Your name/where are you from?
We are Riders Against the Storm. I am from Pittsburgh (Chaka). I am from Brooklyn by way of Haiti (Qi Dada).
Photos by Gary Williams
What do you do? Where can we find you and your work?
We are masters of ceremony. Our work exists in the music, in the people, and in our art. As Riders Against the Storm, we perform all over the map, bringing large levels of funk and dance to our audiences. Huge festival stages, or small intimate venues are home to us. You can also find us at our new home at Empire Control Room with our monthly dance party Body Rock ATX. We throw this party with DJ Chorizo Funk. Everyone in attendance speaks of the special vibes and healing that comes from being around such a positive community of people. “We like to describe Body Rock as an “all souls church.” It is the most diverse community of people you can find under one roof. We find it such an honor to bring people together through our music. It is such a magical feeling. Our website is RAShiphop.com
What inspires you? What inspires your music?
Our music is inspired by the way we live our life. And what inspires our life and what inspires our music are one in the same. At our core we are community advocates and I think people feel that when they listen to our music. The main component to our inspiration is freedom. There’s an all-female acapella group from the Civil Rights Era named ‘Sweet Honey in the Rock.’ They sing an old spiritual that claims we ‘ain’t gonna study war no more.’ We took that to heart and decided to study freedom. The kind of freedom you find in children. The kind of freedom George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic showed us. The kind of freedom that comes when you dance, and just let yourself go completely to the rhythm. Our name, Riders Against the Storm, actually comes from ‘Ella’s Song’ by ‘Sweet Honey in the Rock.’ In the lyrics they talk about passing the torch to the young who will ‘run against the storm.’ We just changed run to ride. Run Ras Run.
Another dimension to our artistry is our lifestyle and our style, which feed each other. From our natural hair and Afrocentric/funk inspired wardrobe to being conscious about what we choose to put in our body, we hope our commitment to taking care of our bodies and spirit and being our authentic selves inspires everyone we touch with our music and our work. Qi, use to make a lot of the clothes that we wear and we’ve sported everything from locks to fros to our shaved looks today.
Top 3 Movies
Children of Men, Coming To America, The Five Heartbeats. No matter the day, we can watch these at any moment.
Top 3 music artists
Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone
Top 3 visual artists
Emory Douglas, Romare Bearden, Basquiat/Jacob Lawrence
How did you get started in music?
We are Black. We are music. It basically started there. We released our first music in 2005. ‘Chaka came to my studio apartment, and asked me if I wanted to start making music. So we did.’ We both were living in Providence at the time. At first, it was just a side-thing. We performed at events and rallies for social justice. Our music was very political at first. We were both heavily involved in community projects. ‘I was a high school teacher and ran an after-school program, and Qi did a lot of work in youth empowerment as well. Ultimately, music took over for both of us, and we wanted to explore the possibility of doing it full-time.’ In December of 2009 RAS moved to Austin. And, Austin is where we really began to spread our wings and grow into what people see and hear today.
What are your hobbies?
Cooking, designing clothes, painting/screen-printing, being in nature.
What failures have you experienced?
We don’t believe in failures. There’s just lessons. Things may not go your way, but you get the gift of learning through that. Negative things have definitely happened left and right. The most difficult challenges for us can be financial. When money has gotten low, stress comes in. And, sometimes you begin to question your own judgments. But, you always have to remind yourself of the vision, and be able to see the ways things are improving despite the challenges. Oh yeah, and READ everything! Make sure you know what your agreements/contracts say. That can save a lot of stress!
The hardest thing about your craft?
Finding space to just be an artist. We have to wear many hats and you can spend a lot of time in executive mode. There are times when you just want to release all that and just be an artist.
Equally as challenging is finding a balance. Yes, we are a music duo, but we are husband and wife first. So we also need to make room for just being friends/lovers.
Photo below by: Wynn Myers
What do you love about the work you do?
We love watching magic play out. We love seeing people empowered and happy, smiling. We love being with each other, and doing this together. And, at the end of the day, we love getting paid for doing what comes from our hearts.
Music in 5 words or less
Refreshing magic for your soul.