On Saturday, October 29th, a string quartet exemplifying a divergence of cultures, will perform at the Mariner Theater. The New York based group– Sweet Plantain — originally consisted of Eddie Venegas (violin/trombone), Orlando Wells (viola), David Gotay (cello), and Romulo Benevidas (violin).
Sweet Plantain’s performances are comprised of original compositions, modern Latin compositions and arrangements of classical chamber music for use by the group. Although their arrangements preserve the integrity of classical string pieces, Sweet Plantain manages to seamlessly integrate contemporary music styles into performances. Common, distinct cultural influences are evident, but no single genre is overly prominent. Performance pieces that Sweet Plantain composed reflect the artists’ musical preferences and varying ethnic exposure, while still revolving around the classical training each member received, at one point or another.
Sweet Plantain is starting a tour of Alaska, commencing in Juneau. The tour will consist of three weeks of performances and workshops, set apart by residencies in Fairbanks and Anchorage. After the workshop and outreach programs at the Homer Senior Center, Sweet Plantain will head over to Seldovia, then up to Anchorage for a four day residency. The innovative quartet is continuing their tour of Alaska in Kodiak, Cordova and finally Fairbanks for a second residency.
Both Eddie and Romulo hail from Venezuela, yet attended college in the Tri-State area. David Gotay grew up in the Bronx, where hip-hop and rap originated. Orlando Wells is from New Jersey, he graduated from LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan. Orlando went to S.U.N.Y. Purchase, later returning to New Jersey to attend the Mason Gross School of Arts in Rutgers. Earl Maneein, another violin player, also performs with Sweet Plantain from time to time.
Eddie Venegas and his highly talented cohorts strive to enlighten musicians across America, gaining recognition in the process. Sweet Plantain, as a collective, thinks outside the box. By teaching students to break from the confines of measures, intonation markings, and stanzas, the group has attained quite a reputation as mentors. Techniques for sustaining a groove or pulsating rhythm, give students and members of the quartet room to improvise. Passing on improvisational skills along with the ability to listen and learn from other musicians.
Time and time again, Sweet Plantain displays the value of their unusual teaching methods and innovative performances. Each song has contrasting melodies varying influences from Jazz, Latin, and Hip-hop backgrounds. Custom arrangements bring a ‘sweet’ flavor to classical pieces. Their repertoire of genre defying compositions, has enlightened musicians all over the East Coast. Now Sweet Plantain turns to Alaska, and other portions of America often neglected in tours, bestowing new concepts, philosophies, and performance skills upon Alaskans. Or at least giving musicians in Alaska an opportunity to learn.