The ten selections on Being in Love, singer-songwriter Amikaeyla’s latest CD, are both spiritually uplifting and soothing to the soul. They are in many ways an extension of her years of experience in a wide variety of musical genres from around the world and her use of music as a healing force as Executive Director of the Oakland, California-based International Cultural Arts and Healing Sciences Institute (ICAHSI).
Recorded in both Washington, DC and Oakland, Being in Love finds Amikaeyla surrounded by an all-star cast of world-class musicians. Members of Trio Globo – pianist, harmonica virtuoso, and pennywhistle blower Howard Levy, cellist Eugene Friesen, and percussionist Glen Velez – are present, individually and together, on all but one of the songs. Other contributors include bassist Esperanza Spalding, percussionists Sheila E., her brother Peter Michael Escovedo, John Santos, and Michael Spiro, guitarists Ray Obiedo and Jason MacGuire, and singing percussionist Linda Tillery.
Amikaeyla applies her glowing mezzo-soprano pipes to four original compositions and deeply personal readings of six time-honored classics. “Abre Mi Corazón” (“Open My Heart”), sung in Spanish and English, is her salute to Afro-Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca, whose musical director, David Pinto, plays bass on Amikaeyla’s recording of the song. “Say Yes” is a love ballad written in collaboration with her friend Anderson Allen, and the title track, a lilting voice-and-cello duet, features new lyrics by the singer set to the melody of the famous “Flower Duet” from the 1883 French opera Lakme by Leo Delibes.
On “Hambone,” a vocal collaboration with Linda Tillery, Amikaeyla revisits a folkloric game involving the rhythmic slapping of the chest and thighs that she played during childhood visits to her grandparents in Sheffield, Alabama. The lyrics are part traditional and part improvised.
“We’d sit on the front porch, drink lemonade, and make up lyrics for hambone,” Amikaeyla recalls. “We’d have hambone-offs.”
Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day” has been a longtime favorite of Amikaeyla’s. “That was truly one of the songs in my childhood that made me happy,” she says. Her rendition features a pizzicato solo by Esperanza Spalding, the most celebrated jazz bassist of her generation.