Girl power brings the beat

All-women's ensemble Zili Misik performs at Shippensburg

All-women's ensemble Zili Misik performs at Shippensburg

February 19, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Part of the reason Zili Misik does what it does is so female musicians never have to hear, "That was really great - for a girl," said Zili Misik founder and band leader Kera Washington.

"It's harder to get the same level of recognition," Washington said in a recent phone interview with The Herald-Mail.

The all-women ensemble will perform at Shippensburg University on Tuesday night. They're recording a new album - title to be determined - which they plan to release in early March, Washington said.

Zili Misik's name comes from the Haitian spiritual entity, Ezili, generally thought of as a mother, lover and warrior.

The girl-power vibe, Washington said, stems from many of the band member's experiences being the only girl in other roots-music ensembles.

"I would hear things like 'There aren't great female musicians,'" Washington said. "That's obviously not true."

So in 2001, she sought to prove otherwise by forming an all-girl roots-music group, then named Zili Roots.


While the band's membership and name has since changed, Washington said the group's approach to music-making is same: Female and roots-ish.

The only difference for the upcoming album, which will be the second under the Zili Misik name, Washington said, is that you'll hear a group with more polish and cohesion. The previous album, "New World's Soul" was released two years ago, so they've had plenty of time to develop new ideas, Washington said.

"Having ideas is not a problem," Washington said. "But to structure a song and find one focus, that is something we've learned over the years."

Zili Misik's influences span several cultures - anything from Haitian "mizik rasin" and Afro-Cuban "son" to blues, jazz and neo-soul.

But the common thread among those styles, Washington said, is that they are all part of the African diaspora - that is, regions whose musical traditions still bear the stamp of the African ancestors who were brought over through the slave trade.

"It's not just a story of blackness," Washington said. "It brings everybody together."

The members of the eight-woman lineup hail from Trinidad, Japan, Chicago and Oakland, Calif., said Washington, who is African-American.

"Music is a vehicle of bringing people together," Washington said. "I think it's very important to come back to that unity, especially when there's so much division in the world."

If you go ...

WHAT: Zili Misik in concert

WHEN: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24

WHERE: Memorial Auditorium, near the intersection of Adams and Dauphin drives on Shippensburg University's campus, Shippensburg, Pa.

COST: General admission tickets cost $10; seniors and Shippensburg University faculty, $8; high school students and college students who do not attend Shippensburg, $5. Free admission for Shippensburg students with IDs.

MORE: For tickets, call Shippensburg University's activities programming board at 717-477-1747, or information desk at 717-477-1693.

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