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6 hours of Stevie, a Wonder-full tribute indeed

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Stevie Wonder himself takes the microphone alongside DJ Bobbito at a WONDER-Full event.

The schedule for the afternoon DJ set is the first indication that this is no ordinary poolside party. It starts with a question-and-answer session with the two DJs, New York-based Spinna and Bobbito. Then, at 2 p.m. the performance begins at the Palazzo’s Azure pool. At 8 p.m. it’s over, and in between it’s six hours straight of music, all of it from Stevie Wonder.

WONDER-Full, a DJ tribute to Stevie Wonder was created in 1999 on New York City’s Lower East Side when DJ Spinna (born Vincent Williams) put together a show honoring Wonder’s 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life.

“It was the biggest turnout the venue had ever seen,” recalls event co-creator and producer Keita P. Williams.

The show spawned a larger tribute, called WONDER-Full, which mines Wonder’s entire collection and has spent the last decade traveling the country and the world. It’s played the Hammerstein Ballroom in N.Y., made stops in L.A. and set up in Japan, London and Amsterdam.

“He’s major in Japan,” Williams laughs. “They speak the language of music, and the lyrics – they were singing along.”

DJ Spinna works the turntables with Stevie Wonder nearby at a past WONDER-Full event.

Calendar

WONDER-Full
Aug. 14, 2-8 p.m., Q&A at 1:45 p.m.
$20 in advance, $30 at the door
Azure Pool at the Palazzo
607-1218.

Six hours may sound like a long time to hear music from any one artist, but Williams assures that the alternating sets from Spinna and Bobbito (born Robert García) are anything but repetitive.

“It’s all Stevie Wonder – rare albums, rare cuts, covers, remixes,” she explains. “You’re being educated about Stevie’s catalogue of music, [including tracks] that he’s recorded with other artists, samples, a lot of hip-hop samples. You have to have a great ear to know that it’s Stevie’s music.”

Of course, there’s one man who would likely recognize every track – Stevie Wonder. Last year the 59-year-old singer-songwriter actually showed up at a WONDER-Full event and performed for the enthusiastic crowd and equally surprised DJs.

“It was mayhem,” Williams recounts. “The seas parted – the seas of people from the back as he was walking in. The DJs were all the way up on stage not knowing what was happening until he got closer. They lost their minds.”

Keeping Wonder fresh in people’s minds is ultimately what the entire production is about; that and paying tribute to an artist who helped shaped R&B and soul into what they are today.

“If your name is not in the lights, no one knows you,” Williams laments. It’s important, she adds, “to honor all great artists not only when they’re gone but when they’re here, too.”

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