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July 22, 2005

Band wails, but players empty-handed

Boston Globe (MA):

At first, some people think Edward Chung is a liar. And they don't trust the other five dubious characters that make up the band, Duwende, either. You see, when this group from New York whips up a crowd with their exuberant funk-pop tunes, guitars wail, bass strings thump, and drums snap through soulful beats, but all six musicians perform empty-handed. Aside from their microphones, it's just them up there and empty air.

Their explanation? It's all vocal, from each perfectly metallic symbol crash to every uncannily electronic-sounding guitar riff. Time and again, though, they have to prove this is no Milli Vanilli-style stunt. ''We get a lot of people asking what kind of tracks we're singing to or what drum machine we're using, and it takes a bit of time to convince them that there was nothing; that every sound they heard was done at the moment with just the six of us and our microphones. Nothing more. Nothing less," says Chung, whose lungs and lips serve as the group's drum kit. ''We often have to do demos off-mike to prove it," he says. ''I've even done demonstrations for little kids looking right into my mouth, and afterward they look up at me innocently, but in all seriousness, and ask if I'm a robot."

Duwende, which appears in Natick Saturday, is part of the new wave in a cappella that has wandered right out of the barbershop and into the dance club. The group rocks and raps through bar and concert hall gigs along the East Coast, including clubs like Manhattan's CBGB's. Their fan base in Japan is growing as well. ''The youthful movement in a cappella is all geared toward pop rock," says Chung, explaining that since the early 1990s, when the full-band sound took hold, ''there's been an explosion in the number of collegiate a cappella groups that focus exclusively on pop music."

Most contemporary a cappella ensembles, however, stick to existing popular tunes. ''We don't fit into that category," Chung says. ''We're known for our original songwriting, and in a cappella it's a bit of a rarity to live and die on the strength of your writing." In fact, Duwende is a band foremost and an a cappella show second. Most of the members are trained musicians, and all are songwriters. Their bubbly funk and hip-hop-fueled tunes draw fans more for their refreshing, expansive sound than their novelty. In 2002, Billboard Magazine named the group one of the top six unsigned acts in the Northeast.

Posted by acapnews at July 22, 2005 12:04 AM