Interviewers: Brittany Robinson and Lady R (Ranisha Shipp)
Interviewees: Chaka (husband) and Qi Dada (wife)
Riders Against the Storm (RAS) is and Austin-based, musical duo comprised of husband-wife team, Chaka and Qi Dada. They are the recent recipients of ‘Band of the Year’ for 2014 and 2013’s Austin Music Awards. Historically, they were the first hip-hop act to receive such an award and being one of the few to do it twice. They aspire to make their music universal and to achieve something that provokes positivity into those who listen. RAS knows they are the best out there and wants everyone to see it too.
Lady R: So you guys said you were from Austin, I was wondering if you were originally from there?
Q: We are based out of Austin. We moved there about five years ago. Chaka is from Pittsburgh and I was born in Brooklyn raised in New England and my family is from Haiti.
C: Like you were saying with the dancing, music is supposed to take you over. It’s supposed to possess you. There were definitely a couple of times I was unconscious. There was also a couple of times I was like “It’s so hot out here”, but I couldn’t stop. Once the music starts it takes you over. You know, the piece I’m wearing comes from Kenya, from the Masai tribe. I love their colors and I love their culture. A lot of that has to do with that.
Brittany: Yeah, there are some really obvious African influences in your music and how you present yourselves. What other influences do you take from, or you can expand on the African ones?
Q: With our influences, I don’t think we discriminate where they come from. If it’s for us, it’s for us. It might come from an East Indian Influence, it might come from a West African, South African, North African, East African, and you know Africa’s big!
Q: It might from Compton, it might come from Miami, and it might come from the Islands.
Q: Nature is very relevant. Our influences come from whatever the divine brings us to and whatever makes sense to our energies and us. It is a lot of African, because Africa is super funky, but it’s from everywhere.
C: Also children. You know, just having that spirit of a child. I love being around young people, so that energy definitely influences us too.
Lady R: Is this your first time performing at UTOPiAfest?
C: Yes it is!
Brittany: How is it so far?
C: The energy here is amazing. Everybody is very present and conscious. Everyone here seems to have a lot of inspiration and seem like inspired people. Some of the festivals people can get a little zombie out a little bit and look a bit tired. People here look so woke and open. It’s just great t to be around that because you don’t get that everyday. A mass of people that is all refreshing and light
Q: Yeah, open, free, and happy.
Lady R: I really like you guys relationship. You seem so in tune.
Brittany: When you’re on stage you do the same movements, it’s so perfect. I guess when you’re with someone for so long you adapt to each other’s movements and if you guys could only see yourselves on camera.
Lady R: I really love the ponytails!
Brittany: What is it like being in a music duo with your partner in life?
Q: It’s one of the easiest and one of the most difficult things to do. It’s easy because the synergy is there =on levels you can’t physically see and you can’t literally explain. Then it’s difficult because you are with each other all the time, but you have to be because you are working. The energy is undeniable, that opportunity to be one and let people see what that does. It is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever been able to be a part of.
C: We need to actively separate time, because we do so many things together. Not only music, but we also produce events. We have party called Body Rock ATX, which is one of the biggest parties in Austin. We do so many things together creatively that we have to consciously set aside time where we don’t talk about anything. That’s a challenge, because there are so many things to do all the time. We make it work though. It’s all about communication, it’s all about growing and knowing that person wants the best from you and for and that’s love.
Brittany: Why did you guys move to Austin?
Brittany: Because it is the Live Music Center?
C: Um, it wasn’t so much that. We were living in Providence for a while, and were thinking of moving to New York or Philly because it’s close to New York. We were thinking about D.C. or even kind of thinking about L.A. or Atlanta. We just kept praying and calling where we supposed to go and Austin kind of happened out of nowhere. We didn’t know about it as the music capital or anything like that. It just came about, and we just followed the spirit. The spirit brought us here and said we were going to do well here and here we are, at UTOPiAfest, ACL, and others. We received the Band of the year for the last two years in Austin.
Q: The first hip-hop group to do so, first African American female to get that also. We were on HGTV earlier this year.
Brittany: What show on HGTV?
Q: It was a sweepstakes that they had and they built a house, a smart home. They were looking for different people to represent different aspects of Austin. They chose us to represent music in Austin which is a real privilege because there is a lot of music in Austin and many big names of come out of there also. It was great that they really saw what we were and appreciated our natural energy and were like we want you to represent this.
Brittany: What is it like being a Hip-Hop group in Austin?
C: When we came down here we weren’t focused on hip-hop. We wanted to be the best music that you could hear. No matter what, we feel like we are the best artists here, at UTOPiAfest. We feel like if we to go on at night or whenever the headliner is it would have been the same vibe but higher, because it’s hot right now. We feel like we are just striving to be the best. Don’t worry about hip-hop or genres. We just wanted to be the best thing you could do with your time for 45 minutes to an hour to come here and feel the vibes. We know it takes time for the word to get out, but it’s getting out.
Brittany: So you are saying music is genreless. As long as you feel an emotion, it doesn’t really matter. And nothing can be impossible because of a genre, because if it’s powerful it shouldn’t matter.
C: Exactly, hip-hop is really good at bringing people together. A lot of hip-hop shows are more diverse than other shows. Rap is a very special musical form that was actually created to liberate the people, the under-served people and marginalized people of areas. They came up with that art form because they were oppressed and wanted liberation. So that’s the root of hip-hop. I’m not saying there weren’t problems of violence involved and everybody wants to make this squeaky clean picture of hip-hop. It’s still important to remember that these kids created it for freedom and that’s what I want to feel after I go to a show. I want to feel liberation and oneness with the audience. That’s what we want to feel, music and love.
Brittany: Are you going camping today?
C: We had a tent when we moved out here, but after the earthquake in Haiti we sent it to her family so we actually just bought a tent before came out here. We pitched it last night.
Q: Yeah, our friend Dario helped us pitch a tent. He’s our conga player, and he’s amazing.
C: In the tent with the lights off we did it. We are going to enjoy everything this weekend has to offer.
Lady R: Were you out there seeing the other bands?
Lady R: What was your favorite band that you saw?
Q: I couldn’t even tell you because I was just trying to get myself together. So in the end I was just passing through and seeing stuff and enjoying it.
C: I’ll tell you right now I’m looking forward to Valerie June, Charles Bradley, and Tune-yards. All those artists I have a tremendous amount of respect for. There are other groups that played that I like, like Sip Sip. Played on Friday. I really like them. The music here is great and the consciousness is awesome as well.
Brittany: If you could take any three things camping, other than the obvious, what would it be?
Q: A/C unit.
C: Friends would be all I need.
Brittany: And an A/C unit.
Q: A small one that could cool the tent, that’s all.