Subject: Artist Bio
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BIOGRAPY courtesy of:
"What I really appreciate about the music that I grew up to is that I feel like I can put it on now and still hear something new. It's still relevant. That's how I want my music to be perceived. It's what I strive for."
She possesses one of the most alluring and powerful voices within the neo-soul genre, injecting poignant words with both soul and substance. She doesn't need to rely on technical wizardry because her voice is its own instrument all within itself. It's quietly Seductive, Sexy, Galvanizing and Sweet.
In an industry that advocates monotony, Goapele Mohlabane (Qua-Pa-Le¹) is an autonomist - a poster girl for individualism, a non-conformist. Perhaps her bloodline/lineage itself helped hurt her nonconformity. Her New York-born Jewish mother met and married exiled South African political activist Douglas Mohlabane while in Nairobi, Kenya. "What those two cultures faced historically forced my brother and I to be sensitive toward various cultures and social issues. These issues were not only important, but the focus of our everyday lives. Even our musical tastes were diverse. We listened to Sweet Honey and the Rock and Nina Simone, as well as South African music such as Hugh Masekela, Zulu Spear and Miriam Makeba which was banned in South Africa at the time."
For a woman whose name means 'to move forward' in Sitswana, a South African dialect, Goapele is instinctively living up to her moniker. The Bay Area native's debut, Closer spawned after a 9-song promotional disc was distributed to various industry executives and music outlets, yielding an overwhelmingly popular response. Adding 5 new original songs to the debut, resulted in her highly anticipated sophomore effort, Even Closer, a 14-track album on SkyBlaze/RED/Sony Records. The poised chanteuse delivers a testimony-driven, emotionally aching yet uplifting and candidly charged classic cuts to soul music junkies who feign for organic gutbucket vocals and raw bass lines. Billboard Magazine says that "Her name, Goapele Mohlabane, is just as intriguing as her musicŠThis arresting set organically mixes R and B, hip-hop, jazz, and electronica in introspective, candid songs that colorfully reflect this soulful sista's diverse range and life experiencesŠ.Goapele's smoky, sensual voice is a beacon that shines on a set that wisely steers clear of overproduction. While calling to mind such influences as Nina Simone and Sade, this classic chanteuse-in-the-making is definitely her own woman of substance." While The Source Magazine recognizes that "The neo-soul bandwagon is more crowded by the minute but room might have to be made for Goapele, the Bay Area's best kept secret....Goapele's voice rings with personal honesty and emotional urgency, reminiscent of Lauryn Hill and Mystic at their soulful best."
Goapele brilliantly experiments with skillful compositions and heart wrenching harmonies, all with a smooth as pearl delivery. "Closer," the first single that best showcases the singer/songwriter's impeccable ability to mix classic soul with rhythm and and along with new-age funk, drips with sensuality. ³A collection of politically and dirty minded songs that suggests Amel Larrieux with a libido,² says Vibe Magazine. The multi-layered feel-good track effortlessly spirals her superb lyrics and velvety voice around carefree bass laden beats instantly garnering her respect for skillfully uniting hip-hop, jazz, R and B and melodic soul. "The song is about me being thankful for the blessings that I've received so far and how far I've come in the scheme of things. It was a stream of consciousness kind of song, very personal. It's like an interlude of me thinking aloud that I felt people would identify with the most. When I hear it or sing it, I still feel all the emotions I felt when I wrote it." The charismatic rising star shines luminously on the rock-esque, guitar laced groove, "Romantic," which is an ode to her passionate boyfriend for all the exceptional things he does and has done. This song was also featured on Soulive's album, Doin' Somethin' (Blue Note Recordings). "All of my lyrics come out truthful experiences that I've had, a journal entry or maybe a melody in my head that stemmed into something. But what's important to me that sometimes gets lost in the pop world is that their music doesn't reflect the artist's real life. It's really important to me that I stay true to myself and I'm writing lyrics that I believe and not just to sell."
The track, "Things Don't Exist," dramatically reveals Goapele's depth and range atop light piano chords with jazz flavored acoustics, while she expressively wails on "Salvation," walking the avant-garde line between her gospel, South African and Urban Blues roots. One of the most striking and thought-provoking tracks on Even Closer is the anti-war song, aptly titled "Red, White and Blues". In the days following 9/11, Goapele was torn between the need to express her feelings and comment on the overwhelming opposition to all dissenting views, while maintaining respect for those who had lost their lives and families. With much trepidation, she and producer Mike Tiger went into the studio and created a song that is equally disturbing, reflective, and uplifting.
Collaborating with a bevy of musical craftsmen that includes Amp Live from Zion I (Mystic, Linkin Park), Digital Underground's DJ Fuze, Pep Love of the Hieroglyphics, Eric Krasno of Soulive, Mike Tiger (The Coup, Martin Luther) Goapele has created the perfect blend of Urban Soul. She either wrote or co-wrote every song and even co-produced several cuts. "I can conveniently fit into a category but I feel there's a wide range of music represented on the CD that ultimately, it doesn't really fit into any one category and I choose to do different kinds of music instead of focusing on one style." Sheer artistic talent, discipline and a busy schedule have led to Goapele's success and a string of engagements that include being invited by Michael Franti to sing with his band, Spearhead on their world tour in the summer of 2001, which included an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. She has also performed on stage with Mystic, India.Arie, Alicia Keys, Donnell Jones, Amel Larrieux, Martin Luther, Erykah Badu, Common, Talib Kweli, Meshell N¹Degeacello, Ledisi, Jaguar, Jazzy Jeff, The Roots, Jazzyfatnastees and The Hieroglyphics, as well as opened for the MTV2 Sisters of Soul concert. The San Francisco Bay Guardian hails her as an "emerging rising star in the Bay Area's urban music community," while fellow artist Jazzy Jeff says, "If you looking for someone who will touch your soul...look no further she touched mine." In addition, she is featured on the new Hieroglyphic's song "Soweto," the single from the album One Big Trip which features other artists such as Dialated Peoples, Del the Funky Homosapian, The Alkaholics, Royce the 5'9, Jurassic 5 and more. The video can be seen daily on MTV and MTV2. Goapele was recently nominated for the 2003 California Music Award for Outstanding R and B album along with fellow artists, Raphael Saadiq, Ledisi and Tyrese.
At this particular juncture, the dread-headed beauty who was influenced as equally by music from Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Nina Simone, Billy Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley and Prince as she was by community, political and social issues, would like to further develop as an artist, vocalist and musician. As a small child, Goapele used her family and friends as her practice audience, singing and performing complimentary shows, steadily fine tuning her musical chops. During her teenager years, she began singing accapella at community events like women retreats and at 14, joined the Oakland Youth Chorus. Towards the end of high school, the songstress decided to pursue music as a professional career, enrolling in the highly competitive and prestigious music school of Berkley College in Boston. From there, Goapele began performing and collaborating with various San Francisco musicians and artists such as Martin Luther, Ledisi and Mystic, circulating her talent and name. "I feel like culturally, it's rich out here in the Bay area as far as being able to discuss other subjects. We don't have to just write love songs out here we can talk about what's going on and I feel like audiences are open to that. There's a community here. A united kind of vibe and people are down to work with each other. Prop 21 was a big deal and I along with other artists were on a compilation sharing information through music."
Activism has been the cornerstone of the Mohlabane household. At the age of 10, Goapele formed the first preteen peer-led support group of the Bay Area Black Women's Health Project. "I think being active in that organization really helped me to have a foundation as a young woman, I believe in the empowerment of other young women and girls. That's something that I've been steadily dedicated to and it's a personal and a community thing. I would like to have a positive influence and impact in my community as well internationally." At 15, she served alongside her mother on the national board of directors of Be Present, Inc. She also took part in peer education around issues of racism, sexism, and classism in the community group E.Y.E.S. (Empowered Youth Educating Society). In addition to contributing to a strong sense of self, Goapele's organizational involvement provided her with nurturing forums for maturing as a human and an artist. "I'm glad that a lot of people in the community are here, youth activist and people that grew up being youth activists, who are now adults have fought for money for schools as opposed to jails. We're not preaching. We try and find alternatives in order to raise awareness surrounding issues and incorporating our culture into it."
Written and recorded on both the East and West coasts, Even Closer is the fruit of Goapele's labor and inspiration. During her infrequent idle time, the graceful songbird can be found swaying her lithe figure to the rhythmic drum beats in her Afro-Haitian dance classes. She brings a well-needed enigmatic presence to a mundane industry that's devoid of innovative magic and fascination but thick with semblance. Her aural signature of throaty moans and nostalgic lyrical poetry evoke all things old yet somehow manages to be refreshingly new. "Her vocals shatter souls, leaving audiences begging for more. She can vocally capture the heart of anyone," says Urban View Newspaper. When she opens her mouth to sing, she doesn't just sing, she rips it. She can't hold back. But then again, moving forward is what Goapele is all about.