Tag Archives: music

Young Female Writers Club

The Lyrical Side of Writing

Written by K.L. Kranes

The first time I read the name “Odessa Hott” I think it sounds like the name of a feisty, no nonsense protagonist in a YA detective novel. When I tell the real Odessa Hott this she laughs. You can tell a lot about a person by a laugh. Odessa’s is quick and soft, but sonorous. It’s my first clue Odessa’s much more than a 16-year-old girl from Mechanicsville, VA.

As Odessa and I continue to talk, I quickly realize I’m right. Odessa plays the Taiko (Japanese drums) and reels off opinions on Emily Dickinson with ease. When she discusses the writing process, effortlessly weaving metaphors and similes, I have to remind myself I’m not interviewing a seasoned English professor, but a young teenage girl. 

“Writing is a gateway into a multitude of new and used ideas. It’s similar to an enormous thrift shop!” Odessa explains, her enthusiasm palpable. Although Odessa and I speak over the phone or communicate via email, it feels as if there is a bright smile of excitement hiding behind her every word. “There are so many unexplored concepts. Even the ideas that have been used over and over can always be twisted into something never before seen. I don’t believe that any idea has been completely wrung dry. There is always a way to reinvent what has already been invented.”

Odessa has been inventing and reinventing stories since she was just 6-years-old when she began writing blogs on WordPress. Soon after, she discovered Storybird, a website where young authors can self-publish online using assorted work from global illustrators. In her teenage years, Odessa moved to new platforms, but continued writing, publishing over 30 works on the writing and fanfiction sites Quotev and Wattpad where she accumulated thousands of readers. 

“To this day, I get daily notifications of people leaving comments on my old stories, although I have since taken a break from online publishing,” Odessa says. 

As part of her creative growth, Odessa also participated in writing workshops with the Richmond Young Writers (RYW), based out of Chop Suey Books. Through the RYW, Odessa published her first picture book called Melting Tears, collaborating with local artist Sarah Hand. The story, along with stories from fellow RYW writers, is available on the RYW website. 

“Seeing not only my own book but everyone else’s in print was surreal,” Odessa says when discussing the project. 

Melting Tears is a fairytale about an imaginative rice paper girl and a morose king. Odessa explained her love for Japanese language and culture, which she has been studying for 4 years, inspired the story. 

The international influence of Melting Tears highlights the breadth of Odessa’s background. From K-Pop to Sherlock Holmes, it’s clear Odessa’s unique interests have continually influenced her life and creative process. If she were a song, Odessa would have a passionate drumbeat, a complex guitar riff and a dreamy harmony melding seamlessly with the melody of youthful optimism. I think Odessa would like this metaphor given writing isn’t her only passion. 

“For a long time, I thought writing was my calling,” Odessa says. However, as she got older, Odessa felt herself increasingly drawn to music. 

Although music had always been a large part of her life, Odessa’s father and mother are both musicians, it wasn’t until recently Odessa realized music is her true dream. And, if Odessa believes in anything, it’s the importance of following your dreams.

“I am a firm believer that you should chase your dreams for your own sense of fulfillment. Otherwise, it will leave you feeling exhausted trying to be what someone else wants you to be,” Odessa explains.

That doesn’t mean Odessa plans to abandon the writing side of her creative spirit. Even when speaking about her favorite artists, Odessa describes them with a literary undercurrent. 

“In 2017, my mother introduced me to Solange,” she says. “And ever since, I have been enthralled by her aesthetics, genre and voice. Her lyrics convey a powerful, poetic message.”

Odessa admits combining her two passions can be difficult. “My lyrics are mediocre,” she admits humbly when speaking about her attempts at songwriting. “I write poetry, but usually my lyrics sounds nothing like my poetry. I try to write a song but the lyrics don’t capture the real emotion I’m trying to find.” 

Even if Odessa hasn’t yet figured out how to merge her talent for writing with her talent for music, she certainly already understands how writing can influence music as much as music can influence writers.

“I think that having an understanding of different forms of writing can give you a powerful insight into lyrics you hear that you may have never considered before,” Odessa opines. 

It’s likely one day soon Odessa will turn that powerful insight into a beautiful music. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the combination of Odessa’s musical voice with her distinctive literary voice.

K.L. Kranes is a blogger and author of young adult novels. Her debut novel, The Travelers, was published in 2016 by Saguaro Books, LLC. See more from K.L. at www.klkranes.com/blog.

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.