Bursting with song
All the Yellow Sisters need is love, peace and happiness
By Darrell Jónsson
For The Prague Post
December 13th, 2006 issue
Separate trips to Africa gave the foursome a common source of musical inspiration.
"This is the end of the earth" chirped an anonymous voice on my cell phone as I wandered in an industrial wasteland somewhere on the edge of Prague 7. After 30 minutes trying to find an address, all I had to show for my efforts was a wasted afternoon.
Finally, passing a row of abandoned buildings, I saw a woman standing at the doorway of an old train station holding a cell phone. She led me upstairs to a room where, in contrast to the peeling exterior and interior walls of the building, two large, shiny wide-screen monitors sat displaying digital waves of a Yellow Sisters CD track under construction.
Lucie Hawa Goldin introduced herself as a member of the group while the engineer, eager to get back to work, politely said, "Sit down, we need to deliver the master recording tomorrow." Soon there was a click of switches, followed by the lush, four-part harmonies of the Yellow Sisters. The music coming from the monitors at times sounded like an update on the Anderson sisters by way of Africa. When the song was over I was quickly handed a demo disc, told that the interview would have to be later, and whisked out the door.
At a downtown Prague restaurant a few days later, all four members of the group gathered for a rowdy interview. Two of the women, Léna and Bára, would only offer first names. When asked a question about their preferred lyrical motifs, Léna began singing "nature, politics, life ..." while Bára and Goldin followed through in two-part harmony with "love, looove, love." This led to a concluding full ensemble chorus, led by Tony Nyass, singing "spirituality, humanity, peace, happiness."
Between ordering lunch and further spontaneous bursts of song, the women explained that African music was a source of inspiration for each of them long before Yellow Sisters had formed. Goldwin, who is also a choreographer, had traveled to Africa on a dance-study program while Nyass had been to Africa with her Gambian spouse.
But it was Léna and Bára's African trek six years ago that has become the stuff of legend. This duo's first transcontinental musical tour was a street-performance project, with a trail of sidewalk cafés leading from Prague to Gambia as the primary venue. This sing-along homage took them from Madrid to the Canary Islands, and finally to the West African coast.
With two of the band members now married, their musical travels are limited. But, as Léna explains, "Since Bára and I are still single, when we have time we still like to travel and ..." But before she can complete the sentence, Goldin interrupts with "... and find a husband!" The whole table erupts in laughter. But Léna's point about the value of musical adventurism is well taken, as they all burst out singing "Freedom, freedom, freeeedom, freedoooom!"
While it was made clear that these four women are so full of song they can hardly contain themselves, Nyass admits that a good number of the songs she contributes to the band's repertoire were composed on family visits to Gambia. Regardless, they all supported Goldwin with tableside imitations of tropical birds, the wind and cat growls when she described her musical inspirations as "the sounds of nature, the sounds of birds, the wind and animals."
The Yellow Sisters' upcoming Christmas concerts will be the sort of musical occasion that the entire family might enjoy. If my encounter with the group is any indication, their performance will leave the audience with a contagious glow.
Expect to hear more from the Yellow Sisters in the near future, as their first self-titled CD debuts in early 2007. The world can only wish such a bright quartet the best of success as they continue to radiate their unique musical joy, love, peace and happiness.
Darrell Jónsson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org