Tag Archives: music

Extraordinary Women: Xe Jah’Twi

Her voice makes every conversation pause in a venue. Xe Jah’Twi, or Xena, is a lead vocalist with Vibe Riot, an East Coast Indie band with a Bluesy Funk Ragga Rock sound unlike anyone else. She gives her best to every performance, and what results is a remarkable presentation indicative of both her talent and her natural chemistry with the band. Of course, long before Xena took the stage with Vibe Riot, music was her passion.

As a child, Xena watched her father become an integral part of the music world while working in promotions. She fell in love with music in the 1980s, specifically Salt-N-Pepa. Their strong personalities as women, the rapping, the music, the female DJ—to Xena, they had everything.

Dancing began to call to her as well, and ultimately solidified her connection to the art.

“I wanted so badly to be a background dancer,” she recalls. “but I was too shy to bring it up.”

Xena met Jaewar, Vibe Riot’s frontman, while living in New York. At the time, she was a student, working hard to provide for her two children. She received a phone call from a friend asking if she wanted to contribute vocals to a song. Xena did a little research on the band and agreed.

Melody Robbins Photography

“I said, ‘If I do this in the first take, you guys owe me something. I want a treehouse in Haiti and some sushi.’ And I did it. The next time I heard from Jae was when the record was done, and the second time was when I came to Virginia to do the video. When we saw each other, it was like we never dropped the ball. With your best friend, it’s always a comfortable situation.”

Jaewar and Xena started exchanging ideas, and the encouragement helped her overcome any of the remaining hurdles that often accompany shyness.

To see her on stage now, you would never know that this dynamic performer was once too shy to be a background dancer. She fits perfectly into Vibe Riot’s family of compassionate and outgoing band members.

“I’m just me,” she says. “Xena means hospitality. When you have people who are accepting of you, it helps bring that out. That would be the one trait all have that is the same. We are just personable people.”

Prior to performing, she interacts with fans and makes real connections. When she returns to the stage, it is not only with the support of her fellow musicians, but of everyone else in the building. The positive energy creates a relaxing environment so the performers and the audience can truly vibe out to the music.

“We tell stories and talk about the political atmosphere to a certain degree. We show the cohesiveness and people coming from different backgrounds. It’s not the typical hip hop you would hear. The sound is different. It connects to heartbeat of a person,” she explains.

Xena hopes that audiences will relate to the music, and consider the responsibility we all have as citizens to encourage authentic discourse regarding current issues.

“You see a cohesiveness and understand that communication is possible any time a group of people come together on a small scale, like a household; on a medium scale, like a band; and on a large scale, like a government. It is one of the number one factors that contributes to wellness. If you can’t respectively communicate, then how do you expect anything else to be eradicated?” she asks.

As Xena continues her journey with Vibe Riot, she is excited to be included in more of the writing process. A lyricist by nature, she is enjoying her growth as a writer as much as she treasures what they have created on their latest EP, True! Raw Honey.

This is only small taste of Xe Jah’Twi’s phenomenal and inspiring story of tenacity, strength, and talent. It is all the more reason to attend one of Vibe Riot’s upcoming performances. Get there early, and you may have a chance to hear more of her story in person!

Check out Vibe Riot’s tour schedule here for more information. Roanoke fans, get ready! Vibe Riot is scheduled to perform at Martin’s Downtown on Saturday, February 17 at 10pm.

 

Photography by Melody Robbins Photography.

February at the Jefferson Center

On Saturday, February 10, at 7:30pm and Sunday, February 11, at 3:00pm in the Shaftman Performance Hall at the Jefferson Center the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will be performing. The Orchestra presents Vivaldi The Four Seasons and Appalachian Spring. The Four Seasons is a beautiful violin piece that is sure to be memorable. The event will finish with Copland’s music for the ballet, Appalachian Spring. Led by Akemi Takayama, concertmaster of 14 years at the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, the show is sure to be breathtaking.

Joan Soriano will be taking the stage at the Jefferson Center in the Fostek Rehearsal Hall, on Friday the 16 at 8:00pm. Soriano grew up in the Dominican Republican, he made his first guitar out of a tin can and fishing line. Today he has seven recorded albums and is renowned for his blend of modern and traditional bachata music.

Starting at 9:00pm, immediately after Soriano performance, attend the 15th Annual Latin Dance Party inside Fitzpatrick Hall. If you attended Soriano’s show you get a $3 discount on admission to the party! There will be a 30-minute salsa workshop and then a live performance from West End Mambo. You won’t want to miss this lively event!

“An Evening with Andrew Bird,” will take place on Thursday, February 22 at 7:30pm in the Shaftman Performance Hall. Andrew Bird is a talented singer, song-writer, and multi-instrumentalist. As a kid he began playing violin at 4 and ever since then he was drawn to music of all types. Today Bird has released 13 albums and has even been a featured presenter on Ted Talk. A dollar from each ticket sold will be donated to Everyone for Gun Safety.

For more information about all these events and so many more, or to purchase tickets visit the Jefferson Center’s event page. Pick up the February issue of Bella for more information on Melissa Aldana’s concert later this month!

Written by Lilith Turman

FloydFest 2017: Freedom

Where will you find your freedom on the mountain?

Will it be somewhere between the nine stages? 
A “natural amphitheater,” Streamline Stage at Hill Holler is a place to bring a blanket, lay back and relax while you take in the music. Or, dance with friends (or even by yourself!) to your favorite bands. Take in the Speakeasy Stage: an amazing covered dance space that has featured everything from the festive nature of musical performance to sword swallowing and burlesque dancing.
Of course, if quiet is what you need, seek out the Healing Arts Village for body-mind balance. Visit the Workshop Porch, hosted by Ferrum College, a space that transports audiences to the front porch music jam sessions of earlier times while artists share their music and stories to accompany it.
Take the kids to the Forever Young Stage where they can enjoy open mic sessions, Taekwondo classes, and tetherball matches, all in the main field area. FloydFest, as you may already know, is famous for the fun it offers for the entire family. Parents can enjoy the show on the Dreaming Creek Main Stage while the youngsters explore their own creativity.
And, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Pink Floyd Garden Stage. This serene location is surrounded by trees, picnic tables, and craft beer vendors. It is the perfect place to meet new friends and spot old ones throughout the day. You don’t want to miss it at night, as it transforms under the aura of brightly colored lights to a brilliantly funky stage.
The VIP Pub Stage is for those with a backstage pass only, but Bella girls it is well worth it! Complimentary beverages, a comfortable lounge tent, and memorable performances await.

Will it be on an adventure with your FloydFest family?
FloydFest has multiple opportunities for outdoor adventure. They even have a tent dedicated to it! Sign up for one of their On the Water in Floyd Float Trips (Thursday-Sunday), the Parkway Brewing Company 5K Trail Running Race, or a guided hike. You can also join the Belcher Mountain Beatdown, a guided FloydFest 19-mile mountain bike journey (just make sure to bring your own bike and helmet!). In addition, there will be an Innova Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday! The mountain bike journey and float trips are catered, and include a small fee. Entering the 5K race, walking the Moonstomper Hiking Trail on your own, or joining a guided hike are free for FloydFest attendees.

Will it be in the performance of your new (or old) favorite artist?
Rebekah Todd & the Odyssey take the stage on Wednesday, along with talented musicians that will help you celebrate your first night on the mountain. On Thursday, enjoy Thievery Corporation, and honor artists of all ages with Girls Rock Roanoke. Friday welcomes Michael Frantz & Spearhead, Leftover Salmon, and Steel Pulse. On Saturday, Rising Appalachia (featured in this issue!) and St. Paul & the Broken Bones perform. Sunday, round out the weekend with Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, the TSisters, and HoneyHoney. These big names are just a few of our favorites, but there is a long list available on the FloydFest website. You will be surrounded with music all weekend—and really, there is no better way to enjoy the summer.

Visit www.floydfest.com for a complete lineup, list of activities and workshops, and to purchase your tickets! Don’t forget to bring donations for Floyd’s Plenty! Food Bank. Every two nonperishable items or one jar of peanut butter donated is an entry to win a FloydFest prize pack which includes a free 5-day ticket to FloydFest 2018. We’ll see you there!

Rising Appalachia at FloydFest

Rising Appalachia began years ago as the front porch project of sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith to pay homage to their family. However, the dedication the sisters share to social activism started many years before through their involvement in community justice work and local food movements. Using their talent as a way to both share stories and encourage introspection, the sisters combined their interests to create an experience that is unique and inspiring. Joined by their beloved band, percussionist Biko Casini and bassist/guitarist David Brown, they share their colorful sound all over the world. Born and raised in the concrete jungle of Atlanta, Georgia, Leah and Chloe sharpened their instincts in the mountains of Appalachia, and fine-tuned their soul on the streets of New Orleans. This has resulted in a 6-album career that showcases a melting pot of folk music simplicity, textured songwriting, and “those bloodline harmonies that only siblings can pull off.”

Though it is not without challenges, Leah and Chloe stay true to their passions in the face of a fast-paced environment that has a tendency to push talented musicians into egocentric rockstars. They call their approach the Slow Music Movement.

“We’ve always explored sustainable touring ideas and options. We do everything from alternative travel methods like touring by train, to making sure as much local food as possible is brought to the green rooms and encouraging festivals to have a relationship with farm-to-table food. We don’t use plastic water bottles, and we avoid single-use plastic, encouraging the venue to take that on themselves as well,” explains Leah.

Fans will not find the band at strip malls or in hotel parking lots either. They make a point to seek out lodging near national parks, cabins, or stay with friends in farm homes. Additionally, they often visit urban gardens in the cities, and try to put their time and energy into neighborhoods, communities, and land-based projects.

“We are constantly trying to steal away moments for introspection, writing, and mindfulness. I walk every day, all over the place, wherever I am,” says Leah. “That’s kind of my movement meditation.”

Staying so close to the community keeps their desire to help others and be present as focal points in their journey. The band makes time during their performance to share the power of the stage and introduce audiences to those doing important ground work in social justice and equality efforts. Their tour schedule does not allow them to remain and nurture the impact in any one community, so it is important to Leah and Chloe to make sure the seeds they plant of emotional and environmental sustainability can grow even in their absence. Shifting the power to local faces helps ensure that will happen.

“Music is the tool with which we wield political prowess. We are building community and tackling social injustice through melody, making the stage reach out with wide arms to gather this great family. It has taken on its own personality, carrying us all along the journey,” says Leah.

“I’m really inspired by the beautiful, radical creative folks that show up in our audiences, “she adds. “Night after night, there are so many creative bright lights. We are inspired by our fan base. They have always been powerful, productive, and proactive folks in their communities. I think for our band and interpersonally, it has given us more purpose. We hope [our purpose] is reaching wider than us, and we are all grateful to have this vehicle to express ourselves.”

Rising Appalachia is touring all over Europe this summer, but FloydFest has a special place in their hearts, and is one of few festivals they will play in the United States in 2017. Catch them on stage both Saturday and Sunday, and follow up by learning how to support local farmers, seeking out sustainable resource options, and finding a quiet place to meditate on personal growth.

The best way to keep the feeling of a good show alive is to carry the inspiration from it with you and learn from it long after the audience dissipates. From Leah’s perspective, Rising Appalachia is going to do everything they can to put on a show that feeds your soul and lights that spark.

“At it’s best, [being on stage] is magical,” she explains. “We spend concerted effort trying to make sure we create a radical setting for the audience. We want to a take them on as much of a journey as possible.”

If you can’t make it to FloydFest this year, be sure to check out their new live album, Alive, this fall. Do yourself a favor when you do, and make it a truly immersive experience. Turn off the notifications on your phone, meditate, and enjoy the tapestry of stories woven into song by this talented band.

For more information about Rising Appalachia, visit www.risingappalachia.com.

Dreamweavin: Counting down the days until FloydFest 16

 

There is hardly a more appropriate theme for FloydFest 16 than “Dreamweavin.” From July 27-31, the Floyd mountainside will once again transform into something even more captivating—a place where those who dream can meet to create, dance, and be inspired.

For those who will attend solely for the music, the lineup is (once again) spectacular. Thursday will feature performances from blues/folk artist Rebekah Todd & The Odyssey, Forlorn Strangers, and Anders Osborne. Enjoy the blues and folk sounds of Shakey FF16_DCLogo_wDateGraves on Friday, followed by Warren Haynes Ashes & Dust and the highly-anticipated Gregg Allman on Saturday. These are just a few of the local and well-known artists that will grace the nine (NINE!!!!!) stages throughout festival grounds over the course of five days. Plan ahead, visit the website, and make sure you get there in time to see your favorite bands perform. Give yourself time to wander a little to different stages before and after the shows you plan to see—some of the best musical discoveries happen that way.

Between performances, there will be no shortage of fun and entertainment for festival-goers. Those with an adventurous side will enjoy the guided hikes, bike expeditions, and free adventures offered at the Back Country Ski & Sport Outdoor Experience Tent. There, they will also offer equipment giveaways, discounts, and other promotions. Attendees can sign up for On The Water Floyd Float Trips by kayak, canoe, or tube. These trips are for people of all ages and will include transportation, equipment, and a fully-catered lunch with the purchase of a separate ticket for the trip.

And, if you’re just there to relax and enjoy the combination of unique sites and sounds filling the Blue Ridge Mountains, don’t worry. There will be plenty of opportunities to unwind! FloydFest features several healing arts vendors and offers massage therapy, yoga, internal martial arts, medicinal and edible herb walks.

PressShot7This is a family event. Bring your children, of all ages, to enjoy the Children’s Universe and Teen Scene. The Children’s Universe includes fun activities like a costume tent, balloon art, jugglers, face-painting, and puppets. They also host a Peace Parade and an open mic/talent show. If your child plays an instrument, encourage them to bring it along with any costume or inspiration to help “Weave the Dream!”

The Teen Scene is hosted by Social Emotional Learning Coalition, an organization dedicated to helping young people experience a deeper sense of connection and belonging with themselves, others, and the natural world. There, teens can participate in a number of activities including mixed media art workshops and painting parties, mindfulness meditation, and drumming workshops.

You can find all of the above information with a little research, but we would also like to share a few things about FloydFest that you may not know.

It is a safe, welcoming place. The people who attend are friendly (occasionally barefoot!) travelers and locals who will share your table in a beer garden or over breakfast. Within a few moments, you will be talking like old friends.

You will be inspired. Artist or not, you will leave FloydFest with a desire to make the world just a little more beautiful. You will see things differently, and even in your own backyard hammock you will find it easier to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax. To put it simply, your time on the mountain will teach you how to find peace in the real world.

Summer1You’ll crave new things. Not just adventure and music, but food. Really, really good food. There will be no shortage of delicious local choices available throughout the grounds at FloydFest. Start your morning with fresh juice, crepes, and/or Red Rooster Coffee. Keep the day going with dishes that include locally grown veggies and grass-fed beef. Trust us, the food alone will make you wish you could stay forever.

The local art, music, and friends you acquire will stay with you for years to come. We still carry our wristbands as keychains. And, the truth is, you’ll be counting down the days until FloydFest 17 on your calendar, beginning on August 1. One trip will make you fall in love with the mountain, the people, and the person you become surrounded by all of it.

Three days in Floyd are not enough. If you can, buy a five day ticket. Come camp with us and enjoy everything FloydFest has to offer! You will not regret it. Visit www.floydfest.com for more information on the lineup, the festival, and even a packing list! We can’t wait to see you there!

Extraordinary Women: LeeRay Costa

As LeeRay Costa wraps up her spring semester as a professor at Hollins University, she looks eagerly towards summer and the fourth year of Girls Rock Roanoke—a volunteer-run, community-based organization that she began in 2012. The week-long day camp is part of a larger global network called Girls Rock Camp Alliance. It is a place where girls and gender non-conforming youth form bands, write their own songs, and perform at a final showcase. They also participate in workshops on topics like women’s music history, body confidence, and stage performance. This incredible experience is changing lives right here in the Roanoke Valley.

What made you want to bring Girls Rock to Roanoke?
Our family knew about the Girls Rock concept for a long time. We watched the documentary when our daughter, Tallulah, was young. When she became old enough to attend camp, we found one in Durham, North Carolina. We planned our summer vacation around camp so she could have that experience. She played keyboard for several years, but at camp she discovered the drums. Through working with the band, she found she had a real skill for it. At the end of each day she couldn’t wait to tell us everything she had learned.
Her excitement was inspiring, and I started talking to the organizers of the Durham camp because I wanted youth in Roanoke to have these opportunities and experiences.

Photo by Siobhan Cline
Photo by Siobhan Cline

How does Girls Rock Roanoke help empower its participants?
Some people think of us mainly as a music camp, but music and creativity are mediums for developing other skill sets. For example, campers learn risk-taking, because in one week campers learn an instrument, write an original song, work with a people they may not know, and then perform their creations live on stage. We live in a culture that tries to mold girls into a certain way of being. They are expected to be cute and silent. This crushes their potential in many ways. We want to create fertile ground for their potential to grow.

Has the camp opened doors for you to explore your own interest in music?
Yes. A few volunteers, including myself, attended Women’s Rock Retreat through a Girls Rock camp in North Carolina because we thought, “If we are going to ask the girls to do this, we need to put ourselves out there and see what it’s like.” I played bass and sang for the first time. At the end of the three-day camp, we played at the Pinhook. There I was, in my 40s, up on stage singing a punk rock song called, “Hormone Whiplash.” It was scary but very empowering at the same time.

How do you balance Girls Rock Roanoke and your work as a professor?
One important factor is the support of my partner, Andy Matzner. Not only does he happily claim the label of feminist, but he truly walks the talk in sharing all the responsibilities of being in a partnership and raising Tallulah. He was the first person to encourage my dream of bringing Girls Rock to Roanoke, and he has been there every step of the way.
Furthermore, Girls Rock is a team effort. It would be irresponsible for me to take credit for the tremendous labor and deep love that many others have contributed to Girls Rock camp over the years. Our program director, Lucy Coronado, our volunteers, and our Board work year round to make camp a success. Together with our campers, they inspire me to make Girls Rock a priority.

If you would like more information on Girls Rock Roanoke, go to www.girlsrockroanoke.org.

There are two camp options available this summer: one week for ages 8-11 (July 11-15) and a second week for ages 12-16 (July 18-22). This year’s theme, “Rocking for Change” will incorporate social justice issues into camp activities. Be sure to pick up our June issue for LeeRay’s interview and the interviews of nine other extraordinary women we are celebrating this month!

Floyd Mardi Gras

Festive music and the rich smell of food fills the air as people dance under colorful lights and open sky. Couples sip their champagne with smiles as they watch the band and dancers from their seats, and men and women alike flock to where the cheerful auctioneer swings down his hammer. Right near the heart of Floyd, Virginia, the Blue Mountain School throws their annual fundraiser ball and celebration: The 7th Annual Tom Ryan Memorial Floyd Mardi Gras.

The original Floyd Mardi Gras began with a simple school project. Three students from Blue Mountain School put together a band ­ named Spoon Flight ­ for an assignment. In 2011, these students organized and performed at the very first Floyd Mardi Gras.

MG Poster Art 1For 2016, the festivities will be taking place in front of Dogtown Roadhouse on it’s annual date, February 6 (only days before the infamous New Orlean’s Mardi Gras). Beginning at 6 pm, the Floyd Mardi Gras has a wide variety of activities and entertainment for all ages. Guitarist and singer, Sol Roots, takes center place onstage, alongside other artists such as DJ RahBee and Buddhagraph Spaceship. Both a live auction ­ with “auctioneer extraordinaire” Tom O’Neil ­ and a silent auction will be taking place beside newly added gambling tables.

Prizes will be awarded for the best costume, with plenty of themed food and nearby restaurants for anyone working up an appetite. Even children can have their own share of the fun with the Kiddy Gras Pajama Party at the June Bug Center, so parents don’t have to worry about searching for a babysitter during the fundraiser. Last, but not least, is the crowning of the Floyd Mardi Gras King and Queen, which is sure to be a grand affair all on it’s own.

With great music, delicious food and a plethora of familiar and new activities, it’s easy to see why the Blue Mountain School predicts this will be the “biggest, most diverse Floyd Mardi Gras” yet.

Written by Madison Correiro

Putting the Fun Back in Family Road Trips!

On family road trips, do you spend the entire drive listening to the music your kids prefer, playing their favorite games and generally doing everything you can to keep them content – and peaceful – in the car?

It happens with the best intentions, but too often parents sacrifice their own enjoyment to keep the kids happy, thinking they can’t please everyone. Fortunately, with some creativity and the right travel “tools,” it’s possible for everyone to enjoy the drive.

Here are some ways parents can reclaim their fun on the family road trip:

* Expand musical horizons. Sure, you want everyone to connect with each other in the car and enjoy all the sights they’ll see. But it’s also okay to set aside some non-talk time. Pop in music they’ve never heard of and introduce the kids to different musical genres. There are a variety of songs out there that are kid-friendly. Do some research before your trip– you may even find a few new songs to enjoy yourself!

* Find an audio book that appeals to all. Bestsellers, non-fiction, self-help and children’s titles – audio books offer a great way for everyone to participate in the fun, including the driver. Look for material with age-appropriate content if you’ll all be listening together. “Borrowing” books through an exchange service is a great way to access a variety of titles. Cracker Barrel offers a service that allows you to get an audio book at one  location and return it at any other Cracker Barrel in the country. When you return the audio book, you’ll receive a full refund less an exchange fee of $3.49 for every week you kept the book. Visit www.crackerbarrel.com to learn more.

* Introduce kids to games from your childhood. Playing games is a great way to pass time in the car, but if you dread the thought of playing one more princess- or shape-shifting-robot-themed game, why not introduce the kids to games you loved as a child? Many require nothing more than your imagination, like group storytelling or license-plate bingo. Others like the low-tech classic peg game or Simon, the original electronic memory game you played as a kid, travel well in the car and provide challenging fun for all ages.

* Pack a snack bag with everyone in mind. Everyone will get hungry on the road, so if it’s not yet time for a stop, a snack bag can save the day. Pack with balanced nutrition and broad appeal in mind. Travel-friendly options like fruit and whole-grain snacks can be appetizing and satisfying. Be sure to toss in a few sweet treats for some extra fun. Look for nostalgic options that will appeal to kids while reminding adults of their own childhood, like Moon Pies or Cracker Jacks. 

Whether you are packing up to go visit a family member over the weekend this fall, or preparing early for a holiday getaway, these tips are sure to help your trip be a little less stressful for everyone involved!