Original Global Grooves from Northern California
Onye & The Messengers are an electrifying 7-piece Afrobeat and Global Groove Dance Band!
Led by renowned Nigerian percussionist and songwriter, Onye Onyemaechi, these diverse and professional musicians play a music that is a celebration of body and soul. With an captivating blend of influences ranging from Afrobeat, Funk, Jazz, and other global grooves, The Messengers perform nationally and internationally for a wide range of audiences including festivals, clubs, universities, corporate functions, parties, and other concerts.
With that, meet The Messengers!
Percussion & Vocals
A virtuoso of African rhythm music, Onye Onyemaechi, renowned Nigerian percussionist, musician and performer brings a powerful experience to audiences across the U.S. and Europe. A native of Nigeria, Onye creates original compositions that blend tribal rhythms with contemporary music influences. His multicultural blend of hypnotic trance-dance music inspires and uplifts others to celebrate diversity and awaken the native joy of the soul. Performing both solo and in ensemble, Onye’s artistry creates electrifying musical feasts and collaborations.
Performing in the U.S. since the early 1980’s, Onye has been featured in Billboard Magazine as musical director of the ‘O Band’, Artistic Director and Business Manager of his own performance company, The Igbote Ethnic Ensemble, and performed on numerous radio shows nationwide. His major performances include First Night Boston, Cambridge Arts Fest, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, Statue of Liberty Bicentennial Celebration (with his Igbote Dance Ensemble), and Harvard University Cultural Rhythms concert, de young Museum in California and Uetliberg Museum Arts Festival in Switzerland and Stadttheater Neuburg A.D. Donau, Germany.
He has since taught at prestigious institutions, businesses and conferences including Harvard University, Holy Names College/ICCS, Esalen Institute, Omega Institute, International Conference on Business and Consciousness, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Boston College, Sonoma State University, California Academy of Sciences, College of Marin, International Conference on Shamanism and Consciousness, International Conference on Sound Healing, Kaiser Medical Center, Sutter Health Center, California Institute of Integral Studies, Elaborate Technologies, over 1,000 schools and the Stadt Theater in Germany. As adjunct faculty member he founded the Drum and Dance Society at Sonoma State University.
Joel Bennett first touched a piano at the age of 5, and studied classical music with French concert pianist Yuri Roman.
After taking break from musical studies for several years, he started playing Rhythm & Blues while in college. His interest in Jazz was influenced by his younger brother, Ed, a well known bassist in the Portland, Oregon, area. Within Jazz, Bennett was always attracted to Latin rhythms, first Bossa Nova and Samba from Brazil, and later on by Afro-Caribbean rhythms.
Joel is the founder and leader of Batacha, a Sonoma County-based Latin band which has been performing around the Bay Area for the past 15 years.
He’s now happy to working with Onye & The Messengers!
Gregg Dessen is a multi-instrumentalist from San Rafael, CA.
Beginning his music education at age 9, he studied piano and trumpet before transitioning to guitar at 14. Gregg studied music theory, composition, performance, and ethnomusicology through a joint program with the New England Conservatory and Tufts University.
Gregg has founded, performed, and recorded with numerous bands in the San Francisco, Boston, and Phoenix music scenes, and shared the stage with members of Santana, Fela Kuti & Afrika 70, Sonny Okosun, Albino!, Fulanis Afrobeat Orchestra, La Clandestina, DubFX, and many others. Gregg has also composed and recorded music for various independent films and multimedia productions.
Gregg has a deep love for all genuine, soulful music, and has rich experience performing in many genres (funk/R&B, jazz, blues, Afro-Latino/Salsa, Afrobeat, reggae/dub, psychedelic rock, punk, electronica, and avant-garde).
A multi-instrumentalist since childhood, Mark Escalera has been performing and recording drums and percussion for over the last 30 years.
Mark has composed music for television and has worked as a percussion instructor at several private music schools. Mark's first love though is performing and he has performed with various artists throughout the United States in a wide variety of musical styles.
As the drum set player for The Messengers, Mark brings a highly musical approach to his playing, born from his experience from being a woodwind player during his elementary and high school days.
Mark resides in Sonoma County with his wife and their two children where we works as an educator for a public Waldorf charter school.
Tenor Saxophone & Steel Drums
John Kadyk is a multi-instrumentalist based in Oakland, CA.
Originally trained in European classical piano and clarinet, he later picked up steel drums, saxophone, and other instruments, and began learning music of the African diaspora: jazz, calypso, soca, Cuban, and Brazilian music. Michael Spiro, Guillermo Cespedes, Andy Narell and Wayne Wallace have been among his many teachers.
Later musical exploration took him into Irish traditional music and Irish/jazz fusion. John also has extensive experience scoring and improvising music for live theater, behind solo performers and ensembles.
He has performed and recorded across the US and Europe with numerous artists, including Derby Street, Melanie O'Reilly, Ashling, Kurka Boskin, Suellen Primost, Spiral Danz, Tara Linda, the Artship Dance Theatre Ensemble, and the Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble.
Bassist Wendell Rand comes from a family of musicians. His father played string bass in stateside and overseas Air Force bases as a young man. His aunts Bernetta Frances and Mary sang with Edwin and Walter Hawkins’ Love Alive Choir, a well known gospel ensemble based in Berkeley, CA. Mary went on to join Sly & the Family Stone and spin-off group Little Sister, and recorded with various artists including Leon Russell and Barbara Streisand.
Wendell, largely a self-taught musician, has played with various soul, funk, R&B, and World music ensembles since the mid-80’s.
Reggie Benn’s Jungular Grooves and Hadley Louden’s Beat Freaks helped to hone his crafting of dance music bass lines and led to starting his current projects. He works with San Francisco’s Afrofunk Experience with Victor "Sila" Mutungi, Afrolicious, Fely Tchaco, Tracorum, and Wobbly World.
Wendell brings these experiences to help propel Onye & The Messengers’ rhythm section to ignite dance floors throughout California and beyond.
Baritone/Soprano Saxophones & Flute
Cricket is a multi-instrumentalist based in Sebastopol, CA.
Cricket has lent his multi-faceted woodwinds mastery to numerous bands across many genres over the years. Notable groups include Laguna (rock, blues, and swing), Quantum Pulse (World music), Batacha (Latin jazz and salsa), Tumbao (Latin jazz), and most recently The Messengers.
A man of international mystery and many talents, Cricket exudes a personal serenity and a musical passion that captivate audiences wherever and whenever he performs.