One problem with hiphop here in Portland is that while it often sounds great recorded, it can really suck live. This is largely due to the motley nature of the scene here--there might be one awesome MC, or one awesome DJ, but they often work alone and therefore, perform alone. I can't tell you how many times I've watched one dude on stage, rapping to a prerecorded DJ, or even (gasp) over his own words.

This is just one of the thousands of differences which sets QuiVaH, Portland's seven-part group, apart from a lot of the local pack. Recorded, they're seven people, and live they're also seven people, which makes their sound not only just as good live as it is recorded, but gives it potential to be even better.

QuiVaH likes to call themselves "a new kind of hiphop"--a vague term, but one that is actually pretty descriptive, considering the way their music resists categories. "If Billboard had to rank us, they'd probably put us under hiphop," says Charles, the drummer and producer of the group, "but we don't like to say we're any kind of music." The truth is, while the drumming and presence of two MCs does ground the music in the hiphop category, four of the seven members of the group have music degrees in classical music. Pablo, who plays bass, traveled with a ska band in Salt Lake City before he played with QuiVaH. ("There isn't a lot of hiphop in Salt Lake City," he explains.) Likewise, Brett, who plays percussion and synthesizer, teaches music at Lewis and Clark College, and has a degree in classical music from Yale.

All in all, the music brings in a lot of jazz, soul, and funk, but what really defines QuiVaH is a polished sound that is layered with depth and sophistication--these guys met as professional musicians, and everyone in the group has been through less organized, less tight groups before they came to QuiVaH.

After three years of playing around Portland, the group has produced a CD that they are all incredibly proud of, and was recorded at Charles' own production studio, East 2 West productions. "I've recorded other stuff, and I've never been this proud," says Pablo. "I can't find anything wrong with this CD." Neither can I.


QuiVaH's Unique Hiphop by Katia Dunn