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.
NYC-based drummer Allison Miller defies all boundaries bringing her individual sound to diverse types of music while preserving their stylistic authenticity. Allison goes from leading her band, BOOM TIC BOOM, to playing with legendary songwriting vocalists Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Merchant, to touring with avant-garde saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and legendary organist Doctor Lonnie Smith. She approaches each of these musical situations with her own stylistic identity and a creative, fresh and energetic approach. Allison was chosen as “Rising Star Drummer” in Downbeat’s 53rd and 58th Annual Critics Poll.
Alsarah, is a Sudanese born singer, songwriter and ethnomusicologist. Born in the capital city of Khartoum, where she spent the first 8 years of her life, she relocated to Taez, Yemen with her family to escape the ever stifling regime in her native country. She abruptly moved to the US in 1994, when a brief civil war broke out in Yemen. Alsarah started her musical training at the age of 12. After attending The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School, in Hadley, MA, she spent 4 years at Wesleyan University studying Music with a concentration in Ethnomusicology.
Arooj Aftab innovates off classical Pakistani, Sufi & pre-partition South Asian music, creating original compositions honoring ancestral roots, for a sound that is fresh, graceful, and musically complex.
Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, Arooj moved to the U.S. in 2005 to study Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music. She had already cultivated a tremendous fan base in Pakistan. Through exposure to diverse musical genres and incredibly talented artists in Boston and in New York City, Arooj is inspired to continuously develop her art and deepen her understanding of the possibilities of music. Layering subtle, intricate, dynamic vocals over acoustic instrumentation, Arooj skillfully re-imagines indigenous soul with signature ‘cool.’
Arooj will soon be releasing her debut album as part of Rebuild Pakistan, an initiative she created to promote a vision of peace and healing for Pakistan, inspiring a global community to rebuild perspective on Pakistan, and urging the people of Pakistan to actively engage in rebuilding their homeland. The album and the initiative harness collective creativity to express solidarity with politically stigmatized, economically marginalized, culturally and spiritually powerful people across the earth.
Recently featured in the New York Times, vocalist/composer Imani Uzuri is an eclectic artist who creates, performs and collaborates across various genres including concerts, experimental theater, recordings, visual/performance art and sound installations. She has performed at numerous international venues/festivals from Morocco to Moscow; from Lincoln Center to The United Nations including a recent special solo performance at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Her diverse collaborators include Herbie Hancock, Wangechi Mutu, Vijay Iyer, Sanford Biggers, Talib Kweli and John Legend. Television appearances include David Letterman and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. Uzuri’s nomadic world travels, and her interest in sacred music and experimentation is reflected in her various projects including her critically aclaimed debut album Her Holy Water: A Black Girl’s Rock Opera. New York Magazine has called her work “stunning”. Her forthcoming new album The Gypsy Diaries, which features vocals, violin, cello, acoustic guitar, sitar and daf, is a lyrical and spiritual soundscape.
Real Life brought Joan Wasser out of the shadows and established her as that rare thing, a truly unique and original voice. Songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Joan has bewitched fans across Europe and the US over the last two years and is set to garner a wealth of new devotees with To Survive.
An album of unashamedly heartfelt songs, in Joan’s words, “I am always trying to dig deeper into the emotional experience. I want to access the most honest place I can, distill it and present it in a way that makes sense musically.”
Canonized, marginalized or just scrutinized, Meshell Ndegeocello has given up trying to explain herself. After 20 years in an industry that has called her everything from avant garde to a dying breed, what unquestionably remains is the fearsome bassist, prolific songwriter and the creativity and curiosity of an authentic musical force. With that, she has earned critical acclaim, the unfailing respect of fellow players, songwriters and composers, and the dedication of her diverse, unclassifiable fans.
Devil’s Halo, Meshell’s 8th album and her first for Mercer Street, harkens back to the way records used to be made: no click track or electronic synthetics, with a focus on musicianship and live band energy. Meshell feels that Devil’s Halo represents a return to a place that she truly appreciates, music that is created and performed by people’s hands. Produced by Meshell and guitarist Chris Bruce, and influenced by a wide breadth of sounds – from The Human League to Wu Tang to Yes – Devil’s Halo displays Meshell’s vocals and diversity throughout.
Meshell says of Devil’s Halo, “I guess I’ve ended up believing in the gray area, the dichotomies and the unknowable. This record is all about contrast – then and now, raw and polished, beats and harmonies, Devil’s Halo, good in evil in all things. I know some people want more of what they’ve heard and I know other people want the envelope pushed every time and I feel like this record makes peace with all of them”. She adds, “I love heavy bass and dub and beats, but I also sit and play the piano and write a song inspired by a pub in Dublin. I’m not representing anymore – I’m a musician, that’s all I can offer. Each record is just meant to say: here’s where that’s led me today.”
Meshell Ndegeocello was born Michelle Johnson in Berlin, Germany and raised in Washington DC. By the early 90′s, she had landed in New York armed with a demo recorded in her bedroom, joined the Black Rock Coalition, and was soon signed to Madonna’s label. Her records, 8 to date, have offered lyrical ruminations on race, love, sex, betrayal, God, and power, and she has simultaneously embraced and challenged listeners with her refusal to be pigeon-holed musically or personally. Meshell has been both celebrated and berated for her politically charged lyrics, sexual boundary crossing, and for choosing the road less traveled – a winding adventure through her own musical ambitions rather than the industry formulas.
A vast array of influences have informed all of her albums, including Devil’s Halo, and there are traces of her native go-go, hip hop, rock, R&B, new wave and punk in each. Each album has been a step away from the last, each used as a chance to investigate and integrate new sounds and ideas, and fans have been treated to everything from the deep-funk of Plantation Lullabies to the raw and confessional Bitter to the hip-hop loving Cookie. Possessed with instrumental gifts as diverse as her interests, Meshell composed, arranged and produced a jazz record in 2005.
A bass player above all else, Meshell brings her signature warm, fat, and melodic groove to everything she does and has appeared alongside the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston, and Chaka Khan. As for her own bass-playing influences, she credits Sting, Jaco Pastorius, Family Man Barrington, and Stevie Wonder. Meshell was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Bass Player magazine and remains one of few women who lead the band and write the music.
Composer and singer MORLEY from New York City breathes sensuality into activism with her worldly lyrical stance. Her warm and soulful voice is often compared to India Arie, Annie Lennox, Roberta Flack and Joni Mitchell. Her music shares their political and social relevance with a vocal sound that is all her own.
Morley has had the distinct honor to present at TEDWomen and TEDxEast. She has performed for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, Ela Gandhi, Sonia Sanchez, Ravi Shankar as well as numerous events at the United Nations, and The Auburn Theological Seminary. Morley has written, collaborated, and toured nationally and internationally with renowned artists such as Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, Joan Wasser, Dave Matthews, Raul Midon, Amadou et Mariam, Sheryl Crow, Queen Latifah, Angelique Kidjo, Sarah McLachlan, Larry Campbell, Yuri Buenaventura, Leni Stern and Richard Bona. She has released CDs independently as well as through Sony and Universal Records. Her new CD, “Undivided” will be available September 3rd, 2011.
Morley considers social and global activism an integral element of her music and uses its medicine as a tool for dialogue facilitation when she works with teenagers from domestic and international conflict zones.
A driving force in the entertainment industry, Nona Hendryx wears many hats. All these abilities are coming together when, Nona Hendryx presents HopeStock’s ‘Unfiltered’ music series: ‘Music that gets 2 U’. Featuring an eclectic mix of artists whose songs touch the heart and rouse the soul. The HopeStock team are working with Nona Hendryx to promote and support ‘live’ performance by new artists.
Hendryx is a Grammy Nominee for “Rock This House” (featuring The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards on guitar) and an Emmy Nominee for her collaboration with Jason Miles on the composition “Children of the World” recorded by Sounds of Blackness for “People,” a Disney animated, children’s special.
Always pushing boundaries, Nona performs solo at Art Festivals, Museums and Galleries in the U.S and Internationally. Nona has performed ‘Untethered’ at London’s Somerset House WiFi installation, the GE Theater at Proctor, the Michael Werner Gallery & VW Gallery (London & Germany). Nona performs in audio clothing created by Benoit Maubrey, an ‘Audio Tutu’ – a self-contained sound system allowing her freedom to explore non-conventional performance spaces and to merge music, multi-media technology (ipod, Yamaha Tenori-on; a hand held digital music synthesizer and a Theremin) with the environment and art.