BREAKAWAY DAILY: When did you first
realize that you wanted to pursue music professionally?
It’s funny. I waited about seven or eight years after graduating with my
BFA to really consider singing professionally. The ban of smoking in clubs had
a lot to do with my decision. But, most importantly, I had started my family
with my hugely supportive husband, and he pushed me to pursue my passion as a
performing musician. When I graduated I was young and I felt like the music
business was a bit too intimidating for me to navigate at that time. So, when I
started, with a huge support system, I jumped back in feet first and found
myself received so graciously by both musicians and fans! I’ve been blessed.
Who were some of your
My most notable early inspiration is definitely my dad, Agyei
Akoto, a jazz musician and educator. He was my first music teacher, from
watching him rehearse with his band (Nation) and listening to his albums, to
being his student in our Jazz band in middle school. But my parents really
exposed me and my siblings to the best music from all over with their album
collection; Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Diana Ross, Billie Holiday, Nancy
Wilson, Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane, Obatunji, Earth Wind and Fire, Bill
Withers, Michael Jackson, Archie Shepp, the list is endless!
BREAKAWAY DAILY: Why Jazz?
I was born into it. I’m not sure I had a choice. Lol! I was
exposed in utero. My dad, not only a jazz musician and my first band teacher
(my instrument was the keys, not my voice), but, while other kids were
listening to popular music, we listened to the Jazz radio stations and my
parents’ albums. It was a natural passing of the baton, if you will. I
naturally gravitated toward jazz when I had the opportunity to study music, a
first musical love.
What would you
consider to be one of your first big breaks?
I would say my first “Nina Simone tribute” at Bohemian Caverns
in Washington, DC. My good friend, Omrao Brown, the owner at the time, was a
huge support and believer in me and my music. It was, without question, my
catapult into the music business and really branding myself as an independent
Now you perform
internationally, what is the furthest from home you have performed?
Jazz at Lincoln Center in Doha, Qatar.
Culturally, and from a
music standpoint, how did that compare?
Well, I would say Jazz is still a bit of an anomaly there, but
the people were very receptive to my performance. I love to interact with the
audience and they ate that up. They really seemed particularly love my
incorporation of Pan-African music and Soul.
Recently you announced
The Soul Freedom Tour, what was your inspiration?
Well, my latest project “Soul Singer”, is an ode to freedom and
expression and I feel like it is hugely important in these days of constant
social struggle to promote Freedom, love, light and most importantly to inspire
How will this tour
compare to previous performances, what will be different?
I think it will be different, in that, I feel much more in tune with
and accepting of my own growth as a musician, mother, and world citizen. I take
my responsibility as an artist to connect and empower my audience and fellow
musicians very seriously and do my best to not only hone my skill as a musician
but also my ability to connect with people as a performer.