A Conversation with Annette Philip of Women of the World
Posted on 02/03/2020
Meet Annette Philip, singer in Women of the World, who will be performing in A Cappella Live! on Saturday, March 7. She chats with All Access about the inspiring mission of Women of the World, how they perform in more than 30 languages, and so much more!
Read the transcribed interview below
with Kelly from All Access and special guest Annette Philip from Women of the World
Kelly: And we are back on All Access With State Theatre New Jersey. I'm your host, Kelly Blithe, and coming up on March 7th, we are super excited to present A Cappella Live! with four amazing a cappella groups. And one of the groups performing on March 7th is Women of the World and with us today from Women of the World is Annette Phillip. Welcome Annette!
Annette: Thank you so much! Thanks for having me!
Kelly: Yes! Annette, we are so excited to have you, and Women of the World performing. Tell us all about your group and how you landed this awesome gig on being on this amazing a cappella tour.
Annette: Well it's very exciting for us indeed. So, a little bit about the group, we are four women from different parts of the world—Japan, Italy, India, and Haiti via U.S. We sing in about 37 different languages right now, and the entire idea behind the group was to create a platform for women musicians to not only explore different music of the world but through that music, understand more about each other's culture and also bring forward sort of forgotten languages and forgotten stories. Stories that are often left behind and not coming into mainstream media and so the music as our relationship is pretty colorful and spicy and just a lot of fun and a great sisterhood. So we're really excited to be a part of this tour, A Cappella Live!, and you know we have won a couple a cappella competitions and also have gotten to know Deke Sharon, who is basically the mastermind behind all of this and you know, right place, right time.
Annette: Everything just came together and we are very excited to be touring across the states in almost a week. We will be starting with everything, so very exciting.
Kelly: Very exciting. 37 languages wow, that's, that's amazing! You know, from the different cultures, representing so many different languages and cultures, I can imagine that you guys have quite a repertoire to choose from when your're going on tour of what you are going to be performing. How do you guys decide what to perform when you are out?
Annette: Well, you know, a lot of it depends on what the occasion is or what kind of venue it is. We do everything from Bulgarian music, which is a really specific type of vocal technique to Indian classical, and also Konnakol, which is like, a rhythmic, solfège tradition which in some way I guess you could say is like what people think of as beatboxing, but this is a completely different tradition in Indian classical music called Konnakol. You know, of course we do music from Italy, Haiti, and Ireland, you name it. Plus, we do some English music, so people do understand what we're talking about, at least some of the time. For the rest of the time, we describe what we are doing, and I think the way that we choose it is really music that inspires us, music that has stories, music that's socially relevant, and also just super challenging for us. In some ways, when the four of us are singing together, one show, even a thirty minute show or a ninety minute show, is like switching vocal techniques almost like a radio. You will go from singing something swung and jazz-blues type into something Kenyan into something Bulgarian into Indian stuff. It's just fun to mix it up and just share and expose our audiences to all sorts of music from places that they might not get to visit otherwise.
Kelly: I love it. You're talking about the technique. So what does that do on the voice and what's your secret to keeping your voice strong and making sure it stays with the techniques? It sounds like you are doing different things vocally that you know, you could be switching it up and you just gotta get your voice used to it, right? I mean you have to do some exercises it sounds like.
Annette: Yes absolutely. I mean we train a lot and we continue to train through the years. I think the first step for us even before we get to the technique is to understanding every language and the culture and the history and story behind each particular song and then slowly getting into the pronunciation and being authentically able to share a story or a message by pronouncing the words itself and that itself is technique. There are certain cultures where lets say "R" is not pronounced and one has to learn, one has to find a way to navigate that and almost unlearn things from your own culture so that you can open up your mind and body to be able to physically produce these sounds. Beyond that, we work a lot with native speakers of each language and they help, they come and train us, you know, they sit and laugh as we practice and iterate and make mistakes until we get it right. From a vocal perspective, a basic technique perspective, we make sure we are warming up, we make sure that we continue to speak when we are taking short breaks, just keeping everything in view as well as we switch parts. So this is something that's quite unique to Women of the World and a lot of a cappella groups around the world. There's a dedicated bass, let's say a soprano, alto, tenor, or a baritone. With four women, we have pretty large vocal ranges and we often will decide who will be singing soprano or alto, or bass based on the song. So you know, I might be singing a mezzo in one song which is sort of close to soprano, the highest part in the song, though often times I am singing baritone or bass because I have a lower range. Even that helps us keep on our toes and keep stretching ourselves and stay relevant and stay fit vocally.
Kelly: Nice, I love it. I mean that really adds another layer. You are already singing in more than 37 languages, the different techniques and the languages, with everything that is going on and you are guys are also switching parts, that's just amazing. That really says something about your group, that you're switching it up and it is always something fresh and new. So the four of you, have you just become great friends, were you guys friends before? How did that all get together?
Annette: Well, you know, the group started in 2008. It was Ayumi Ueda's vision, she's a Japanese vocalist and a sound healer actually. She had this idea of what if we were able to have women from all over the world sing together and tell stories and travel and also practice being together and navigating life. A band life which is very specific because one travels around the year to all sorts of countries. You are sometimes spending sometimes weeks and months on end with each other and this is beyond what's on stage but just the social aspect of being in a band. We all met at Berklee College of Music, everyone studied there in Boston at different times. As our Uni was looking to find these women musicians who were of similar mindset and similar inclination to experiment and explore different cultures and not just stay with their comfort zone, she found each of us. So the group lineup has changed since 2008, and about since 2012, it has been the four of us, Ayumi Ueda from Japan, Giorgia Renosto from Italy, Debo Ray from Haiti via U.S., and me, Annette Phillip from India. And we really have become sisters, we definitely fight a lot, we are very independent, we are very opinionated women, and there is space for all of our opinions and in a sense we are able to do this because we are committed to staying together as a group and we really believe that peace is not just a concept that is just talked about in classrooms and you know larger organizations or in politics. Peace is really possible if one attempts and stays committed to it. It's not the absence of conflict, peace is working through conflict, navigating and committing through being kind to each other. So that's a big part of how we stay together and get over any sort of tension that might be in the group, which is normal for any band but I think it adds, like I said earlier, a lot of spice to what we do together.
Kelly: I love it, I love it. We are talking with Annette Phillip, a singer with Women of the World, coming to the State Theatre in the A Cappella Live! show on Saturday, March 7th, 8pm. You can get your tickets at STNJ.org. A Capella Live! is a high energy musical celebration of contemporary a cappella and is conceived and arranged by Deke Sharon who you know as the vocal producer of Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off. So tell us about Deke Sharon and working with him. I mean he just seems like one really amazing guy.
Annette: Oh absolutely. I find that ideas is something that he's really incredible at. He's been in the industry for so long and he's really brought unusual things to the global a cappella industry and we absolutely are honored to be working with him and are really excited to see what this opportunity is going to bring. We are also specifically really grateful to Deke for giving Women of the World this opportunity because it also allows us to ask our audiences to realize that a cappella music is so global. You know, vocal music or chanting or singing. Often, people talk about the fact that it is predated language.
Annette: You know, people would get together and sing and beat on their body, sorry body percussion, and chanting was predating language. So often times, when people think a cappella, they are thinking about a very specific genre or a very specific style of music but really vocal music exists all over the world in hundreds and hundreds of languages. Really, kudos to Deke and gratitude to him for giving Women of the World a platform along with the other groups that are performing to really showcase the global strength, and diversity and richness of a cappella music.
Kelly: Nice. And so Women of the World have released three CD's, is that correct? Do I have that number right?
Annette: That's right.
Kelly: Is it always something that you are looking to do the next album, or put something out next? Are you working on something while you are going on tour?
Annette: Yeah we are actually! In fact, we are doing part of the recording right before we head out to the final rehearsal for this tour with Deke and A Cappella Live!. So we are going to be doing a special album for Japan. We are going to be heading back to Japan I think if I'm not mistaken for the sixth time later in this summer of 2020. We are doing a special Japan album release and special songs dedicated to our wonderful fans and loyal supporters in that region. That's happening now and in April, and we are also looking to do some collaborations with some of the groups that are going to be on tour with us. So who knows what we are going to learn, maybe The Filharmonic will teach us some Filipino songs that we could do together.
Kelly: Aww, I love it! There you go, there you go! So Annette, where can people find more information about Women of the World?
Annette: Our website is womenoftheworldmusic.com. We are also on Facebook and Instagram. Both of those are very easy to find, you will see four women, you can't miss us. Just search Women of the World and it will pop right up.
Kelly: Awesome! Annette Phillip from Women of the World going to be on A Cappella Live!, Saturday, March 7th, 8pm show. It's going to be an amazing Saturday night of a cappella music. Make sure you check it out, and get your tickets at STNJ.org. Thank you Annette for being on All Access and we look forward to seeing you in March!
Annette: Thank you Kelly! Thank you very much! Much appreciated!