Transforming and evolving musically in times of strife has become a soothing balm for Mandala Msanii (Baylis), leading to the creation of Vibe Muzik’s new EP, Ghetto Gospel. When Oakland Voices first featured Msanii (as Mandela Baylis) in 2021, they were completing their cohort at Zoo Labs, a musician entrepreneurial accelerator program for BIPOC artists.
During the latter part of 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Msanii and their band, AnyXMeans, hosted the online open mic “Fluid,” giving a platform for people to showcase their talents. Msanii created the artist collective AnyXMeans because he wanted to see more inclusive creative spaces for members of the LGTBQIA+ community to feel safe in performing as their authentic selves.
With less COVID restrictions now, Msanii believes it’s time for a celebration of life where Msanii and their band will introduce their new music. On April 20th, under the band name Vibe Muzik, Msanii and their band will debut their four-song EP, entitled Ghetto Gospel. The event, with members Ronnel “Super Drummer” Smith, Danielle “Drummer girl” Wansley-Strong, guitarist Chanelle Ignant, bassist James Wiley and producer Kevin “KSuave” Foster will take place on the rooftop of Oakstop’s location on 1740 Telegraph. The event is free and no ticket is required.
“We were able to crank out a whole project, while in the bowels of COVID,” Msanii said. “This piece really shows the love, the blood, sweat, and tears.”
Songs for the EP were written and performed live over a number of years but took on new life when recording began sometime in 2020. The EP is available on iTunes preload and will not be available until the date of the EP release date on 04/20.
The release party and live performances are the most recent iterations of the artist Msanii wants to grow into. Raised in East Oakland in the church with a musical father and grandfather, 32 year old Msanii began hosting open mic nights at the Lucky Lounge, now called The Libertine. Growing from the open mics hosted as AnyXMeans to Vibe Muzik signals another growth shift for Msanii’s journey.
“I’m really being very vulnerable with this piece and wanting that [the EP] to be what my career is built off of,” Msanii said. He describes each song about experiences as a journey through with their “queerdom” and Msanii’s survivor story from a homophobic stepfather, abuse, and childhood traumas. Msanii also describes going through the healing from losing first their adopted mother and later their biological mother to cancer both in 2021.
The date of the release party, 04/20, “just happens to be weed Christmas,” Msanii notes, but for them it means more than that. April 20th is the date of their adopted mother Ollie Pearl’s birthday and the release party will in part serve in honor of her.
Msanii said being able to create the project was a blessing through the challenges of the pandemic and a healing after suffering the loss of their adopted mother Ollie Pearl who died of complications from cancer February 2021. He describes the EP as “a healing for the soul that the world needs literally right now.”
The first track, “Babylon,” Msanii explains is a shift and learning how to grow, “To be able to burn down and rise you have to go through the fire. ‘Babylon’ was like that fire song, invoking revolution.” Ahead of the EP release, the band shot visuals for a forthcoming music video to “Babylon.”
The remaining three tracks include “Know Yourself” about re-growth to tell one’s story, “Non-Binary,” which Msanii describes as “a freedom love explosion” and “I Am Okay,” featuring Oakland musician Dwayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné!. The final track Msanii describes as a love letter to themselves during a time when was “not being okay, really being down to my wits’ end, and trying to surface for air.”
Wiggins became a supporter of Any X Means, logging in to the online performances to watch the acts. Msanii has been fortunate enough to have the mentorship of Wiggins as well as Oakland musician Fantastic Negrito. The guidance has proven successful for the band. In December 2021, Msanii participated in The Black Queer Joy Project, a cabaret showcase hosted by Poltergeist Theatre Project. During Black History Month in February 2022, Msanii and their band hosted a month-long residency of music and comedy at the nightclub The Battery in San Francisco.
In April, he was able to watch and study backstage as Fantastic Negrito performed at the Napa Valley Expo. Having two legendary Oakland musicians as musical mentors is like having a dream team of eclectic musicianship behind them is like “seeing where I want to go and the person that I want to shape myself after right there in my face.”
Each new moment has contributed a building block of career growth experiences in music for Msanii, making this EP release party at the Oakstop’s that much more special.
Vibe Muzik will be performing songs from the EP. Other performances from local artists include Honest_in_10land, SpaceRawk, and DJ Sunflower. The show is free to all 4:20-9pm. Doors open at 4pm. Performance will be held on the rooftop of Oakstop located at 1740 Telegraph Avenue.
Vibe Muzik’s EP Ghetto Gospel will be available on all streaming platforms and for ITunes download April 20, 2022.
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‘Black Voices in the Town’ is funded by The African American Response Circle Fund. In 2020, the Brotherhood of Elders Network in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation established the fund in response to the impact of COVID-19 as a public health crisis for African Americans who live, work, and worship in Alameda County.
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