Ethnic Detour’s diverse group brings variety to its music

Emerson Blais, staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2005 12:00 am

Walking into the She-Sha Cafe & Hookah Lounge is like entering Constantinople. The first impression is one of a crowded, chaotic, but comfortable cacophony. After making it past the initial wall of indiscernible smoke at the doorway, strawberry, apple and grape tobacco blends drag nostrils toward comfortable seating and board games.

Some people hang out at the lounge to throw down at backgammon or do homework, while others enjoy simply puffing on pipes and listening to great local music.

With more and more rain-soaked socialites pouring into the room every minute, Blacksburg?s own Ethnic Detour took the stage last Thursday night as the line for smoking instruments snaked out of control.

Dave Arditi (drums), Gjergji Theka (guitar) and Cameron McLaughlin (bass) have been exploring music together for years. Meeting through the jazz program at Virginia Tech, the trio originally called themselves Vitamin Ph. After touring the fraternity circuit playing fast paced party tunes, the guys decided to ditch drunken mediocrity and further develop their skills as musicians.

Returning to jazzy roots provided band members with an opportunity to strengthen technical aspects of playing, but also helped cultivate the more intangible facets of creating a personal sound. Hungry to incorporate different styles into their own, the band glanced at hip-hop and, molding their name along with their music, decided to call themselves 2nd Nature.

You might remember 2nd Nature’s political rap groove from a 2004 performance as opening act for Ludacris in Burruss Hall. They were awarded the spot after dominating Battle of the Bands earlier in the year.

Despite gaining significant publicity and popularity, as well as recording a demo, the three were still not satisfied. Struggling with identity issues from trying to infuse so many different brands of popular music at once, Arditi, Theka, and McLaughlin looked to what they knew best: instrumentals.

Changing their name and attitude towards composition one final time, the guys of Ethnic Detour finally found a niche ? or lack thereof. “We were looking for something that better represented us as a band,” McLaughlin said about the group?s current name and outlook. “We (the band) have so many different influences,” Arditi added. Embracing the diversity of their membership, the band has done away with lyrical expression. Instead, their instruments speak a universal language of chords and beats that everyone from Albania to Zimbabwe can understand.

Hailing from the Adriatic republic, Theka has written melodies for a number of the band?s most recent recordings including “Nato Jenkins” and “Buttah Jam.” A current Tech student, Theka has studied many different subjects at the university, but has decided to pursue music professionally.

By introducing his fellow band members to unique Albanian sounds, fans have been able to jam out to music unlike any other in Blacksburg. “He’s an oddity all in himself,” McLaughlin said of Theka.

Ethnic Detour’s ability to form its own distinctive personality while drawing from various creative outlets seems to be its most fascinating feature.

An Albanian guitarist isn’t their only source of creativity, however. McLaughlin integrates ideas from the five other bands he happens to play with in his free time. Rocking with well-knowns like the Richard Jesse Project and Shotgun Wedding, McLaughlin understands Blacksburg music as well as anybody.

“I try to cater to everybody,” he said.

Not only do the members of the band attend to their fans, they also stay true to the investigative form of musical transcendence that had them interested in the first place.

Watching Arditi take hookah rips without missing a beat was hilarious. The set smoothly transitioned from provocative coffee house jams to sort of Caribbean-themed tangents to music Dolemite hears in his head while walking down the sidewalk and straight into a street fight.

“Their music makes me feel like even I can shake a leg,” said psychology major David Feigal.

Moving around a couple of tables to accommodate energized dancers, the message was clear: you don’t need lyrics to communicate. Check these guys out at More Than Coffee tonight and every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.