For accomplished Chicago composer-clarinetist-pianist-singer Angel Bat Dawid, 2021 can best be summed up thanks to Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times,” she said. during a recent call from her. home and studio in the southern suburb of Matteson.
Dawid recalled how bleak things looked just a year ago when she was recovering from COVID-19 and also mourning the passing of her sister.
“I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this,” she said. “But it was also the best year music-wise and the opportunities I’ve had. I’m so grateful to still be here.
Things really changed in the second half of 2021, with Dawid releasing a live album, a sequel to his acclaimed 2019 debut “The Oracle”, as well as finding himself opening for the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra over the summer. , and monopolizing her time during the pandemic to accept new commissioned works and participate in a number of virtual shows. This led to her being named artist-in-residence at that year’s NYC Winter JazzFest. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day virtual concert event was the forum for the debut of his new composition, titled “Afro-Town Topics: A Mythological Afrofuturist Revue.”
If you’re in Chicago, you might want to head to the Sleeping Village on January 20 to hear Dawid as part of the multi-day Tomorrow Never Knows concert series.
Daughter of Christian missionaries, Dawid spent much of her childhood in Kenya. Reacclimating to the American way of life at the age of 12 became a harrowing experience.
“Darkness was safe in Africa; we played outside and climbed trees all day and it was wonderful. I was just playing with my friends, there was no violence,” she recalls. “So when we came back to America and I went to public school, I didn’t fit in. I was bullied and made fun of. That’s when the music has become an important part of my life.
Dawid first wanted to act when her father took her and her siblings to see the 1984 film “Amadeus”; she was immediately hooked on the fact that Mozart was so passionate about music as a child. Wanting to follow this path, she signed up for music lessons, a lifelong journey filled with ups and downs. She remembers taking up the clarinet when it was the only remaining instrument in her school orchestra and being scrutinized by her young peers for being a black woman exploring classical music. While enrolled in music studies at Roosevelt University, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, forcing her to suspend school while working at a high-end lingerie store on Michigan Avenue. to pay his medical bills. Eventually cashing in his 401k and using the tax returns to buy gear, things accelerated when Dawid discovered Chicago’s cutting-edge scene.
“It’s Emerald City if you’re a music lover,” she says.
She attended regular jam sessions with Adam Zanolini, now executive director of Elastic Arts, who supported Dawid throughout his career. The foundation led her to create the Participatory Music Coalition, inviting everyone to join the stage and perform rather than just watch. He was inspired by what Dawid discovered while learning about the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), first established in Chicago in 1965.
“We weren’t doing anything new – the AACM was doing it at the time. I was obsessed with this story and disappointed that in all my musical training no one mentioned the AACM. is open to me.”
This is one of the reasons why education has become so paramount to Dawid as she pursues her career.
“I’m a byproduct of music education,” she says. “I’m very passionate about it and I know how important it is, especially when it comes to music education for black people.” Her goal, she says, is to open a music school within the next 10 to 20 years, and she’s already started taking steps to make that happen. Dawid recently worked in a program with the Old Town School of Folk Music to provide an eight-week music course for incarcerated minors.
And she’s been playing into her ‘vinyl addict’ habits, collecting dozens of records that will be part of her future school library – a habit she first picked up while working at Hyde Park Records and collecting more merchandise. than she sold, saying, “Some of the best music libraries are in black homes.
In all of her work, Dawid says it’s important to her to address issues of racism and inequity head-on. That’s why she created her latest group, Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty, to empower young black female songwriters, noting that there are many “powerhouses” in Chicago.
“I’m not trying to be a musician to be a celebrity,” says Dawid. “I want to have a different trajectory for my career to provide safe spaces for black musicians. … I want to create in a world where people are influenced by each other and can learn to understand each other.