Henna Roso pioneers food drive concert concept

Music enhances lives and brings people together. When Norman music scene staples Taylor Graham and Justin Dupuis hatched the concept for Henna Roso in 2015, they did so with the idea that they could take that a step further.

If music had such a powerful effect on its own, what could it achieve when combined with a cause?

The jazz-funk ensemble made its debut at Easter Island Festival in April in Keatona with a food drive, raising enough to provide more than 1,000 meals.

They were off and running and have since raised money and gathered food for hundreds more.

Maybe music can’t save the world, but Graham said this project is different and is already making a difference.

“I wanted to do something right, right from the start,” Graham said. “It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s still in the early stages, but we feel like we’re ahead of the curve a little bit, because we’ve been doing everything the right way from the beginning.”

A year in the making, Graham said that was his vision all along: To make every show a food drive, to start a band dedicated to fighting hunger and food insecurity.

“We just thought it was something we could make a dent in right away. There are a lot of causes that need help, but with food, we thought we could get people involved directly. So, instead of paying money, we thought people could bring food items,” Graham said.

On its face, the band has a unique style. Graham’s funk and roots-oriented bass lines mesh with Dupuis’ jazz chord mastery to form something remarkable in its own right. But it’s what they’re doing off stage that makes it truly extraordinary.

Graham said the band has acquired 501c status. He said it’s not the only band going that route, but it’s rare.

“I think it’s something that sticks more with people,” Graham said. “Instead of just seeing a band, people get involved. We can’t fix this overnight, but we can bring food insecurity to people’s attention. One in six Americans can be classified as food insecure. It was shocking to me when I learned that. I want to do what I can to change it.”

The band encourages audience members to bring 10 non-perishable food items to the show to donate in lieu of a cover charge. For those who pay to get in, Henna Roso donates 10 percent of all earnings to local food banks.

“Basically, every show is a food drive. Instead of bringing money for entry, people can bring food,” Graham said. “We then take the food to a local food bank like the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma or the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma (Tulsa). It depends on where we’re playing, but it’s all going to people who need it.”

The band will perform at 10 tonight at The Deli in Norman. When the show kicks off, Dupuis said Henna Roso will take the stage with a mission.

“Obviously, music is a special thing that connects people, but now it has a whole other factor to it,” Dupuis said. “The pressure’s on. We have to keep the music as good as the message. We have to play hard and keep the food coming.”

Mack Burke



Follow me @mackburke4