Angel Bat Dawid soars

Chicago’s new free-jazz star shines in Halifax on Saturday, Jan 25.

Juri Hiensch

Angel Bat Dawid w/NAT Chantel, New Hermitage Sat Jan 25, 8pm
The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street

When she was young, Angel Bat Dawid went with her father to watch the 1984 Mozart biopic Amadeus. It was there that everything clicked for her: she wanted to be a musician. "I remember sitting in my dad's lap and the music just hit me," she says.

Last year, the Chicago-based composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist released her debut album, The Oracle (she was 39 at the time). The spiritual, free-jazz album was recorded on her iPhone's voice memo app and she says it authentically represents herself.

"To now have this album out and just to be accepted for who I am is just a blessing," Dawid, who's already made fans of critics at The Guardian and Pitchfork, says.

She'll be performing in Halifax on January 25 at The Bus Stop Theatre— thanks to EVERYSEEKER (formerly OBEY Convention)'s new off-season programming—with openers NAT Chantel and New Hermitage. She'll also lead a workshop on music as a form of self-care and healing at The Bus Stop the same afternoon.

Dawid grew up in a strict, religious home. Both of her parents were ministers but gave her full access to the arts, like books, films and music. From around the ages of seven to 12, Dawid and her family lived in Kenya. There weren't many opportunities for music, so when they moved back to the United States, Dawid begged her parents to immerse her into music and music lessons.

But as Dawid progressed as a musician, she became more skeptical about the world.

"Growing up, playing classical music and the more I advanced, the less and less I saw Black people. No one was like, 'That's weird.' But I did," she says. "I just hope that my music can all bring us to a place where we can go into those things. And sometimes, we're going to have to talk about hard things."

Now, Dawid has an endless list of Black artists she admires; top jazz legends like Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman and Alice Coltrane to name a few. She also includes perennial inspirations: Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and Nirvana. An obvious picking-up of Chicago free-jazz icon Sun Ra's mantle flows through Dawid's record like an extra bass line.

Pulling from various genres like jazz, hip hop and rock, Dawid calls the music she makes "angel music" or great Black music.

"We're at that time where, I think, the music is trying to turn into our music, for our generation, what are we trying to say," she says. "Not what we borrow from someone and trying to rehash it."

"I don't think people understand that I've had so many wonderful highs in my life already. I've already reached mountaintops a billion times. So, this is just an on-going mountaintop experience. If this was my last day on Earth, I'd be like, I lived a damn good life."