The Umbrella Collective

Music Arcade by Dennis Ellsworth

The Umbrella Collective

“The Concept of World Music Is Not It”—Siddu

The Umbrella Collective formed in 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The band formed around lyricist and MC, Charles Ruth. As a result of the imposed circuit breakers during the band’s early days, they almost called themselves C. Ruth and the Setbacks. 

The Umbrella Collective is made up of Tamara Steele (bass, vocals), Mark Steele (guitar), Jonathan Holmes (drums), (Siddu) Siddhu Sachidananda (keys, samplers, vocals, producer), Loic Niyonsenga (lyricist, MC), and Charles Ruth (lyricist, MC). The band’s name was inspired by a meaningful and beautiful photograph of Charles Ruth’s late mother holding an umbrella. 

Geographically, there is an intercontinental element to this band. Jon, Tamara and Mark are all from PEI, while Loic is from Rwanda, Charles is from Nigeria, and Siddhu is from India. The youngest member of the band is 24 and the oldest is 48. This all makes for a very fine blend of influences—culturally and musically.

Up front, they are a live rap, hip-hop group, but there are many layers to The Umbrella Collective’s sound. They are pulling from and weaving jazz, reggae, R&B, metal, funk, and traces of psychedelic music. It feels very good and this band feels very much like a family. 

Siddu is the sonic guide, producer, and driving force behind their debut, 2024 ECMA nominated album, Welcome to Studio UC!. However, everyone feels like a very important piece to the sound. Welcome to Studio UC! was self-recorded at their home base in Sherwood, during the summer of 2023. It was mixed and mastered in Vancouver by a collaborator of Sid’s named Joshua Eastman. 

The recording sessions were experimental and relaxed, and were happening at all hours of the day and night, with whomever was available, hanging around or scheduled to be there. They set a loose deadline, settled in and dedicated themselves to a creative process. 

The songs were written/created in the studio setting by building up seeds or ideas until the songs felt right. Once the album was completed, they had to learn how to perform these songs live.

A lot of the drum tracks were built by Siddu by chopping up the parts Jon was capturing in the room. Sometimes he would record drum ideas for two hours until he felt like he found what he was looking for. A very interesting process for sure, and to some, maybe somewhat backwards, but regardless of the process the band produced a record that feels world class. It feels alive. There is big spirit.

The Umbrella Collective will be busy this summer, as they head west to play the Vancouver Island Music Festival in mid-July, and the Calgary Folk Fest in late July. This spring, you can see them perform at ECMA’s Around the World Showcase at John Brown’s in Charlottetown on May 4th. 

At the moment, they are fine tuning plans to record a live album. They have also started collecting ideas for whatever studio recording project lies ahead, but they recognize there is a spark to Welcome to Studio UC! and they don’t want to brush it off prematurely. There’s no hurry, this band is working on a journey.

The Buzz welcomes veteran PEI musician, singer and songwriter Dennis Ellsworth to our roster of columnists.