With a citywide marketing campaign, and audiences growing weekly at Safari Joe’s H2O, Morgan Ganem is poised to take his mix of dance beats, rock sensibility, and Caribbean rhythms to the masses.
Could there be a hot new dance rock movement brewing in an unexpected and unlikely location? If you’ve spent an evening with the teen crowd at Safari Joe’s H2O this summer, you’ve likely witnessed what’s growing and ready to cross over to the club crowd.
Morgan Ganem is rolling hot off the May release of his CD, Paradise, and drawing continuously larger crowds with his weekly Tuesday night gig on the Safari Joe’s stage by the wave pool. According to his manager I.J. Ganem, Morgan’s weekly residency kicked off with successive shows at the end of last summer’s season, drawing roughly 300 in the first week, and doubling to 600, then 1,200 in successive weeks, before the season wrapped up.
“This year, Morgan kicked things off with nearly 2,000 teenagers at his stage by the end of the first night,” I.J. says. “It’s good, clean, family fun and he’s drawing a huge crowd.”
Granted, Tuesday evening is “Teen Night” at Safari Joe’s and the audience starts out as a few hundred in the early evening, but by the time the show wraps up around 10 p.m., Morgan has been playing to a huge audience.
In the midst of this, Morgan isn’t just drawing younger audiences, but has garnered the attention of local businesses. A new partnership is currently in the works with Arby’s, putting Morgan’s face in front of thousands of customers across the Tulsa metro area in a marketing campaign that will include table tents and coupons for both admission to Safari Joe’s and purchase of Morgan’s music.
Looking back, this isn’t anything new for Morgan, merely a part of his continual evolution as a musician. In 2008, he was starting to make a splash on the local music scene with his band Ganem that played a hard-hitting brand of arena rock. Unfortunately, the band hit at the latter end of that movement, as indie rock became the latest wave on the local music front.
Never one to be dormant, he continued to develop as a musician, delving into the DJ and EDM scene for a bit under the moniker Dr. Plasticine, before re-emerging under his own name with a one-man live show that mixes DJing, drum pads, and live vocals in a dance-rock format.
Having grown up around music, this is a natural path for Morgan. After all, his father and manager, I.J., was an original member of ‘60s rock band The Rogues Five, which opened for The Doors at one point, as well as a performer in Branson. Morgan formed his first band at the age of 8, never looking back.
“I’ve known this is what I want to do all of my life,” Morgan says. “It’s actually been a huge blessing, because most people don’t know what they want to do with their life. It’s largely because of my dad, but he’s never pushed it on me. He has been incredibly supportive from the very beginning.
“If I’m not learning and changing, it’s over. I get bored really easily and it’s good to change and develop. Yes, my music has changed and my image has changed, but my voice stays the same, and I think that’s what ties it all together. I’ve always liked to be up front, in the spotlight, and in the audience’s face, getting them to have fun with me. At my core, I’m the same performer, but now there’s no band. It’s just me.”
That shift has put Morgan in control of his career, free to develop in whatever direction the music leads him.
With Paradise, that means a mix of dance beats, rock sensibility, and Caribbean rhythms tying it all together thematically.
The disc opens with “Forever Young,” a soaring track that Morgan wrote as an anthem for last year’s Backwoods Festival (which is currently on hiatus this year, with plans to relocate to Mulberry Mountain next year). As a celebration of youth and freedom, it’s a perfect summer theme song for the teen and 20-something crowd that is currently embracing his music.
Even as he pushes in a new direction, Morgan’s love of classic rock still shines through, as he tips his hat to a couple of classics with dance remixes of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” Although both songs throb with dance beats and bubble with a Caribbean undertone, they also interweave the original melodies throughout. Morgan even managed to effectively fit samples of Collins’ iconic vocal swells and drum fills into the mix in order to keep the impact of the original, while breathing new life into the track.
Morgan continues to scratch his creative itch by remaining creative in the studio, doing vocal tracking for a number of EDM projects. As a top-line vocal artist, he has had a number of electronic artists send him their music, which he then writes lyrics and melodies and records the vocals for. This has resulted in Morgan’s vocals appearing on tracks in Malaysia, Spain, Mexico, and New York City as he has worked with a variety of artists, including EDM, DJ Icon and Tommie Sunshine.
As Morgan continues to push forward, his music will undoubtedly continue to evolve. Tying it all together, however, is a melodic sensibility that never leaves his side.
“I’ve never really liked heavy, aggressive, screaming stuff,” he says. “I’ve always been more drawn to vocal melodies, because people remember a melody. That’s what sticks in their head. That’s what I think really ties everything I do together. That and, for the most part, every song I’ve written has a positive message. Basically, I just want people to feel good, and I hope my music does that.”
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