New A Capella Group Forms
Onyx' Spins Off From Kuumba Singers' Brothers
You won't hear Harvard's latest addition to the a capella music scene serving up the normal fare of doowop. The six undergraduates who have been performing since January as the singing group Onyx have a slightly different style.
"Our style is rooted in gospel and R&B," said Sam L. Smalls '91, an Onyx member. "But we're stll trying to feel out our niche."
Onyx, which supplements its gospel music with a roughly equal amount of secular songs, evolved from The Kuumba Singers' subgroup "Brothers." Since breaking its formal ties with The Kuumba Singers, the group has had several engagements, including performances at the Museum of African-American History and the Deer Island Correctional Facility. Last month, the sextuplet opened a concert on campus for The Call-backs, a Harvard a cappella group.
Members said the sextuplet did not break off from The Kuumba Singers due to any ill feeling against the group, but instead decided to form a separate unit because of their strong friendship.
"It's because of the tightness and closeness of the members that [Onyx] exists today and one of the main reasons that I'm currently a member," smalls said. "It's because we really blended together in personality and voice that we began to rehearse outside of Kuumba. We really think of each other as brothers."
Although members said they are not sure exactly what lies ahead for the group, they added that they plan to send a demo tape to record producers next month in the hope of recording their songs.
Besides singing in a different musical style, Onyx distinguishes itself from its a capella counterparts on campus in at least one, other major respect. Due to the intense camraderie of the group, it is unlikely that there will ever be any new members, said John L. Simpkins '93, an Onyx singer. Because two members will graduate this year, he said, the group will probably sing as a quartet next year.
"We're leery of bringing new people in because we think our sound is kinda special and we get along so well," Simpkins said. "It's hard for someone to come in to that. I think we're something very unique in the Harvard community."