Daughters of the Drum: Amikaeyla
Proclaimed as one of the "purest contemporary voices" by NPR, powerhouse Amikaeyla embraces the best of many types of music. Her sultry sound is "like listening to velvet waterfalls" (MTV) and her soulful flavor captures the listener with dynamic passion and sincerity. While the Washington, D.C. area native draws on a tasteful array of influences from Bel canto, Funk and Bossa Nova to Blues, her sensibility is pure 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. Throwing herself into a multiplicity of musical contexts, she became the lead singer for a 14- piece West African band, a horn-laden 10-piece R&B combo, a 12-piece classical south Indian ensemble, a Celtic sextet, a straight-ahead jazz quintet, and an Americana folk trio. She has studied, recorded with, and shared the stage with many award winning artists, including Take 6, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Baba Olatunji, Mickey Hart, Gil Scott Heron, Wyclef, Ubaka Hill, Ferron, Vicki Randall, Linda Tillery, Chris Williamson, and Pete Seeger. Her strong academic interest in Sacred Ethnomusicology led her to study with many spiritual and musical masters from many different cultures, and she was invited in 2003 to perform in India at the Inaugural Festival of Sacred Chanting and Singing for the commemoration of the Golden Buddha at the request and invitation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Winner of eight Washington Area Music Association Awards for Best Jazz, World and Urban Contemporary Vocalist, Amikaeyla was named DC's best female composer in 2006 & 2008, won the 2005 DC Mayor's Arts Award for Innovation in the Arts, and was recently honored with first prize for Best World Music Composition from the 2010-2011 Maryland State Arts Council. Amikaeyla's glowing mezzo-soprano and her embrace of unexpected repertoire is showcased with soulful authority on her newest CD, Being In Love. Recorded in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, CA, Being In Love finds Amikaeyla surrounded by an all-star cast of musicians, among them are Grammy winners Howard Levy, Eugene Friesen, Glen Velez, Linda Tillery, John Santos, Michael Spiro, Ray Obiedo, Shiela E and Esperanza Spalding. Founder and Executive Director of the International Cultural Arts & Healing Sciences Institute (ICAHSI), Amikaeyla has done expansive work in the health arena for over the past 20 years and travels the world extensively as a cultural arts ambassador on trips sponsored by a variety of organizations, including but not limited to the US State Department, UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees), IVAP (Iraqi Voices Amplification Project), FOSA (Friends of Sierra Leone) & Village Link, and of course, her organization ICAHSI. ICAHSI is a contemporary interdisciplinary cultural arts and educational institute and is based both in the San Francisco/Bay Area California and in the US Capital City of Washington DC. Working in collaboration & in partnership with government, health, & non-profit environmental and social justice organizations, ICAHSI has created Music-Spirit Health Conferences for at-risk populations of women and girls of color, conducted Hope and Healing retreats for women affected with cancer, and held concerts & in-home services for terminally ill patients in hospitals and transition homes, bringing together artists and healers of all forms and from all specialties to promote healing and wellness through the arts & activism. As a music & dance repertory company, filmmaking group, and education organization - ICAHSI seeks out the finest artists worldwide to make new and innovative healing art - emphasizing international collaborations with great filmmakers, choreographers, dancers, musicians, vocalists & composers at work today, to make music, dance, visual art, film, & spoken word in world-class performances and engagements on stage, in the studio, the classrooms, and the workspaces of capacity building. Ms. Gaston's education has been concentrated in the field of Neuroscience and Biopsychology with her professional focus primarily on Cancer & HIV/AIDS research and educational outreach for at-risk women, youth, and families. Due to her studies with traditional healers and cultural artists, coupled with her interest in the biological and psychological healing effects of music, she has appeared internationally on numerous radio and television programs performing and speaking.