Produced by Kate McDonald & Ryan Klabunde

 

Stokley Williams grew up in Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood and was first drawn to the drums at 2 years old. In the middle of the night, he had grabbed antique bongos hanging from the wall of his apartment and started beating rhythms. They woke Stokley’s father Mahmoud El-Kati, a scholar, educator and writer of African American history and literature. He recognized his toddler had talent and got him involved with an African drum and dance troupe. Stokley first performed with the troupe at age 3.

“I think drums are really important to me because it’s the heartbeat, we all have a drum inside us.”

Stokley and his Saint Paul Central High School friends formed the band Mint Condition. Discovered by music producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1989 and later mentored by Prince, Mint was more than the Minneapolis Sound. African drumming and Latin jazz influenced their R&B ballads. Grammy-nominated Mint Condition produced hits including Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes) that landed on the Billboard charts. With Stokley as the lead singer and drummer, Mint Condition has performed, recorded and toured for more than 30 years.

Beloved by his hometown, Stokley sought to debut a new body of solo work exploring new sounds in Saint Paul, and to celebrate the community that nurtured him. His “village cousin” Robin Hickman, CEO of SoulTouch Productions and Organizational Strategist at The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, works to bring communities of color to engage at The Ordway through a partnership initiative called Taking Our Place Centerstage.

Stokley and so many in his family and in his African American community grew up hearing Robin’s mother affirm that centerstage is their rightful place. In December 2017, embraced by the sold-out crowd, Stokley put on an electrifying performance at The Ordway, launching the release of his first solo album Introducing Stokley and his Sonic Healer tour.

More about Stokley

Special Thanks

Robin Hickman and SoulTouch Productions, The Ordway, Andy Luft and the IATSE Local 13 Crew

Credits

Producers: Kate McDonald and Ryan Klabunde

Cameras: Jack Davis and Mark Hentges

Field Audio: Eric Pagel and David Canada

Post Audio: Joe Demko and Terry Gray

Colorist: Ezra Gold

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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.