It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn’t until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real. Band leader, Topaz squawked through his megaphone to join them on their journey, while singing “Children of the Sun.”
Topaz told me that the band’s inspiration for both the name and the spirit of the musicians is loosely based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The organization, devoted to the study of the occult and paranormal activities, has been around since the 19th century.
Both of Topaz’s parents were heavily into spiritual movements and what happens here falls somewhere between high art and a circus, with music that feels connected to Sun Ra’s jazz, the extended musical adventures of The Doors and the surprise elements of Parliament-Funkadelic. You can dance and/or trance, or sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
- “Children of the Sun”
- “The Wolf”
“Zapot Mgawi” Topaz McGarrigle (Vocals, Organ, Synth), “Zumbi” Chris Richards (Trombone, Vocals), “Malika” Sarah Malika Boudissa (Baritone Sax, Vocals), “Isis of Devices” Laura Scarborough (Vocals, Vibraphone), “Yeshua Villon” Josh Perdue (Guitar), “Shabuki” Greg Rhoades (Bass), “Lost In Face” Rob Kidd (Drums), “Oso the Great” Alex Marrero (Percussion), “Rosietoes” Christinah Rose Barnett (Vocals, Tambourine)
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Beck Harlan, Kara Frame, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.