By Vanessa Miali | CNA Media Team
He is a fixture in Concordia. You’ve likely seen him playing his cello outside of New Seasons, at the Portland Saturday Market or at any number of other local festivals or farmers markets.
Martin Watkinson has played the cello since he was 5 and, if you haven’t heard his music, you’re missing out on a unique, alternative sound.
”I channel positive energy from spirit and release it through looping cello psychedelically,” he said.
Martin played classical cello his entire childhood, then dabbled in folk music and ska, a predecessor of reggae, and now wraps it all into what he calls ethereal layers.
There is also a layer of love entwined throughout his music – a love of mother earth, a love for living in unity with all things, and a deep and everlasting love for his wife and bandmate Cherita Meadows.
She describes their meeting at a party as divine intervention. In no time they were playing free-style music together. “It was magical,” Cherita said. “I was already in love with him.” She has a soulful voice that complements his cello perfectly. She also plays a box drum called the cajon. Early inspiration came from her childhood mentor and friend, musician and activist Ani DiFranco.
Shortly thereafter Martin, Cherita and Jackson Coffee formed their band GAEA, and their song “Ready for Love” was created from that first meeting. They’ve since produced three records, the most recent to drop next autumn, “Phoenix.”
They pride themselves in having full creative control and working on a donation-based system for music distribution. That allows everyone access to their distinctive music.
There have been many successes for GAEA beyond the album releases. Martin performs background music and two original songs for the movie “Seed: The Untold Story.”
He also plays throughout Macy Gray’s song “Stoned” and a few other tunes on her album “The Way.” Together, Martin, and Cherita create infectious beats and uplifting melodies that sometimes move their crowds to tears. But life hasn’t been easy.
Two and one-half years ago, their rental house caught fire. Martin, trapped inside, nearly died. He now suffers from extreme lung tissue damage, which acts up in harsh pollution and has left him susceptible to infections.
The fire claimed their pets, $20,000 worth of musical equipment and all of their personal memorabilia. The financial devastation of the fire has also left them homeless, and they work tirelessly to make ends meet.
Vanessa Miali has lived in Concordia for 18 years. She is a former public relations professional with two kids who cooks every day and gardens occasionally.