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MAROON Series by Semilla Café + Studio in Hartford is generating a new scene of CT music artists

Semilla Café + Studio, a coffee shop located in Hartford, is giving Connecticut music artists a platform.

Walk through the doors of the café and you are instantly met with a relaxed and unique atmosphere. There's an eccentric green sofa and maroon painted walls, and the shop is filled with twenty-somethings reading, writing and creating, while the aroma of sweet and herbal drinks fill the air.

The store includes Afrocentric goods and art sprinkled throughout, bringing in a new sense of immersion. And hidden in the back is another eye-catcher: a vinyl record DJ booth that makes you do a double take as soft R&B plays throughout the store. It’s this booth that gives a hint to how the cafe comes alive after-hours each month with live music and people mingling.

Every month, the MAROON series offers a unique experience that features a new Connecticut artist who performs at Semilla Café + Studio. Attendees have the opportunity to perform and take part in jam sessions with the featured artists.

“I always like to say that the musicians take songs that are familiar and bring them into the unfamiliar," said Elijah Hilliman, co-owner and manager of Semilla Café. "The audience, along with the band mates, go on just a beautiful journey together.”

The MAROON Series team consists of Hilliman, along with series host , Dwayne Keith, Marketing and Communications of MAROON, Angel Dahfey, and member of the House band, Richard Kirby.

Hilliman and Keith were the initial spark in creating the series. Hilliman loved the idea of incorporating live music into his store and Keith wanted a place where he could play music and jam out with friends. But since then, the team has come together to use the MAROON Series as a way to build community.

Crowd for The Maroon Series fills Semilla cafe from front of house all the way to back of house as they watch the local jazz group Mixed Company perform.(Ayannah Brown/Connecticut Public)
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
Crowd for The Maroon Series fills Semilla cafe from front of house all the way to back of house as they watch the local jazz group Mixed Company perform.(Ayannah Brown/Connecticut Public)

“Something that I’m very passionate about is building spaces where community can grow because then other things can grow from that," Hilliman said. "Then we are ... talking about an ecosystem that can now support the arts and other things of that nature, in a city that struggles with it.”

While MAROON has previously featured local jazz, R&B, and soul musicians, as well as students from the University of Hartford, the choice to focus on this style of music is a conscious choice. In a post on instagram, the café chose to name the series MAROON after the African refugees that escaped slavery in the Americas and formed independent settlements were called Maroons. Maroon Music is a journey to reacquire their language through song.

After a year of putting on the music series, the impact of building a community has already started.

“I’ve been in Connecticut for a while, but most of my musical experience until the last year or so was mostly in the church and there’s so much talent among those church musicians, but MAROON really was my introduction to a larger music scene," Kriby said. "Just bringing my background and being able to see how I fit in, but also encouraging other musicians from other backgrounds to see where they fit in and see how we can collaborate and push each other to get better and to grow this community in Hartford has been very gratifying for me.”

The outlook on the concert series seems bright as more sessions continue to sell out. So what's next?

“We’re definitely starting to reach capacity with this space," Hilliman said. "So,'How do we also have this happen at Semilla, but also how do we grow it in other parts of the city as well?' is definitely a conversation that’s also a part of our vision.”

The concert series happens every third Thursday of the month. Attendees can watch from the audience or have the chance to perform and have their own jam sessions with the featured artists. They can also bring their own drinks and tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door.

You can catch the next MAROON Series concert on July 20 at 7 p.m.

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