Concerts of songs mostly based on the music associated with the movement of the African American regarding their civil rights were held in Lahore last week. Not all the concerts as planned for Amikaeyla could be held in the city. Some had to be called off due to the security situation prevalent in the country. But the few concerts that the band managed to hold provided a good idea about its music.
Many of the songs have become famous like We Shall Overcome, Oh Freedom, Alabama, Go Tell It On The Mountain, People Get Ready, Change Gonna Come, I Wish I Know and Amazing Grace. Proclaimed as one of the “purest contemporary voices” by National Public Radio, United States, the Amikaeyla group named after its founder, Amikaeyla Gaston, embraces the best of many types of music.
Here’s how she has been introduced: “Her sultry sound is like listening to velvet waterfalls and her soulful flavour captures the listener with dynamic passion and sincerity.
“While the Washington DC area native draws on a tasteful array of influences from Bel canto, Funk and Bossa Nova to Blues, her sensibility remains purely Jazz. She began her training at 4 years of age, studying classical piano and quickly started captivating audiences with her talent in venues with the National symphony as well as in theatrical and musical productions. She then added to her repertoire training on the viola, western & Indian flute, dulcimer, and later, on a multitude of percussion instruments from around the world such as djembe, bata, conga, tabla, taiko, & timbale.”
The second member, a bassist, Benjamin Tiberio, earned his bachelor’s degree in jazz performance. He also spent time abroad in Helsinki, Finland, at the Sibelius Academy. In addition to being a multi instrumentalist, Tiberio is also an avid composer. He moved to New York City and has since performed at a number of New York’s premier jazz clubs, including Smalls Jazz Club, Minton’s Playhouse, Smoke, and Dizzy’s Club, and has performed at jazz festivals across the US.
The third member Mike del Ferro was born in Amsterdam. His father, an opera singer Leonard del Ferro, sang and recorded with Maria Callas and Leonard Bernstein. Mike started studying classical piano at the age of nine and “after falling in love with Jazz he pursued his studies on Jazz and received a Master in Contemporary Music at the Amsterdam Conservatory”. During his travels to more than 100 countries he managed to “combine elements of the revered canons of Western music interspersed with the audacity of Jazz improvisation, and paying tribute to the ancient structures of Asian, South American and African traditional music”.
The fourth member is Darrell Green. “Over a career that’s spanned more than two decades, Green has been playing drums and developed a style that’s rooted in modern post-bop, but retains elements of his gospel and classical lineage”.
It is very clear that Amikaeyla puts music to a more overt purpose and it is stated as well. From the civil rights movement to healing to building bridges between cultures, the purpose is well laid out and executed by the group with no ambiguities involved. Their shows in Lahore were full of energy and a certain verve which took the audiences to the verge of breaking into dance. As Gaston herself said, she is delighted when people cannot not resist dancing and the dancing can be seen as therapeutic cleaning the body and the mind of worries, demons and self-consuming apprehensions.
But the anthem of the movement and of the abolition of slavery has been Amazing Grace, a Christian hymn published in 1779, by English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. It is one of the most recognisable songs in the English-speaking world and without any doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns with its particular emblematic influence. Its universal message has been a significant factor in its crossover into secular music.