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Take Five With Rahe


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Meet Rahe:
Composer/guitarist/multilingual vocalist (she speaks fluent Portuguese and Castilian Spanish), Rahe (pronounced "Ray") spent most of her childhood in Japan and Spain (the land of her heritage), before settling in Colorado at 13. Her first profound musical experiences occurred in Andalucia at age five, where she was invited into the Flamenco circles of the gypsies to participate in the palmas (handclapping percussion). Self-taught on the guitar (from the blues of Lightnin' Hopkins to the bossa nova of Joao Gilberto), Rahe began to focus on her own music in her early teens. She received the Single of the Year Award at the 2009 Los Angeles Music Awards for her song, "Weakness."

She has performed in Tokyo, Madrid, New York City, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities,and recently debuted her new band RAHE & illumiNation (Rahe, on vocals and acoustic guitar, with alto, tenor, two baritone saxophones and drums) at the Fox Tucson Theatre. Rahe's first album Out of the Box—an acoustic, multilingual foray into the entire spectrum of her musical vision—was released in March on Outward Visions Music. Two videos of her songs, "Be Down" and "Rescue," are on YouTube. Recent solo performances and interviews include KXCI radio in Tucson and KSFR radio in Santa Fe.

Nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, voice.

Teachers and/or influences?
Life has been my teacher—the experiences I've had growing up all around the world, sharing experiences and playing music with people from all walks of life, has made me the musician, and person, that I am. My musical influences are definitely diverse, but mainly artists from the past or musicians from other countries, ranging from jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Betty Carter, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, amazing singers like Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Nina Simone, to bossa nova legends like Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, to Spain's Joan Manuel Serrat and Concha Buika, Portugal's Sara Tavares...the list goes on.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
at five years-old, I would sneak out in the middle of the night to play Flamenco music with the gypsies in the streets of Southern Spain, enveloped in the passion and fire of the palmas, guitars, dancers, and wailing voices, the beautiful ancient versos passed down from generation to generation. There is a Spanish song by Antonio Flores that says "Oye, pero mira yo soy Flamenco, por mi vena yo lo siento," which translates to "Listen, I am Flamenco, I feel it flowing through my veins." For these people, music is the essence of who they are as beings. I knew, the first time that verse came out of my mouth, nothing would come between me and music, because in my veins, music runs thicker than blood.

Your sound and approach to music:
My sound is described as "Acoustic, Eclectic World and Jazz," or "Spain, Brazil, and Africa deep-kiss American Soul and Jazz." I approach music in a very old-school, organic way. I let my compositions speak to me. I don't force them to be something they are not, to fit into a particular style or structure. I believe that the music already exists, that it lives inside me, and that it's my job to express it in the best and sincerest way I can. As for working with other musicians, I take a similar approach. Because I have some really fantastic players in my ensemble, I give them a sense of what I want, explain what the main idea that needs to be expressed is, and give them the freedom to interpret and express the songs as if they belong to them too, giving everything they can to the music. That way, the music continues to grow, and there is no limit to the level it can reach. The composition of my group RAHE & illumiNation gives a pretty good indication of that unique approach: a saxophone quartet (alto, tenor and two baritones), drums and myself.

Your teaching approach:
My teaching style is a lot like my musical style. I don't try to force students to follow a certain formula or mold to a particular genre. I give them ideas, inspiration, positive encouragement and feedback, and guide them in the process of discovering their own personal approach. I feel that everyone has a unique message to express, and the ways in which we express it are just as unique. For me, music is the ultimate form of expression, a pathway to self-discovery, and a truly incredible means to finding a connection with your inner being and with others. When I teach, I strive to help my students own that concept, so that they are inspired and uplifted, not intimidated and afraid.

Your dream band:
To be honest, it doesn't get any better than my co-musical director/horn arranger and killer alto saxophonist Nadar Nihal Singh Khalsa—he truly is a dream to work with. The drummer in my group, Adam Ackermann, is also amazing. Yes, I'm spoiled. But hey, as long as I'm dreaming (and could reach into the other side), Elvin Jones would be my ideal. If I were to use a bassist at any point, in a heartbeat, Alex Blake. As for other artists, I would love to work with some heavy duty Afrobeat artists, like Seun Kuti & Egypt 80; infuse some salsa sounds into my repertoire with a group like the Afro-Cuban All Stars; it would also be great to work with some traditional Japanese musicians, using the koto, taiko drums, or Japanese-style flute, and have the ability to experiment with those completely unique sounds and textures that I was surrounded by when I lived there as a child.

If I was to work with other musicians and artists, I'd like it to be an experience I could really learn from. I want to delve into another land with an entirely different way of life, culture, philosophy, and perception of the world. It's such a beautiful experience to make music with someone on that kind of level.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Recently, we played at our Tucson home base, Rhythm & Roots, and about an hour before the performance it started to pour. It was the end of our monsoon season and as much as the desert needs rain, we knew this would hurt our draw. We ended up with a good sized audience and performed with thunder and lightning accompaniment. It was only after the performance that we found out that it was by far the worst storm of the entire monsoon season, that tens of thousands of people lost their power, roads were flooded, power lines down and trees had fallen, blocking many roads. Over the next couple of days we heard from scores of people telling us that they couldn't get out of their house to come to the performance. Mother Nature took its toll on us that night, but the music was great.

Favorite venue:
Recently I did a show at Tucson's Historic Fox Theatre, and it was definitely a killer experience—the sound was awesome, the stage huge, the building stunning, the size ideal (1200 makes it large but still intimate)...it was an all-around perfect place to play this kind of music, because I could really feel the audience's presence and my band had space to really stretch out, both physically and musically! I also love our home-base in Tucson, Rhythm & Roots. Great vibe and it's all about the music there. It's a great listening room.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My latest album, Out of the Box, is also my first album, so I guess that makes this question easier than it will be later in my career! But truly, I am very happy with the way it turned out—it was such a wonderful experience and it really upped my game artistically. I was able to work with an incredible producer (who is also my manager), Marty Khan, who has produced numerous jazz artists like The World Saxophone Quartet, Sonny Fortune, George Russell, Sam Rivers and so many others. With his guidance, encouragement and understanding I was able to exercise a lot of freedom and make a lot of decisions that most artists don't. We approached the recording in a very old school, organic way (which only lives in the world of jazz nowadays, and even then, not as often as it once did)—live!—everyone in the same room playing at the same time.

Another special thing about it (and again, another thing most artists wouldn't get away with) is that I was able to showcase the various styles of music that I do, almost like a montage, which is a risky way to debut my "style" (since it's supposedly an advantage to be "classifiable"). But I will always aim to constantly improve my craft, make each song, each show, and each album better than the last. That's the beautiful thing about music and about life—there's always room for growth!

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall- (Blue Note). I bought it on a whim, too, before I really knew what an amazing piece of jazz history it was—go figure!

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Passion. Passion for life, for love, for peace, for inspiring others and creating a means by which people from all walks of life can relate with one another. And unfettered creativity, with no limitations on keeping the music from where it needs to go to fulfill itself.

Did you know...
I love to cook! I'm a real foodie, but because I am gluten and lactose intolerant (I have Celiac Disease), my choices tend to be very limited when I eat out—but it has made me very creative in the kitchen, where I've experimented with all kinds of different foods. I especially love to cook Spanish dishes from recipes that my grandmother has passed down to me and share it with people who have not yet had the fortune to travel to Spain—it's so wonderful to share a bit of my culture this way.

CDs you are listening to now:
Buika, Mi Niña Lola (Warner Music);
Nawal, Aman (Nawali.com );
Billie Holiday, Billie's Best (Verve Records);
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Rise (Knitting Factory);
Habib Koité, Live! (World Village).

Desert Island picks:
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia);
Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit/Nonesuch);
Joan Manuel Serrat, Mediterraneo (Odeon Pops);
Tom Jobim, The Composer of Desafinado Plays (Verve);
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It's really not my place to say, but I find myself truly resonating with artists of earlier generations, like Billie, Trane, Miles, Betty Carter, Lester Young, Ben Webster and so many others that I've connected with through Marty. I recently heard Randy Weston live in Santa Fe. It was wonderful, but I felt that I was hearing something that represented an end of an era.

What is in the near future?
I am so fortunate—I work consistently with an amazing filmmaker in Tucson, John Sears, who has shot all my videos, so we are focusing a lot on video work for this next phase. We are about to release some high quality, live video footage of the band, RAHE & illumiNation, from our performance in August, and we may even decide to put together a live album from the recordings and other live dates we have coming up, since our live show sounds so different from the album. After this live footage is released, we will be going into a sound stage to shoot more live footage of the band and in some other combinations—solo, duo, trio and quartet—to complete a DVD. We're also planning a third music video soon as well for my song, "Alma y corazón." We've even been thinking of adapting that piece into a longer version, along the lines of Trane's Olé.

In terms of live performance, my management company Outward Visions, has toured some of the most important artists of the late 20th Century in jazz, contemporary music and dance all over the U.S. They know that today's touring scene has changed drastically from the years that their touring program was in motion, but they have a plan of action that makes a lot of sense. They're working on expanding our base throughout the Southwest, and are laying groundwork on the east coast, Spain, and also South Africa. Once we have the film footage of the group in hand they feel that promoters, festivals and art centers who are looking for something really fresh and innovative will be very interested in presenting us. It's really exciting to think about.

By Day:
I have begun teaching, and am currently developing a series of educational programs that I am really thrilled about, but in essence, everything I do is directly related to my music.

Photo Credit
C. Elliott

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