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Shai: Howard alumni sizzle.

It's everyone's dream to be successful. And in most cases, with proper preparation and hard work success can be had. But immediate and overwhelming achievement is a bit trickier. For that condition allowing achievement to occur, numerous intangible elements must come together--both at the right time and in the right place.

Some people call this luck; others call it being blessed.

But whatever it's called, most will agree that an overnight sensation is rare. And when it happens to a person, or group of people, it promises a roller coaster ride to fame and fortune. That very thrill, and excitement, is just what's being experienced by the hot young recording group known as Shai.

Made up of college students, still a rarity for performers in show business, Shai is a quartet of Howard University-educated gentlemen riding the crest of national celebrity. Shai's debut album on the Gasoline Alley/MCA recording label is titled If I Ever Fall In Love, and it has stormed the music world with a vengeance. Within one month after the album's release, Shai had already sold more than one million units, achieving "platinum" status by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

In celebration of their success, Shai was invited to be one of the select performers during the opening ceremonies of President Bill Clinton's inaugural celebrations in Washington, DC. Shai played to an estimated 500,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

More than just another recording act, Shai has made an immediate mark on the music business by demonstrating unique singing talent. A prime example of their talents is their top-five a cappella hit single "If I Ever Fall In Love." Rich in harmonies and romantic lyric, Shai is the result of four young men's dreams forged in study, preparation, and commitment.

"I don't like to do anything half way," remarks Carl "Groove" Martin, producer and member of the group. "We were in school at the time we decided to form Shai. Once the decision was made we went all out to make it happen."

The four members of Shai are Carl Martin, 24, who hails from Lafayette, Louisiana; Marc Gay, 24, from Miami; Darnell Van Rensailier, 22, from New Jersey; and Garfield A. Bright, 23, from Boston. Each came to Howard to study for his own reasons, and perhaps it was that very diversity which made the group into such a sold unit.

"It was a challenge to bring people with such diverse backgrounds together to work as a team," says Gay. "English, science, music, and political science were our majors in school, and we were all very different when we first arrived. But the one thing that bound us was our incredible love for music."

Music and their studies were not the only thing the group had on their agenda while in school, Martin shares. "Darnell, Mark, and I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. I think being a part of that organization helped prepare us for the tough times we had ahead with regard to our quest to break into the music business. Being an Alpha helped build discipline and team work, two things that have helped us get where we wanted to be."

Miracles don't happen in show business, according to most of the veterans who have made it. You have to make your own luck. And Shai must have been listening, because it seems they made the right moves to get their dream shot.

"What we did was come together and make a plan for success," says Martin. "First and foremost, we worked on developing our voices. We also began songwriting seriously and expanded our contacts in the music world.

"In order to learn all the players in the business, every week we would buy a copy of Billboard magazine. That gave us the 411 on who was who and what was happening in the industry. We also did library research to find out what recording labels were out there and what types of groups they were signing."

Methodically, the foursome trudged forward in their fledgling music careers, making contact after contact--and speaking thoughtfully and intelligently when challenged. "We knew that in order for us to be taken seriously, we had to have a certain level of understanding of the entertainment business," explains Van Rensalier. "The blend that we've developed after such a short period of time is, I think, remarkable. All of us are very advanced as musicians and we love what we are doing."

But despite the research and preparation the group was involved in, it was still rough going to get record executives to take the group seriously. "When we thought we were ready, we went to New York to meet with a few record labels," comments Bright. "They ended up turning us down, so we decided to take destiny into our own hands."

With funds nearly exhausted from their cross-country jaunts to record label meetings, Martin took his last $100 to book studio time and the group produced a demo tape of the song "If I Ever Fall In Love." Once finished, the team began to shop the tape around the local radio stations and eventually received airplay. The response was so great that other stations around the country got wind of the hot new single from the unsigned group and requested copies. That convinced the recording labels that the group was serious and the bidding began.

With the incredible success Shai has experienced so quickly, there's little room for personal time. "We're not complaining, but because everything has come to us so fast, there's not been a lot of time to just stand still and soak everything in," concludes Martin.

"Already we're working on developing our concert act, which promises to be filled with drama on the stage. We're producing the videos that go with them. And by the beginning of summer, we hope to be working on our next album. There's a lot ahead for us, but then that's why we're here and we're ready."

J.R. Reynolds is managing editor of Black Radio Exclusive (BRE).
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Title Annotation:music group from Howard University
Author:Reynolds, J.R.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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