Sonia Dada gets dressed up

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Sonia Dada brings its diverse style and ethnic sounds to town Saturday for the second installment of the Steamboat Free Summer Concert Series. The free concert on Headwall, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area, is an early stop on the nine-member, Chicago-based band's summer tour. The tour coincides with the release of "Test Pattern," a new album that debuted with a short DVD on June 22.

Expect a show that swings from "straightforward R&B soul," as Sonia Dada guitarist and principle songwriter Dan Pritzker described their 2002 album, "Barefoot Soul," to hints of Bollywood. Sonia Dada's latest release samples a variety of instruments from around the world along with the more familiar sounds of roots, rock, soul and gospel.

"A lot of the more exotic-sounding instruments are Indian," Pritzker said. "Our records are kind of eclectic, and they're all over the place."

For their latest effort, Sonia Dada dug deep into digital sampling. The band used computers to layer a wide variety of live and recorded instruments along with a quartet of lead singers to create a new sound.

"This was very difficult to make in a way. It was very time-consuming. There was a lot of time spent messing with computers," Pritzker said. He said the band members spent a lot of time painstakingly sending sounds back and forth across the country to generate their 12 new songs.

But Sonia Dada won't be using computers on stage.

Computers helped the band figure out its arrangements. But when it came time to play the songs live, Sonia Dada rehearsed for more than a month trying to re-create the arrangements, Pritzker said.

"Basically, we made the record, and then we copied it," Pritzker said.

That worked out pretty well for most of the sampled sounds, except for one mysterious sound from an instrument called a "gnawa," which they used on "Dark Visions," he said.

It sounds like a highly processed electric guitar, Pritzker said -- and he has no idea what the instrument looks like or where it comes from. For all he knows, it could be a fabricated instrument, he said.

"We're not trying to go out and duplicate the exact record we made," Pritzker said. "One thing is for sure, it's not the same every time. The song is the lyric and everything else around it is the clothes -- and you can wear all different kinds of clothes."

On stage, Sonia Dada's songs get dressed up in different ways, Pritzker said.

Sonia Dada came together in 1990 when Pritzker met singers Paris Delane, Michael Scott and Sam Hogan on a Chicago subway platform, where they were singing in three-part harmony. He added vocalist Shawn Christopher, guitarist David Resnik, bassist Erik Scott, keyboardist Ron Schwartz and drummer Hank Gualianone to create the band. Sonia Dada has been playing its experimental, soulful sounds and rhythms since.

"We leave ourselves a pretty wide berth," Pritzker said.

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