On Thursday, September 20th, Live@365, a world music series, presented its very first show to celebrate its second season, Crossing Boundaries, which featured internationally known Haitian music icon, Emeline Michel, Vlada Tomova from Bulgaria, and Martha Redbone from NYC. These ladies were chosen because they are recognized for “crossing boundaries” with traditional and contemporary music.
Full description from CUNY’s website:
Celebrating its second season, Live@365 presents Emeline Michel from Haiti, Martha Redbone from NYC, and Vlada Tomova from Bulgaria—three artists who are crossing boundaries of traditional and contemporary music. Vlada Tomova, a “vocal sorceress,” creates haunting, otherworldly sounds with influences from Bulgaria and the Balkans, the Middle East, India, and Sephardic Spain, recalling Bulgaria’s cultural origins shaped by ancient migrations. Internationally renowned singer, songwriter, producer, and dancer Emeline Michel, “the Joni Mitchell of Haiti,” merges Haitian compas and rara with jazz, pop, bossa nova, and samba. Martha Redbone, of Shawnee, Choctaw, and African American descent, performs music that flows equally from Native American elements, soul, R&B, funk, and her deep roots in Appalachian folk and Piedmont blues.
You can only imagine the rush and pride I felt when I read that Emeline Michel would be participating in the event. I grabbed my old roommate from college, Anna, who came to visit me for a couple of days, and rushed to the CUNY Graduate Center after work. Since I had never seen Emeline perform live before, I didn’t know what to expect. She’s a woman I’ve always admired for her singing, beauty, and confidence. I grew up listening to her song, A.K.I.K.O., in Haiti, jumping around, and just singing about world peace. Her songs always brought happiness to me, so to see that she was performing just right around the corner from my job brought this explosion of joy, and I just had to go meet her!
For the record, the week before the show, when I first saw it shared on Facebook, I played her song, Gade Papi, on repeat at home and at work the entire time with no break or pause. I would walk in to my apartment with the song already playing, and I would wake up to it. Now as I’m typing, I listening to the song, but the whole album is playing, not just the song. Just thought I would share that too.
Emeline walked graciously on stage barefoot, all clad in pink, smiling from ear to ear- the Haitian smile, my old roommate likes to call it. She asked us to greet the people we were sitting next to, and everyone listened. She talked about how cold the world was briefly, and how we needed to be more kind to each other, which is why she asked that we greeted each other. She danced to the tanbou (drums) like she invented music. I teared up when she sang, and also grinned back whenever she smiled at the crowd. She closed her session with A.K.I.K.O, and got a standing ovation.
After the show, I waited in line patiently to tell her how I felt about her music. I’ve never done anything like that before, but I grabbed her hand in both of mine, and introduced myself. I just wouldn’t shut up about how amazing she was. I probably scared her. It felt like I’ve known her for a long time speaking with her. She’s such a beautiful, humble, and confidant woman- the definition of inspiration.
I got to meet one of my childhood favorite singers, all thanks to cultural programs, such as, Live@365. I recommend checking out their programs and next shows! You might see something that catches your eye.
Check out the A.K.I.K.O video: