PRESENTED BY Cafe Istanbul
Michaela A. Harrison is a New Orleans-based vocalist who has performed nationally and internationally in theatrical productions, with various bands and musical collectives and with the all-female trio Mother Tongue. Since the disbanding of Mother Tongue in 2008, Michaela has established an ever-growing following as a solo artist at local venues such as Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club, where she is featured weekly during Sunday brunch, the Juju Bag Cafe, where she sings on Friday evenings, Kermit Ruffins’ bar, Sidney’s Saloon, and Ash Cultural Arts Center, where she performs regularly and leads a monthly community sing. While comfortable with a full band, a choir or an orchestra, Michaela often sings with a guitar as her only accompaniment, working regularly with Brazilian virtuoso Marcio Pereira and local favorite Todd Duke.
Michaela began singing in the Baptist church at age 5. Her musical style incorporates her gospel roots as well as a diverse range of genres including jazz, blues, R & B, soul, samba, MPB and African traditional music. As a protege of Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock, Michaela is well-versed in spirituals, work songs, and African American protest music from the Civil Rights era. With a four-octave range and a vocal quality that runs the gamut from pristine sweetness to fiercely powerful belting, Michaela has often been compared to such greats as Minnie Riperton and Mahalia Jackson, though she maintains a signature style that distinguishes her voice as easily recognizable no matter what she is singing. Her soulful, heartfelt delivery of both covers and original music has often moved audiences to tears.
Holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Service and a Master’s in Africana Studies, Michaela has also studied and lived in East Africa and Brazil. Fluent in French and Portuguese, and familiar with Spanish and Swahili, Michaela has an expanded repertoire of world music and renders songs in their original language. She infuses her performances with insightful commentary based on her multi-cultural perspective, simultaneously uplifting and educating audiences.
Michaela has performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on several occasions, with John Boutt, Kermit Ruffins, Bill Summers, Percussion, Inc. and Kumbuka African Drum and Dance Ensemble, as well as at the Essence Festival with Mother Tongue. She has also sung at venues in Washington, DC, New York, Atlanta and California. International performances have included festivals, clubs and private events in Brazil, Jamaica, France, Germany, Italy, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Since 2008, she has appeared in three theatrical productions: Rent at Le Petit Theatre in the French Quarter, The Women of Brewster Place at Anthony Bean Theater and Swimming Upstream, which recently played to packed houses at The Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans and the Apollo in Harlem. She has recorded with members of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bill Summers/Los Hombres Calientes and, most recently, Kermit Ruffins. She and Kermit perform the classic duet “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on his 2009 Christmas CD, “Have A Crazy Cool Christmas,” which attracted nationwide acclaim. Michaela’s first “solo” CD, “Love’s Divine,” was released July 1, 2010.