Don’t try putting singer-songwriter Ada Ayiti in a box. She’ll crawl right out of it, with her strong mixture of roots, jazz, and world music. With her twists falling down her shoulders, and the earth tones she favors in her music videos, the Paris-born, US-raised songstress, is a breath of the freshest air.
She wants you to know that she’s got lots of goodies in her musical malèt. She’s keen with the visuals too. In her Abdias Laguerre-directed, Arturo Lorde-photographed music video for her song “Defile”, Ada prances about in East and West African-inspired patterns, and she’s surrounded by women who dress as if they could be from last century. The word “Defile” can be translated as strut, walk, catwalk, and in just peering at the first few seconds of the music video, it’s an obvious ode to female empowerment in the same vein and thread as Talie’s “Bèl Tifi”. Females are congregating, sharing laughs, telling jokes, and bouncing with joy all over the screen.
Ada’s stage shows in the New York area has folks in the audience feeling as if they’re seeing Heather Headley’s cousin belting on the mic…
Now, ahem, enter the world of Ada…through this interview…via your girl Kreyolicious….
Kreyolicious: Your name is Ada…if only there were an “i” between the A and the D…you’d be Aida, like in the opera. Do you happen to like or listen to opera?
I do…I’m a big fan of Maria Callas.
Kreyolicious: Some people start off in chorus in elementary, middle or high school. Was that the case with you?
I was involved in every school activity that involved singing! Chorus, drama club etc—and that’s only because singing at home was not enough. I wanted to sing more, so I joined them all.
Kreyolicious: Who are some of your favorite music and artists, and what do you like about them?
There are so many! But to narrow it to three or four, I would say Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone. Musically, the tunes speak to me, but it’s the message in the music that really made me fall in love with them as artists.
Kreyolicious: If you could choose two male duet partners, and a female duet partner, who would you choose…each for a different song?
Because I’m doing a lot of Haitian influenced music right now, I would have to choose Belo and Arly Lariviere. For women, I’m a big fan of Lunise from RAM – It would be dope to collab with them, and come up with a sick rasin [roots music] track. I can already see it!
Kreyolicious: What should every aspiring performer know about the music business?
I learned this year, after knowing how difficult it is to be in the business, that you can’t do it alone. You need a team of people to take care of every aspect that you as the artist can’t do alone. Which is management, marketing, styling, etc… the artist should focus on the craft and find ways to challenge themselves. But to do more than that is really stifling. So find yourself people who support you 100%. If they believe in you and your work, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who are going to make sure things are happening and happening right.
Kreyolicious: A singer’s voice is definitely a valuable asset. How much time do you put into rehearsals and in training your voice?
I sing every day! Rehearsals are everything. For any upcoming performances, I like to rehearse as much as possible with my musicians…at least every other day until show date. It’s also important to adopt singing exercise that best suits you. Before every performance I have a rule where I stop talking a couple of hours before show time. Saves me from using my vocal chords and it’s great meditation.
Kreyolicious: Performers are known to be busy little bees. What are you working on at the moment?
Writing lots of music to take to the studio. We got some great producers that we’re working with. I’m really excited about giving my audience something they will be happy with.
Kreyolicious: What are we to expect from you in the future?
I’m in the business to make good music. Not something that’s hot for the moment or for promotional use only. It’s really important to me to give my audience something that can last. Something they can play five to ten years from now.
[Photos courtesy of Atizan International]