Hypnotic Brass Ensemble


Bringing a taste of soul and a kick of Afro-beat’s intensity, Juniata Presents was more than delighted to feature the amazing Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on April 6in Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts. The band attracted a diverse audience that eventually left all the seats in the auditorium empty, in the best way possible. 

Sons of the one-time Sun Ra collaborator Kelan Phil Cohran, these seven brothers have performed since the ages of four and five. Through the years the family group had toured throughout the United States performing music pieces composed by their father and other great composers such as Duke Ellington and Beethoven, to name a few.

It was the year 1999 these soul-seeking brothers ventured off on their own to become what is now known as Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (HBE). Born and raised in the south side of Chicago, these brothers have incorporated some reggae and hip-hop to their compositions. The famous seven-horn brass band consists of four trumpeters: Smoov, Baji, Hudah, and Yoshi; two trombonists: Clef and Cid and Rocco playing the baritone.

In 2001, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble independently released their first LP named Satin. Island Def Jam offered HBE a feature collaboration with renowned producer NO ID and an accompanying artist/in-house band recording contract. In 2004, the band then followed up with their first recorded project, Flipside. Shortly after in 2005, they independently released Jupiter. The group sound is best described as jazzy instrumental funk incorporating simple drum parts throughout their piece. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble have played with amazing and talented artists such as Snoop Dogg, Tony Allen and Femi Kuti, just to name a few. They have also recorded with artists such as Erykah Badu and Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan. HBE have definitely created a uniquely diverse image for themselves to say the least.

Before the night of their performance, HBE presented an outreach opportunity for the HOBO (organizational behavior) class, supervised by Professor Echols in BAC and encouraged any students or faculty to also take part in the class. “The purpose of the outreach was to have Hypnotic Brass Ensemble share their experiences with the students regarding teamwork, culture, group activities and conflicts,” said Echols. The students were able to consume knowledge about the band and their upbringing all while asking questions that involved how HBE has successfully reached where they are today. “I think it’s always great to be able to get students to learn about other lifestyles and how to work in teams because it helps you see a different perspective and that’s what HBE helped do,” stated Echols.

On the evening of the performance, the clock hit 7:30 p.m. and out walked seven well-dressed gentlemen on the partially dimmed stage giving an intriguing feeling of what was to come next. The drums and the bass added to the velocity and intensity of the rhythm already in full force. The front man of the group hypes up the crowd throughout the song encouraging the audience to feel the music and get up and dance. 

Before their fourth piece the band encouraged the audience to dance to the beats of the song by putting their hands up and swaying them up in the air in a particular part of the song. Once HBE had hit the chorus the band would sway their instruments up and down and the audience followed. Everyone is either mirroring the moves of the band or making up their own moves. From left to right you can barely see any of the audience members sitting on their seat. 

The front man tells the audience a small back story about the next piece, War. It was a song featured in the $78 million worldwide successful movie The Hunger Games (2012).  He encouraged the audience to recreate the scene when the song started and motivated the audience to say “welcome to The Hunger Games.” The entire auditorium participated and in unison everyone’s voices filled the room prompting the band to begin. This was almost surreal to say the least, because it felt as though the auditorium was turned into the Capitol where Peeta and Katniss were taken to. The Capitol of Panem, dictated by President Snow, is a utopian city where the nation’s wealthiest live and where the annual Hunger Games are organized and celebrated within the walls.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was a performance that filled the entire auditorium with joy and a few groovy dance moves. Juniata students and children from all different ages turned an empty room into a concert that was more than memorable with the help of the band’s exquisite music. If you’re looking for music to lift up your soul and bring out those dance moves that you didn’t even know you had, make sure you check out Hypnotic Brass Ensemble whenever you have the opportunity.

—Gaby Atayde '17, Digital Media Writer Intern