I heard the album “Light My Fire” by the phenomenal singer and guitarist Jose Feliciano when I was ten years old. That started me on my own path as a singer and guitarist. It’s just occurred to me as I wrote the last line that I now play complex guitar accompaniments, and sing in both English and Spanish — just like Jose. I like to think he’d be proud.
I played reggae music for more than a decade, taking pleasure in the music’s pro-African-descendent world view, and the inclusion of themes about caring for the earth, our bodies, and each other. The anthems of “Roots Reggae” music focused on peace, love and unity, and included a spiritual component that fed my sense of “positive possibility.” I played for local bands and toured for months at a time with Jamaican artists, learning about island culture, and about how to be a female musician in the midst of a gaggle of men (there was almost never another woman in the band or on the crew — I was IT). I trained myself to be a comfortable “fish-out-of-water,” and learned all kinds of amazing things about the world and other cultures. I was living through a period of exposure to incredible musicianship (I learned tons about music from my fellow musicians), and Life-Changing Adventure. There were days of big fun, tempered by days of big challenges, and it was endlessly stimulating.
I eventually decided to put together a solo show. I aimed my musical performance project in the direction of social justice conferences and conventions, and it has become a “Talk — with Music.”
In the presentation/lecture, I talk about the history and current status of an issue — refugees, for example — and then sing a song that personalizes and humanizes that reality. I’ll do an emotional song about what it means to live as a refugee. And all my songs end with a sense of hopefulness.
I enjoy speaking, I enjoy writing songs that tell people’s stories, and I enjoy sharing those stories through songs that affect people on a “feeling” level.
I’ve learned that this is what I was born to do. This is work that feeds my soul.