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Reggae On The Oregon Rez: Kenny Sequoia Lewis and Sol Seed

Sol Seed's Kenny Sequoia Lewis brings Reggae to the Rez

Many bands in mainstream rock have a connection to Native communities through one of their musicians. The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Testament’s Charles Billy and the many contributions of Jesse Ed Davis to various groups are some examples. Sol Seed—a reggae-fusion band out of Eugene, Oregon—has a relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde through its guitarist, Kenny Sequoia Lewis.

Through Lewis, Sol Seed - only two years old at the time - found itself performing at the 2012 Native American Music Awards at the invitation of Grand Ronde flute player Jan Michael Looking Wolf.

“I think it was one of those moments that validated what we were doing,” said band member Benny Pezzano. “Something was written in the stars for all of us together.”

Lewis played as a studio musician for Looking Wolf’s album Breaking Free. For Lewis, the Nammy experience showed him the depth of genres within Native American music.

Kenny Lewis on Guitar - courtesy

“There were a lot of musicians we interacted with and were inspired by,” Lewis said. “We were still a really young band and to get the opportunity to go out there with seasoned professionals was pretty awesome.”

Performing with Looking Wolf created for him a “smoother experience” that he would take to Sol Seed. Now with six years of experience as a band, member Pezzano says Sol Seed has a message of “universal love, universal acceptance and reaching across cultural or national boundaries.”

“Live music is one of the best medicines for anyone,” Pezzano said. “It’s right up there with laughter. Someone once told me that reggae music is what positive feelings sound like. Most importantly, it brings everyone together.”

Sol Seed spends its time between touring nationally and regionally in the northwest. Growing up in Medford, Oregon Lewis says he enjoys playing at the Grand Ronde reservation for their youth.

Photo: Athena Delene

Left to right: Benny Pezzano, Michael Sorensen, Kenny Lewis, Scott Guasco and Michael Lennon are Sol Seed.

“It’s really cool to see the smiles light up on their faces,” Lewis said. “I get to connect with them because I’m the only tribal member in Sol Seed. It’s a huge honor for me. I really enjoy it.”

Presently, Sol Seed is preparing for shows in the Minneapolis, Minnesota and finalizing a studio album. Pezzano says they’re also transitioning out of the business side of booking their own shows and instead focusing on nothing but music.

“It’s pretty simple,” Pezzano said. “We want to play positive music. We want to play conscious music. We feel like music is the most powerful platform to let a message or an idea be heard.”

“Do it for your own personal happiness,” Lewis said. “If you continue to do it for that, it will naturally grow into something you can do forever. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

His advice for young Native guitarists who are beginning to learn to play is simple: “Stick with it.”

To find out more about Sol Seed and their music, go to www.solseedmusic.com. They can also be found on Facebook, Reverbnation and Soundcloud.