During the day, Umoja McNeish is a freshman Miami Dade College student studying music business/creative production.
However, once Umoja leaves campus, he and his older brother, Malcolm McNeish, continue their intertwined journey as the Sons of Mystro, a pair of violin virtuoso brothers who play in live performances.
Born to a Jamaican father and Bajan mother, Umoja and Malcolm are two of four children in their family. They were raised in Broward County. Umoja said it was an ideal childhood.
“It was good. We had both our parents all of our lives raising us and taking care of us,” Malcolm said.
Music has always been a staple of the pair’s family. Their father performed at clubs as DJ Mystro. He played in New York, California, and other states during the 70’s, all the way up until the late 90’s.
However, the journey that lead the violin virtuosos to become the Sons of Mystro started when Malcolm was enrolled at Bethune Elementary, a magnet school located in Hollywood, FL. He gained interest in music at the time, but was pushed toward the violin by his 3rd grade teacher.
“My teacher told me: ‘if you play the violin in my class, you can go to Disney World’,” Malcolm said. “I ended up not going to Disney World until my [sophomore] year of high school.”
After Malcolm took up the violin, Umoja wanted to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and decided to take up a violin as well.
“After he started playing, I just started playing because I wanted to follow my brother,” Umoja said. “I thought: ‘Oh, maybe we will begin to play together one day’.”
The potential for the duo to accomplish extraordinary things wasn’t realized until Umoja participated in his middle school talent show, where he and two other people performed hip-hop songs. Their father realized the duo’s talent that night.
“Something snapped in his head that day,” Umoja said. “ He saw the potential in what we could do and he wanted to form a group.”
The duo’s father orchestrated the creation of the group, also inspiring their name “Sons of Mystro.” It was a way to carry on the family legacy of music, since he went by DJ Mystro in his early years.
Just like any artist with aspirations and big dreams, the group’s road to success started off slow and rocky.
They took any gig that came their way, even if it meant performing for free, as long as they got to spread their music and their name. Initially the group played mostly reggae and caribbean-influenced music, since their father had connections on that side of the music business from his days as a club DJ.
As both Umoja and Malcolm started gaining traction in their career, the rest of the family began to realize their potential. At that point, one of the other brothers, Handel McNeish, stepped in to take care of the business side of things.
“He learned how to rap. He researched about business. He’s been like our recon guy trying to get things popping for us,” Umoja said.
The group’s first big performance came in January of 2012, when they played as part of the pre-game introductions for the Miami Heat in a game versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since then they have performed at various places such as Calle Ocho, the Jazz in the Gardens music festival, and Jamaican Jerk Festival in New York.
They have also opened up for and performed with prominent musical figures such as reggae artists Marcia Griffiths and John Holt, Latin artist Tito Puente Jr, American singer Fantasia, etc. The duo even opened for American rapper Common in a concert in Indiana.
At one point, Malcolm and Umoja performed at a party hosted by Scott Disick from the reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. They also made an appearance on an episode of the show.
Despite their success, the tandem agrees that one of the most surreal experiences for them was collaborating with Black Violin, an American hip-hop group that primarily plays the violin as well. Black Violin was a major source of inspiration and influence for the Sons of Mystro during their infancy.
“We got to play in this one part, it was difficult, our arms were tired, but it was the dream right there,” Umoja said referring to being in a music video for Black Violin. “It was the dream right there accomplished, which I had since I was eight years old.”
Currently, the Sons of Mystro perform about two to four shows a week, with the luxury to pick-and-choose where they’ll perform. Now they can count on paychecks for their performances to help support their dream.
Their work mainly consists of covers of popular, trending songs along with some original works. The group also has future plans in place for more original songs and an upcoming EP.
You can find their music at: https://soundcloud.com/sons-of-mystro