POSTED ON FEBRUARY 27, 2013:
Band returns to the live stage
Then Citizen Mundi parted ways following its last show on St. Patrick's Day 2008, it left Tulsa's music scene missing something. Not only did we lose our best world music group and many people's favorite band to dance to and party with, but we also lost a sense of community that accompanied the band.
After all, Citizen Mundi wasn't just the name of the band, but a concept and state of mind. Translated "citizens of the world," the band brought together a group of diverse individuals and created a sense of community, not just within its players, but within the clubs and local scene of which it was a part. The band's motto and mission statement could be found on everything from its web site to its CDs: "Let music bring peace to the world."
When lead singer and guitarist Jean-Michel Balaguer got a job offer in Africa that he couldn't refuse, the group took that as the sign that it was time to put things to rest rather than try to regroup with another singer. The band had become a local favorite and grown a large following, but there were stresses that went with that success, signaling it was time to let the group rest after the band's final performance.
Fortunately the band members never closed the door on getting back together, and the time finally came for a reunion of sorts. Mundi returns to the stage this Saturday night, March 2, at The Shrine. When asked how it all came together, drummer Erick Donis said that the idea had been in the air, but really came to fruition once The Shrine opened at 18th & Boston in the location that the group had not only played some of its biggest shows, but also rehearsed.
"Since Jason was running the room, it just felt appropriate for us to do it," Donis said, "to get together and have fun one more time.
"We always rehearsed here and had our first gig here," said bassist Eric Bass prior to rehearsal last week.
"We did our CD release party in this room, and played D-Fest here," saxophonist Ryan Tedder added.
Indeed, that showcase at D-Fest in 2006 was pivotal in establishing Mundi's presence on the local scene. After worrying about playing the last show of the weekend, a 1am slot on Saturday night, the room ended up packed shoulder to shoulder with dancing fans, with the room at capacity and no one dispersing until they were herded out, well after the band wrapped up at 1:45am.
In fact, once the room closed, the party spilled out onto the street, with the crowd abuzz until almost 2:30am. That show became the band's calling card and set the standard for shows to come.
But why now? According to Donis, "I think this is a good time for us to bring the band back together. The Tulsa music scene has a new momentum and it's raising up some good original music once again."
"Originally, my roommate gave me the idea," Donis admitted. "He figured it would be cool since he never got to see the band when it was originally together. All it took was for me to ask the rest of the band if they wanted to do it and everyone is on board. The coolest thing is that everyone I asked wanted to be a part of it."
Granted, this isn't a full reunion, as Balaguer is overseas for work and not available. This weekend's show does include original members Erick Donis on drums, percussionist Sergio D'Alonza, keyboardist Wifredo Nanita, bassist Eric Bass and Ryan Tedder on sax and will feature a number of guests, instead of trying to find replacements for the original members. David Hernandez (of BrujoRoots) will play guitar and sing most of the night, while guitarist Greg Mize will handle many of the lead guitar duties over the course of the evening. Erik Zurita (also of BrujoRoots) will also join the group for a few tunes, as will Tim Shadley, augmenting the horns on trombone. Jason Martin, who was involved with the band in its early stages, will also sing as the night progresses.
Although this was initially conceived as a one-off opportunity, the spirits within the band are running high and members are already opening their minds to the possibility of playing additional shows, should the right opportunity arise.
"If the opportunity for another show comes up, Jean-Michel will probably be a part of it, based on his availability," Donis said. "I didn't really want to say this is a Citizen Mundi reunion, because that's a bit misleading. ... It's not really a reunion show, as such."
"It is, sort of, but it's something different," Bass added.
At this point, the group was completing each other's thoughts, with Martin adding "It's a meeting of the minds."
"It's really just the Mundi concept," Tedder concluded. "It's that world philosophy that transcended all the other amalgamations of the band, but I think 'Citizen Mundi' is the particular seven that started it."
Even so, this version of Mundi is true to the spirit of the original, in that it is locking into a groove together and the band members have quickly found their chemistry again, falling into synch and playing off each other's strengths. Beyond that, however, there's a sense of camaraderie and kinship that can't be denied within the group. Although Balaguer may not be available, David Hernandez is fitting in with the group perfectly and giving it a well-centered balance.
For those who remember Citizen Mundi, you won't want to miss Saturday night's show at The Shrine when "Mundi Live" comes together. And those who never got to see Citizen Mundi, but know of the band's live reputation, had better take advantage of this opportunity to see the members come together once again.
The show starts at 9pm with hip-hop artist Verse opening the show, followed by percussionist group The Moyo Tribe, giving the evening a variety of styles that integrate well -- a perfect example of the Mundi style. Finally, Mundi will wrap up the evening with a lineup that will expand to 11 people on stage at some points during the evening as guests flow in and out.
Perhaps the most welcome part of the evening, however, will be the return of the communal spirit that Mundi always nurtures. With any luck, that spirit will grow and we'll see the group return for more shows this summer and the camaraderie draws the band members together once more for bigger and better things. As for now, though, you won't want to miss it when the reunite on Saturday evening at The Shrine.
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