With an ease-inducing voice reminiscent of Shaday and musical stylings that reflect her Caribbean heritage, Avion Blackman’s new album Sweet Life is a breezy blend of folk, worship, World, soca, R&B and neo-soul.
Aside from her solo career, Blackman is also a member of the group Christafari. She continues to perform with the band, performing more than 100 shows in 25 countries in 2008 alone, including concerts in the USA, Iceland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Antigua, Trinidad and Brazil.
Born in Trinidad, Blackman lived in luxury as a daughter of the famous calypsonian, Lord Shorty, who was the inventor of Soca (the pulse of Carnival) and Jamoo music. As a young dreadlocked child, she began singing on stage in front of crowds at 4 years old. That year, her life drastically changed when on a spiritual quest, her father transplanted his massive family to the jungle, where she would spend the next 20 years living seven rugged miles from the remote Indian village of Pirapo.
The Blackman home was a log cabin with no doors, windows, plumbing or electricity. Blackman was home-schooled and her large family (24 brothers and sisters) lived primarily off the land growing virtually everything that they ate. Their days were filled with Bible study, intense rehearsals, various tour dates and regular performances for curious visitors.
Blackman learned the art of harmony while touring and singing background for her father, who took on the name Ras Shorty I after his conversion to Christianity. At 14, she began playing bass for the family band, The Love Circle, and eventually began recording solo material of her own.
In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles and married Christafari founder and lead vocalist Mark Mohr, and subsequently became Christafari’s bassist and one of the group’s vocalists.
Avion Blackman released her debut album, Onyinye, in 2005, and the following year the project was nominated for nine Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards. Blackman took the top honor, becoming the first non-Jamaican to win Album of the Year. She also won Marlin Awards for Contemporary Female Vocal Performance of the Year (“Marvelous Beauty”) and Packaging of the Year. In addition to her solo work and Christafari, Blackman has lent her voice to an assortment of songs for network television, where she can be heard regularly on popular shows such as General Hospital and One Life to Live.
On her new album, Blackman combines honest worship with island rhythms.
Some songs, like ‘Sweet Life,’ have jazz undertones, and are the perfect compliment to a Sunday afternoon drive around town.
“On ‘Sweet Life,’ I unapologetically sing about the sweetest life of all,” Blackman says. “The abundant and eternal life that is freely given to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Other songs on the album, like “It Is For Freedom,” incorporate melodious Caribbean melodies minus the steel drums. Blackman’s music introduces spiritual themes, from forgiveness to progressing in the spiritual walk, to trusting God.
For more information, visit Adrian Blackman’s web site at www.avionblackman.com.
This article is printed in the January/February 2009 issue of RETHINK Monthly.
Lindsay Goodier is a journalist living in Houston, Texas who loves the beach, sailing and running.