Aisha Kahlil

Performing Artist, Composer, Choreographer, Teacher, and Activist

“Eloquent and ecstatic; Aisha Kahlil”

- Marlene Duncan, The Collegiate

“An amazing testament to the versatility of the human voice” - All Music Guide Review

“An electrifying dancer as well as singer” - Boston After Dark

“Kahlil’s choreography was fluid and always fascinating” -Julie Van Camp, The Washington Times

About Aisha

Performing Artist

I am a vocalist, dancer and actor. In addition to doing solo work, I also perform with the grammy nominated acapella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock. As an artist, I have toured extensively both domestically and worldwide, and have shared my talents with audiences in venues ranging from school shows to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York. I love them all! 

Composer and Choreographer

I am also a composer, and have written many songs both for Sweet Honey in the Rock as well as for my own solo work and recording. Journey to Myka, my first solo project, is also my maiden voyage as a producer, and features my own compositions and arrangements. One of these songs, The Jewel Light, was a finalist in  the ISC (International Songwriting Competition) My original song Fulani Chant was featured in the film Down in the Delta, directed by Maya Angelou, and I have had several other licenses for my work. As a choreographer I have placed works  on The First World Dance Theatre, The Levine School Dancers and drummers, and many more. 

Teacher and Activist

I have always found a way to transfer knowledge throughout my career, and I really love and appreciate this work, for through teaching I am continuously learning and expandping my depth,  range, and understanding as a performer. In addition to my passion for music, dance, and theatre, I am also deeply interested in social justice, environmental, health, and healing issues for a whole earth, and like to utilize my talents wherever possible to help promote awareness and personal activism for a sustainable, balanced, healthy and abundant planet for all human beings.

Bio

 

AISHA KAHLIL possesses a dynamic, innate power and range in jazz, blues, traditional, contemporary, and African vocal styles and techniques. 

Ms. Kahlil’s interest in music was evident at an early age. She was a member of local choirs in her native Buffalo, New York, and during her high school years performed as a vocalist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in several productions, including  Porgy and Bess, Carmen Jones, and The Messiah. During this time she also sang the role of Monica in a special WGBH production of Menotti’s The Medium, and performed at Carnegie Hall in Julius Eastman’s avant-garde composition The Thruway. She worked concurrently with the Studio Arena Theatre where she was awarded a full scholarship, and The Buffalo Black Drama Workshop, where she became interested in the music of such jazz artists as John Coltrane, Leon Thomas, Betty Carter, Yma Sumac, and Pharoah Sanders, to name a few. 

By the time she entered college as a theatre student at Northeastern University in Boston, it was clear that Ms. Kahlil had an intuitive inclination for vocal jazz. Although her formal training had been in European classical music, she began experimenting with innovative, improvisational vocal techniques. During the same period, she studied voice and music theory at the New England Conservatory of Music, and performed with Ebony Jua, a local jazz ensemble that toured the east coast music circuit. While at Northeastern, Aisha directed M(ego) and the Green Ball of Freedom, Where we at? , a play by Martie charles, and performed and directed Sister Sonji, by Sonia Sanchez.

Following her studies, Ms. Kahlil spent three years in the Bay area, where she worked as a vocalist and dancer with the Raymond Sawyer Theatre and Halifu Productions, while performing and recording with the avant-garde jazz trio Infinite Sound. She then returned to Boston, and there worked with such groups as Stan Strickland and Sundance and The Art of Black Dance and Music, in addition to teaching at the Institute for Contemporary Dance, The Joy of Motion, the Boston Center for the Arts, and as a consultant to the Boston public school system. 

Ms. Kahlil’s artistic pursuits have taken her to New York City, where she studied extensively at the Alvin Ailey School, and with Frank Hatchett, Pepsi Bethel, Fred Benjamin, and Emiko and Yasuko Tokunaga. She also appeared in the Joseph Papp off Broadway production of The Haggadah, co – composed and performed in the musical Two Thousand Seasons, and danced with such companies as Titos Sampas’s Tanawa. During this time, she also performed with Talib Kibwe( T.K. Blue) and Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), and with Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra. Since her arrival in Washington, D.C., she has worked with the D.C. Black Repertory Theatre and with Brother Ah and the Sounds of Awareness, and has been a featured artist in the Smithsonian Institution’s Jazz in the Palm Court, in which she presented a special performance of the music of Gertrude “Ma” Rainey; the Queen Mother of the Classic Blues, to rave reviews. Aisha has taught and performed for the African Heritage Dancers and Drummers, as a dancer in Kankouran, and taught at the Dance Place. She also served as artistic director for the Youth Ensemble of Dancers and Drummers at the Levine School of Music, directed and choreographed for the First World Dance Theatre, and co directed and performed for the First World Productions, where she also co wrote with Nitanju Bolade Casel the original production Bright Moments in Great Black Music. As a member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ms. Kahlil has been voted Best Soloist by the Contemporary A Capella Society, for her work on her composition Fulani Chant, and also for her rendition of See See Rider. Her original composition Wodaabe Nights has been featured in the film soundtrack Africans in America, and her composition Fulani Chanthas been included in the film soundtrack Down in the Delta, directed by Maya Angelou, as well as the soundtrack Climb against the Odds, a film produced by the Breast cancer Fund. Ms Kahlil’s film credits include Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey and directed by Jonathan Demme, and with Sweet Honey in the Rock and James Horner, has written and recorded original music for the soundtrack of the TNT film Freedom Song, starring Danny Glover and directed by Phil Robinson. In 2005, Aisha was a finalist with her own band MyKa and the whole World Band in the annual contest Battle of the Bands, sponsored by Discmakers, and was a winner in the International Songwriting Competition’s (ISC) performance category with her original song, The Jewel Light

Aisha has toured with her band in the islands of Hawaii; performing at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele, at Cassanova’s, and at Studio Maui, where she also taught workshops in vocal improvisation and movement. She has performed at Blues Alley, Twins Jazz, and most recently at the Anacostia Arts Center and at Bethesda Blues and Jazz. She was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the Chicago Theological Seminary. The CD 

Journey to My-Ka is a compilation of her own original compositions and arrangements, and is her first solo recording as well as her maiden voyage as a producer. 

Reviews

 

“Aisha Kahlil seems to be Sweet Honey's occult genius. ..she carefully executes every note as if pulling precious diamond rings out of a thick molasses. ..her vocal control was as precise as every stroke of a violinist's bow. Her every movement seemed to be an extension of the music“ 

Nastia Voynovskaya, The Daily Californian

Eloquent and ecstatic. Aisha Kahlil "  - Marlene Duncan, The Collegiate

Kahlil's "Fulani Chant" sounds like nothing so much as an exotic group of birds calling and crying in the trees, and is an amazing testament to the versatility of the human voice."   All Music Guide Review

Nature and Earth Day was further saluted by the exuberant emotional performance of Aisha Kahlil on “the Soul of Nature” that joined with her Dream chant as some of the most adventuresome music in the show."  Los Cerritos Community News

"Still, a relatively apolitical number, "Fulani Chant," provided the most fun of this last night. The beautiful Aisha Kahlil, in a dashing yellow gown, did a hands dance and chanted wordlessly"  A Capella News

Aisha Kahlil, trained in African dance traditions, was mesmerizing as she sang and danced to a haunting song. At times her voice was like a whisper, at other times almost a wail. It was very powerful and when the song was finished and the applause died down I could hear many sniffles in the audience."  Robin's Blog

"Prayer at the Crossroads," a rap number about drug addiction. Group member Aisha Kahlil, who wrote the song about someone she loved who succumbed to addiction, contorted her body, turned her face into a mask of anguish, shook and shuddered as she sang this song of sorrow."  Kalamazoo Gazette

"Their musical materials range just as widely, from traditional gospel harmonies to world-beat percussion to irresistible pop (Kahlil's) Vision of Tomorrow," with its introspective lyrics, ear-catching melodies and solid beat, would burn up the R&B charts"  - Andrew Lindemann Malone, Washington Post

After intermission, Aisha Kahlil's tour de force lead vocals on "Stranger Blues" garnered the largest of many standing ovations.   Washington Post - Washington,DC,USA

"Never have the group's arrangements been as ambitious or as successful as they are here. Highlights include Kahlil's nine-minute scat piece, "Fulani Chant,"  Geoffry Himes

"One of the brightest newcomers was Aisha Kahlil, a stunning black dancer ...Kahlil'schoreography was fluid and always fascinating...a tapestry of cultural forms"  - Julie Van Camp, The Washington Times

"Another song, "Stranger" became a meditation on alienation and longing, with Kahlilcrooning in a slightly husky alto that belied her slight frame., the song bursting from her body in a series of scats, raps, and yodels - as if the musicf were being beat out of her"  - Teresa Wiltz , Chicago Tribune

"Brother Ah's original African music and its performance by his ensemble provide excellent counterpoint to the action. However, the most moving instrument is Aisha Kahlil's voice."  - Burt Wade Cole, Providence Sunday Journal

"And then there is Aisha, an electrifying dancer as well as singer whose eerie tones, stratospheric swoops and radical phrasing make even Betty Carter sound conventional"  - Mark Rowland, Boston After Dark

Show and Events

 

Most Recent Solo Shows 

Twins Jazz

Blues Alley

Anacostia Art Center 

Upcoming Shows Solo (TBD) 

Upcoming Shows Sweet Honey in the Rock

8-11-2018  Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival, Springfield Mass.

8-15-2018  Omega Institute 

9-30-2018 - August Wilson  Center for African American Culture  Pittsburgh PA 

10-1-2018   Alvernia University, Reading PA 

10-14-2018. Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 

10-27-2018  Parker Playhouse, Ft Lauderdale, Fla

11-6 thru 11 -11 -2018  University of Chicago, Chicago ILL. 

11-30-2018  Royce Hall, Los Angeles, CA. 

12-15-2018  New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ 

02-02-2019 -  New Spire Arts, Frederick  MD. 

02-04 thru 02-09-2019.  University of Chicago, Chicago, ILL

02-10-2019 Fairfield University, Fairfield CT.

02-20-2019  University of Connecticut, Storms, CT. 

03-16-2019  Symphony Space, New York, NY

05-07 thru 05-12-2019  University of Chicago, Chicago ILL. 

Workshops and Classes

Vocal Essence: African Songs, Chants, and Movement  For all levels.  Exploring the basics of vocal production, we will learn to tap into, open up, and express our own unique vocal identity. Utilizing physical warm-ups, breathing techniques, vocal rhythms, songs, and chants, Aisha will create a moving, harmonious circle enabling us to feel the fluid, creative, energetic expression of free spirit within. From this centered place of flow and creativity, we will learn to move and sing the natural, organic way. 

Songs, Chants, and Movement 11 This workshop will continue to explore the basics of vocal production. Utilizing physical warm ups, breathing techniques, vocal rhythms, songs and chants, we will learn how to move and sing simultaneously; placing emphasis on maintaining rhythmic tempo, holding down various parts, and minimizing vocal and physical strain during performance. 

Rhythm, Melody, and Harmonics  In this workshop, we will build upon the foundation of essential vocal technique. Working through breath, physical and vocal warm ups, and polyrhythmic structures, we will move on to more complex compositions; infusing harmonic tonalities, pitch, range, and placement with individual and group performance. 

Basics of Vocal Improvisation  Here we will focus upon the art of listening. We will learn how to improvise upon simple rhythmic structures, through the heartbeat, to movement, to handclapping, boot dancing, and finally, through vocal expression. Emphasis will be placed upon the organics of sound production, moving through tribal like evolutions of group and individual dynamics, to create an atmosphere of safety, sensitivity, and creative freedom - the essentials of vocal improvisation.

Advanced Vocal Improvisation  This workshop will take the art of improvisation a few steps further. With continuous focus upon the art of breath, tonality, and listening, we will explore more complex aspects of melody, harmony, and rhythm; creating more defined and individual expressions of vocal improvisation.


Solo and group Classes also available 
 

Audio

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