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Safari & the Beat Explorers bring trap jazz to South Boston

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Safari & the Beat Explorers bring trap jazz to South Boston
Safari & the Beat Explorers perform at Rhythm & Brunch at Cannonball Cafe in South Boston. (From left) Kevin Pace Jr. on drums, Safari Hat King on saxophone and Kazi Didit on keys. PHOTO:Celina Colby

Nearly every Sunday, music lovers in South Boston are drawn to the patio garden of Cannonball Café by the unusual crooning of Safari & the Beat Explorers, a trap jazz band that’s bridging the generational gap between jazz lovers by fusing classic melodies with a synth trap beat.

Roxbury native and Berklee College of Music alum Safari Hat King (named for his signature pith helmet) leads the group that also includes Kazi Didit on keys; WilsonDaBlack, Safari’s brother, on percussion; and either Diggity Dom or Devon Austrie on the drums, depending on the day. Other artists rotate in regularly.

Guests to the brunch can expect to hear jazz standards like “Maiden Voyage” by Herbie Hancock and “Resolution” by John Coltrane remixed with this new sound. The group also mixes in more recent hits like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

“I had an idea to take jazz standards and flip them into trap style and feel, because I make a lot of both types of music,” says Safari. “I use a lot of improvisation, which is heavy in jazz, and we use a lot of jazz chords. And then we blend that with the feel of trap music. So a lot of the percussion, and using synth bass 808s instead of using like a bass guitar or an upright bass.”

Safari grew up in a musical family and recalls afternoons spent with his brother watching his father record R&B, hip-hop and gospel songs in the studio. That early exposure to a variety of genres influenced the blending he does in his own work today.

Tanisha Tate is the events manager with Social Thrive, a company contracted by Core Property Group to spread the word about its South Boston properties, including Cannonball Café. Tate is friendly with Safari’s family and drafted him for the brunch gig when she learned about the breadth of his musical talents. But the event, dubbed Rhythm & Brunch, quickly became about more than just smoothies and smooth jazz. Safari’s unique sound has brought in a mostly Black audience, a rarity in South Boston.

“Given the history of South Boston, this is bringing in not only different generations, but people of color as well,” says Tate. “For me, this is basically making history, because … we’ve never had that welcome mat to come in.”

Now it’s difficult to get a table during Safari’s three-hour set. Fans of Safari & the Beat Explorers come specifically to see them, and other guests are drawn in off the street by the sound of the music.

Trap jazz brunch is just the start of Safari & the Beat Explorers’ catalog. The group records original music and also produces in collaboration with many musicians around Boston. They play at other venues as well, hosting their own concerts and performing at private events. Safari says Instagram is the best way to stay attuned to upcoming events.

Rhythm & Brunch at Cannonball Café featuring Safari & the Beat Explorers is set to continue through the end of October.

“I think it’s important that people understand and appreciate different forms of music,” says Safari. “These are Black forms of expression that are equally important. And both have a right to have their voice.”

arts, music, Safari & the Beat Explorers, trap jazz
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