The powerful groove and socially conscious message of Panjea has its roots in the ghettos of Zimbabwe, where Berry learned to play the mbira and began commingling hip-hop and dancehall beats with traditional African rhythms. Berry's music was an instant hit in Zimbabwe (and later in Mozambique, Australia and elsewhere) though at first few Zimbabweans believed that his indigenous-sounding music was created and performed by a 23-year-old white man from America.

The music features lyrics that challenge the listener. It speaks of personal power, the ability to change one's own life and the world for the better (“Are You Ready?”), and admonitions to those who would try to keep people from realizing their potential (“Snake In The Grass”, “Rock It Down”), sung in both English and Shona, the native language of Zimbabwe. The foundation for these vital themes is a combination of African and American rhythms laid down by the drummer Chris Eddleton, String Cheese Incident's mandolinins/singer Michael Kang, Zimbabwean guitarist Zivanai Masango (lately of Thomas Mapfumo's band) and the virtuosic djembe and Mbira (Zimbabwean thumb piano) of Chris Berry. An exclamation point to the music is provided by the electrifying horn section(The Tonal Evangelists (Dan Sears, trumpet; Chris Cuzme, saxophone), who complete the band's sound with precision lines and an almost psychic response to Berry's energetic singing, dancing, and playing.


Panjea was given the unique opportunity to open for the String Cheese Incident in the Fall of 2005, combining an incredible family of musicians, leading to the great Michael Kang joining forces with the project in May of 2006 for a month long tour. This was soon followed by a series of festivals including High Sierra, Wakarusa, among many others, also including the String Cheese great. Now, Kang has committed to be an integral part of the band, completing the sound that is Panjea.

All this said, Panjea's music must be experienced live. The performances never fail to pull the audience from their seats, dancing and singing along with the infectious hooks. Recent successes have included repeat performances at High Sierra Music Festival, Wakarausa Music Festival, Highline Ballroom, NYC's Zinc Bar, Mt. Holyoke College opening for Zimbabwean star Oliver Mtuzudzi, and sold-out late night performances at the Blue Note NYC; the list goes on.

Chris Berry and Panjea combine the best elements of African and American music into a tightly knit, compelling music that challenges the head and heart and moves the body. Featuring virtuosic musicianship, and an incredibly eclectic blend of cultures, this is a show not to be missed Are you ready for this?


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