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RISE Music Series presents singer/songwriter Goapele at the Gardner Museum

Artist blends R&B, soul, jazz and hip-hop

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
RISE Music Series presents singer/songwriter Goapele at the Gardner Museum
Goapele, a former Berklee College of Music student, returns to Boston to perform as part of RISE, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s daring pop, rock, and hip-hop concert series on Thursday, March 31, 2016. (Photo: Photo: Mike Quain)

Once called the “spiritual love child of Sade and D’Angelo” by Rolling Stone magazine, singer and songwriter Goapele (pronounced gwa-puh-lay) brings her smooth blend of R&B, soul, jazz and hip-hop music to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 31 as part of the RISE Music Series.

Goapele first came onto the music scene in 2001 with her first self-released album “Closer” which made it onto Billboard’s Top R&B and Hip-Hop album charts. Since then, she has released four albums including her 2014 project “Strong As Glass,” which featured collaborations with Eric Benet and Snoop Dogg.

The Oakland, Calif., native, who grew up in a culturally diverse household, was also influenced by the political activism of her parents — a South African father and a New York-born Israeli Jewish mother. As a result, her songs often represents a wide array of sounds ranging from the music of Nina Simone, Al Green, Prince, Björk and Bob Marley to her contemporaries A Tribe Called Quest and Kendrick Lamar.

With lyrics often taken from her poetry, her overall vision in writing her music is to “have a positive impact on the world culturally,” and “to hopefully help people feel inspired and empowered,” says the artist. “I try to write from a personal perspective and hope that the emotion transfers through the music and people feel something, and feel like transforming their own lives.”

If you go

RISE presents Goapele in the Calderwood Hall of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on Thursday, March 31 at 7p.m. Tickets are required and include Museum admission. Adults: $27; Seniors, $24; Members, $17; Students and children, $12; and youth age seven and under are not admitted. For information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 617.278.5156.

The Banner recently caught up with Goapele by phone where she discussed her music, fashion, and what she hopes to accomplish in the coming year.

How did attending Berklee inform your music?

Goapele: Before I went to Berklee, I was most comfortable singing acapella and making my own version of an Aretha Franklin song over a Dr. Dre beat. I wasn’t really working with musicians. I didn’t really have the language to work with musicians. I really kind of went with the intention of learning to write music and working with musicians and finding my sound, and also getting to learn about the music business. I went to Berklee and stayed for about a year and a half and I felt like I got a lot of that. I felt like it was time to get out in the world and start using what I knew.

You have this wonderful innate sense of fashion. Is this another area that you’re interested in or does it come naturally with the territory as an artist?

Goapele: When I was a kid I played dress up. It’s kind of fun that as an adult I get to do that. I’ve always loved fashion. I love visual arts and it just feels like such a visual way to express yourself. Fashion has always been something that’s been interesting for me. I’m definitely trying to break more into that world as I am in the film world.

Are you hoping to start off in television or film?

Goapele: I got to do something in the film “Sparkle” a couple of years ago. I had a small role in that. I was in one of the girl groups in a talent show. I got to work with Ava DuVernay. She did something with Miu Miu, the fashion line — a short that introduced their last spring collection but also told a story about having each other’s backs as women and the love between us. Gabrielle Union was in it, and Alfre Woodard. It was a short but it was an amazing experience.

Where do you see yourself in the next year especially as an independent artist with a variety of interests?

Goapele: I haven’t gotten to do as much internationally as I’ve wanted to. I’m hoping to do some more music in South Africa. I would like to get back to Europe and tour and have distribution. That’s definitely something in the near future that I’m hoping that goes on. I’m hoping to do more collaboration and to expand musically. Also, I feel like there’s more stuff around advocacy that I’d like to do, like women’s health. I feel like there’s an organic slope to it. There’s a lot of passions that I’ve had for a long time.