Carolyn Malachi Photo by Kwame Opare
Carolyn Malachi Photo by Kwame Opare

Carolyn Malachi has my attention. She’s a Grammy-nominated, breakthrough musician with a smooth as silk, soulful voice, a songstress, a spoken word artist, an R&B, hip hop and jazz singer all combined into one. As she told me, “Genres are stereotypes. Music should be free of labels.” Her sound is hard to describe. She’s a mix between Sade and Lauryn Hill with a touch of Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Radiohead. She sounds too good to be true. And, oh yes, I am addicted. Especially to “Beautiful Dreamer,” a song that reminds people, old and young, that life can be hard, but it does “get better.” Malachi was bullied as a child growing up in the Washington D.C. area. She wants her audience to take away the same message. “They need to hear, beautiful dreamers, it does get better,” she said.

But Malachi is much more than simply a hot, new artist on the scene, destined for great things. She has a vision. Simply put, she dreams of a world where every child, regardless of race, gender, religion or social position has equal access to high-quality education.

She chatted with me recently about her career, social crusading, her urban alternative musical style, her great-grandfather the famous jazz-pianist John Malachi and how her favorite movie, The Never Ending Story, influences her work.

Carolyn Malachi and the #IamKQED sign. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Malachi.
Carolyn Malachi and the #IamKQED sign. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Malachi.

What I immediately noticed about Malachi is her authenticity. She’s real. There isn’t any pretense about her. “A persona gets in the way of the music,” she said. “I can’t talk to people through a filter. I live life. I write about it. I perform it. There is no room for BS’ing people.”

Malachai is an old soul embodied in a 29-year-old woman. She unapologetically dreams big and encourages everyone to do the same. As a self-described “social philanthropist,” Malachi uses her music to lead the discussion.

“Giving back” is a trend many musicians are following: Bono, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, Jon Bon Jovi and the Zac Brown Band, just to name of few.

The difference? These singers are all wildly successful and, let’s be frank, can afford to donate proceeds from their concerts and record sales to very worthy, charitable causes. Malachi, who hasn’t yet achieved super-stardom (don’t worry, she’s headed there) wants to use her music to bring a positive influence to the world. Or at least make a big, big dent.

She partnered with Bay Area non-profit The School Fund to address one cause: global access to education. Each view of her video “Free Your Mind” generates an hour of class time for students in East Africa and has funded an amazing 10,000 hours to date. The song is incredibly empowering. In the video, we see a young girl who loves to dance. One day she runs late for her dance class and the other girls bully her. At first she is distraught, but in the end she refuses to let the taunting stop her from what she loves. She experiences a glorious transformation as walks by a mural of President Obama and begins to dance like no one is watching. She’s frees her mind and just lives. What an amazingly simple concept?

This is what music should be. Inspirational. Motivational. We have enough songs out there invading our airspace glorifying cash, cars and living large. What we don’t have enough of are positive messages? Malachi fills that void.

Her song “Fall Winter Spring Summer” is an ode to rising above your fears. She personified the concept of fear and wrote a letter to it. She explained that the song is about taking that first crucial step to moving forward in life and getting over your fears, whatever they may be. Perhaps it’s fear of heights. Fear of flying. Fear of living or even fear of dying.

“The thing I want most is for people to come together,” she said. “We are so divided as a human race. We are all in a position to be of service or to speak out against an injustice.”

With her the release of her third full-length album, GOLD, on July 30, she continues her quest for social justice. For every album sold, an hour of class time will be funded for students, not only in East Africa, but in any of the 15 countries that The School Fund currently supports.

Album Cover for Malachi's third record titled, GOLD.
Album Cover for Malachi’s third record titled, GOLD.

Malachi knows access to education is everything. If provides the foundation for a young person to dream. “If a kid wants to be president, he or she has to know how government works. Having access to information is having access to your dreams.”

Oh, and in case you are wondering about The Never Ending Story, it’s the inspiration behind “Beautiful Dreamer.” In the movie, there is the concept of the Nothing that is sucking the life out of everything good and slowly draining away people’s dreams. A large, ominous cloud appears each time the Nothing was comes to consume parts of the world. Malachi decided to change the concept of the storm cloud. “I flipped the meaning. What if that big, gray cloud was actually a happy cloud?” she said. What if we too could flip around the parts of our lives that were not serving us well? Turn a negative into a positive? What a…beautiful dream.

  • Nora Grahe

    I find Carolyn Malachi someone I have a great deal of respect and admiration for! She is so very talented, kind, generous and an inspiration to all! God Bless You Carolyn!~

Author

Gina Scialabba

Gina Scialabba is a journalist and practicing attorney based in San Francisco. She's a regular contributor to KQED Pop and now Bay Area Bites. When she's not reading a novel, newspaper or watching Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy or Anthony Bourdain, she's taking advantage of the richness and diversity of Bay Area culinary life. She also loves to travel. Next Stop: Vietnam, Thailand and Korea.

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