The original Zulu Spear guitarist-singer Ron Van Leeuwaarde celebrates his 60th birthday with a benefit for Ashkenaz, leading his Ron Van. & the Family Jam Band that includes members of his two main groups, Zulu Spear and Caribbean Allstars, with other musical guests joining in. They play a mix of high-spirited African and Caribbean dance music.
Van Leeuwaarde has graced the Ashkenaz stage since moving to the Bay Area in 1982. It is where he met many of his continuing musical partners as well as his wife, Emily Earl (Ashkenaz board member and café manager). Van Leeuwaarde explains, “Emily and I were thinking about how to celebrate my 60th trip around the Sun and decided that Ashkenaz would be the ideal place to include my friends, musical family and the community. Making it a benefit for Ashkenaz is a way of helping repay a debt of gratitude to David Nadel’s legacy and for the role it has played over the years in many lives.”
Van Leeuwaarde’s career goes beyond Zulu Spear and Caribbean Allstars to encompass many world music bands over the past 34 years. Upon his arrival in the Bay Area (he was born in Suriname, then known as Dutch Guiana, and grew up in Chicago), he heard of Ashkenaz as a place that showcased reggae and world music. “I soon played there in my first Bay Area gig with Ann Earthling and the Planets that included drummer Jefferson Voorhees from Hot Links and The Natives. He introduced me to Mapenzi and later to Zulu Spear at both bands’ formations. We also played together in the Sidewinders. Meanwhile, another friend had introduced me to Sweetfoot of Caribbean Allstars. I guess it was my fate to become members of these bands as well as Kotoja early on, and part of the Ashkenaz scene ever since.”