Akua Allrich is a jazz singer; here is a link to her website:
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a singer?
A: I think I always wanted to be a singer as a young child, but by the time I was a teenager I wasn’t really interested in singing other than for fun. I was going to be a doctor, and thus I went to undergrad as a biology major. That changed after 1 semester. lol!
Q Who are some of your musical influences and why?
A My most notable early influence is definitely my dad, Agyei Akoto, a jazz musician and educator. He was my first music teacher, from watching him rehearse with his band (Nation) and listening to his albums, to being his student in our Jazz band in middle school. But my parents really exposed me and my siblings to the best music from all over with their album collection; Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Diana Ross, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane, Olatunji, Oscar Brown Jr., Earth Wind and Fire, Bill Withers, Muddy Waters, Michael Jackson, Archie Shepp, the list is endless! Each of these artists have their own unique sound and expression. They were all dedicated to using their art for social justice.
Q: How did you go about selecting songs for “Soul Singer?”
A: This project was a true labor of love. I really just chose songs that spoke to me during that time. All but 2 of the songs are my originals, some written almost 10 years before the recording and some written almost a day or so before the recording. Even though I had an idea of the songs I wanted to include, I had my good friend, Kris Funn, an outstanding bassist, to MD the project for me. He helped me make my final determination of songs and lead the band in the most productive and efficient way possible.
Q: What kind of day jobs have you had in your life and how have they influenced you as an artist?
A: My day jobs have included cashier, medical biller, secretary, African dancer, social work intern and teacher. Most of my jobs have been in education. I would say being a teacher has given me a special appreciation for interacting with the audience. I think working with children has really taught me the importance of acknowledging and involving the energy of the audience/class. I see my performances more as a cyclical experience than just a performance. An exchange of energy between performer and audience. Kids will quickly humble you. lol! Teaching has humbled me to be fully apart of the process.
Q: Do you actually speak all the languages in which you sing?
A: Ha! No I do not. I know a few phrases in all of them, but I am not a speaker of any language other than English. I have studied French, Twi, Swahili and Portuguese, so I am able to navigate a bit better with those languages.
Q: You went to Harvard, what was the subject of your application essay.
A: No, I went to Howard University. I am a bison! I am apart of family legacy of Howard graduates. Lord, I can’t remember what my application essay was about. lol!
Q: Of all the different controversies in the music industry (royalty distribution, file sharing and so forth), which issue do you think effects the most artists in a negative way?
A: I think royalty distribution is a pretty sketchy area for artists. Our percentages are generally way too low. There are too many sites that pay pennies for using our art. We work very hard to produce and distribute our music, so it is only fair that we are compensated for our product.
Q: What is your strangest performance story?
A: Oh man. Well, each performance is unique in its own right, but 1 really nutty experience I can think of was at a jam session. I was singing my lil heart out, with my eyes closed and everything. The next thing I know, I feel something on my shirt. I opened my eyes, mid note, to see some man stuffing some money in my shirt. OMG! lmao! It was nuts, and weird, and very inappropriate. But, it’s a pretty funny story. WOW! I had to think hard about that one. lol!
Q: What qualities do you look for in band members?
A: Positive and open energy is very important to me. I’ve been blessed to know so many amazing musicians who truly love to express and uplift people with their work. Excellent musicianship, professionalism, positive, open energy and a team player.
Q: If you could give a concert to benefit any famous Harvard graduate, who would you pick and why would you pick that person?
I’m assuming you mean Howard University, and if so, I would say Debbie Allen. I love the work she does for youth. She’s an excellent educator and a true advocate for youth and their full development.
A: If you meant Harvard University I would definitely say Michelle Obama. She’s awesome, and a true inspiration with the work she does regarding education, health, her political message, and her advocacy for the arts.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.