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She possesses one of the most alluring and powerful voices within the soul genre, injecting poignant words with both soul and substance. She doesn't need to rely on technical wizardry because her voice is its own instrument all within itself. It's quietly seductive, sexy, galvanizing, and sweet.
In an industry that advocates monotony, GOAPELE (Gwa-pa-lay) is an autonomist - a poster girl for individualism, a non-conformist. Perhaps her bloodline/lineage itself helped hurt her nonconformity. Her New York-born Jewish mother met and married exiled South African political activist Douglas while in Nairobi, Kenya. "What those two cultures faced historically forced my brother and I to be sensitive toward various cultures and social issues. These issues were not only important, but the focus of our everyday lives. Even our musical tastes were diverse. We listened to Sweet Honey in the Rock and Nina Simone, as well as South African music such as Hugh Masekela, Zulu Spear, and Miriam Makeba which was banned in South Africa at the time. These artists created timeless music and positive change in the world. I'm also part of the hip hop generation, and my influences continue to grow, so my music has become a blend of many musical traditions."
For a woman whose name means 'to move forward' in Sitswana, a South African dialect, Goapele is instinctively living up to her moniker. The Oakland, California-based songstress broke onto the Bay Area music scene in 2001 with her ethereal EP, Even Closer. Released on her family-owned record company, Skyblaze Recordings and RED Distribution, the album's mix of soulful grooves and thought-provoking lyrics introduced the world to a multi-faceted artist and songwriter, known as much for her social and political activism as for her lush romantic ballads.
Goapele followed up the release of her album debut by hitting the road and taking her serene - yet inspiring - sound to the masses, both stateside and abroad. Time and again, the singer wowed sold-out crowds with her emotionally powerful songs, energetic spirit, and electrifying shows. While Goapele garnered the support of music critics and fans, a host of fellow musicians and celebrities - including The Roots, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Magic Johnson, Prince, and Stevie Wonder - came under the spell of her music, style, and sensibility. "I'm very excited to get the support of artists I've long admired," she says.
Goapele brings an infusion of fresh energy and a classic, yet new sound to R&B music with her sophomore set, Change It All on Skyblaze Recordings/Columbia/Sony, and proves that enlightened change can be a positive force in the world of music and beyond. For her new album, Goapele returned to her Bay Area roots to craft an artistically challenging set inspired by her recent experiences both in and out of the industry.
The result is a collection of love songs and politically and socially inspired songs that remain true to Goapele's firmly planted soul roots while allowing her to branch out in a number of exciting, new directions. Songs like the emotive "Darker Side Of The Moon" and the second single "Love Me Right," with its electro-pop funk, show Goapele taking aesthetic risks while staying true to her signature sound.
Written and recorded on the West coast, Change It All is the fruit of Goapele's labor and inspiration. In the spirit of Goapele's interest in positive change, she and Skyblaze founded an online community that shares its name with her album. ChangeItAll.org presents Goapele's musical message, highlights political and social change-makers, and provides a forum for Goapele's fans and others to network and create ways to promote action, creativity, courage, and positive growth for people and communities everywhere. "In talking to the team at Skyblaze, we started thinking, 'What if we used this opportunity to create a tool for other people to connect'," she adds. "So, instead of looking at what's wrong in the world, let's look at what changes are already happening and use it as a way for people to organize around those things."
More recently Goapele was presented with the first-ever Human Rights Cultural Hero Award by the Bay Area-based Ella Baker Center. The Ella Baker Center honored her because they recognized that throughout her renowned international success, she has remained deeply rooted in her home community and in the struggle for human rights. She continues to perform at local rallies and demonstrations in an attempt to look forward to a better day for all of her people.