever to drink.  Over the past 2 decades, we have also been a place where kids who aren’t into high school sports or high school music programs or other school activities to come and find a sense of community with like-minded kids.  For those kids, we ARE their baseball field or football field or showchoir room.  It would be easy to sit up on our high horse trumpeting how important the Warehouse was, without anything to back it up.  But we’ve been here for 22 years.  Warehouse Kids from the early 90s are bringing THEIR kids here now.  The kind of comments that were coming in during the fundraiser, from kids would been a part of the Warehouse for 4-6 years, then moved on, but wanted to reflect back with us on how important it was to them, was staggering.  Kids who were now in their 30s and their entire current circle of friends were people they met at the Warehouse.  Kids who met someone at the Warehouse who they are now married to.  It is a community for misfits and “normal” kids, where everyone can fit in and feel at home and enjoy great bands and most of all, discover who they are.  
8.  Anything else you want to add, Steve? Only that we have a really solid plan for our 501c# Warehouse Alliance non-profit, but that the non-profit is irrelevant if we cannot get past the current financial troubles.  Fundraising now is our biggest priority, and we all hate having to do it.  

 
As the time runs low, we can only hope for a miracle right now for the “Save the Warehouse” campaign. If you support for a more positive influence and for a strong music bond for the younger generations, head to the following link,  Save The Warehouse, and give any donation as low as $5. Every dollar counts for this precious moment. I want to thank Steve Harm for taking the time to answer my questions for my readers and fans out there, so I can spread the news and lighten intentions to help with the mission.

 

Until next time,

H.M. Gautsch