Sunday, August 18

Tea Tunes: R&B duo to transcend surface-level music with Spring Sing performance

Munir Griffin and Chris Pree (left to right) will perform as an R&B duo at this year's Spring Sing. Their song "Deep" is about homesickness and features Pree's vocals and Griffin on the saxophone. (Alyssa Dorn/Daily Bruin staff)

Munir Griffin and Chris Pree (left to right) will perform as an R&B duo at this year's Spring Sing. Their song "Deep" is about homesickness and features Pree's vocals and Griffin on the saxophone. (Alyssa Dorn/Daily Bruin staff)

Music inspires the soul and allows listeners to feel joyful and free, and behind every piece of inspirational music lie a songwriter and a story. Throughout spring quarter, columnist Kaitlyn Peterson will sit down over tea with UCLA singer-songwriters to explore their musical goals, personal inspirations and what makes their songs so special.

Chris Pree first saw Munir Griffin perform with his band Westwood Village Entertainment Group three years ago. On Friday, the duo will take the stage together.

On May 10, I met with third-year theater student Pree and fourth-year ethnomusicology student Griffin.

They both gave me a hug and chimed in to complete each other’s answers, constantly smiling and laughing throughout our time together. The R&B duo will be performing its song “Deep” on Friday at Spring Sing, with Pree singing and Griffin accompanying on the saxophone.

[Read More: Daily Bruin coverage of Spring Sing 2017]

Pree and Griffin met through a mutual friend at a party three years ago, where Griffin was performing with his band. They bonded over their mutual love for music and their shared East Coast origins. At our Kerckhoff patio table, Pree turned and punched Griffin in the arm, joking about how far away that day seemed.

Pree and Griffin have been involved in the arts since childhood, both having attended performing arts high schools. Growing up, Griffin participated in karate, West African dancing and a New Orleans-style brass band at a local community center in New Jersey. He told me that being involved in the performing arts helped him engage with his African culture more, as he was able to outwardly express pride in his heritage.

Although Griffin knows how to play other instruments such as the flute and the African drums, he said he gravitated to the saxophone because it emulates the human voice. The saxophone also gives him the freedom to play his own riffs during songs, helping to create his own sound.

Although he will only be playing the saxophone at Spring Sing, Griffin also makes his own music, raps and is preparing to release his debut EP titled “The Proclamation of Munir Griffin.” Leaning on the back of his chair, he told me that he gets inspired by the trap, hip-hop, jazz and R&B genres as well as artists such as J. Cole and Tupac.

Pree also became interested in the performing arts at a young age and began writing poetry in the second grade. As a kid, he tried to turn his poetry into music but didn’t initially sing because his brothers told him he wasn’t good at it. But at 11 years old, his aunt, who was the choir director at his church, encouraged him to pursue singing more.

Pree wrote “Deep,” the song he and Griffin will perform Friday. Originally from Washington, D.C., Pree wrote the song in response to his homesickness last year as a second year at UCLA.

“I can be still in these waters/ I know they run so deep/ I can be still in these waters,” he sings in the lyrics. In the song, water is a metaphor for life, in which there can be small ripples, which represent small life obstacles, or tsunamis, which represent difficult tragedies, he said.

Collaboration with Griffin came naturally – Pree let his duet partner come up with his own saxophone melodies to add to the song. The two spent hours trying new riffs and styles, figuring out the song’s structure together. Pree and Griffin also planned a small choreography set for the song, which includes moving around the stage and engaging the audience.

When Pree started singing “Deep” to me, Griffin began dancing playfully, moving his arms and harmonizing with him vocally. Griffin laughed and moved his waist side-to-side, and Pree smiled while rapping the lyrics. I nearly got up on my feet to dance along.

Although Pree and Griffin will present a serious message at Spring Sing, they will definitely have some fun while doing it.

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