When I first set foot on the plane to relocate to Ethiopia five years ago, I knew it would change my life forever. I just didn’t know how. Music has whisked me from my native Houston to the hot sands of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
After years of performing and lending background vocals to artists like Melanie Fiona, I was ready for a change. In 2010, I moved to Ethiopia to work as a vocalist and performer. The experience was something I just couldn’t pass up.
Becoming an expatriate opened my eyes to the beauty of a world that understood me through song. Even if I did not speak the dialect, a warm embrace after a performance always got the meaning across. No matter where I travel, music has the ability to touch someone. And their appreciation always touched me in return.
I consider music a universal language but some notes still get lost in translation overseas. The cultural barriers were not always linguistic. I didn’t know what to expect about Ethiopia at all. Expecting polite applause after singing a final note, I had to acclimate myself to the silence of Ethiopian audiences. It was awkward until I realized they held their praise until the very end of the show!
Since that first adventure in East Africa, my husband and I relocated to Seoul, South Korea, and most recently to Dubai in 2013. Living in my third country outside of the US has shown me I can perform and record anywhere I find a mic.
I enjoy life being “location independent.” The music industry in the United States is often more driven by the cover of an album and not the contents. [Overseas], you don’t have to look a certain way […]. You don’t have to be the Barbie doll. I can let my music speak for itself and be art without artifice.
Dubai’s tight-knit desert expat community provides a fertile environment for artists to thrive. The fierce competition between soul music artists just isn’t present in a country where African-American singers are quite rare. They don’t expect to see a small Black woman with curly hair here; I stand out. The type of music that I want to present to the world is more appreciated abroad.
It really hit me one night when I realized that an entire room full of people in Doha, Qatar was there to see just me for a three-hour performance. Life has a way of throwing curveballs and we can try to catch them and play ball or run like mad to dodge them. I felt extremely honored that a huge organization and brand like Qatar Airways trusted me to entertain that evening.
I’ve also discovered the power of music to provide me a platform for communicating global issues. I’d like to become the face of a nonprofit organization and align with them to make an impact. I’m working to make that happen with every performance, every opportunity.
In the liner notes of my life, I dream of building an entertainment company that would produce music for television licensing and documentaries centering on human rights.
But there is so much more to life than just dreaming. I write music to inspire people to just go for it. Recently, I completed work on my first album of original songs. Cheers to Life is all about celebrating the things that make life worth living. The album was released on February 2, 2016. I couldn’t be more excited to share my vision.
Above all, I want the world to know me as an international artist who appreciates all cultures. I traveled across the world with a song in my heart and I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.