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Paris, Île-de-France, France | INDIE

Paris, Île-de-France, France | INDIE
Band R&B Soul


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The best kept secret in music


"a striking, well-educated, widely traveled black American woman who writes and sings sophisticated songs and who lives in Montmartre in Parisand speaks French, Ilene Barnes is tailor-made for the French market. Any market, for that matter. Her excellent new album "Time" is getting rapturous reviews here, in Britain and Benelux countries, and more will certainly follow.


"Here's to you" (2009) (ic music/rue bleue)
"Live at Fip" (2007) cd + dvd (ic music/rue bleue)
"Yesterday Comes" (2006) - cd (ic music/rue bleue)
"Time" (2003) - cd (ic music)
"Set you free " (2000) - cd (sony)



Measuring six foot two, I am sure you understand my difficulty in remembering when I was a little girl, jokes Ilene Barnes. Yet, given her history and the great part that her childhood plays in her songs, it is highly unlikely that she has forgotten.
Ilene Barnes was born in Detroit, Michigan, of an unconventional Afro American family, tinged with the essences of Native American, East Indian and Irish Blood.
The colours and fragrances of the Amazon, more precisely Surinam, awakened her conscience where the family moved on assignment, her father being a tropical disease researcher for the United Nations.
Paramaribo, the capital of ex- Dutch Guyana, conjures up images in Ilene, of a family living with six aquariums, filled with mosquitoes for scientific research, a far cry away from the colourful tropical fish she dreamed of. Ilenes first musical souvenirs, invariably, evokes the liberty felt in hearing tropical birds. The imitations learned from these feathered friends have been adapted and incorporated into her music . The giant iguanas and slothes, which regularly visited the backyard, became the scenarios and inspirations for her writings.
These moments, having moulded her sensitivity into songs, have since been chased from this Garden of Eden, into what is better known as, nostalgia.

After Surinam, her parents transferred to Barbados and then Jamaica, where the sun never sets without its vivid spiced colours.
Knowing Ilene however, one would think it was not the tropical sun she searched, but the profound shadows it cast, in which the young girl took refuge and set her imagination free. At ten years old, she darkened the pages of her diary with stories that raised the hairs on her mothers head, in particular, one of a little girl knocking on the wooden door of her coffin because she wanted her teddy bear. So sure was she of herself, at this young age, she confirmed to her father that she wanted to write and live in France. Her parents at a loss, placed her in a convent in the hands of a nun, who taught her the rudimentary basics of the guitar, an instrument that would become as indispensable as the pen for her .It was not until later, by listening continuously to Leonard Cohen, James Taylor that she started to acquire a style for writing. All this converged to form Ilene into a person completely apart from the rest, starting from her first television appearances, where she interpreted Christmas songs at her parents numerous parties, where the likes of Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and the prime minister of Barbados Errol Barrow made appearances.

From this comfortable milieu, she continued on to Boston University and Smith college studying Kakizome, (Japanese calligraphy) contemporary theatre with Jerzy Grotovsky and Len Berkman (founder of the Sun Dance Festival) and African dance with choreographer / anthropologist Dr Pearl Primus. Music however, remained her favourite past time as she gave courses to children in a school created by Yehudi Menuhin. Ilene prides herself with having gone to the school of hard knocks, referring to the Jazz clubs where it is do or die amidst the noise hubbub and thick curtain of smoke, where one must make do, and juggle with the unexpected.

One night for example, being scheduled as opening act for Nina Simone, and Ilene was obliged to not only open, but also sit in for the artist who failed to appear. Wages were modest, but her education was priceless.

On moving to Europe between London, Paris & Amsterdam, she finally recorded her first album Set you free, but it was only after signing to IC Music inc., with the album Time in 2003, and "Yesterday comes"in 2006 that her career was finally launched in the music industry. Her amazingly strong and fragile voice is carried along by a story telling, written with a great finesse of detail, in which she constantly searches a response to her eternal questions, such as how to face the fatality of times past, or how to reconcile with our other selves.
As a singer songwriter or as a musician, Ilene Barnes has made a great reputation on stage. She played more than 400 shows in Europe since 2003 with the same energy and generosity. Her stage performances have an incredible warm communication with her public. This 4th new album "Live Fip" is a simple example of her vocal performances and the atmosphere of such shows . Ilene Barnes' source of inspiration, being every day people and their mixed cultures ,added to a musical fusion, remember she has an expansive cocktail of mixed origines.