From his collaborations with members of A Tribe Called Quest to Los Amigos Invisibles and Michael Franti and Spearhead, multi-talented artist and songwriter, Starita, has astounded worldwide audiences with his unique blending of electronic and acoustic instrumentations (drawn from his deep roots in dance, ambient, funk, rock, and techno music). The lush yet complex signature soundscape showcased within various artist collaborations have consistently produced jaw dropping, original out-of-the-box productions that dare to defy odds, break the ‘rules’ of music genres, raise vibrations, while offering a note of spiritual introspection.
For this first time, Starita displays his remixing chops on Seán Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band’s ‘Dark Night,’ originally released in 2021 on the album ‘Mystery.’ This ‘Dark Night (New Dawn Remix)’ is set to drop November 16th, 2022. This New Orleans-based trio – vocalist/harmonium player/lyricist and band founder Seán Johnson, bassist/guitarist Alvin Young and singer/percussionist Gwendolyn Colman create a universal style of cross-cultural spiritual music through the depth, authenticity, and sincerity of their own American and ancestral roots. Their music merges conscious lyrics, sacred chants from around the world, and roots, rock, gospel, and global grooves. Their dynamic sound has won over widespread fans worldwide through inclusion on several Putumayo World Music compilations. They are favorite headliners on the main stages of conscious music festivals nationwide, and have played the hallowed stages of New Orleans’ famous ‘Jazzfest’ on multiple occasions.
Grief is a journey that takes unexpected turns. When Sean Johnson’s brother Jeremy passed away some years ago, he found some measure of solace in the expression of his grief through music. The original single, the heart-rending ‘Dark Night’ from Seán Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, was released on Starita’s label, Be Still records. Starita, who would go on to become good friends with Johnson, bore witness to the pain and grief poured into that song.
So when he broached the idea of a remix, Starita intuitively understood the emotional weight of the project he was facing. “Honestly, says Starita, “taking on this remix was a huge responsibility because it is more than just a song; it’s a piece of art created and used to heal from a monumental loss.” So Starita started from a place of respect for the intensely personal nature of the original song, and began experimenting with new ways to musically explore and convey feelings of grief and loss.
But along came one of those unexpected turns. A thought, then a persistent question, entered Starita’s mind. What comes next? After loss, and after grief, is there a place for joy? That spark of inspiration set the tone for the remix. “Instead of a circle of grief expressed sonically,” says Starita, “I began to produce sounds that led to an intense release of energy, like a rebirth. You will hear it in the song; it starts with the quiet, introspective tone of one entering an unfamiliar world, but the energy increases to an exploratory mode, and then grows into a triumphant celebration.”
So the remix marks the passage of grief into the light of new beginnings. It imagines the arrival of a hopeful dawn at the end of a long night, and the passage of sorrow into a celebration of things to come. From its deep roots in the pain of loss, the song elevates the listener to a place of joy. Its cathartic energy will have listeners feeling the elevated mood and dancing along with it. Sean Johnson describes it best, calling it “a powerful lament turned inspirational, ecstatic dance song.”
This new and hopeful sound also marks a new step in Sean Johnson’s personal journey through grief and loss. Starita’s remix project inspired him to take an unflinching look at the original track and the emotional resonance that he felt from it. Feeling strongly that there was a more heartfelt emotion to convey through his vocal work on the song, he took the difficult and sometimes painful step of revisiting his loss in order to re-track the vocals. Through a more open and vulnerable performance, his hope is that Starita’s remix can touch a new audience and perhaps even help others dealing with loss. “I hope that the song is a vehicle for people to tap into their own grief,” says Johnson, “and instead of feeling paralyzed by it, to move, to dance, to find a way to express it that feels healing and liberating.”
And what better aspiration for music, then to turn sadness into joy? For Starita, it’s been a labor of love and a sincere message of hope as a gift to a grieving family. For Johnson, it perhaps symbolizes the approaching end of grief’s long journey. “To transform a lament into a dance tune is incredibly cathartic,” says Johnson. “I also know that if Jeremy can hear the song, he is loving it, and dancing to it in the mystery.”