Naia Kete
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Naia Kete

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
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"Local Songstress"

Local Songstress Naia Kete at the IMA

Naia Kete, Lee Madeloni and Jules Belmont
Naia Kete and her brother, percussionist Imani Devi- Brown, have been playing music together since they were children.
Progeny of the Black Rebels, a reggae and world roots family band based in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts, the two siblings are taking their act on the road along with bass player Lee Madeloni, a young man who also grew up in a musical home—Madeloni’s dad, Earl Slick, is a New York session musician best known for his work with David Bowie.
Sunday night at the Institute for Musical Arts (IMA), the three core members of the Naia Kete Band, with the addition of lead guitarist Jules Belmont, put out a confident and compelling double set of mostly original material, throwing in a cover or two, including a scorching version of Jah Cure’s “Mr. Jailer.”
Kete’s R&B-tinged voice is expressive and strong, and her jazz- and roots-influenced rhythm guitar playing is right on. She cites Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Nora Jones and John Legend as musical influences.
Her versatile band backed her up on ballads then kicked it open with a hot, snaky version of “Jah is Mighty,” a song which Kete took to the rafters. Multi-instrumentalist Madeloni doubled on percussion on several numbers, weaving patterns with Kete’s kid brother Imani.
Off to the West Coast

Imani Devi-Brown
Having performed with the Black Rebels since the age of 13, Kete knows the performance world well, and has taken her act all across the Northeast, to California, and, most recently, to St. Bart’s, where the band recorded a four-song acoustic demo, played in clubs, and performed live radio.
The Naia Kete Band is moving out to California this summer, where they plan on working with recording engineer Peter Amato. “We’re going to try to find a place to stay in either Santa Monica or Silver Lake,” said Kete. “We’re going to see what happens.”
A fundraiser for the band’s move will be held in Northampton on Saturday, June 5 in the Dynamite Records space in the basement of Thorne’s Marketplace. Promising “good music, good people, good food, and good fun,” the event, which starts at 7:30, will feature the Black Rebels, Joy Conz, Kristen Ford, Everything on Fire, Badi, 5 Alone, and Billy Keane and the Misdemeanor Outlaws. The Naia Kete Band will plug in and play electric.
“We’re asking for a $25 donation—I know that’s a lot, but it will help us make it across the country. If you can’t afford that much, we won’t turn you away; every little bit helps,” said Kete. “We’re driving Lee’s Subaru Forester, and we’ll have to rent a trailer.”
The Institute for Musical Arts
The non-profit IMA, whose mission is to support women and girls in music and the music business, was founded in 1987 by musician June Millington (guitarist with the ’60s girl band Fanny) and her partner Anne Hackler. A 25-acre, 200-year-old estate in the town of Goshen was purchased in 2001 as a permanent home for the organization. A renovated barn on the property (Architect Tris Metcalfe supervised the structural restoration) contains a 200-seat performance space, a bunkhouse, and a recording studio with a control room complex designed by the legendary Walters-Storyk Design Group.
“This is perhaps the first world-class recording studio dedicated to the creativity of women,” said Millington. “We’ve built this place with a lot of volunteer labor and a lot of good will from a lot of people.”
Dan Tinen, the Institute’s chief audio engineer and consultant, not only managed house sound, but produced a live multi-track recording of Sunday’s show; Millington handled the video shoot.
Kete has a long-standing relationship with the IMA, having attended the Institute’s summer rock ‘n roll programs for a number of years. “I first walked in here at the age of eleven to take a guitar workshop,” said the 20-year-old Kete. “It seems like only yesterday. There’s so much creative energy here.” - Northhampton Media


"HomeGrown Talent"

hursday, May 20, 2010
12

THE RECORDER
Naia Kete says she's always dreamed of becoming a rock star.

I've been blessed, with melodies
Floating through my head throughout the day
I sing, to my heart's content
Healing worlds in my brain

As these lyrics from Naia Kete's song "Sweet Music" suggest, music courses through the veins of the Shutesbury singer and songwriter. Performing is in her blood.

At 1 year old, Kete picked up her first microphone and sang into it. At 8 years old, she performed with her parents in their reggae roots band Black Rebels before a crowd of 30,000 in Africa. By the time she was 13, she was regularly performing with the band, whose members include her mother, father, stepfather and brother.

At 18, she recorded her debut solo album, "Sweet Music," which she describes as a personal, political soul trip. And today, at 20, her accomplishments include performing across the country, including Northampton, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and recording her second CD, "Land Upon A Star." Kete and her band will perform Sunday at The Institute of Musical Arts in Goshen.

"My life is my passion. My passion is my music," said Kete, who writes lyrics with a maturity beyond her years and wants to bring people together with her music.

Her soulful delivery and raspy voice soothe, yet wake up a listener as she delivers the strong messages embedded in her world views.

Kete calls for a revolution through action, not through fighting and war.


See many more Naia Kete videos at her YouTube channel

Musical inheritance

Kete, wasn't educated in the traditional way. "I tried to make school work, but it didn't," she said. "I tried public school, private school and home-schooling."

Kete finally decided to get her GED in what would have been her sophomore year in high school. Before that, she spent some time at the Institute for Musical Arts in Goshen, a school dedicated to supporting women in music.

"After I got my GED, I started recording," said Kete, whose parents, stepparents and siblings are all musicians and have lived in the area for many years.

Kete also started teaching African dance, following in the footsteps of her mother, who exposed Kete to music by teaching African dance while Kete was still in the womb.

"After I was born, my parents would take me to their shows," she said. "I'd sit through rehearsals and fall asleep at shows. I'd dance with my parents on stage. Music has always been a huge part of my life.

"I love singing and dancing. They keep me in touch with myself and keep me healthy."

'Me and my guitar'

Kete loves sitting on her bed, playing her guitar. "That's where it all started," she said, "me, on my bed, with my guitar." She has been writing songs for as long as she can remember. "It's always been so natural. It's always felt right."

Given her roots, Kete's natural instinct is to perform reggae. But lately, she has focused more on folk. "I wanted to do a broader spectrum of music," she said. "But, reggae still slips in when I play."

Many of her ideas for songs come from extreme emotion, she said. "If I'm happy or sad or angry, it comes through. I find that moment of inspiration and channel it into a song."

By transforming difficult feelings of grief, anger or helplessness into music, Kete believes she is also helping others. "Music is therapy for many people," said Kete. "I know I feel better when I'm writing it or singing."

In her writing, she also uses the personal to point to the global. "I talk about world hunger, war, children, she said. "I hope I bring some hope. I want the president of the United States and the little boy next door to be able to relate to my music and take something away."

She talks about truth and love and asks people to unite in "Are You Ready?" In "Come Back Home, " she calls for a revolution through personal responsibility. Other titles include "Forgive, Move On" and "I'll Be Free."

Working to make it 'big'

Kete plays as often as she can. "I've always dreamed of becoming a rock star and it's still my dream," she said. "If it was up to me, I'd really want to be playing a lot, touring a lot and selling a lot of CDs."

Kete's CDs are not sold in stores. "Sweet Music" is available as a download at www.CDBaby.com. Check her MySpace and Facebook pages for updates on the availability of "Land Upon A Star." Her MySpace site, www.myspace.com/naiakete, also has samples of music and information on her upcoming shows.

Earlier this year, Kete was in Nashville, Tenn., working on another CD. She has performed locally at Pearl Street and the Iron Horse Music Hall, both in Northampton, at the Montague Book Mill, Mocha Maya's and Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls and at Cafe Evolution in Florence. She recently performed at Memorial Hall with other local musicians, including a host of Signature Sounds recording artists, to raise money for victims of the Haiti earthquake. That concert sold out, filling Memorial Hall and raising more than $16,000.

Heading West

Kete said she has a strong U.S. and African fan base, but wants to make them stronger. "I'd really like to grow both of them and include Australia, Europe, Asia, and as many other places as possible," said Kete. "I want to go everywhere. I love to travel. I guess success will take you wherever you want, so I hope I'm successful."

Next stop? California. Kete will head to the Golden State in June with her band, which includes her brother, Imani Devi-Brown, on drums. All the band members are in their 20s.

"We're going to see what we can do out there," she said. "We've gone back and forth between coasts and we still plan to do that, but we want to spend some time out there. It's time for many of us to explore and spread our wings." - GazetteNet


Discography

Sweet Music
released March, 2008
Writing for new album in 2011

Photos

Bio

Naia’s music is a personal/political soul-trip, as grounded and articulate as it is emotive, ever powered by the guitar and voice of this blossoming young visionary. Her songs would fit right alongside a radio playlist of Adele’s "Chasing Pavements," Jason Mraz’s "I’m Yours” and John Legend’s "Ordinary People."
She inspires with her words and brings the listener on an emotional journey. Listening to Naia or seeing her live you experience how her voice flows with a lyrical maturity and precision that conjures images of the great Lauryn Hill, Norah Jones, John Legend, Adele, or even soul diva Erykah Badu leaving the observer wide-eyed and ready for action.

Naia is confident and centered, as grounded as the musical tradition she grew up with. She is direct, kind, quick to laugh, and talks about music as a conciliatory tool that she has seen unite her family and plans to put to use inspiring and bringing together the peoples of the world. “Community is so important to me,” says Naia “A lot of what I try to convey in my music is that I feel like it's truly time for the people of the world to unite in order to create peace and joy. It has to start in the home, and next in your extended family and community. I wouldn't be singing and writing in the way that I do if it wasn't for the people who have touched my life and heart so dearly.”

Wherever Naia’s gifts come from, her message is moving, refreshing, and an undeniably eloquent and conscious one to be coming from anyone, let alone a 21 year-old from the hills of Western Massachusetts.