Jazzin’ It Up With Rajdulari Barnes
Rajdulari Barnes is a powerful and passionate jazz musician and if you appreciate the sultry, soulful sounds of jazz music you will love her music as well. Rajdulari who names Dianne Reeves as Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter as some of her influences performs a mixture of Jazz, Soul and R &B. She has in the past worked with the likes of Walter Robinson and David Zoffer of New England Conservatory, featured on many compilations along such performers as award winning pianist George W. Russell and performed as lead vocalist as a member of the 8-piece, all female world music band, Zili Misik, winners of Berklee All Female Battle of the Bands competition.
Rajdulari recently her debut album ‘HoneyWine’ and she talks about this, her journey to the Grammys and much more in our interview. Read on….
Patricia Miswa: Your name is very unique, does it have a meaning?
Rajdulari Barnes: Actually, it’s Hindi, though I’m not from India. “Raj” means King, and “dulari” means daughter. So in a sense, it means “Daughter of a King” or “Princess”. It took me quite a while to feel comfortable and to be proud of my name, but now I love it!
Patricia: Why is that?
Rajdulari: When I was younger, I wanted my name to be simple, perhaps easier to spell since most of my teachers and people who didn’t know me usually got it wrong. As I got older, and researched the origin of my name and its meaning, I felt such pride that my parents had chosen the name. I guess you could say I grew into it, fully accepting the name and its meaning as a part of my identity.
Patricia: Can you tell us more about who Rajdulari is; give us a glimpse of your background.
Rajdulari: I was born in Baltimore, MD and raised in Kalamazoo, MI. My Grandfather was a preacher and my mother was a choir director. So music has been a part of my life since birth. I first started singing in the church at 3 years old. As a child, we moved around a lot, finally settling in to Boston when I was a teenager. After living in Boston for about fifteen years, I relocated to New York to fully pursue my dream of performing my own music and leading my own band.
Patricia: How has the move been from your hometown to New York, how is the jazz scene there?
Rajdulari: The Jazz/Live Music scene in New York is always vibrant and exciting. There’s no city quite like New York!
It has been a “musical boot-camp” for me, and I’m so glad that I decided to move here to jumpstart my career. Already in our first year, we’ve had so many great experiences that we wouldn’t have had in a smaller city. Here in New York, you can really practice honing your craft, and also have the opportunity to go and listen to other great musicians that you admire. It gives you a great opportunity to study and learn from them live in their element- on stage.
Patricia: You recently released your debut album ‘HoneyWine’, I’m sure you’ve written a lot of songs but what was the criterion in choosing the 11 songs in your album?
Rajdulari:I definitely had more songs written for the album, but I wanted the album to feel like an introduction, you know? As if each song was a conversation that I’m having with you, the listener.So, the 11 songs just seemed to fit right into that conversational picture.
Patricia: I must say out of the songs in the album, I enjoyed listening to Summertime, how can you describe your style and sound?
Rajdulari: Thank you, I’m so glad you like Summertime! We had so much fun creating that vocal interlude and I loved the effects that Kamilo Kratc , Engineer @ Soundworks Recording Studio, added to the track to give it the 1920s “Victrola” sound.
Honestly, my musical style is a mesh of so many genres. I’m a huge fan of so many different vocalists with a wide range of styles; from traditional vocal jazz, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn to down-home blues and gospel; Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and of course, great contemporary R & B vocalists like Jill Scott, Ledisi, Anita Baker, Rachelle Farrelle, Lalah Hathaway. And, although I’ve been greatly influenced by all of these women, my singing style is completely my own. My own stories, my own history of pleasure and pain, my physical body and its curvy make up, all of these factors greatly inform my style as a band leader and vocalist. It’s why the “HoneyWine” album is such a blend, because I needed so many different styles to tell my own “personal” story. That’s the beauty of allowing yourself to make music just as it is; without boundaries. Of course I love Jazz, but it’s really great to not feel boxed in to just one genre or category.
Patricia: Now, that I’ve picked my song, which song in your album do you love the most and why?
Rajdulari: That’s a hard one! I have so many; each song is like my baby, especially since this is my first full-length solo album! If I had to pick one, I would say “Purpose” is my favourite, simply because it speaks to exactly what I’m going through right now; taking my dream and pursuing it fully. It’s about accepting who I am and trusting God to help me grow and learn and share my music with as many people as I can. I truly believe that this ‘JourneytotheGrammys’ isn’t just about me, it’s about every single young woman who has hope in her mind and heart that she can take whatever dream she has in her mind and make it her reality.
Patricia: When you get a non-jazz song, how do you interprete it to Jazz?
Rajdulari: Each song comes to me in various forms. I don’t try to force a song to have a “Jazz” style; sometimes it just comes out that way. And likewise, if I have an R & B ballad like “Wish You Were Here” or a neo-soul/contemporary uplifting song like “America”, I just let it be whatever it is.
Patricia: If you could collaborate with any jazz musician, who would it be and why?
Rajdulari: That’s another hard one. If I had to pick a few contemporary Jazz musicians to collaborate with, I’d have to say Robert Glasper, Jeff Bradshaw, Esperanza Spalding, Sean Jones, and Roy Hargrove.
Patricia: You mentioned earlier about your ‘Journey to the Grammys’ web series; can you tell us more about it?
Rajdulari: It’s just a dream of mine, to have a web series that documents my JourneytotheGrammys. I’m hoping that, along the way, I can inspire more Women of Color like me to pursue their dreams, no matter how hard or scary it might be. We all owe it to ourselves to really live out our purpose and destiny in life. I prefer to work hard at pursuing my dream as opposed to just living a life that is easy. My life has been more rewarding ever since I took that leap of faith.
Patricia: Is there any project you currently working on?
Rajdulari: Right now, I’m currently working on a music video for HoneyWine, the title track to the “HoneyWine” album, which is now available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and through my own website .
I have photo shoots, concerts, and a huge holiday concert that we’re planning at Billie’s Black in Harlem on December 17th. I’m also looking in to starting an indie Web Television Series about ‘JourneytotheGrammys’, and living out my purpose and destiny as a Grammy Award Winning Artist, Philanthropist, and supporter of other Women Entrepreneurs like myself.
Visit Rajdulari online, her ‘HoneyWine’ album is also available here.
Photo credit-LucasPictures-Copyright 2010 lucaspictures.net