“The theme for National Women’s History Month, March 2007 is Generations of Women Moving History Forward. The 2007 Honorees represent many generations of women who with their amazing intelligence, talent, courage and tenacity testify to the myriad ways that generations of women have moved history forward.” (picked up from from their website)
Meet Toshi Reagon
Described by Vibe magazine as “one helluva rock’n’roller-coaster ride” and by Pop Matters as “a treasure waiting to be found,” Toshi Reagon is a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music. Since first taking to the stage at age 17, this versatile singer-songwriter-guitarist has moved audiences of all kinds with her big?hearted, hold-nothing-back approach to rock, blues, R&B, country, folk, spirituals and funk. The New York Times described her blend as “...a love of mixing things up...[her] vocal style ranges from a dirty blues moan to a gospel shout to an ethereal croon.” Her live performances, in particular, aren’t just accessible; they’re irresistible. And Toshi Reagon loves her audiences. Leading her renowned band--BIGLovely, launched in 1996--she instantly connects, inspires and empowers.
Over nearly 30 years, Reagon has collaborated with top innovators across a wide spectrum of the entertainment field. Since Lenny Kravitz chose her, straight out of college, to open for him on his first world tour, she has gone on to share stages with notable colleagues such as Nona Hendryx, Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Pete Seeger, Dar Williams, Lizz Wright, Me’shell NdegéOcello and Marc Anthony Thompson (aka Chocolate Genius). Her performances with her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon--civil rights activist and founder of the a cappella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock--are legendary.
Toshi Reagon composed and served as musical director for Bones and Ash: A Gilda Story (1995), a production by the acclaimed Urban Bush Women dance troupe. She has also scored dance works by LAVA (most recently, we become in 2008) and by the Jane Comfort Dance Company (Asphalt and Underground River). Her musical work has been featured in film (The Secret Life of Bees) and television (PBS/WGBH’s Africans in America, The L Word, Crossing Jordan, House and HBO’s award-winning Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, produced by Jonathan Demme and LisaGay Hamilton). She collaborated, as conductor, musician and instrumental composer/arranger, with director Robert Wilson and with Bernice Johnson Reagon on a Gustave Flaubert-inspired opera, The Temptation of St. Anthony (2003), which toured throughout Europe.
Poet and playwright Carl Hancock Rux tapped Reagon as one of the producers for his Rux Revue album. She also produced Casselberry DuPree’s Hot Corn in the Fire and Gina Breedlove’s Open Heart. She served as producer or co-producer on four CDs for Sweet Honey in the Rock--In This Land (1995), Still On The Journey (1993), Sacred Ground (1996) and The Women Gather (2003). She has written songs for Lizz Wright’s Dreaming Wide Awake (2005) and co-wrote and plays on several songs on Wright’s The Orchard (2008). She is currently working on a new CD with Wright.
Some of Reagon’s proudest moments have included playing for her godfather Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden (2009), a benefit for Seeger’s environmental organization, Clearwater. She has also performed with the Freedom Singers at the White House in President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s tribute to the music of the civil rights movement.
Toshi Reagon’s honors include a 2009 Out Music Award, the 2007 Black Lily Award for Outstanding Performance, and a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts award for music composition. She was one of several women honored by the National Women’s History Project for “amazing intelligence, talent, courage and tenacity [that testify] to the myriad ways that generations of women have moved history forward.”
...one of the most compelling performers on the modern-rock scene.
—The New York Times
Oh, that voice...devotees know they?ve borne witness to one of the great voices of this generation.
—The Village Voice
You know Reagon, if you’re lucky, as a talented, versatile singer, songwriter and musician with a profound ear for sonic Americana--from folk to funk, from blues to rock. She masters each of these genres with vocal strategies that easily spiral and swoop from the expressively sinuous to the hard-charging, a combination of warmth and mischief.
If you’ve been lucky enough to be in Toshi’s presence, you know you can’t walk away from her without feeling better about yourself as a human being. She aims for nothing less.
—Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody
Fierce and uncompromising...a shower of retro funk, urban blues, and folk...to hear her is to believe.
—The New Yorker
Music is a carrier wave between souls. And Toshi Reagon...opened a channel ? locked and loaded ? as soon as she sang her first bluesy, folksy note. Ever had someone give your shoulders a rub and, instantly, you can focus your eyes? That?s what this voice does.
But how to describe it? ?True? seems so inadequate, but it will have to do.
True to the note, true to the thought and emotion, true to the self.
—Chris Boyd, The Morning After: Performing Arts in Australia
No modern folk artist this side of Ani DiFranco better encapsulates the form’s ability to transcend any strictures placed upon it, real or perceived, than Toshi Reagon.
Toshi Reagon has plenty of gospel in her aggressive, often funky folk, but she also grooves like an unplugged Prince, or lays down a four-on-the-floor funk workout that would make George Clinton proud. For Reagon, folk music is whatever she decides it should be.
—Jeff Miers, Buffalo News (Gusto), Buffalo, NY
Toshi herself is a force of nature. She?s a diva, a concerned citizen, a voice in the wilderness, the leader of the pack and I will go anywhere anytime to be a part of the music and energy when she’s standing at the center.
—Michael Arthur, Just Drawn That Way
Toshi Reagon has been described as “a talented, versatile singer, songwriter and musician with a profound ear for sonic Americana—from folk to funk, from blues to rock” by critic/blogger Eva Yaa Asantewaa (InfiniteBody). “She masters each of these genres with vocal strategies that easily spiral and swoop from the expressively sinuous to the hard-charging, a combination of warmth and mischief.”
While her expansive career has landed her comfortably in residence at Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House and Madison Square Garden, you can just as easily find Toshi turning out a music festival, intimate venue or local club. Toshi finds home on any musical stage. Toshi has had the pleasure of working with Lenny Kravitz, Lizz Wright, Ani DiFranco, Carl Hancock Rux, Nona Hendryx, Pete Seeger, Chocolate Genius and many other amazing artists, including her favorite collaborator, her mom, Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Yaa Asantewaa writes, “Toshi knows the power of song to focus, unite and mobilize people. If you’ve been lucky enough to be in Toshi’s presence, you know you can’t walk away from her without feeling better about yourself as a human being. She aims for nothing less.”
Toshi has been the recipient of a NYFA award for Music Composition, The Black Lily Music and Film Festival Award for Outstanding Performance. She is a National Women’s History Month Honoree, and is the 2010 recipient of OutMusic’s Heritage Award.
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