For decades, generations of families from the Bay Area and beyond have looked to Stern Grove Festival as both a source of entertainment and an opportunity for families to experience music from a wide variety of cultures.
Quite often the same kids who grew up coming to the Festival every summer return as adults to perform on our stage. Stern Grove Festival is proud to provide this opportunity for local artists, and Bayonics — a local group participating in this season’s commission series — is no exception. Some of the band’s members have attended the Festival’s admission-free shows their entire lives and drew from these memories when brainstorming their new song, “Abajo Del Sol”.
As one of the 10 local performing groups participating in the commission series, Bayonics was asked to craft this new piece inspired by the theme, “Interplay: In Concert with Nature”. We had a chance to chat with Bayonics’ lead singer, Rojai, on the group’s experience participating in the commission and on their upcoming performance, when they open for funk legends George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at 2 p.m. this Sunday, June 26. Read Rojai’s feedback below and watch the video clip to get a glimpse of their new song.
Stern Grove Festival: This commission is a new experience for you as an artist. What did you anticipate being the most challenging aspect of it, and what are you most excited about with this process?
Rojai: We would say this is a fairly new challenge for us. Stern Grove provides a diverse forum for artists to display their art and talents. Coming from San Francisco and being a household name for the last two decades, I would say the challenge was how we would approach this project in terms of genres specifically, because we play a wide range of music and we wanted to make sure that it was all encompassed in the experience of being at Stern Grove. Finally, we decided to write a song with more of a celebratory “feel good” vibe, and we identified each of our positive experiences of being at this amazing concert series in the past. The exciting part of this process was getting together and witnessing the development and growth of the song we wrote together as a group. I definitely feel that this allowed us to become stronger as a group, get on the same page, and have the results sounding super fresh!
SGF: The commission focuses on the relationship between the artist and the environment. How does the environment/venue you perform in influence your creative choices and how does it influence how you interact with the audience?
R: We were able to make the connection between the unique relationships at the Festival by having first-hand experience at the Festival our entire lives. We view Stern Grove as the city’s oasis — a place where people get to escape their daily grind and be free with shoes off in the grass. Where they get together with friends and neighbors and enjoy a free concert while dancing and singing along. Basically, allowing nature and love to inspire positivity. The connection with the audience is an experience for being in the crowd and onstage. Obviously the world is going through tough times and this is exactly what our society needs. To encourage love and respect and freedom.
SGF: A major part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is providing free access to the performing arts for the public, often to artists whose work they are unfamiliar with. How will this focus on accessibility influence your creative process or performance?
R: The accessibility aspect of the Stern Grove Festival is an ideology that we share and have been on the front lines for the past two decades here in the city and abroad. Playing block parties, street festivals, and simply us running our own little generator and setting up on Market Street to create awareness of our music and our message. For us this is a huge milestone because we have been rocking stages here in the city for quite some time and Stern Grove Festival provides a larger forum for us to spread our creativity and our positive vibrations. This definitely has a lot to do with the inspiration of writing more music that will allow people to dance and get loose. We are taking our experiences as previous audience members over the years and are able to channel that feeling into our writing process.
SGF: Stern Grove Festival is committed to artistic diversity and San Francisco is known for its vibrant and diverse arts community. How would you describe the sound of San Francisco?
R: I feel that we are a band that describes the diversity of our city. We are a Mission District-based band grounded in Latin roots, funk, hip-hop and reggae. Each member that is in the band comes from an interesting background. The diversity from our members with connections all over the world is amplified in our unique Frisco sound. A melting pot filled with rich ingredients from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. The sound has changed here in the city with modern technology and electronics being integrated more in the mainstream, but unique artists are finding ways to implement folklore sound, mixed in with the new modern feel that will allow them to speak to a larger demographic.
SGF: Is there anything else Bayonics would like to let their fans know about their upcoming performance or about the band itself?
R: We want to let everyone know that they should strap on their Birkenstocks super tight because they are in for a wild ride! We are a band that embraces comradery, family, and life. We have decided for my last two years to focus more in the Caribbean sound that entails reggae, dancehall, salsa, and reggae-ton. We still have our roots in the funk, but we are displaying that more in our side projects which we will highlight this upcoming Sunday. We are super excited to be part of this summer series. Make sure to be on the lookout for our new album Resilience dropping the end of the summer. People can catch us as well at the Reggae on the River Festival in August representing the Bay Area! And also the Cukui Festival at Great America in September. And of course…thank you, Stern Grove!
Catch the debut live performance of “Abajo Del Sol” and more from Bayonics this Sunday, June 26 when they open for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at 2 p.m. Visit our website to learn more about Bayonics and the rest of the Stern Grove Festival’s 79th Season.