Four Corners Public Radio | By Chris Aaland

Tami Graham/The Afrobeatniks will open KSUT’s Party in the Park in both Durango and Pagosa Springs.

KSUT will hold two of its signature “Party in the Park” events this month – Friday, July 30 in Durango’s Buckley Park, and Saturday, July 31 in Pagosa Springs Town Park. Both shows feature soul icons The Motet, and world music aficionados the Afrobeatniks, and are sponsored by Bank of the San Juans.

“We invite music fans to celebrate public radio and our diverse blend of music at each of these events,” said KSUT Executive Director Tami Graham. “It’s our way of giving back to the Four Corners and thanking our listeners and members for being part of the KSUT family, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when we were unable to present live music.”

The two events mark KSUT’s 17th annual Party in the Park, which usually celebrates world music, jazz, funk and New Orleans genres with acts meant to get the crowd dancing. Past performers have included The Iguanas, Shinyribs, Crash Test Dummies, The Subdudes, The Greencards, The New Orleans Suspects, Todo Mundo, The Stooges Brass Band and others.

Tickets are available at KSUTPresents.org and at the front gate of each show. Gates open at 4 p.m. with live music starting at 5:30. Children 12 and younger are free with a paying adult. Food and beverage vendors will be onsite with Ska Brewing, Fenceline Cider and wines courtesy of Wagon Wheel Liquors in Durango. Riff Raff Brewing and Fenceline Cider will be sold in Pagosa Springs. 

The Motet is a Denver-based band that has blended funk, soul, jazz and world music influences ever since drummer and bandleader Dave Watts founded the group in 1998. The group is a musical collective with a rotating cast of musicians – hence the name “Motet” as opposed to quartet, quintet, sextet and so on. The current incarnation of the group includes Watts, guitarist Ryan Jalbert, bassist Garrett Sayers, keyboardist Joey Porter and saxophonist Drew Sayers. The lineup is pared down from the Motet’s last several appearances in Durango. “As the world, and specifically the music world, continues to fundamentally change in the wake of COVID-19, we have also gone through our own changes,” the group noted on its website. “The history of The Motet has always been about change. It’s the one constant.”

Afrobeatniks are a jazz, Latin and world music group with members based in Mancos and Durango. They draw their inspiration from popular, folkloric and spiritual music of West Africa, with Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz, reggae, funk and rock influences adding to the musical roux. In particular, the music of Nigerian Afro-pop in the style of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen and the traditional folkloric rhythm structures of Guinea are evident in both original music and spirited covers. Current members include Danny Quinlan (guitar), Alexii Carey (bass), Bradley Hoessle (drums and percussion), Dean Mullen (congas, djembe and percussion), Dr. Easton Stuard (keyboards and flute), Dr. John Petty (tenor sax), Sam Kelly (alto and baritone sax) and Skyler Hollinbeck (dundunba, clave, shekere and other percussion). Afrobeatniks will be joined by special guests Pagosa Springs-based musician and educator Bobby Hemenger on saxophone; and percussionist Fred Simpson, from Santa Fe, N.M. Simpson is one of the founding members of Los Primos Melódicos de Santa Fe. 

“In Guinea, West Africa, where some of our rhythmic structures come from, there is a saying that captures the essence of being together in the moment and feeling the joy of music together – ‘Wontanara,’” said Afrobeatniks founder Hoessle. “I think it’s particularly fitting for this current time as we come together for KSUT’s Parties in the Park.”

Like many bands, Afrobeatniks were forced to take a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They held their first concert in nearly 16 months on June 16 at Fenceline Cidery in Mancos to celebrate the summer solstice. A week later, they played the weekly Ska-B-Q at Ska Brewing in Durango.

“It’s so great to see the multigenerational crowds coming back out and we can feel the positive energy flowing from everyone. During the initial rehearsals, our music and inspiration came right back to us.”

Afrobeatniks opened for The Motet at KSUT’s last Party in the Park, which attracted more than 1,000 attendees in 2019.

Advance tickets to Party in the Park available at KSUTPresents.org.