Sustunes brings music charged with meaning to St. Paul campus

This Friday, the U’s Institute on the Environment presents its annual night of music, art and sustainability.

City Love preforms at the second-annual SusTunes concert in the Learning and Environmental Science building on St. Paul campus on Dec. 2, 2016.

Courtesy of Dustin Carlson

City Love preforms at the second-annual SusTunes concert in the Learning and Environmental Science building on St. Paul campus on Dec. 2, 2016.

Liv Martin

In lieu of the familiar three R’s, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” this year’s Sustunes has a different take on sustainability: “resilience, rise, revive.” 

On Friday, The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment will present its fourth annual “Sustunes:” a celebration of sustainability, student groups, student art and food, as well as a free concert.

Three local acts — Tufawon, Henry James Patterson and Basses Wild — will take the stage on Friday night. Each ensemble has been tasked with interpreting a given word. 

The word “resilience” was a perfect fit for Minneapolis hip hop artist and activist Tufawon, who recently returned from headlining his very own European tour, coincidentally named “Resilience.” 

Tufawon, who identifies as both Dakota and Boricua, has fought the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock and spoken at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, according to his Facebook page. Additionally, his page states he still finds time to produce music that delves into his personal struggles, spirituality and connectedness to the land and the realities of the world.

“With a socially aware approach, [Tufawon] touches on topics such as Indigenous resiliency, politics, health, defending Mother Earth and fighting against oppressive systems,” according to the artist’s Facebook page. 

The second act, Henry James Patterson, is a Sustunes veteran — he also performed at last year’s concert. 

Patterson, an emerging solo musician and former University student, is tasked with interpreting the word “rise.” 

“I’m probably going to do some songs about rising up in the name of justice. I might even throw in an anti-war song or protest song,” he said.

For Patterson, playing Sustunes is a different, unique experience. “There’s not really many shows where I’m directed to play to a specific theme. But I think the theme is good because sustainability in our world is important and it’s important to me.” 

A self-proclaimed tree-hugger and “mother nature nerd,” the singer-songwriter said growing up in Red Wing, Minnesota made him more conscious of the environment. 

“It’s a lot more scenic and there’s a lot more nature spaces than the city. It’s just out in the country. I’ve been around a lot of that and I’ve done a lot of reading about climate change, so I want to do what I can to support the good cause of keeping our planet intact,” said Patterson. 

The University’s all-male a capella group, Basses Wild, will also be singing for the cause Friday night. Their word is “revive.” 

“We want to deliver a high-energy performance. If we entertain people and make them have a good time — which is what we always try to do at our performances — they’ll have a better experience at the event and be more receptive to the message,” said Jacob Nelson, Basses Wild’s music director and junior chemical engineering major. 

Basses Wild is planning to revive the Backstreet Boys by singing a medley of the band’s songs. 

The a cappella group will also sing an arrangement of the energetic tune “Start a Fire” by Unspoken.  

“I’m hoping it’s not too ironic of a name, with [the recent] wildfires or anything like that, because the song is more about starting a fire energy-wise, and becoming motivated to do something,” said Nelson. 

What: Fourth annual “Sustunes” 

When: Friday, 6 to 9 p.m. 

Where: Learning and Environmental Sciences Building Atrium, 1954 Buford Ave., St. Paul

Cost: Free