Mash UP brings two Midwest artists or bands together to do one thing: create something new. Musicians have an hour to mix their styles and come up with an original song, tweak an existing track or work out a cool cover. After the hour is up, Urban Plains captures the performance. This week: Paul Virgilio and Ima Kulture.
When Paul Virgilio was 10, he wanted to play the French horn. Cello was his second choice. Luckily, the 24-year- old didn’t get what he wanted. Instead, he moved from his hometown of Pleasant Valley, New York, to Des Moines, Iowa, in 2009 to study cello at Drake University. Virgilio started playing with the Des Moines Symphony in 2010. He also plays cello in the local group Quartet 515 — and now, thanks to Mash UP, he’s an honorary member of Ima Kulture on the track “Traveling Man.”
It doesn’t get much more unparalleled than hearing the sounds of West Africa in the middle of Iowa, but that’s exactly what Ima Kulture delivers. The African fusion band melds western music with African influences, playing music that ranges from reggae and zouk to soul and soft rock. The band formed in 2014 and is directed by Victor Araya (vocals) and Aaron Ehrlich (guitar). The word Ima is an Ibibio word from the southeastern tip of Nigeria. It means love. That’s what the band wants to spread: a love between cultures and for culture. They’ll be playing gigs around the Des Moines area this spring, but here on Mash UP, they’re performing their song “Traveling Man” with Paul Virgilio.