Posts Tagged ‘CHNY’

by Alli Marshall in Vol. 15 / Iss. 23 on 12/31/2008

Mountain Xpress


Once, when Asheville-based musician Andy Pond passed through customs into the Montego Bay airport, a member of the Mento band (which greets tourists) noticed his banjo case. “Going to Jamaica with a musical instrument makes people treat you differently,” Pond says. He suddenly found himself picking along with the band, welcoming fellow tourists—including the cast of MTV’s “Jackass” series.

Sound crazy? In under three hours’ flight time, you could be in sunny Jamaica, rum drink in hand, warm breeze blowing off the turquoise ocean and strains of—no, not reggae or steel drums—Larry Keel welcoming you to paradise.

Unlikely but true, and all part of the annual random-but-not-without-reason Chinese New Year Celebration (CHNY), held in the Jamaican beach town of Negril. This January’s gathering, which attracts many Western N.C. residents, artists and musicians, heralds the year of the Ox.

This particular Chinese New Year event got its start as a gathering of friends that moved from country to country. The Jamaican location stuck—despite the oddity of a Chinese holiday in the Caribbean—and soon word got out, catapulting the private festivities to public ones.

“The intention of the celebration is to … build a culture of peace and community through travel, music, arts and play to set a positive tone for the New Year,” reads the event Web site. In fact, CHNY has been taking place for the better part of a decade and not only provides a full itinerary of music and fun in the sun, but also opportunities to explore Jamaican culture and contribute to social projects.

One project, close to the heart of Pond (who first came to CHNY—and Jamaica—in 2001 when his band, Snake Oil Medicine Show, was invited), is the West Haven Children’s Home for the Disabled. “We originally volunteered to play a concert for the kids,” he recalls. “It was heavy. This is an orphanage for physically-challenged children andadults.” Organizers approached the Children’s Home staff to see how CHNY attendees could help. The answer: “We don’t need money, we need humans to visit,” Pond says.

“We spent a week doing art projects and serving food,” Pond recalls. “I always wondered if we helped them or just helped our own consciousness.”

He adds, “You can impact one person for one week. I go [to Jamaica] and realize how much I actually have.”

Pond understands that for some, the visit to Jamaica is about vacation and concerts. “That’s okay,” he says. “We know it’s not comfortable to go to the orphanages and see people who have less.” CHNY’s service mark also comes in the event’s commitment to support Jamaican-owned businesses. This is especially important on the Caribbean island where international resorts bring no return to local economies. It’s worth noting that while CHNY comes with a price tag (even musicians and volunteers pay their own way), the event organizers have already done the legwork to help visitors make the most impact with their American dollars, and avoid as many hassles as possible.

Another opportunity to learn (and WNC connection) comes through the ongoing One Love Reasoning Seminars, lead by Robert Roskind, author of Rasta Heart: A Journey into One Love and Gathering of the Peacemakers, both of which deal with Jamaican elders who wish to further the Bob Marley principal of love and freedom for all humanity. Roskind is a resident of Blowing Rock, N.C., but he and his wife Julia travel frequently to Jamaica.

Pond notes that there’s a long-standing (if informal) exchange program between the Appalachian Mountains and Jamaica. “Asheville and Negril have a strange exchange of music. Before there was Snake Oil Medicine Show, there was Ras Alan,” he says. “I personally had a musical epiphany. The simplicity and the poetry of reggae touched me.”

what: Chinese New Year 2009, a week-long celebration of peace, community, the arts and travel
where: Negril, Jamaica
when: Saturday, Jan. 24-Saturday, Jan. 31 (Packages run $750-$2610, not including airfare. At press time, airfare ran around $300 for a direct flight from Charlotte, N.C. to Montego Bay, Jamaica.http://www.chny.org.)

The lineup

Chinese New Year 2009 attendees may be surprised by just how familiar the bands performing at the Jamaican resort seem. That’s because a significant portion of the roster is Asheville-based. Here’s who’s playing:
• Kenyatta “Culture” Hill: The son of ‘70’s era reggae star Joseph Hill, Jamaica-based Kenyatta carries on the family legacy. He recently released his first solo album, Pass the Torch.
• Laura Reed and Deep Pocket: Influenced by roots reaching from front woman Reed’s South African home to the American South, this Asheville-based big band blends reggae, R&B, soul and funk for a captivating and high-energy live show.
• CX-1: At first look, CX-1 is a mini-version of Snake Oil Medicine Show. In fact, the Pond Brothers’ side project (a.k.a. “The Blackhole Bluegrass Boys”) allows its members to further explore the connections between reggae and bluegrass.
• The Overtakers: This Negril-based husband and wife project (led by Ruben and Ruth Brooks) has collaborated with CX-1 for a transcendent Asheville show, as well using their music to uplift their own Jamaican community.
• Josh Phillips: Formerly of Asheville’s Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Phillips recent went solo with a the seamless debut release, Wicker. Upbeat songwriting and folky reggae-meets-hip-hop make up a not-to-be-missed Josh Phillips performance.
• Fred Tackett and Paul Barrerre: These guitarists, both of the legendary band Little Feat, have their own band known appropriately, as Paul and Fred-The Acoustic Duo. Fred is from Arkansas, Paul from California.
• Acoustic Syndicate: Formed in 1992 by brothers Bryon and Fitz McMurry and cousin Steve McMurry, the acoustic Americana outfit logged many road miles and built an impressive fan base before they quit touring in 2005. After a two-year hiatus, the core group reunited for occasional show dates.
• Larry Keel & Natural Bridge: Expert picking, fiery licks and roots music performed with modern flare underscore a Natural Bridge show. The sounds are second only Virginia-based musician Larry Keel’s penchant for creating a family feel wherever he goes.
• Snake Oil Medicine Show: This long-term Asheville collective, including George and Andy Pond, Caroline Pond, Billy Seawell, Sean Foley and, occasionally, painter Phil Cheney, has the uncanny ability to turn any crowd into a party.

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(Asheville, NC) Phil Cheney is an Asheville based artist that has supported local and international festivities for years.  Phil has designed festival artwork for posters and t-shirts, performed over a hundred live paintings (each painting took anywhere from 5 to 20 performances to complete), co-created a “Dynamic Art Gallerie” at festivals, designed over 75 CD covers, and painted murals across the southeast.  And that is not all; Phil is about to launch the publication of a children’s book tentatively entitled “Party Animals”, which started as a song by the Royal Rascals for a Children’s Album.

Phil Cheney has been painting and drawing as far back as he can remember. He drew for others entertainment with picture stories during class throughout gradeschool and then in high school he became the Art Editor of the student news paper. In College, Phil drew Cartoons for three different publications. Then, afterward, he tried unsuccessfully to become a syndicated cartoonist; his work was just too far in left field to make it work in the mainstream. . .  so he switched gears, became a baker and got involved in listening to good music.

At this time, in 1997, he got to know the performance group, Snake Oil Medicine Show. He was immediately drawn to their upbeat quirkiness and in August of that year Phil did his first live painting at Jehosaphest (Snake Oil’s one and only self-promoted music festival). After that, live painting became a regular gig and launched his career in being part of this musical medicine show.

As time went by, the group traveled all across the United States then on to Europe.  Then, in 2003, Snake Oil Medicine Show had been invited to perform at a special party, called the Chinese New Year in Negril, Jamaica (CHNY). CHNY is hosted by DeepBlueRipple International, Inc and is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Festival Organizer Libre Brousseau, states “While the musicians explored new rhythms on stage with a local Jamaican band The Overtakers, Phil created a stunning image of a Chinese Dragon. I asked Phil if we could use the image for the Chinese New Year event logo the following year and that marked the beginning of a wonderful, synergistic relationship between Phil and CHNY.”  Phil Cheney’s art is a perfect fit for the Chinese New Year event and DeepBlueRipple International. His images capture the quality of seeing the world through a child’s eyes – creative, vibrant, playful, and overflowing with energy.

For the past five years Phil has been the artistic director for this humanitarian event that invites participants to “Party in Jamaica for a Good Cause”. Visit http://www.CHNY.org and click on Photos to see Cheney’s designs for Years of the Pig, Cock, Dog, Rat, and hot off the easel 2009 Year of the Ox.  Phil’s generous nature and hunger to continually evolve as an artist have led him to locate local Jamaican painters and invite them to paint live with him during the concerts. Now the children of these artists are coming to the events and sharing their talents, a legacy that Phil continues to encourage and facilitate.  Proceeds from the Chinese New Year concerts and events in Jamaica support the nonprofit DeepBlueRipple International Inc.  – Providing art, music, and play to disadvantaged youth.

Other festivals that Phil has designed artwork for are the Lexington Ave Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) and the French Broad River Festival in North Carolina as well as OUR Festival in Western New York State.  He also has donated many of his large paintings to support organizations such as the Moog Foundation and the Western North Carolina AIDS Project.  Phil states, “I have learned that if you can’t make a contribution in cash to help out your favorite causes, there are still several ways to help, Art is just one of them.”

“I hold firm to my belief in Art Magic. Art, which I define simply as Human Creativity (not to discount the creativity of our fellow Earthlings, the Elephant and the Monkey, to name just two), has a very powerful ability to heal on many levels.”, this statement by Cheney is what has led him to be an avid supporter of the many projects and events that he has truly helped bring to life with his creativity

Phil Cheney’s Art Sites:




Links to organizations Phil Cheney has contributed artwork to:







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