dreams are made of......
"Embracing the World Through Music"
BY YOGI McCAW
Abrace, L to R: Derek Learned, Mikaela Romero, Angie Bolton, Samia Panni, Joyce Yarrow, Rebeqa Rivers
Abrace is an acapella-plus-percussion singing group which has made it their mission to find, harmonize and perform folk songs from around the world in a context of peace, love, acceptance, and celebration of all the world's peoples and cultures. Committed to performing the songs in their original languages, they currently sing in 20 different languages and dialects.
Abrace is comprised of five excellent women vocalists and a top percussionist from the Seattle area. They have performed in Seattle' St Mark's Cathedral, The San Juan De Fuca Arts Festival, the Bellevue Arts Fair, the Seattle Art Museum, The Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle's Benaroya Hall, and many other venues.
Co-lead by Samia Panni and Joyce Yarrow, the group includes singers Rebeqa Rivers, Angie Bolton, and Mikaela Romero, and the percussion duties are anchored by Derek Learned.
The treatment of the songs is done with great precision and care, as five-part harmonies are carefully worked out and Samia and Derek work together to creat a unique percussion groove for each song. As mentioned, they also have to learn to enunciate each song properly in it's original language, and there is a history that goes with each song, so it means doing research on the story/history of the song and the culture each song arises from.
I caught them at the Bellevue Arts Fair on July 26th. Samia and Joyce were gracious to grant me an interview, so I will let them speak about the band in their own words. For myself, I have seen them perform three times, and I am always impressed not only by the musicianship, but the spirit with which they recreate these songs.
So, without further adieu, the interview:
What is the inspiration for Abrace? How did you go about translating that inspiration into the actual group that I saw at the BAM Arts Fair?
Joyce: We started out as a study group – 4 professional singers who wanted to expand their repertoires to include songs in many languages and challenge themselves to grow musically.
After 9/11, when the world tilted radically toward intolerance, we felt that a group performing world music could help build bridges to inter-cultural understanding. At that point we became more serious about performing in public, especially at inter-faith events. Since then, we have appeared at music festivals throughout the Northwest, as well as Benaroya Hall, and the Rainier Valley Cultural Center. One highpoint was sharing the stage with a Rabbi, Bishop and an Imam who participated in an ‘Islamophobia’ conference at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. It was so inspiring to see people of different faiths come together to erase misunderstandings and grow friendships.
Samia - Another highpoint I would like to add is our World Music & Dance of Peace concerts that we performed at three events, one being Arts Gumbo,at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, in collaboration with members of MB Orchestra, George Sadak and Maurice Sadak Rouman, Brazilian dancer, Dora Oliveira, and Middle Eastern dance ethnologist, Helene Ericksen. I truly enjoyed rearranging a song in our repertoire in order of blend music of different cultures for these performances. For example: we took a Brazilian song, Zanzibar, in the baião rhythm and George suggested incorporating a Saudi Arabian rhythm, called khaleeji, which fit perfectly. Maurice played the introduction to Zanzibar on oud. The blend was seamless.
What do you see Abrace's role being in the universe of world music i.e - what would Abrace's "mission statement" be like? How would you like the audience to be affected by your music? Is Abrace just about the music only, or is there a connection to, or a message about, the world we live in?
Joyce - Abráce means ‘embrace’ in Portuguese, and our motto is simple: ‘Embracing the World Through Music.” Some of our songs convey a message – such as “Bring Peace Upon Us,” written and performed by a group of courageous Palestinian and Israeli musicians. We also sing in Ladino, a language mixing Hebrew and Spanish that was developed during La Convivencia – an era when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative peace. We look for positive, international connections wherever we can find them and often create medleys – for example, by combining the South African freedom song “Siph’ Amandla” with the American classic “The Storm is Passing Over,” written by the composer of We Shall Overcome.
Our production of World Music and Dance of Peace concert brought together musicians and dancers from many different backgrounds to create a border-bending mix of music and dance from Middle Eastern, Balkan, African and South American roots. This is the type of collaborative energy that we believe peace is built upon.
Abrace sings in 20 languages, many of them tribal or clan dialects. How do you find the songs? How do you go about translating the lyrics so you understand the meaning of each song? How do you make sure your pronunciation is accurate in so many different languages? Given that song lyrics often incorporate metaphors and idioms unique to the composer's culture, do you have to study a bit about each ethnic group to understand the cultural context and deeper meanings of a particular song's lyrics?
Samia - When a new member has started with the group, we have asked them to bring in songs that they want to sing. Therefore, a number of the songs in our repertoire have come from former and current members of the group. Ben Black introduced us to our Japanese song, Kojo No Tsuki, Makala recently introduced us to a Polish song we recently added to our repertoire and Joyce brought our new Bengali song, Bhromor Koiyo Giya. The Arab-Israeli peace song I found one day simply hunting on youtube, using keywords to find a song in Arabic that we could append to our Ladino song that Joyce received from a Jewish cantor. As you see our songs have been added through various sources from all the members of the group, plus we have original compositions, such as "Saltando" that Joyce and I composed. MORE HERE
JAMES DEAN FISHER
Just imagine a world without music, a radio station with no music to play. If radio did not have the current format such as CD, MP3, MP4, etc., just where would people get the music they listen to today as they drive, party, listen to at home and at work and so on? Uhh, some of us still have the old vinyl records and cassette tapes, some of us even have some of the old eight track tapes still around. These are formats that came and have gone with the times. As some may have noticed, vinyl is making a rapid come back and it is coming back fast. These are some of the multiple changes that come and go in the music recording industry. Today's radio stations play mostly pre-programmed music usually....( Continued )
in ALL BLUES - The Blues Bentley Band
by Bruce J Maier
The other night I got to sit in with The Blues Bentley band from Olympia Washington whom I have had the pleasure
to know for about seven years now. We have become such great friends that JB Bentley, the band leader has had
me fill in for him sometimes when he's doing other important things like riding his beautiful Harley down the
Pacific Coast 101 . Blues is not something you just put on, like a Halloween costume or a license you hang
at your place of business. Blues is a lifestyle connected to a genre of music which has become increasingly
popular throughout the world, and especially in the great Pacific Northwest from Vancouver BC to Seattle,
Tacoma, Olympia and the southern reaches of Oregon. The Blues venues have opened wide in recent
years and the musicians who perform there have stepped up their game - the cream always rises
to the top. Here is our second review in five years of an amazing group of men who are the real
deal, and are relentlessly moving ahead. And it's a story of health, faith and victory and one
man's second chance to show the world his love of the Blues. READ ON
by Linda Mewhirter
Heartspace Timepiece is a truly modern album that combines most loved elements of rock with unexpected and unique elements, making for a compelling musical landscape. The musicianship is near perfect and the arrangements solid, thus reaching for a mystic musical vista that is a joy to hear. Just when you least expect it, the pedal steel comes in all dreamy, making your heart ache with love of beauty. Alejandra has an unforgettable voice that adds an emotionally satisfying element to the music, as she sings with a heartache specific to this generation. She has a raw beauty that needs no dolling up, and a pure and strong spirit that shines through. Her presence is compelling and intimate in a way that is lost on most popular music these days.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Windows”. I will say simply that it is an achingly beautiful song in lyric and style and uses song writing elements to build to sweet climax in the chorus. The use of pedal steal in this song is as good as it gets.
Compositions such as “Mine that Groove”, and “New Low”, combine familiar elements and guitar licks with quite unique and unexpected elements. There something that gives one a sense of comfort all the while remaining fresh and unique. The situations described in these and other songs provide intriguing scenarios which linger long after the song has ended.
In the song “Beat Ohio”, she starts with the question, “why are you always pretending you are from the North East, did someone lead you on?” And she goes onto to paint an intriguing picture of someone, just enough to be intriguing but not enough to spoil. Through one unique story she illuminates a universal theme about identity in the modern landscape. Of course she does so in her own witty way which is impossible to describe. You must hear for yourself and enjoy each new musical landscape. In short, the album ends all to quickly, leaving you wanting more. I sincerely hope this artist and her crew keep creating and seeking, as the world needs more great songs and albums such as Heartspace Timepiece.
FOR MORE ABOUT THIS ARTIST GO TO OFFICIAL WEBSITE HERE
The JAMES DEAN SPOTLIGHT
FEATURING GOSPEL ARTIST
The very first True Gospel Artist to ever be featured in this magazine, we whole-heartedly
embrace and welcome this fabulous Lady to our publication. With a name like ours, it
has been tough to attract the secular music community to us and it means a great
deal to this publication that ReNay Lee is brave enough to be the first pioneer. We also wish
to thank James Dean Fisher for having the tenacity to never give up or take a " no " for an
answer. We celebrate this moment ahead of schedule of the grand-release of our sister
site, www.bestunes.com which will become home to Spiritual, Classical and Childrens'
music stories, reviews and interviews. In the next couple weeks you will all be invited to
our " open - house " online, as we officially launch Best Tunes and feature ReNay Lee.
For now, please read and enjoy a sneak preview ! JAMES DEAN SPOTLIGHT