Music » Band of the Week

Band of the Week: Uzizi



Meet the Band: Craig Matis (vocals, guitar), Noel Howard (drums,  percussion), Jim Van Cleef (lead guitar), Darren Frate (bass), Reed Simon (violin and fiddle)

Stability Now: Singer-guitarist Craig Matis started the band in 1982 as a three-piece, but the band has changed line-ups several times since then. After countless incarnations, the group has finally solidified, and the current line-up — a five-piece band with a seven-person choir — has been together for the past four years. "These guys are musician friends of mine who have played with us since the '80s," says Matis. "The musical direction has always been the same. The last four years, I started to incorporate sacred harp singing. I think the larger the vocal group, the better."

Sacred Stuff: Matis describes the band as an "alternative world/rock group that also incorporates a little of an early-American type of music called sacred harp singing.This particular music dates back to the 1700s, although I've adapted it to some of my songs," he says. "I did that in college at the University of Illinois-Champaign. I was into temperance music and a segment of their shows was sacred harp singing. I did some here and there when I was in L.A. and then I met this group that does it in Erie, Pa., and that really inspired me."  

Why You Should Hear Them: Based on a traditional sacred harp song, "Babylon is Fallen" features choir-like vocals that are so elaborate, the song sounds like Queen playing gospel music. "It's based on Emmett Till who was lynched and I wrote a story about that," says Matis. "I made it symbolic to the Jim Crow era. I took that song and wrote this song around it with the chord progressions." The band doesn't have a new album out, but Matis says the group is "always recording."

Where You Can Hear Them:

Where You Can See Them: Uzizi performs at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at Wilbert's.

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