Jul 20, 2022 | Cover Story, Feature, Mike Nelson, Music, Ventura
ADAAWE: “THE UNIVERSALITY OF RHYTHM AND JOY IN SONG”
Adaawe is “extra excited” to perform, says Joselyn Wilkinson, given that its 2020 festival appearance was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve done a lot of videos and some livestream over the past two years,” says Wilkinson, “but our sweet spot and passion is connecting with live audiences and bringing them into our circle through our music.”
That music is rooted in traditional women’s African folk songs that Wilkinson discovered while studying at the University of Ghana and UCLA’s school of World Arts and Cultures.
“The idea of women coming together as they work to lift each other up through singing, to inspire the community, really moved me,” she says. “They have traditional songs they sing in the moonlight, and they often improvise the lyrics to keep them fresh. Music from the Black and African diaspora reflects a joy and creativity that is incredibly powerful.”
Wilkinson was thus inspired to launch Adaawe, “international women of the drum and voice,” with “the goal of forming that kind of collective, taking our cue from those strong women in the villages. We call it global soul, to embrace the universality of rhythm and joy in song.”
Having studied African drum and song, Adaawe’s members — hailing from four countries on three continents — play, compose and arrange music embracing a variety of traditions including gospel, folk, reggae and American funk to produce their own joyful genre in which audiences worldwide have delighted (including those viewing Adaawe’s collaboration with LeAnn Rimes in the 2022 Tournament of Roses Parade’s opening number).
“We fully embrace and honor many forms of traditional music with which we’ve been blessed,” says Wilkinson. “And we don’t shy away from truth, but we also strive to uplift and bring people together.”
Django Festival Allstars perform at the Ventura Music Festival. Photo submitted
Adaawe’s members, all now based in the greater Los Angeles area, are each involved in independent projects as jazz singers, actors, modern dance choreographers and more, a range of diverse artistic gifts that benefit the ensemble.
“We see ourselves as family,” says Wilkinson, who lives in Westchester where she also plays and performs folk, jazz and soul with her husband Don Barrozo. “And people really respond, which is very gratifying.
“In today’s world people have become more polarized and separate, and we want to show them that there is more that brings us together than keeps us apart, if we take the time to look for it. Music can illustrate that because, like love, it is a universal language.”
VENTURA MUSIC FESTIVAL 2022
The 27th Ventura Music Festival begins Wednesday, July 27, 5:30 p.m., with Adaawe performing a free concert in Mission Park, 185 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura (across from the San Buenaventura Mission).
For tickets and information, call 805-648-3146 or visit http://venturamusicfestival.org.