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Anyu was born in San Francisco, CA, and his attraction to music began early. A few years after the boy found himself intrigued by a friend’s snare drum, he unearthed a Sequential Circuits Synthesizer in a junior high school practice room.
Thereafter, he often stayed behind after classes to explore its possibilities. Meanwhile, he was absorbing whatever music crossed his path. « As a kid, I traveled back and forth from San Francisco, CA to Appleton, WI for a number of years, » he recalls, « During the long drives, we would listen to Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, Freddy Fender, The Pointer Sisters, and Johnny Cash on eight track. My older brother was a heavy rocker, complete with a black light, bongs and a vinyl record collection, so I heard Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Once I moved to Seattle in 1980, it was all Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Bob Marley. » By the time he was a teenager, Anyu was playing with « The First Thought, » a rock band managed by Susan Silver, who then was married to Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audio Slave. The group became a fixture along the West Coast, opening for acts like UB-40 and Thomas Dolby, who was best known for his 1982 hit « She Blinded Me With Science. »
Already an adept drummer, Anyu studied privately with Fred Hoadley (piano), Bob Moses (drums-composition-NEC), and David Kyle (voice). He mastered advanced styles on guitar and voice but soon was looking farther afield. « My first generic European trip opened my mind to the fact that there is much more music in the world than American ‘arena rock’, » he says, « I would go to New York, San Francisco or Tijuana, Mexico to study Cuban music and some dance. I was listening to groups like Los Munequitos, Los Van Van, Daniel Ponce, Ruben Blades and Eddie Palmieri — then I discovered West African music. I played djembe and sabar drums for percussion and dance classes and attended drumming and dance camps. » He also was drawn into the intricacies of still another tradition, « My first conga teacher, Tor Dietrichson, also plays tabla (tuned Indian drums played in pairs) and he turned me on to Indian music. I’ve since taken some classes with Dhrupad singers Falguni Mitra and the Dagar Brothers at the University Of Washington. »
Inspired to go directly to the source, Anyu began to seek out as many of his favorite musicians as possible while encountering a multitude of others. « I started traveling to Senegal and Gambia around 1994 and heard Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Mory Kante, Ismael Lo, Omar Pene, Kasse Mady Diabate, Ray Lema, Musa Ngom and many more. I later worked with (Senegalese vocal icon) Thione Seck on my first record. » To date, aside from the above destinations, he has also visited (and re-visited) France, Morocco and India. He is fluent in French and can make himself understood in Spanish, Turkish, Wolof from Senegal, and in Lingala, a Congolese lingua franca. After close friend Leif Totusek returned to Seattle, he introduced Anyu to a pair of legendary singers from the Congo, Wawali Bonane and Steve Ngondo, and Huit Kilos, one of that nation’s most esteemed guitarists, all master exponents of rumba Congolaise. Having long been attracted to the rumba groove in its many Afro-Caribbean incarnations, Anyu embarked upon yet another collaboration. « Leif had been playing with Mose Fan Fan (of Somo Somo fame) in London and Geoffrey Orema in France » he says, « He, Wawa, Steve and I have been working together ever since. »
Tor Dietrichson, Leif Totusek, Wawali Bonane and Steve Ngondo are all featured on Anyu’s latest album, « Reasons » (Axent Records — 2007). The ten tracks speak of a lifetime of meetings and partings, of growing and doubling back. Impassioned power ballads erupt out of ultra-modern chill, as horns and strings spar with chiming guitars over inexorable drums, tribal percussion and moody synths. Although almost entirely composed by Anyu with occasional but valuable input from Leif and project producer Jonathan Plum, the tunes were nonetheless a group effort. « It’s not just me who assembled the sound, » Anyu asserts, « I recorded the songs over and over with many different musicians until I got what I was searching for. It’s not the note itself that interests me, it’s the sound of the note. » The lyrics speak of relationships both perilous and joyful, alienation, rebellion, the bitterness of Native American history and being at home far from home. Asked, in retrospect, which tracks are especial stand-outs for him, Anyu confides, « ‘Lucky Ones’ is nice because you can hear each instrument so clearly, with good background vocals in the chorus. ‘Sasha’ is precious to me; it’s about my daughter and I enjoy the string arrangement by Eyvind Kang. The chord changes are pleasing to my ears on ‘Sasha,’ also on ‘New World.’ ‘Reasons’ is fun to play live; certain songs on the record translate differently in that setting. For example ‘Sympathy’ is really rocking with the live band, whereas on the record it’s more of a world-funk groove. »
Anyu has just returned from another trip to India, where he met with musicians, producers and label executives before heading off for some schedule-free time. « The road less traveled is appealing to me, » he says, « I want to perform and collaborate with musicians and also sell my music around the world, so I’m making the proper contacts to do so. » Does his music reflect a personal credo? « Everything happens just, it doesn’t just happen. If you’re not appearing, you’re disappearing. And don’t be afraid of any suffering you experience — it’s what makes you whole. Embrace it! »