From the soundtrack of an Apple commercial to the stage at GAMH


When Steve Jobs calls, you answer. This was certainly the case for songstress, Yael Naim, whose folk ditty “New Soul” was handpicked by Jobs to soundtrack a landmark commercial for Apple’s first generation MacBook Air in 2007. As the company demonstrated the laptop’s sleek and simple design, Naim’s lyrics took the spotlight. “I’m a new soul / I came to this strange world / Hoping I could learn a bit ’bout how to give and take,” she sang over a bright and bubbling melody, before breaking into a catchy chorus of la la las. The world was hooked.

Naim went from virtually unknown to global sensation in a matter of days, as “New Soul” rocketed to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The self-titled album from whence it came received critical acclaim across the continents, hitting #11 in France and charming listeners with its sweetly bilingual discography, including a uniquely pared-down version of Britney Spears’ hit single, “Toxic.”

Born in France in 1978 to Jewish Tunisian parents, Naim has long heralded a diverse array of inspirations. After moving to Israel at age four, she became enamored of pop music upon discovering the Beatles and soon fell in love with Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell as well. She cites all these artists as some of her earliest and strongest influences.

Before long, young Naim was performing with Winton Marsalis and backing musicians in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv. She started her first band, The Anti-Collision, while fulfilling her required military service for Israel, returned to Paris at age 21 to pursue a career in music, and soon snagged a record deal with EMI. Her first album, released simply under the name Yael, debuted in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2007 that Naim got her big break.

Naïm attributes much of her success to a very strong creative and romantic partnership with West Indian musician and producer David Donatien, who has collaborated with her on her past three albums. “When the Steve Jobs thing happened, it was amazing because we didn’t imagine this kind of impact,” Naim has said. “We were still sitting in my little apartment in Paris. We didn’t have any money, anything. It was a homemade album.”

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An Evening of Immersive Audio-Visual Entertainment with Stellamara


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And now for something completely different! Get ready, San Francisco, for an evening of immersive audio-visual entertainment with internationally acclaimed electro-acoustic music ensemble Stellamara, belly dancer extraordinaire Zoe Jakes, and avant-pop mastermind SORNE. All on their way to perform at this year’s Lighting in a Bottle festival at the end of May, these three one-of-a-kind acts will team up at the Great American Music Hall on May 22nd for a performance guaranteed to stimulate all the senses.

After over a decade of recording and performing an elegant blend of folk and classical music borrowing from a diverse range of traditions, Stellamara stands at the forefront of modern world music. Led by vocalist, composer, producer, and percussionist Sonja Drakulich, the group seamlessly blends the modern with the medieval. Drakulich’s haunting vocals evoke mist rising over the verdant plains of Westeros, bolstered by a profusion of rare instrumentals from bandmates Gari Hegedus, Evan Fraser, Sean Tergis, and Dan Cantrell. From the mandocello to the jaw harp to the n’goni to the oud, Stellamara’s musical artillery is one of the most impressive you’ll see on a single stage.

Born of Serbian and Hungarian heritage and raised in Los Angeles, the ethereal Drakulich found her passion early in life when she began studying classic Eastern European and Balkan singing as a child.

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Imarhan brings a new sound that is funky in all the right ways


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The Tuareg people live across the hot sands of the vast Saharan desert, in a land many might deem unlivable. A subset of the North African Berber ethnic group, the Tuareg are a nomadic pastoralist community known for moving constantly across national borders in Niger, Mali, and Algeria.

While much of the Tuareg music that reached Western audiences in the past tended to follow certain patterns, a new wave of Saharan musicians are dedicated to dismantling any preconceived notions one might have about the genre. The distinctive vocal distortions popularized by bands like Mdou Moctar or Group Inerane are gone, replaced by a new sound suffused with tranquility and passion, complex of composition and funky in all the right ways.

Imarhan, which means “the ones I care about” in the Tuareg language of Kamashek, embraces this new sound. Band members Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane, a.k.a. Sadam; Tahar Khaldi; Hicham Bouhasse; Haiballah Akhamouk; and Abdelkader Ourzig grew up together in Tamanrasset, Southern Algeria, in a Tuareg community of Northern Malian descent. Today, the five friends are poised to begin a world tour, ready to share their deep-rooted yet hip-shakingly modern desert rock from California to Copenhagen. They’ve held on tight to the deep bonds connecting them as band members and lifelong friends.

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Mount Moriah, Southern Rock roots with an Indie twist


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Something of a musical chameleon, North Carolina-born vocalist and guitarist Heather McEntire is no doubt a force to be reckoned with. Starting out her career as the leader of indie-duo-turned-punk-trio Bellafea, McEntire now stands firmly upon her Southern Rock roots as the fierce frontwoman of indie country rock outfit Mount Moriah.

Since coming out in 2013, McEntire has used her songwriting to explore and dissect the often-difficult experience of growing up queer in the South, particularly within the confines of her provincial Southern Baptist upbringing. McEntire’s piercing lyricism cuts to the core, exploring themes of religion and sex and the everyday melancholy of small-town life. Her gritty musical prowess has made her a critical darling and her soulful, twangy vocals have earned her comparisons to a young Dolly Parton.

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Artist Spotlight: Whiskerman


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Some people say the music scene in SF is dead - while we could debate that statement at length, it is much simpler to exemplify it, with a band like Whiskerman. Known in the Bay Area for their often raucous shows, Whiskerman is a Bay Area band that gives us hope for local live music (*please don't move to L.A.!). Now, with NOMAD, their new album produced by Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, Dept of Eagles), there’s no holding back. Whiskerman has taken to lush string arrangements framing bold prophetic lyricism in their most recent effort. Fronted by Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Graham Patzner, Whiskerman utilizes the structure of a classic rock band to convey a timeless familiarity, luring the listener into a new mythological landscape with a story for our time. The songs of NOMAD were written through the anxiety and uncertainty constantly revealing itself in our society towards the collapse of industrial civilization. Somehow they manage to make it all sound so catchy.

Whiskerman has gone through basically all of the growing pains a band can go through from their folkier self titled first album to their soul driven EP, BAD NEWS Produced by Tony Berg. Drummer Nick Cobbett, Lead Guitarist/Sitarist Charles Lloyd and Bass player Will Lawrence, all active members of this growing machine for 5 years, bring a tight groove, powerful dynamics and virtuosic chops to the landscape of Patzner’s songs. They finally found a match in Jeff Saltzman, who worked closely with the band to push them from their rock and roll backbone into a grander more symphonic sound. Working with their new label, OIM Records, the momentum and ambition continues to grow for this humble quartet.

On Friday January 8 at Great American Music Hall, Whiskerman will have their Album Release Party. Featuring Papa Bear and the Easy Love & Scary Little Friends - 2 more Bay Area bands that keep the flame burning, deep inside San Francisco.