"Don't Give Up" W.E.S. Featuring Wayna - The Backstory
Sometime in the not too distant past before State of the Union closed and the Bayou was still open, DC had an amazing music scene where artists in a variety of genres would come together and play, record and experience each other’s sets. I was blessed to be a part of that scene and to work with a number of groups and individuals like Priest da Nomad (hip hop), Sun Machine (rock & soul), Mamaya (Djimo Kouyate’s Senegalese fusion), Lennard Jack (Steel Pan fusion), Monique Miller (neo-soul before it was neo-soul), and a host of other artists in a variety of music.
I had the opportunity to work on several projects with these and many artists and several of them I recorded for my own future soul/dance project that I wanted to release. Folks normally know me as a jazz musician, but there are those who know me as an emcee and a few know me as both. I grew up during the early years of hip hop and my family’s history is rooted in jazz so it was natural for me to walk the line of history.
One of those artists I recorded was Wayna whose projects I did horn lines for. She, in turn, came to my studio and recorded one of my songs for this future project. I told her the lyrics were simple and plain, it’s a song about not giving up and I wanted it to be a dance tune to make people feel good. I taught her the melody and the lyrics and she was cool after a few minutes. When I started recording I was blown away, she totally crushed the song. I knew she was a good singer but she’s also a great studio singer. We knocked that song out in only a few takes, backgrounds and all. Her interpretation and delivery of the song is perfect and I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally be releasing this song as a single in the next few days.
The song is called, “Don’t Give Up,” and it is a happy, funky, upbeat and energetic dance tune that will have you clapping your hands and bouncing all over the place.
I made 3 versions, a DC go-go version, a club version, and a neo-soul version. Tell me which one is your favorite and should go on the album.
* I remember doing a recording session with the Mo’ Horns horn section (Marvin Thompson - trombone and Clifton Brockington - trumpet), and the engineer as Abegaz Shiota (well-known Ethiopian producer). We were doing horn lines for Aster Aweke’s album and when we finished he had a side project that needed some horns, so we said “cool no problem.” We did those too and that turned out to be Wayna’s project.
I was fortunate to be on the second album as well this time we recorded the horn lines in my studio with Julien Lane (trombone) and Kyle Funn (trumpet).
** I was privileged to work with Wayna playing jazz as well. I played my Jazz Mass at Redeemer Lutheran Church for several months where I created new jazz arrangements of hymns each week. Wayna joined us for several weeks and added her distinctly beautiful sound to those arrangements.
*** Wayna’s gone on to sing background for Stevie Wonder and she was also nominated for a Grammy. She is currently singing in Addis Abba, Ethiopia.