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Folklife: Where you can see a tribal-funk-jazz fusion band

caption: Khu.eex'
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Russell Johnson

What do you get when you cross tribal music with jazz and funk? Khu.eex'

That’s the name of a Seattle band performing at this weekend’s Folklife festival in Seattle.

The band was started by glass sculptor and bassist Preston Singletary and Bernie Worell.

You might know Worell as the longtime keyboard player with Parliament-Funkadelic.

Worrell passed away last summer. But before he died, Singletary said Khu.eex’ helped him tap into his Cherokee roots

“The native culture really resonated with him and he was really into the project,” Singletary said.

Singletary’s background, like most of the band's 10 current members, is Tlingit. It’s a tribe from the coast of Alaska.

Singletary said before he started fusing his native culture with music, he was combining newer art forms with traditional Pacific Northwest art.

A lot of indigenous art here is formed on wood — think totem poles — but Singletary takes those designs and blows them onto glass instead.

"The way that the world is evolving, we're exposed to so many new things. And why not take some of these new technologies and these new processes and resynthesize them and keep the cultural symbols and the music and the culture alive,” Singletary said.

Some of Khu.eex's work involves taking traditional Tlingit songs and fusing them with jazz and funk. Singletary said when he asked his tribe for permission to use their music, he got a mixed reaction from tribal elders.

“Some of them are really open to it and excited about the idea. Some of them were very guarded and they felt like that this was intellectual property that no one else should actually be utilizing or performing,” he said.

He said now the band mostly uses traditional Tlingit songs to inspire new music.

“In my perspective, if no one hears these songs then eventually they would they could fade away. I feel like bringing these songs in with this new perspective I think extends the life of the music,” Singletary said.

You can hear for yourself how the band brings new life to indigenous music. Khu.eex' will play at Seattle’s Northwest Folklife festival Friday night at 8:30 at the Seattle Center.

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