S.O.U.L. Power unites arts community for youth outreach and music education 

Building Blocks

click to enlarge Cody Dixon (left), Wilton Brooks, and Julian Harrell have infiltrated Charleston with S.O.U.L. Power

Jonathon Stout

Cody Dixon (left), Wilton Brooks, and Julian Harrell have infiltrated Charleston with S.O.U.L. Power

The brainchild of local hip-hop artist and sound engineer Cody Dixon, S.O.U.L. (Sounds of Universal Love) Power Productions is an emerging nonprofit that focuses on giving opportunities to budding musicians in ways that also uplift the local community. Dixon says the organization aims to foster a stronger arts scene through a heavy focus on music education and youth outreach.

The title of S.O.U.L. Power's first major program is Building Blocks and, if successful, it will see Dixon leaving this side of the Atlantic for Senegal's capital city of Dakar. Once the $10,000 goal is met, Dixon will fly to the IQRA Bilingual Academy in Dakar, where he will spend the next month building a studio, teaching the kids the basics of music production, and recording their choir. "Not only is it building for an entirely different community, but it's also our startup of becoming a solidified nonprofit," says Dixon.

After that, the plan is to continue S.O.U.L. Power's work on the homefront. "This Building Blocks project is going to show what we're going to do in Charleston," he says. Some of the biggest parts of this undertaking that will transfer stateside are discounted recording sessions and music lessons in underprivileged areas.

Arts advocacy is obviously a huge part of S.O.U.L. Power, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that encroaching budget cuts to arts programs are on their radar. In fact, Dixon even cites budget cuts as one of his main reasons for developing the nonprofit. "It's kind of to prove that we can do without it," says Dixon. "Without [grant writing], we've raised close to half of what we need [for Building Blocks]just on the pure goodwill of people." It's a solid metaphor for their power-to-the-people ethos. They're looking to unite in big and small ways, and it doesn't take economic patronage to be a part of S.O.U.L. Power. Involvement can be as easy as going to a show or two.

Many local businesses have shown support and donated to the organization, helping filter money to programs like Building Blocks and future education projects. S.O.U.L. has recently collaborated with Redux Contemporary Art Center, Charleston Music Hall director Charles Carmody, and Swamp Sessions creator Danielle Howle, the latter of whom is also a S.O.U.L. Power board member. "All that money that we're making is being used and returned for other things," says board member Oleg Terentiev. "It's going back into the community that we're living in," Dixon adds.

Many of the group's board members, including Dixon (who is one-half of hip-hop duo Speakerbox), Terentiev (Ka-Tet), and Julian Harrell (a.k.a. Abstract), are musicians. As the three of them all mentioned to City Paper, they know the struggle of starting out, and how exclusivity and lack of venue support exacerbate all of those trials. That's why part of S.O.U.L. Power's mission is to introduce artists to venues and to keep the community thriving through music-fueled events. Other core board members include Awendaw Green's Eddie White and local Black Lives Matter leader Muhiyidin d'Baha.

One of the best examples of their pragmatic ways of supporting local business is their headquarters' next door neighbor Eastside Soul Food. While its primary focus is music, S.O.U.L. Power is vocal about involving local art galleries, community centers, and restaurants. In the case of Eastside, the nonprofit hosts percent nights there that benefit the organization while also spreading the S.O.U.L. Power gospel.

Wilton Brooks of Eastside Soul Food jumped at the opportunity to work with Dixon and company. "When Cody presented the idea to me, I felt like it was something I really wanted to be a part of," says Brooks, when referencing the future education programs. "They're helping kids. They're trying to teach music, they're trying to get instruments, they're trying to take it above and beyond what most people are really trying to do."

As far as Harrell sees it, it's mutually beneficial to be involved in communal organizations like S.O.U.L. Power. "Once you engage with us, we'll build with you," says Harrell. "It's just a lot of love, a lot of soul, and a lot of community."

This weekend you can celebrate Soul Power aboard The Magic Soul Bus. Sponsored by the Royal American, Palmetto Brewery, Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer, The Purple Buffalo, and the Beat Lab, the bus allows folks an opportunity to be a part of the release of Cody Dixon's, a.k.a. Soul Power Slim's, upcoming album Soul Power on a funk-filled tour of important spots in the Charleston music scene. Pick up is at Marion Square at 4:45 p.m. on Fri. May 26. Drop off is either back at the square or the Beat Lab, which is where part two of the Soul Power eve kicks off. The Beat Lab is a house show downtown with Hannah Kinard, Anfernee, and Abstract That Rapper. Tickets to the Magic Soul Bus are $20 a pop and can be purchased here.

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