Miriam Lieberman
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Miriam Lieberman

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | MAJOR

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | MAJOR
Band World Singer/Songwriter

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Take a heavy dose of West African musical sensibility, add a dash of Brazilian rhythms with folk music stylings and you get an idea of what Sydney based singer songwriter Miriam Lieberman brings to the table. Having been given the opportunity to live in West Africa, and study under Malian music great Toumani Diabete, she takes her audience on a journey to far away lands with her soulful vocals accompanied by her guitar & most interestingly, the Kora (21 string African harp), an instrument which is not only beautiful and intriguing in sound, but also in appearance.

On the evening I went to see Miriam play, she was accompanied by a 6 piece band – Kate Adams on cello, Rick Falkiner on lead guitar, Simon Olsen on bass, Blair Greenberg playing percussion, Sibo Bangoura on djembe and Lara Goodridge on violin. An interesting line up where each player was perfectly in sync, supporting each other & Miriam with ease.
The evening began with the support act Pape Mbaye & his band playing a set of West African music. Starting off with a very chilled set, they slowly built up the music and warmed up the crowd, painting a musical landscape as vivid & bright as the colours they wore. You couldn’t help but smile and be uplifted by their subtle yet joyous rhythms.
Miriam opened up her set with the kora assisted “Wourou Songo” from her latest album This is the story. This track is one of a few sung in Bambara – the lingua franca of Mali. From there on Miriam and her band took us away with them. in that moment we were not in the urban grittiness of Marrickville, Sydney but in the villages of countries rich in culture and tradition. Through stories of magical African women, to a fathers a struggle to save his family from a war torn country, to a woman working selflessly to make ends meet for her children, to stories of love & painful losses, we were there. Miriam’s gentle yet deft kora and guitar playing, and her sweet yet powerful vocals, enhanced by rich harmonies from Kate Adams, Lara Goodridge and Blair Greenberg all complimented her storytelling.
As the performance went on, our journey continued, and though the subject matter was sometimes painful that her songs conveyed, there was also great joy in her performance. The crowd responded by dancing with jubilation. You could not listen to this music and not feel ecstatic, the rhythms of the djembe and Blair Greenbergs percussion work, including vocal percussion, only enriched Miriam’s music.
The energy kept moving forward towards the end of the show, with special guests jumping on the stage to join Miriam and dancers encouraging the crowd to continue the festive vibe of the night. Highlights of the show for me included “Mali Sadjo”, “Rhythm & Sound” & “Bamako”.
Find out more about Miriam Lieberman & hear her music at

www.miriamlieberman.com.au

by Kristie Nicolas - From music blog ‘The kitten Jam’



www.rhythms.com.au

WAKELI

Sydney singer-songwriter Miriam Lieberman’s enchanting second album was part-recorded in Guinea during a trip to Africa and features West African rhythms and traditional instruments wedded with her own contemporary folk songs. On one track, ‘Lola’, she accompanies her powerful vocals impressively on kora. Elsewhere she has enlisted expert local accompaniment on the 21-stringed harp, balafon (wooden xylophone) and djembe. - Rhythms Magazine


WAKELI ( RELEASED NOVEMBER 2008) REVIEWS


What’s a nice Jewish girl from Bondi doing hanging out in West Africa? Answer: Making some very fine music. Having travelled extensively in Latin America India and Africa, singer/songwriter Miriam Lieberman’s self penned songs are permeated by her time studying musican and dance in Guinea. Accompanying herself on kora, balaphone and guitar, wakeli (“Courage in Susu) also features several excellent Guinean musicians along with veteran Aussie percussionist Blair Greenberg. Recorded in Conakry and mixed in Sydney Liebermans voice is strong and clear, while her lyrics speak of sorcery, monsoon season and emotions. Highly recommended. SJ - ABC LIMELIGHT



METRO

07/01/2011

Jeff Glorfeld

4.5 STARS

Take a vivacious Sydney musician, transport her to the African country of Mali where she studies he kora (21 string harp) under the guidance of master player Toumani Diabate, and immerse her in the music and culture that inspires her. Record a record in Mali and Sydney with members of Diabate’s band, other Malian musicians and Lieberman’s Êown Sydney group and the result is an extraordinary melding of Australian and African sounds. Lieberman is a robust singer with a sensual yet brittle undertone. Her songs are beautifully melodic, richly textured but can have pointed themes, such as the powerfully beautiful To Rise Again about the plight of Africa’s child soldiers, and the haunting Today is All about the loss of a loved one. Yes thereÕs a conscience at work here but also tones of fun, such as the bright and bouncy Rhythm and Sound and the rollicking My Time. There’s an elemental feel from the exotic African stringed and percussive instruments, anchored to the here and now by Lieberman’s deft guitar work and vocals sung in English and Bambara , the language of Mali. Simply brilliant. - THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD




REVIEWS

22nd &23rd JANUARY 2011

Tony Hillier

WORLD 3.5 STARS

It’s a measure of Sydney sider Miriam Lieberman’s adventurous nature and her standing in West Africa, that she was able to recruit some of A-list Malian musicians for This is the story, including Grammy award winner Toumani Diabate, who guided the development of production on an album part recorded in Bamako. Although an accomplished kora player, the singer songwriter resists the temptation to back herself on the 21-stringed harp until the final track Wourou Songo, a traditional song arranged by Diabate and delivered in Bambara. Lieberman duets with Aliou Sam in the Malian Lingua franca on DiabateÕs signature piece Djarabi with kora player Cherif Soumano. Elsewhere on Malisadjo and on her own excellent English-language compositions Bamako and As-Salam, sheÕs expertly backed by other members of DiabateÕs Symetric orchestra on balafon (wooden xylophone) ngoni (lute) and percussion (djembe, calabash, dundun). Cello adds poignancy to voice and guitar on Today is All, LiebermanÕs lament on the loss of a sister and lifes transience. To Rise Again was prompted specifically by the plight of children caught up in the civil war in Sierra Leone, but serves as a chilling reminder of the recruitment of boy soldiers in other African conflicts. Rhythm and Sound, a song with a Samba pulse tells of a South American mother forced to leave three small children to work long hours for precious little pay. - WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN




FEB 2011

Seth Jordan

4 STARS

Sydney based singer song writer Miriam Lieberman has a special interest in West Africa. Her 2008 recording WAKELI showcased the time she spent in Guinea; this latest release focuses on Mali, where she studied with kora master Toumani Diabate. Lieberman incorporates the African influences to create a true cross cultural hybrid. Recorded in Bamako and Sydney, with superb production from Blair Greenberg, the album features several traditional Mandeng tunes along with Lieberman’s ode to her late sister. Lovely. - ABC LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE




Richard Giles

Miriam Lieberman has spent much time in West Africa especially in Mail, moving between the world of Australian music and the influences of Malian kora master Toumani Diabate and his symmetric orchestra (NEXUS 13/06) and other great Malian musicians. With her powerful vocals and upbeat African rhythms Miriam tells of her travels. Recorded in both Mali and Sydney, this album is her third and best yet. - NEXUS






ENTERTAINMENT GUIDE

10/12/2010

Jeff Glorfeld

4.5 STARS

Take a vivacious Sydney musician, transport her to the African country of Mali where she studies he kora (21 string harp) under the guidance of master player Toumani Diabate, and immerse her in the music and culture that inspires her. Record a record in Mali and Sydney with members of Diabate’s band, other Malian musicians and Lieberman’s Êown Sydney group and the result is an extraordinary melding of Australian and African sounds. Lieberman is a robust singer with a sensual yet brittle undertone. Her songs are beautifully melodic, richly textured but can have pointed themes, such as the powerfully beautiful To Rise Again about the plight of Africa’s child soldiers, and the haunting Today is All about the loss of a loved one. Yes thereÕs a conscience at work here but also tones of fun, such as the bright and bouncy Rhythm and Sound and the rollicking My Time. There’s an elemental feel from the exotic African stringed and percussive instruments, anchored to the here and now by Lieberman’s deft guitar work and vocals sung in English and Bambara , the language of Mali. Simply brilliant. - THE AGE


With a voice that has been described as both heartbreaking and uplifting “ (Miriam’s ) tales are presented rich, deep, and resonating not only lyrically, but musically” Michael Smith Drum media - Drum Media









Miriam Lieberman



OVERVIEW

In conversation with Miriam Lieberman
By Cristina Dio

“Music is itself a language that everybody understands. It doesn’t matter what tongue is spoken…” Miriam Lieberman.

Miriam Lieberman is an artist who can leave you inspired after even a brief conversation. Her outlook on life and music is like a breath of fresh air, and she is one of those rare talents who share the passion for their artform with a combination of pure joy and a degree of humility that is quite disarming.

At the launch of her solo debut “Wakeli” in late 2008, she packed the venue, garnering delighted praise from the audience and five star reviews from the media. She has since been offered a distribution deal with Planet Imports and the album will be available for purchase through Diaspora in the coming weeks.

Recorded primarily in Guinea and mixed in Australia, “Wakeli” is a collection of songs that lovingly embody the stories of Miriam’s uplifting journey as a young and passionate artist living and learning in a new and rich culture.

Her pure voice floats effortlessly over rich West African rhythms, weaving in and out of English, Susu and Malenke, the traditional tribal languages of West Africa. A multi-instrumentalist, Miriam also plays guitar and the kora, an African harp, on some of the tracks, alongside other traditional instruments djembe, balafon, ngoni and dun-dun.

I had the pleasure of Miriam’s company for the following conversation about her love of African music and the experiences in Guinea that informed and inspired her beautifully crafted album.

CD: You recorded this album when you were living in Africa, I believe?

Miriam: I lived there for nearly two years. I’ve always loved African music and I guess its been a bit of a journey of getting to know African music through Latin music because when I was 17 I went to live in Ecuador in a small city called Esmeraldas and it has a very strong African influence in its music and they play marimbas which are really long xylophones which have, I think, really long pieces of aluminium at the bottom. They play cajon and they do lots of call and response and there’s a big African population and of course cumbia and salsa. I loved that music and I was really excited by all the African stuff and so that was kind of like the beginning of the search.

I then lived in Mexico and studied more sierra-style music and songs with the charango, and then on to Brazil. I didn’t know much about Brazil. All I knew was that I really liked the music and after a little but of research I realised that a lot of the music I liked came from Bahia which is another place that is heavily influenced by Africa, really by Angola and Benin. I decided to go there with no Portuguese and ended up living there for six months and studying a lot of the music – like bossa nova and MPB and people like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and all those writers.

Back in Australia I had been studying African dance with the Bangoura family and it was really a passion for me and a great way to access going to West Africa. I ended up going for a month to study traditional West African dance, which I loved, and then while there I studied West African guitar which is incredible because it is using a western instrument but looking at it from a completely different angle as the way they use rhythm is so amazing.

I studied there with a teacher whose nickname was Cobra from the Piti Combe Band and so began my love for West African music. I had to return to Australia to record and tour with Naked Without My Cello, a band I was in at the time, but all I wanted to do was to go back to Africa.

CD: So “Wakeli” is really about your experiences there upon your return?

Miriam: Yeah, I wasn’t really sure what my plan was…but I travelled with a friend overland from Senegal to Guinea which was pretty full on and I was going to stay in Guinea for a week or two. My friend ended up going and doing her own thing and there I was in this shantytown called Matam. At that stage I didn’t speak any French or Susu and it was late at night and I had nowhere to sleep and so a friend of a friend of mine introduced me to a kind local and we stayed in his little tiny place on the floor and there were United Nations rice sacks on the ceiling and I could hear the sounds of the imam and the mosque and this language which I didn’t understand which sometimes sounds like shouting. But it’s a beautiful language once you get to know it.

It was a very hard time in the beginning and lot of it I spent trying to find the right teachers and I ended up staying and staying and staying and eventually met a family that invited me to live with them and met some incredible teachers and equally incredible musicians so I had a period where I was writing a lot of new music and also studying a lot of traditional music on the balafon, which is the west African xylohone and guitar, and then later learning the kora.

My teacher said “you should learn the kora!” and I said “oh, the kora is such an amazing instrument but I think it looks way too difficult, maybe in another lifetime”, and he said “no I think you can do it”. So one day he bought a kora over and he said “I’ll teach you one song. Its not an easy song so if you can’t get the song, don’t worry about it, we’ll keep learning the guitar, but if you learn this song … well then you’ll have a life with the kora.”

So I ended up playing it, and it was really hard, but eventually I got it. It’s a song called “Alalake” which means “God has made it”. I just kept on learning and writing and eventually put a band together to make that album with the songs I had written.

CD: Who are the African musicians on the recording? I see you have dedicated it to Sourakata.

Miriam: Yes, Sourakata was the balafon player. He was an incredible balafon player and also actor. He was my teacher so he used to come to my house and we would play balafon every morning for a couple of hours. And that was the last recording that he did. He died very suddenly. I’m not really sure what the disease was but he was perfectly healthy and then died very quickly and it was very upsetting for me, obviously because we had done a lot together, he was a good friend and we had done this recording project together.

CD: Tell me how the recording process worked. You recorded some of the material in Guinea and some in Australia is that right?

Miriam: I wrote all the songs there except for one which is a traditional song, and recorded them in a studio in Conakry. I rehearsed with that band for a couple of weeks before we did the recording and we had to record to a click track which was hard for a lot of the musicians cos they’d never recorded like that before so one by one we recorded in blocks over two weeks. The main engineer actually wasn’t present most of the time, there was this young, very nice boy called DJ Kolo, but he actually didn’t know that much about engineering so even though the equipment wasn’t that bad, some of the levels were a bit funny and the way it was mastered. So I came back with this recording that I knew had a lot of potential but in terms of the quality, I wasn’t that happy with it. I knew that it was something that had some special pieces in it and it was unique, as for some of those players I wouldn’t be able to play with ever again, like Sourakata. Eventually I gave all those tracks to Blair Greenberg, who I’ve known for a long time. He’s a really amazing percussionist and has produced a lot of albums from Africa and we worked on adding a few extra percussion parts and also doing the vocals again and remixing it.

CD: Tell me about the song “Wakeli".

Miriam: “Wakeli” means “courage” in Susu. I called the album that because I think that’s the most important lesson I learnt in Africa. To have courage. I feel like the Guinean people are incredibly courageous in that it’s a very, very poor country, people don’t have much and they very much live form hand to mouth and people often die of really curable things. Malaria is a big one but other things as well and they have a great sense of community and a great sense of faith that allows them to keep going and keep exuberant in life despite all the intense hardships.

The traditional song “Lola” is written in Malenke, which is another tribal language of Guinea. Guinea has probably the three most dominant tribal groups. There are the Susu, who live mainly in the coastal region and then the Malenke, who are also in Mali, and then the Fulani, which I think are originally from East Africa. They all have different languages and slightly different culture.

CD: Were all the songs written in Africa? Inspired by your time there?

Miriam: Yes all of these songs were written while I was in Guinea so it was just a really inspired period, because for those first couple of months I guess I was quite secluded in that I couldn’t’ speak that much French and I couldn’t speak that much Susu and I hadn’t created a life for myself yet so I was sort of shut out in a dark room. Not really, but metaphorically speaking, and my music was a real solace to me and even before I began learning the traditional music there, the guitar and the writing was a real outpour and so I had the time to be introspective.

The song that most people really like the most is a song called "Home" and I wrote the melody before I had written the lyrics. I was on my way home and I was stuck at the airport in Morocco and I think I had only had about two hours sleep and I was watching all these people meeting each other after a long time and all the emotion of that and also myself going home and feeling that connection of place.

CD: So you are a multi-linguist as well as a multi –instrumentalist? What languages do you speak because there are at least 3 or 4 on the album…

Miriam: Well, I speak Spanish and Portuguese and French, and bit of Susu…and English. I think the thing about learning languages is not about whether you speak them with absolute grammatical perfection… its about communicating with people and that’s what I love doing. For me I guess my two passions are music and travel. Not travelling through, but going into another culture and experiencing those people and language in the way that allows you to do that.

And music is also in itself a language that everybody understands. It doesn’t matter what tongue is spoken, the melodies and rhythms surpass that, and so that’s why I love doing it and I hope to continue to be writing music that is inspired by my life and the stories that I come across.

CD: What instruments do you play on the album?

Miriam: I play kora on some of the songs… not all of them because the kora player is really amazing and high above my level! I play on “Lola”, and classical guitar on most of the tracks and all the vocals.

Other traditional instruments featured are the djembe, probably Guinea’s most famous instrument, because a lot of famous djembe players come from there. There’s a lot of djembe percussion, and also dun dun and kenkenny which are the bigger bass drums and their accompaniment drums and actually Blair Greenberg who has been studying West African music for a long time is playing dun dun and kenkenny on some of those tracks. The other instrument which is really interesting is the ngoni and the ngoni is like a lute. It’s got more of a North African sound and it has four strings and a very tiny body. It looks like a tiny sort of charango or lute and it’s fretless and it’s got a really emotive sound. The other instruments on there are the electric bass, played by a young guy named Mohamed who comes from a family of really good musicians and he just adds that really syncopated style. So there’s kora, balafon, djembe, ngopni, guitar, vocals and balafon, and a bit of keyboard.

CD: Will you continue in this style of music? Or how do you see your evolution as a music artist?

Miriam: That’s a really good question. I think this particular album is very strongly Guinean in its references and a lot of the rhythms come from traditional rhythms. I definitely will continue that strong reference to West African music as I find it enlightening and there’s so much that western music can learn from West African music. But I also think as time goes on there’ll l be other influences as well, as I am really interested in studying northern Indian music as well, but that’s more the melody rather than just the rhythms because I love all the quarter tone in the singing. So I guess the music is also a bit of a gathering of sounds and a gathering of knowledge so as I learn different things in music I like to reference it on the new things that I write. The next album won’t sound exactly the same. It’ll sound like my music and it will also sound African but it will also sound different. I don’t know yet cos I haven’t written it! But I look forward to what it will be.

Look out for the album "Wakeli" on Diaspora in the coming weeks.
For more about Miriam visit: www.miriamsong.com.au

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Miriam Lieberman
Wakeli
Independent
www.miriamsong.com.au
4 stars

What’s a nice Jewish girl from Bondi doing haning out in West Africa? Answer: Making some very fine music. Having travelled extensively in Latin America, India and Africa, singer/songwriter singer song writer Miriam Lieberman’s self penned songs are permeated by her time studying music and dance in Guinea. Accompanying herself on kora balaphone and guitar. Wakeli (courage in Susu) also features several excellent Guinean musicians along with veteran Aussie percussionist Blair Greenberg. Recorded in Conakry, and mixed in Sydney, Lieberman’s voice is strong and clear, while her lyrics speak of sorcery monsoon season and emotions. Highly recommended.
Seth Jordan
- Limelight Magazine


Discography

'This Is The Story'
Released December 2010 Distributed through MGM
'Wakeli' Released in November 2008 Distributed through MGM
Naked Without My Cello Released in 2004.

Photos

Bio

‘Lieberman is a robust singer with a sensual yet brittle undertone. Her songs
are beautifully melodic, richly textured but can have pointed themes… Simply brilliant’ - ‘4 and a half stars’ -
Jeff Glorfeld - THE AGE
‘Lieberman incorporates the African influences to create a true cross cultural
hybrid... lovely.’ -
‘4 stars’ Seth Jordan - ABC Limelight Magazine Feb 2011
'It’s a measure of Sydneysider Miriam Lieberman’s adventurous nature and her standing in West Africa, that she was able to recruit some of A -list Malian
musicians for This is the story,’
Tony Hillier - The Weekend Australian
Miriam Lieberman is a Sydney based world singer songwriter with a unique global perspective. She has travelled to and Immersed herself in the distant places and cultures of the music that inspire her throughout her life. Her explorative approach is complemented with soulful vocals and poignant story
telling - the result is a musical journey that is both emotive and uplifting. Miriam sings in English and the lingua franca of Mali- Bambara as well as Susu and spanish. She accompanies her vocals while playing kora (a 21-stringed African
harp) and acoustic guitar. She performs as a soloist and with her big band which includes cellist Kate Adams, percussionist Blair Greenberg, bassist Simon Olsen, guitarist Rick Falkiner, Lara Goodridge on violin and Sibo Bangoura on djembe.
Miriam released her third album THIS IS THE STORY to a packed house at the Basement Sydney in November 2010 and since then it has received much critical acclaim. Many of the songs were inspired by and partially recorded in Mali, West Africa where Miriam recently spent more time furthering her knowledge of the kora. These studies were under the guidance of masterplayer Toumani Diabate, and were made possible through a grant from John Butler’s JB Seed fund. The album wasrecorded with members of Toumani’s band, ‘Symmetric Orchestra’, other local Malian musicians as well as band membersand musicians from Sydney. Its songs are infused with an adventurous spirit, infectious African rhythms and stories that stay with you.

Wakeli, her second album, was inspired by the year and half Miriam spent studying traditional music in Guinea, West Africa. Songs from the album received nominations for a 2010
Music Oz award, and Rhythms magazine described it as ‘enchanting and catchy’. ABC’s Limelight concluded its review with ‘highly recommended’; and Diaspora online magazine
spoke of ‘Her pure voice [?oating] effortlessly over rich West African rhythms weaving in and out of English, Susu and Malenke – tribal languages of West Africa’.
Miriam’s first album, Naked Without My Cello, was completed in 2004, made possible by the assistance of the Australia Council. As well as creating a dedicated fan base, it propelled
Miriam and cellist Kate Adams onto the festival circuit around Australia. Aside from playing with her band, Miriam co-founded Company Gongoma – A theatre company specializing
in story telling through puppetry and live cross cultural music. She has performed as bothnarrator and musician for shows in festivals across Australia. Miriam has also recently been
composing music for a Griffin theatre production of The Brothers Size which she will perform
in later this year.

Miriam’s shows include a packed out launch at The Basement, sellout performances at The Vanguard in Sydney, performances at last year’s Voice of Bamako festival in Mali and at the
2006 Guinean National Jazz Festival headlined by the late Ali Farka Toure. She has toured to remote communities of the Northern Territory in Australia as well as performing to sell
out crowds as vocalist for the acclaimed music and dance piece The Firebird.
www.miriamlieberman.com.