Montana Public Radio

American Patchwork Quartet Weave Modern Immigrant Dreams Into Songs

Mar 2, 2021

In 2020, singer Falu Shah, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, drummer Clarence Penn and guitarist & vocalist Clay Ross teamed up to form American Patchwork Quartet. They're on a mission to reclaim the immigrant soul of American roots music, interpreting timeless songs through a 21st century lens.

It's not an accident that the four members of the group, each with a thriving solo career, came together to start reinterpreting American roots music.  The quartet's goal is purposeful: to unleash music's magic to help counteract pervasive prejudices around immigration and race. American Patchwork Quartet consists of an eleventh-generation classical Hindustani musician, a drumming protégée of the late Ellis Marsalis, a first-call Issei jazz bassist, and a co-founder of Ranky Tanky, a Grammy-winning group inspired by the Gullah musical culture of the Carolina coast.

“America has a patchwork culture made of the dreams and songs of all its people.” - Alan Lomax.

John Floridis caught up with Ross and Shah by phone in July 2020.

(Broadcast: Musician's Spotlight, 3/2/21. Listen on the radio Tuesdays, 7 p.m., or via podcast.)