By Barbara Gettes with Album art by Angelica Choles and Photo by Will Drinker
Let’s go back to Starbucks circa 2003. The intoxicating smell of the coffee, the amazing music that filled the air. Those days left a forever imprint on so many of us and left us with a gateway for open minds and hearts towards world music.. As much as I still love to listen to my Putumayo collections, it is also a sometimes valuable experience to listen to music with an Afro-Cuban vibe with an opportunity to understand what the song is about. I mention this because what you are about to read highlights the work of a global treasure known by many here in Philly as Ryan Tennis.
Over more than a decade Ryan has been traveling the world playing his music. He started to frequent Colombia with such regularity that he built a community there in addition to the community he has in Philadelphia. Ryan became a cofounder of a well loved music festival called Sancocho Fest which works to benefit a music school in Columbia for children called the Casa del Sol Community Project. In addition to this magical festival (which I have not been to but would LOVE to attend); Ryan is so deep in the Columbian culture that he has developed inclusive music retreats to Columbia. He calls this the SancochTrip. He has two back to back retreats coming up this February. With all of this said, do not be fooled by Ryan’s luscious golden locks. Over the years Ryan has grown into a pillar for bridging the Afro Cuban music with the folky communities in Philly and beyond.
Getting back to the release of Ryan’s new EP each song feels like Ryan has captured the feeling of this sort of music akin to an authentic vibe of a love child born from Putumayo and Paul Simon’s album Graceland. Ryan’s latest release is called Dando Papaya and it is a three song EP that was released to support his most recent European tour which happened in late summer. The songs are stand alone and steller.The songs are called Children of Verona, Morena, and the Valley. Throughout years and his commitment to music, this EP boasts collaborations with some of the most prestigious players. Ryan’s collaborators on Dando Papaya are Grammy Winning and Latin Grammy-nominated artists. The EP features El Caribefunk, Nidia Gongora, Hugo Cadelario and Bakithi Kumalo (who happens to be the bass player from Paul Simon’s Graceland).
There is no surprise that Ryan’s impact continues to grow with his musical endeavors. We wish we could high-five Ryan and his collaborators on the EP Dando Papaya for using music as the bridge to bring together diverse cultures. We will continue to keep our eyes and ears open for the projects that Ryan Tennis puts his heart and soul into, because they are entirely worthy of our attention. May you and I be blessed enough to attend a SancochTrip and have more and more opportunities to watch Ryan build global bridges of connection with his music. Until then, here is a link to a music video of Children of Verona from the new EP Dando Papaya. So fun. Congratulations Ryan Tennis and all who collaborated to make this beautiful EP available for all of us to hear.