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"Measuring six foot two, I am sure you understand my difficulty in remembering when I was a little girl" jokes Ilene Barnes. Yet given her history and the great part that her childhood plays in her songs , it is highly unlikely that she has forgotten.
Ilene Barnes was born in Detroit Michigan, of an unconventional Afro American family, tinged with the essences of native American ,East Indian and Irish Blood. Her conscience was awakened by the colors and fragrances of the Amazon, more precisely Surinam where the family moved on assignment, her father being a tropical disease researcher for W.H.O .& P.A.H.O. with the United Nations…
Paramaribo the capital of ex Dutch Guyana conjures up images in Ilene’s of a family living with six aquariums filled with mosquitoes for scientific research a far cry away from the colorful tropical fish she dreamed of Ilene’s first musical souvenirs invariably evokes the liberty felt in hearing tropical birds. The imitations learned from these feathered friends have been adapted and incorporated into her music. The giant iguanas and sloths which regularly visited the backyard became the scenarios and inspiration for her writings.
Ilene’s visit with her father down the Saramakai river were not of a tourist nature but of the scientific in the capture of mongoose for the laboratory. These moments having molded her sensitivity, into songs, have since been chased from this garden of Eden into what is better known as nostalgia.
After Surinam, her parents transfers to Barbados and then Jamaica,
where the sun never sets with its vivid spiced colors. Knowing Ilene
however, one would think it not the tropical sun she searched, but the
profound shadows it cast in which the young girl took refuge and set
free her imagination. At ten years old she darkened the pages of her
diary with stories that raised the hairs on her mother’s head, in
particular, one of a little girl knocking on the wooden door of her
coffin because she wanted her teddy bear. So sure was she of herself at
this young age that she confirmed to her father that she wanted to write
and live in France. Her parents at a loss placed her in a convent in the
hands of a nun, who thought her the rudimentary basics of the guitar, an
instrument that would become as indispensable as the pen for her. It was
not until later, by listening continuously to Leonard Cohen, James
Taylor … that she started to acquire a style for writing. All this
convened to form Ilene into a person completely apart from the rest.
From this comfortable milieu she continued on to Boston University and Smith college studying Kakizome (Japanese calligraphy) and contemporary theatre with Jerzy Grotovsky and Len Berkman (founder of the Sun Dance Festival) and African dance with choreographer / anthropologist Dr Pearl Primus. Music however remained her favourite past time as she gave courses to children in a school created by YUHUDI Menuin. Ilene prides herself with having gone to the "school of hard knocks" referring to the Jazz clubs where it is do or die amidst the noise hubbub and thick curtain of smoke where one must make do, and juggle with the unexpected. One might for example, being scheduled as opening act for Nina Simone, Ilene was obliged to not only open but sit in for the artist who failed to appear. Wages were modest but her education was priceless.
On moving to Europe between London, Paris & Amsterdam she finally recorded her first album "Set you free"… But It was only after signing to IC Music Inc. with the album "Time" in 2003 that her career was finally launched in the music industry. Her amazingly strong and fragile voice is carried along by a folk/rock style of story telling written with a great finesse of detail in which she constantly searches a response to her eternal questions such as "how to face the fatality of times past" or how to reconcile with our other selves In “Yesterday Comes”, her new album, these same subjects haunt her, pushing her to a level of expression even finer & higher , obliging her to get under the skin of her ills to penetrate the fundamental strangeness of this beautiful chaotic world of ours.
Produced by Jimmy Hoyson (Ben
Harper , Green day) Yesterday comes gives privilege to electric
chords and sounds shaped by the rock "Blind folded" and the haunting
ambiances of "Wolves Cry" this album talks to the tormented conscious of
our times in "Fear of"