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Band Bios

Onye and the Messengers


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Onye Onyemaechi
Vocals, African Drums and Percussion



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.

"The echoes of the village drums penetrate the dancer’s psyche and operate in profound ways-familiar and mysterious," says Onye. "When people drum, laugh and cry, sing and dance together, they heal and feel joyful. Optimism is renewed! " Onye brings the soul of African Culture to celebrations and teaching. He blends the best of traditional culture and modern life styles in his work with individuals, organizations, and the world.

Onye is a celebrated world percussionist, composer, and producer and have recorded music for interactive video games and numerous CDs. He has been featured on NBC TV affiliate program Coming Together and the video and film documentaries: Of Sound & Healing, Search for Spirituality, and as well as the Wisdom Channel. He was commissioned by the de Young Museum to dedicate their African collection.

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.

His sold out concert at Humboldt State University Performance Festival electrified the John Van Duzer Theater with a celebration of human spirit. He performed a commissioned music and dance ceremony at de Young Museum, San Francisco and was a featured performer and choreographer of the Oakland Festival of the Arts, Bay Area Dance Series and Forest Meadows World Music and Dance Series.

While living in Cambridge in the early 1980s, he presented a monthly night of ethnic music and dance. All nationalities were invited and the evening would end with Onye drumming while hundreds of people, young and old danced and drummed along. Some of those who experienced these events studied with Onye and went on to establish "drum circles" around the country. Onye is recognized as a pioneer in using drum and ethnic dance to bring communities together.

In the April/May 1988 issue of Whole Life New England Magazine, Onye was featured as their cover story and he was profiled in the Harvard Independent in February 25, 1988.

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.

Onye offers for sale his CDs: Nnandi, Sophia, Primal Adventures, African Chocolate and African Sunset.

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Mark Escalera
Drum Set, Vocals

A multi-instrumentalist since childhood, Mark Escalera has been performing and recording drums and percussion for over the last thirty years. He has composed music for television and has worked as a percussion instructor for a private music school. His first love though is performing and Mark has performed with various artists throughout the United States in a wide variety of musical styles. As the drum set player for the Messengers, he brings a highly musical approach to his playing, born from his experience from being a woodwind player during his elementary and high school days. When he’s not busy playing music, Mark resides in Sonoma County with his wife and their two children where we works as an educator for a public Waldorf charter school.

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John Kadyk, Vocals
Saxophone and Steelpan


John Kadyk (saxophone, steelpan) is a multi-instrumentalist based in Oakland CA. Originally trained in European classical piano and clarinet, he later picked up steelpan, 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.

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Cricket Seagull
Flute, Baritone Sax and tenor Saxophone


1990 -2000 Laguna - rock blues and swing
1996- 2000 Quantum Pulse - world music
2000-2012 Batacha- latin jazz and salsa
2008-2012 Tumbao – latin jazz
2012- The Messengers – Afro-beat


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Gregg Dessen, Guitar

Gregg Dessen is a multi-instrumentalist from San Rafael, CA. Beginning music studies at age 9, he studied piano and trumpet before transitioning to guitar during high school. Gregg studied music theory, composition, performance, and ethnomusicology in college 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 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, rock, punk, electronica, avant-garde, and classical).


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Joel Bennett, Keyboards

Joel Bennett first touched a piano at the age of 5 and a half, and studied classical music with French concert pianist Yuri Roman. After being away from it for many 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 the Bossa Nova and Sambas from Brazil, and later on by the Afro-Caribbean Rhythms. He is the founder and leader of Batacha, a Sonoma County based Latin Band which has been performing around the Bay Area for the past 14 years. He’s now happy to working with Onye Onyemaechi and the Messengers!

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Wendell Rand, Bass Guitar

Bassist Wendell Rand comes from a family of musicians. His father played string bass in and around state side 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 and 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 that 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 and The Messengers’” rhythm section to ignite dance floors here in Northern California and beyond.