Tower of Power rightfully lives up to their name by staying uncompromisingly true to their music.

In close to 4 decades, the 10-men soul and R&B group based in Oakland, California has released an astonishing 19 albums, had the privilege of opening for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, toured with Santana, Quincy Jones and the Crusaders and jammed with Bruce Springsteen and Huey Lewis (just to name a few). But what’s made them a profound success is their distinctive style of rhythm.

At a press conference held at the Esplanade on Mar 9, UrbanWire got to meet some of the talented rhythm meisters participating in this year’s Mosaic Music Festival.

“There were times in our career where we actually tried to sound like other bands, but we could never do it,” founder and leader, Emilio Castillo explained. “7 years back we thought of it as a curse, but we grew and realised that it was a blessing.”

Latest edition to the group, lead singer Larry Braggs also explained his feelings about the uniqueness of the sound of Tower of Power, “I’ve been in probably 100 bands in my lifetime but once I joined Tower of Power it opened me up to a whole lot of other things that comes to[with] being a musician.” He added, “Hopefully I can do a great job like what they’ve been doing for the past 39 years and we’re going to try doing it for another 39 years if we still can.”

They’ve grown old together, been through the ups ‘n downs with each other, so it’s no wonder they have a special kinship. When bass player Rocco Prestia was away from the band due to medical reasons, Castillo admitted that it was an awakening for the group. The band was forced to hire a replacement, however, as Castillo recollects, “It was by no way like having him here.” He added, “It was a good experience for us to realise how important he is to the sound of Tower of Power,” as he turned to Prestia and they shared a mutual smile of agreement.

But what exactly makes Tower of Power, Tower of Power?

“I remembered Tom Bowers, former singer in the band, once said that Tower of Power could sing the phonebook and it would sound like Tower of Power,” Castillo chuckled.

The rhythm of the music, the dynamic tempos and the personalities of the artistes shine through the cleverly constructed architectural melody. And far from being trapped in an over-commercialised prison, the group doesn’t just make music to make bucks; they’re making music because to them it’s not a job, but something they do for themselves.

“We don’t think of who we write for. We just make music that we like and if we think it works, then other people will think it works as well,” insists Castillo. After releasing 24 albums and selling over a million records, he has a point there.

If you’ve missed their performance at this year’s Mosaic Music Festival, on Mar 10 at the Concert Hall of the Esplanade, you might want to get your hands on a compilation of some of their greatest hits, including the quintessential Tower of Power track “What is Hip”. The 2001 album entitled The Very Best of Tower of Power: The Warner Years CD, is available at Gramophone outlets at $19.95.

For more information about the band, please visit

First photo courtesy of the Esplanade.