Matthew Relis, who performs as REL-I, plays with his world beat trio at 10 p.m. today at Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill, Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue.

Courtesy photo

Matthew Relis, who performs as REL-I, plays with his world beat trio at 10 p.m. today at Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill, Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue.

REL-I-ant on world beats

California-bred musician takes cues from Paul Simon

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Past Event

REL-I, dub

  • Friday, May 9, 2008, 10 p.m.
  • Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, 435 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • 21+ / $5

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— Dub musician Matthew Relis knows he's not the first person to think of using West African rhythms in pop music.

He sites Paul Simon and Phil Collins as two of the first, and best, musicians to marry world beats with easygoing melodies and radio-ready hooks. Still, Relis - who performs as REL-I - says he's making strides in the singing and songwriting that make an Afro-beat band go.

On Saturday, REL-I, backed by bassist Berenger Ouedraogo and drummer David Petry, will bring his positive messages and uplifting beats to Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill. He spoke with 4 Points about what makes a world beat, putting a message into his songs and how Phil Collins skewed his music tastes.

4 Points: What can people expect from the REL-I show?

Matthew Relis: They can definitely expect high energy, quality vocals and an original world-beat sound, blending elements of blues, jazz, reggae.

4 Points: What do you mean when you say "world beat"?

MR: We're just influenced by many different international sounds. Our bass player (Berenger Ouedraogo) is from West Africa and is actually an established world musician, so he really gives it that world sound.

I guess it's a genre that a lot of people haven't heard as much about, but the big names in it have been Paul Simon, Sting and Phil Collins. : It has a big kind of island reggae influence, as well.

4 Points: How did you get into that music?

MR: In a way, kind of growing up in the '80s era, it was very popular with those artists - Sting, Phil Collins, Paul Simon. And I grew up in California, where reggae was really popular, and really when I started working with Berenger about 10 years ago, he very much influenced me when I started working with him.

4 Points: What do you like about the world-beat influence?

MR: I guess what I like is that it's kind of festive music, and it also is intelligent. It has a message in terms of just kind of being aware of what's going on in society and the world as a whole.

4 Points: Is that message something you carry in your songs?

MR: We try to have songs that are powerful and mean something. It's a lot of just being appreciative for life and also : just making observations of society.

When people hear the lyrics they can make their own interpretation of what we're saying, but we try to give a positive, uplifting take on things, as well.

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