By: Amanda Dee – Social Media Manager
The phone rang a few minutes later than I thought it would. But Dyson Knight had an excuse: “I apologize for my tardiness. I was having a Bahama Mama.”
Knight is one of the nine members of Baha Men and one of the CIA-estimated 321,834 citizens of the Bahamas, a country a sliver smaller than Connecticut. Even if the bandmates wanted to avoid each other, Knight said, they couldn’t.
Like those living in the University of Dayton community, the citizens of the Bahamas live in the bubble created from living closely together. The members of Baha Men also live in the bubble created from sharing ideas at the dinner table and seeing each other every day. They look at each other like a “tight-knit family” – so much so, Knight said, that they’re starting to look like one another.
Music and dancing has always been a family business for Knight. His father, an eighth-degree oboe player, taught him the music and his grandfather, a pastor at a Pentecostal church, taught him the dancing.
In his Baha Men family, lead vocalist Knight is considered “new” – anyone who joined after ”Who Let the Dogs Out?” – along with fellow lead vocalist Leroy Butler. (Knight thinks he joined in 2006, but said he is terrible with dates.) Since its birth as High Voltage decades ago, the band has remained connected with vocalist Rik Carey, bassist Isaiah Taylor, guitarist Patrick Carey, keyboardist Jeffery Chea, guitarist and music director Hershcell Small and percussionists Colyn Grant and Anthony Flowers.
This year, the 15th anniversary of Grammy hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?,” the band will release its new album, “Ride with Me,” reported by Knight’s children to include the next “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (“Carry On”). But Knight said this album is even more “saturated” in the “Bahama’s native sound, the sound [they] pulled from [their] African heritage,” a sound called junkanoo.
Baha Men’s music, Knight explained, has grown from junkanoo’s intense percussion and rhythm, funk music and The Beach Boys and The Beatles, the music they all grew up listening to.
“That’s probably why they call our music ‘junkanoo,”’ Knight laughed, “because when you put so many things together it starts to sounds like junk, but we’ve been able to refine it… It’s about finding that right structure, putting it together just right, so it can be internationally powerful.”
That look away from the island is also a look inland. Bahamian musicians, Knight said, look up to Baha Men as “the band that made it out, that made it off the rock,” and the members want to be “a role model to the further evolution of Bahamian music and the art form” without ever being “boastfully relevant.”
Knight compared the band’s mission to Bob Marley’s international popularization of ska: “He did something that was new to Jamaica and came out with his version of reggae music, and it took the world by storm… I think we’re on the verge of doing that for the Bahamas.” That’s why, despite living in paradise, the band doesn’t have many “quiet moments.”
What they specifically wanted to give listeners with their new album, Knight said, is rejuvenation, to help “re-energize” listeners “to be able to face the rest of life.” “We really wanted to give the world a reason to smile, a reason to dance, a reason to if you feel a bit down, a reason to come back up.”
That, he said, transfers through their music’s “jumping sound.” And that sound echoes in his definition of community.
“You build a home, then you build a community, then you build a country, then you build the world,” Knight said. “A popular talk show host always says, ‘if each before our doorstep swept, the entire community would be a cleaner place,’ and I think being a part of a community is not trying to sweep the doorstep of others but to keep your doorstep welcoming and to always have open arms from your doorstep.”
Before he said goodbye, he made me promise to experience that “jumping sound,” that energy that electrifies the band’s live performances, if they ever tour near Ohio. He also made me a promise: “When you come down [to the Bahamas], I’ll get you a Bahama Mama.”
The band’s brand new album, “Ride with Me,” will be released this year. For more information and updates on the album, visit www.bahamen.com.