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Performance Review: The musical movement of The Soul Motivators

The Toronto-based funk group brings their 'Do It Together' Summer Tour to Edmonton.

For the avid concert-goer, live music tends to have enduring effects on the body even after the show is over. Sore feet, muffled hearing, or racing thoughts are familiar experiences after the noise stops and the crowd begins to dissipate. However, none of these experiences seem to carry the same weight as a motivated soul.

This was the principal aim of funk group, The Soul Motivators, during their tour stop at SOHO in Edmonton on July 22.

“We’re on a mission right now to motivate as many souls as possible all over the world. To remind people of who they are, to wake people up into their greatness,” Shahi Teruko explained.

Teruko is the lead singer and zealous front-woman of the group. “It’s funk and soul music [and] it’s aggressively amazing.”

The show’s setlist incorporated a handful of selections from The Soul Motivators’ latest record Do It Together, released in March. Despite being a pandemic record, the sheer amount of energy bottled up into the collection of eight songs is enough to aptly describe the album as the gift that keeps on giving.

Starting off the show with a spunky yet innocent instrumental, the band opted to ease the audience into the experience. It wasn’t until this first song ended, when Teruko emerged from the shadows stage left, that The Soul Motivators both audibly and visually kicked their performance into high–gear.

Launching into “Raise a Glass,” the guitar-scratch driven opener on Do It Together, Teruko wasted no time jumping into her signature dance collection: a series of bounce steps, body rolls, and arm waves, commanding the audience’s attention with every move. Step one to soul motivation very clearly involved getting the audience moving.

The dance floor in front of the stage was starting to feel more crowded as James Robinson, The Soul Motivators’ keyboard player, began the opening bars of “Until The Sun Goes Down,” a deeper selection from the group’s discography. 

In the wake of the song’s promiscuous suggestions, Teruko took the opportunity to ask the crowd, “are you feeling hot and sweaty?” Indeed, one audience member took it upon themselves to step to the edge of the stage and fan Teruko using a hand-held fan.

Luckily, the heat didn’t stop the dance party from building into full swing. During a mash-up of “Coffy Is The Color” (Roy Ayers’ cover) and “Love Thing,” Teruko herself couldn’t help but join in on the dance floor. She interacted with the audience not through fleeting glances, but rather through one-on-one eye contact, one audience member at a time.  

“Energy will call me to sing a lyric to somebody and I’ll just sing to their face. I’m really proud to be a vessel of good will,” Teruko explained.

Naturally, words of wisdom were continually sprinkled beneath the group’s funk rhythms: “That positivity will clear your mind from strife,” Teruko sang on “Free To Believe.”

Still Waiting” was The Soul Motivators’ only real slow song, bringing the lively dance floor to an awkward sway. The slow-burning rhythm gave way to a fixating guitar solo by guitarist Voltaire Ramos.

This was just one of numerous moments throughout the show that spotlighted the excellent musicianship brought to the stage. Percussionist Nigel Pitt’s seasoned spectacle on the congas during “Black Rhino” is another honourable mention. 

The religious experience of The Soul Motivators came to fruition during the encore performance of The Williams Brothers’ “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” At this point in the show, Teruko’s pre-show prayer is of utmost importance:  “I need to call on God [and] divine intelligence so that I can give the people in front of me what they need.”

Teruko translated the energy cultivated in her prayer to the audience during a mid-song speech. She instructed the crowd to send the energy of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” hierarchically from the individual cells of the body to “anybody who’s up against something they don’t think they can win against.”

A palpable buzz in the room following the encore’s final notes indicated that The Soul Motivators had successfully accomplished their goal of motivating souls.

“I just hope that the energy of the show stays with people a little bit longer than the night, and just helps us all to be overall better humans,” Teruko shared. 

So while the crowd may have left with sore feet or a bass-induced headache, it was the reinvigorated spirit that had the most staying power.

Breezy Prochnau

Breezy is the 2023/24 Deputy Arts and Culture Editor. She's in the fifth year of her BSc in chemistry, minoring in philosophy. When she’s not working in the lab or writing papers, she enjoys surfing Spotify playlists to expand her eclectic music tastes or planning her next concert adventure.

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