Composer, producer, remixer
A hero of the underground dance music world, Chris Brann has spent more than a dozen years composing, producing, and remixing soul- and funk-infused electronic house music, stirring clubgoers around the globe. Over the years Brann has released songs under various aliases, including Wamdue Kids, Wamdue Project, Ananda Project, and P'taah. Brann's biggest success came in 1998-99, when Wamdue Project's "King of My Castle" sold two million copies worldwide after spending 40 weeks on Music & Media's Eurochart Hot 100 Singles. The accomplishment was amazing for an underground artist in such a select genre. Buoyed by his success, Brann continued to make music, and released Fire Flower under the Ananda name in 2007.
Brann's passion lies in his ability to perpetually create something new. On his official Web site, Brann explained that his main aspiration has been to examine the deeper side of music. "I want to create material that's interesting, timeless and evocative—maybe even provocative! I would hate to repeat myself or become mundane. That's probably why I work under so many pseudonyms. It gives me freedom to continually morph or evolve into something else."
Inspired by African Spirituals
Brann, born on March 25, 1972, hails from Atlanta and keeps a low profile, preferring his music to stay in the spotlight as opposed to his personality. He took up guitar as a child, but the instrument he had was cheap, and he was never satisfied with the sound. He switched to the synthesizer and fell in love with the electronic instrument. Growing up in the South, Brann was exposed to African spirituals, which piqued his interest in music. Speaking to In Da Mix Worldwide, Brann recalled his musical awakening. "I remember from a very early age hearing ‘spirituals’ … Something that would be played at an African American church for instance. I was always very affected by hearing it. I didn't know why."
Though he was interested in music, Brann initially aspired to become a professional pilot; however, by the age of 13, he had been lured into the music scene. "I remember talking to my music teacher in high school," he told In Da Mix. "He asked what my plans were once I left school. I told him that I was going to write songs and work on demos and shop them to labels. He laughed and said I needed to think about a ‘real’ job." At 17, Brann dropped out of high school to dedicate himself to music. He delved into the local music scene, and it was not long before his songs hit the dance floors.
Gathered Musicians for Wamdue Project
By the mid-1990s, Brann had gathered together a small group of musicians, including vocalist and songwriter Gaelle Adisson and DJ mavericks Deep C (Chris Clark) and Chris Udoh. Together, they produced songs as the Wamdue Kids, and toured the club and rave circuits with their electronic music. The name "Wamdue" is a play on the street phrase "What I'm Gonna Do." The group released several singles under notable underground labels like Acacia, Peacefrog, Studio K7!, Communique, and Stickmen. By 1996 the group had signed with Strictly Rhythm Records, based in New York City, to produce under the moniker Wamdue Project. The group released its first LP in 1996, called Resource Toolbook Volume One. It included the songs "Get High on the Music" and "Neburu" (Electric Storm).
In 1998 Wamdue released its second collection, Program Yourself, featuring songs like "King of My Castle" and "Are You High?" Once again, Brann served as the group's mixer and producer. His goal for the album was to blur the lines between dance music, classical, and jazz. "The truth is that my direction has always been spread out over a variety of styles," Brann told Larry Flick of Billboard. "I'm loyal to my dance music heritage, but I'm also responding to my need to explore other influences and interests." Brann spent two years locked away in his Atlanta studio, mostly alone, gathering the components for the songs and mixing them together. Once again, Adisson provided R&B-infused vocals on several of the songs. Other vocalists included Michelle Riley, Frank Simmons, Deep C, and Udoh. Many of the album's songs, complete with powerful lyrics and thumping bass lines, became club favorites.
In 1998-99, Brann's song "King of My Castle," which featured Adisson on vocals, spent 40 weeks on Music & Media's Eurochart Hot 100 Singles after being re-released by Italian remixer Roy Malone. The single debuted at number one on the U.K. pop charts. Popular at dance clubs in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, the single sold more than two million copies worldwide. With its upbeat tempo, the song was a crossover success, earning air time on many pop stations. At one point, one British radio station was playing the song every two hours. "For a relatively obscure, underground artist with a unique-sounding song to achieve something like this is phenomenal," Brann told Billboard's Paul Sexton.
Formed Ananda Project Collective
Around this same time, Brann felt ready for a new project, so he pulled together a new collective of Atlanta-based musicians, vocalists, and songwriters to create the Ananda Project, which began spitting out singles in 1998. Like Wamdue, this group also focused on house music, but this time Brann added more soulful Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian themes. The Ananda Project was supposed to be a short-lived offshoot for Brann, but the collective gelled and went on to put out a full-length disc in 2000. Titled Release, the disc was a rich infusion of jazz and soul peppered with a hip-hop drive and urban vocals. In true Brann style, the songs were created around Brann's keyboard harmonies. His synthesizer work provided the platform for the live musicians to record upon. Brann served as key composer for all songs on the album. One song, "Cascades of Colour," featuring Adisson on vocals, became a dance floor hit across the globe and a staple of underground DJs. Another album favorite was "Glory, Glory," which featured Terrance Downs on vocals. A reviewer for Billboard magazine praised the album, writing that "with Release, the Ananda Project further establishes itself as a fine purveyor of deep, emotional, soulful house."
A bevy of musicians contributed to Release. Besides vocalists Adisson and Downs, there was vocalist Heather Johnson, percussionist Genoa Mungin, and acoustic guitarist Ede Wright. Speaking to Rick Salzer of Billboard, Brann said he liked being a part of the Ananda Project and helping other artists get their talents circulating in the world. "The Ananda Project is totally an unconventional project. I really enjoy collaborating with other talented artists, and by doing so I can hopefully expose some of the other artists in the Atlanta area." The disc received a fair following because the songs, richly produced, made for easy home listening, yet at the same time provided plenty of drive for the dance floor. A year later Brann put out Re-Release, a full-length compilation of remixed Ananda hits.
In 2003 the Ananda Project released Morning Light. The songs on this album contained the same looping tempos and soulful vocals as previous collections, but the songs were more mature. Once again, the bulk of vocals were provided by Downs and Johnson, but a number of newcomers also contributed to the group's ever-evolving cast of singers. They included New York-based house singer Lydia Rhodes, former Mandalay member Nicola Hitchcock, Marta Gazman, and Sylvia Gordon. Writing in the Miami New Times, reviewer Lily Moayeri was upbeat about the album, saying that "this album's focus on traditional songwriting should help it survive beyond the temporary shelf life of the dance floor to achieve heavy rotation in home stereo systems."
Brann's approach to album-making has set him apart from most composer/producers. He has focused on making an album containing a broad range of songs that are linked together to tell an entire story. After the album is complete, Brann picks out the singles, a different course from most producers, who focus on the singles first and then add other songs to complete the album. Brann's songwriting is unique, too. He develops chord progressions first, then builds the bass lines, beat, and melodies.
For the Record …
Born c. 1974 in the United States.
Producer/composer for Wamdue Kids, c. 1995; signed with Strictly Rhythm Records, 1996; released albums under name Wamdue Project, including Resource Toolbook Volume One, 1996, and Program Yourself, 1998; released albums under alias P'taah, including Compressed Light, 2000, Decompressed, 2001, and Staring at the Sun, 2003; producer/composer for Ananda Project, which released first album, Release, 2000, followed by Re-release, 2001, Morning Light, 2003, Relight, 2005, and Fire Flower, 2007.
Addresses: Record company—Strictly Rhythm Records, 920 Broadway, Ste. 1403, New York, NY 10010.
Fond of Remixes
In 2005 Brann released Relight under the Ananda Project moniker. Relight visited many of the compila- tions from Morning Light, offering entirely new remixes of the songs. There were also four new songs, including Brann's "Wasting My Love." Brann remixed the album because he was not completely happy with the initial offering. He felt the remix was less technical but more emotional than the initial disc. He followed up with 2007's Fire Flower, a compilation of 14 original deep house, R&B tracks with Downs and Johnson on supporting vocals.
Brann has also released a few full-length compilations under the name P'taah (pronounced puh-TAHH). The cuts on these albums include more downtempo jazz, infused with multiple layers of percussion. For these albums he turned to vocalists Johnson and Downs once again, also adding jazz artist David Hughes's sultry saxophone to the mix.
Besides composing and producing, Brann has also made a name for himself as a remixer. He has remixed songs from various genres, including "Summerfling" by country crooner k.d. lang and "Temperamental" by the British electronica act Everything But The Girl. He also remixed a song from contemporary jazz great Boney James. In 2001 Brann released an album aptly titled Inspirations, a remix of songs from artists who have inspired him most. The disc included songs by Alice Coltrane, Andy Bey, Marvin Gaye, and Chick Corea, among others. Brann's music also found its way onto television and has been featured on many cable shows, including HBO's Sex and the City, MTV's Undressed, and Showtime's Queer as Folk.
Brann makes his home in Atlanta, in his own cocoon, away from the influences of the big-city music markets. He has said that he wants to work without the fear of being influenced by others. "I have to have a lot of ‘me’ time, to be very clear about what I'm trying to say and do with music," he told In Da Mix. "So Atlanta is nice for that."
As Chris Brann
Deepfall, Import, 1997.
No Room for Form, Vol. 1, Bombay Records, 2001.
Inspirations, Karma Giraffe, 2001.
As Wamdue Kids/Wamdue Project
Wamdue Works, Acacia Records, 1996.
Resource Toolbook Volume One, Strictly Rhythm, 1996.
Program Yourself, Strictly Rhythm, 1998.
As Ananda Project
Release, King Street Sounds, 2000.
Re-Release, King Street Sounds, 2001.
Morning Light, King Street Sounds, 2003.
Relight, King Street Sounds, 2005.
Fire Flower, Mvd Visual, 2007.
Compressed Light, Ubiquity, 2000.
Decompressed, Ubiquity, 2001.
Staring at the Sun, Ubiquity, 2003.
Billboard, April 11, 1998, p. 26; December 18, 1999; October 7, 2000; November 18, 2000; August 30, 2003, p. 38; February 19, 2005.
Miami New Times, August 14, 2003.
"Ananda Project: Southern Comfort Inn," In Da Mix Worldwide, http://www.indamixworldwide.com/html/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=3931 (February 9, 2008).
"Chris Brann," Chris Brann Official Web site, http://www.chrisbrann.com/bio.html (February 12, 2008).