Singer ASHLEY MAHER (her surname, pronounced the real Irish way, rhymes with “star”) is an original. Against all odds, she has created and safeguarded the kind of personal style that seems to elude so many musical artists – including many of the best in the world – when they take liberties across genre boundaries, or explore musical traditions into which they have not been born. Anything but facile, Maher’s music approaches the gold standard set by the likes of Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, or Youssou N’Dour for an engagement with “world music” at once challenging, thoughtful, respectful, and exuberant. Born in Canada to British parents who relocated to Los Angeles when she was five, Maher has, as a performer and songwriter, been truly at home within African popular music traditions for many years, dating back even further than her intense exposure to those traditions through her label-mates Gabriel and N’Dour at Virgin Records in the late 1980’s, when she was living in London. Maher had grown up listening to a wide range of music – American and British rock and pop, classical music, and a variety of Latin and especially Brazilian styles. Having begun formal vocal training at sixteen, she was soon singing jazz, choral music, and medieval music in school. She later concentrated on opera in Italy for an entire year, but although her voice was well-suited to the classical repertoire, she says her soul was not transported by it. Then, while still an und...
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