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March 21, 2008

Sweet Honey's Aisha Kahlil


In 1981, Aisha Kahlil was working at a vegetarian restaurant in Washington, D.C., when a member of the a cappella vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock came in to eat.

"I had come to Washington preparing for a tour in Europe and Africa that fell through," Kahlil said in a phone conversation. "So I taught dance and theater and got a job in a restaurant. One of the members of Sweet Honey in the Rock came in and asked if I was interested in auditioning for the group."

Now, 27 years later, Kahlil is still singing with Sweet Honey in the Rock -- a vocal ensemble with roots in the 1960's Civil Rights Movement. Kahlil, an upstate New York native, always loved singing and performing.

"I've been singing since I was young. I sang in my high school choir," Kahlil said.

She is an experienced jazz vocalist and African dance and song artist. In 1994, Kahlil was named best soloist in a cappella music by CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society of Music) for her performance of "See See Rider" and "Fulani Chant," a song without words. She has composed some of the group's most experimental work including "Fulani Chant" and "Wodaabe Nights" which was a part of the score for the 1998 PBS film series "Africans in America." She also made an appearance in the 1998 movie "Beloved" with Oprah Winfrey.

"It was an interesting experience. It was great working with Oprah," she said.

Kahlil is considered Sweet Honey in the Rock's strongest blues singer. The group's music draws its inspiration from many sources including blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, Hip Hop, and jazz. All of the group's songs are sung a cappella, meaning there is no instrumental music to accompany them. They are one of only a few female groups that sing entirely a cappella. A feat that can be tough for singers.

"You have to be right on pitch at all times and your timing has to be perfect," Kahlil said. "Also, you have to sing for two hours straight without a break. It can be difficult."

Posted by acapnews at March 21, 2008 8:25 PM


Ohh... that See See Rider solo is one of the best blues vocal solos I've heard on any album, a cappella or not.

Posted by: Ann at March 22, 2008 1:05 AM

I commend you on your dedication to the group

Posted by: slickster at April 13, 2008 2:14 AM

Fulani Chant and Woodabe Nights are among my favorite songs and although it's hard to pick a favorite member of Sweet Honey because each member is intrisic to the whole of the sound, Aisha is my favorite, only because I presume her to be most similar to me, without the outstanding pipes, of course.

Posted by: Rhonea at August 13, 2008 1:16 PM

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