The Cedar’s Artist Collective is a group of curatorial artists and cultural liaisons from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who are advising efforts at The Cedar Cultural Center to expand access and diversify programming. The group is comprised of of artists associated with Midnimo and the Cedar Commissions: Ritika Ganguly, Julian Manzara, Dameun Strange, Harbi, Hodan Abdirahman, and Greg Grease.
These six innovative artists will spend 2019 curating their own shows at The Cedar, developing initiatives to increase access to the arts at The Cedar, and advising our staff and programming. This is The Cedar’s first-ever multicultural, multi-genre music collective in the organization’s 30-year history.
Meet the Members of The Cedar’s Inaugural Artist Collective:
Dameun Maurice Strange
Dameun Maurice Strange is a sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, and award winning composer whose conceptual chamber works, choral pieces and operas are focused on stories of the African diaspora, often exploring afrofuturist themes. Strange is compelled to express through sound and poetry, the beauty and resilience of the Black experience, digging into a pantheon of ancestors to tell stories of triumph, while connecting the past, present, and future. While his sound experiments have many dimensions, he uses West African polyrhythms, with classical music forms, contemporary jazz harmonic explorations, along with found sounds and historic recordings to create modern afrofuturist performances that disrupt the notion of genre and what Black music is and can be and moreover what Blackness is and can be. Dameun was awarded a Cedar Commission in 2017.
Greg Grease is a Musician/Visual Artist/Bag & clothing maker from South Minneapolis. There is a blue-collar Afro-centricity present throughout all of Grease’s music, particularly with his band Astralblak, a Soul/Funk/Future Space movement created to empower and elevate people through sonics. Grease is inspired by and creates reality-based music; reflecting his environment growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood as a black youth. Greg also owns and operates River Life Dry Goods, where he designs (and) hand sews leather goods, canvas bags and bespoke workwear.
Harbi was born in Mogadishu, Somali in 1965 and began learning traditional Somali percussion and drums at the age of ten from respected musician and mentor Fil Fil. By the time he was a teenager, he had developed the versatility, reputation, and confidence as a percussionist to perform with Dur-Dur Band, the hottest Mogadishu nightclub band of its era, as well as the revered government-supported music and dance troupe, Waaberi Group. At the outbreak of war in 1991, at the peak of his career, Harbi was forced to flee Somali for Nairobi, Kenya. There Harbi reconnected with former Waaberi Group members and continued to perform in the Kenyan refugee camp. In 1992 Harbi immigrated to Minnesota and has since composed and produced four studio albums featuring numerous well known Somali vocalists. He continues to be one of the most highly sought-after Somali percussionists and performs at countless cultural events and weddings.
Hodan Abdirahman began her musical education in the home where poetry, singing, and dancing were highly valued skills passed on to her by her parents Amina Abdulaahi and Abdirahman Dheere, two of Somalia’s most legendary and well-known traditional artists. Her roots in traditional singing and dancing have provided a platform to her career as a leading qaraami artist and her explorations in more contemporary styles as a founding member of Somali hip hop collective Waayaha Cusub. Since moving to the US in 2004, she has become one of the most in-demand Somali singers in the United States demonstrated by requests for her performance at cultural events and weddings in cities throughout the country. She performed with other members of Waayaha Cusub at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2012. In 2012, she joined with fellow Minneapolis-based Waayaha Cusub member Dalmar Yare and other local artists to start North America Super Stars, a collective of Somali artists that perform in various configurations around the Twin Cities and beyond. She has since participated in in-depth Midnimo residencies at The Cedar with both North America Super Stars and Waayaha Cusub.
Julian Manzara is a Black improviser, guitarist, vocalist, and composer/songwriter who specializes in Black American improvised music. Concerts under his own name range from solo to quintet and Manzara is also the frontman of improvising rock band Yesterdawn, a project inspired by the work he created and debuted as part of The Cedar Commissions in 2018. Passion and soul are the common threads that unify all his work. A strong supporter of live music, Julian attends a few shows per week. Outside of music, Julian enjoys to reading, jogging, and getting together with friends.
Ritika Ganguly, PhD., is a Minneapolis-based singer, composer, performance artist, and ethnographer, born and raised in New Delhi, India. She applies anthropological insights to practical problem-solving in the areas of equity in the arts and cross-cultural medicine. Ritika was commissioned as an artist by The Cedar in 2016, received a Jerome-supported emerging performance artist award in 2017, and a McKnight supported MRAC Next Step award in 2018 for her research and new musical work in Baul (Bengali Sufi music/poetry). Her compositions bring disparate musical styles, literatures, and disciplines together. She parents a magnificent three year old.