Sep 12, 2017

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Eclectic A Capella Group Performs Live in Hampton

Sweet Honey in the Rock has maintained a rich and distinguished legacy as one of the most revered and treasured a cappella ensembles in contemporary music.

Over the past four decades, the Grammy-Award nominated group has stayed true to its adventurous and diverse mixture of blues, jazz, gospel and R&B music, with more recent excursions into symphonic music and collaborations into the dance/theater genre.

The ensemble embarks on a new chapter in the musical journey with their five core members Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Aisha Kahlil and American Sign Language Interpreter, Shirley Childress. The group has added guest shir-logo-1441116920.pngperformers, bassist Romeir Mendez to their classic and traditional show which integrates some of their most popular songs, along with their renditions of classic hits and fusion varied music genres.

The ever-growing list of Sweet Honey’s musical and activist achievements since its creation as a quartet in 1973 in a workshop at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company in Washington, DC (by Dr. Bernice Reagon) is beyond stunning. The ladies have performed in Nairobi and Beijing at the U.N. World Conference on Women, toured Europe, Japan, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and been the subject of two PBS documentaries “Gotta Make This Journey” produced and directed by Michelle Parkerson and “SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK: Raise Your Voice,” produced and directed by Emmy Award winner Stanley Nelson. They've recorded film soundtracks, received several Grammy nominations including "EXPERIENCE 101," (a children's record released in 2007), and shared Grammy Awards for their participation in the multi-artist record “Folkways: A Vision Shared – A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly,” as well as for their contribution to "cELLAbration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins.

Meet the Members

NITANJU_BOLADE_CASEL-1498150477.jpgNitanju Bolade Casel joined Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1985 and has served behind the scenes in the office of Treasurer for over 25 years. As a dancer/choreographer, the former Assistant Director of the Art of Black Dance & Music and Director of Young Afrique Dance Company in Massachusetts, has also taught at Boston University, Roxbury Community College, and the Joy of Movement Center.  After years of studying, performing, and cultural organizing in the U.S. and abroad, she was co-founder of Artistes Des Echanges Africaines, in Dakar, Senegal, which worked in alliance with local artists and organizations to strengthen the cultural ties between African and African American culture

Fun Fact: Nitanju has volunteered with the National Association of Music Educators as a public service announcer, and donated the use of her composition, Run to Respond, Inc. (New England’s first domestic violence agency).  

Nitanju placed as a finalist in the International Songwriter’s Competitions (2006, 2007); The Great American Song Contest (2011); Runner Up in the Song of the Year Contest (2011); and most recently a finalist in the 2013 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. As the Producer of the Grammy nominated recording, Experience…101, by Sweet Honey in the Rock®, she also produced their most current release:  A Tribute - Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center.

AISHA_KAHLIL-1492187903.jpgAisha Kahlil possesses a dynamic, innate power and range in jazz, blues, contemporary, and traditional African vocal styles and techniques.  Her performances of See See Rider and Fulani Chant earned her the title of best soloist from the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America.

A master teacher in voice and dance, Aisha has taught at the Institute for Contemporary Dance, The Joy of Motion, the Boston Center for the Arts, Leslie College, and the D.C. Black Repertory Theatre.  She has taught and lectured at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and at Maharishi International University.

Fun Fact: Fulani Chant, written by Kahlil, was also included on the soundtrack Down in the Delta, directed by Maya Angelou, and in a film produced by the Breast Cancer Fund titled Climb Against the Odds.   

Aisha has toured with her band in the islands of Hawaii; performing at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele, at Cassanova’s, and at Studio Maui, where she also taught workshops in vocal improvisation and movement. She has recently presented her signature workshops at the Kripalu Yoga Institute.

Journey to My-Ka is her first solo release and is a compilation of her own original compositions and arrangements.

Carol_Maillard-1492187842.jpgCarol Maillard is an accomplished actress and has performed in film, television, and on stage.  This passion for the stage brought her to the D.C. Black Repertory Company and the beginnings of the vocal ensemble that was to become Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Her theater credits encompass a wide range of styles from musical comedy and revues to drama and experimental.  

She has performed on and off-Broadway with the Negro Ensemble Company, the New York Shakespeare Festival, and at the Actors Studio.  She can be seen in the feature films Beloved and Thirty Years to Life.

Fun Fact: On television, Carol has appeared in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, and Halleluiah! on PBS, and Law and Order: SVU and Law and Order.

LOUISE_ROBINSON-1492187772.jpgLouise Robinson, a native New Yorker, studied concert bass for six years and attended the High School of Music and Art.

A graduate of Howard University with a BFA, her professional career began at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. Louise accepted Robert Hooks’ invitation to become a member of the new, D.C. Black Repertory Company Acting Ensemble. It was out of this theatre company that Louise, along with Carol Maillard. Bernice Johnson Reagon and Mie formed the a cappella quartet, Sweet Honey in the Rock.  

Fun Fact: Louise's colorful career has taken her up many paths, including performances, both on and off-Broadway, and in film and studio recording. She has also won the producer's hat as she, along with Maillard and Smokey Ronald Stevens, produced A Sho Nuff Variety Revue, a series of performances showcasing some of New York’s finest talent, including Adolph Caesar, Sandra Reeves Phillips, and legendary tap dancers Gregory Hines, Avon Long, and Joe Attles.

Louise was the founding director of the Bay Area a cappella quintet, Street Sounds, taking their music around the country and the world for 14 years. She returned to Sweet Honey in the Rock in 2004 and combines her experience in theatre and music to offer a workshop that explores the creative freedom in us all. 

Don’t the sultry sound of Sweet Honey in the Rock at The American Theatre on Saturday, October 7 at 8pm! Tickets are available here: