Chris Berry Trio plays Stillwater

Chris Berry dropped out of college during his freshman year at Humboldt State University to travel to Zimbabwe and learn the mbira — a thumb piano with 29 keys — and the ancient rhythms of the Shona — the indigenous people of the region.

"As soon as I heard the music, it made me want to go to Zimbabwe and discover what the instrument is all about," Berry says. "It is so beautiful. It is about bridging the corporeal existence with the spirit existence. Music holds a significant influence in the culture of the Shona. It's used to convey wisdom, communicate with spirits and for healing."

Berry was born in Sebastopol, Calif. His journey to Zimbabwe took him to the capital city of Harare, where he lived for 10 years and studied with a mbira master.

Berry formed his genre-defying band Panjea while he lived in Africa, and the group released platinum-selling albums in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. When Berry returned to America in 2000, he formed a new version of Panjea that toured the U.S. performing a mix of soul, funk, dance hall and African rhythms fronted by Berry, who sings in English and Shona.

Berry is now based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and his newest project is the Chris Berry Trio, featuring drummer Aaron Johnston and bassist Jesse Murphy.

The trio's sound is a mix of the ancient and the modern. It's a dubbed-out and danceable version of Panjea.

"It's full of African rhythms, but played through the latest in music technology," Berry says. The instruments include an electric mbira developed by Berry that creates a distinctive sound.

The Chris Berry Trio collaborates with other musicians whenever possible, and guitarist Michael Kang of the String Cheese Incident will be in Berry's upcoming shows.

"This group is brand new. This is our first tour together," Berry says. "The music is a mix of all that I learned in Zimbabwe and the latest and greatest of my own culture."

Berry says that the group will be releasing new songs every couple of months. See

High Heat of Berkeley, Calif., will be touring with the Chris Berry Trio. The band plays folk rock, fusion and Americana.

Raw, organic vegan fare will be available at the show at Stillwater.

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