We all face a point or two in life where we are faced with a major choice. The time has come to make a change, but there are risks involved. Is the move worth the risks? That’s the question we all must answer for ourselves. It’s the same question Carolyn Malachi faced when it came to music. The lifelong Washingtonian had a 9-to-5 job in corporate logistics; at night and on weekends, she was building a reputation as a singer-songwriter. But the split was no longer working. “My weekends and any vacation time I had were dedicated to touring,” she said in a Washington Post interview. “And on my lunch breaks I was always working on getting my music out into the world. I was starting to miss days of work, and even that wasn’t enough time. It wasn’t fair to the people I was working with.”
For many music is just a hobby. However, there may come that time when the musician is faced with an opportunity for change; where the hobby becomes the career. For Carolyn Malachi there were signs that a choice was imminent. She had received a measure of success, which included a 2011 Grammy Award nomination for best urban/alternative performance. Still, the young artist had not made the big leap into the music industry exclusively.
Music was a part of Malachi’s family long before she was even born. There have been countless artists who were influenced by parents or grandparents. I have written many times about my father and his influence upon me musically. Carolyn Malachi is no different from many with a musical DNA. The legendary jazz pianist John Malachi just happens to be the great-grandfather of Carolyn Malachi. I have heard about talent sometimes skipping a generation, but here we have artistic acumen skipping two. The younger Malachi seems to have picked up the musical ball and run fast. She never really got to know her great-grandfather as he died in 1987, when Carolyn Malachi was only three years old.
Malachi is the first member of her family since her great-grandfather to venture into music professionally. She’s performed in some local Washington D.C venues as well as the D.C. Jazz Festival. In the Washington Post article Michael J. West wrote, “but she doesn’t limit herself to that (jazz), or even the catchall urban/alternative group into which Grammy voters placed her. On Malachi’s artist page on Facebook, she lists her genre simply as ‘good music’.”
Malachi mentions Anita Baker prominently as a musical influence. Of course, there are various artists today who also count Baker as a reason for their choice of genre and career. Nevertheless, there are great similarities between what Baker accomplished and Malachi is doing musically. The overall tone and vocal register might differ, but certainly the choice of songs and songwriting bear similarities. “I got really inspired watching Anita Baker in Baltimore one summer,” Malachi says. “She played outside at the African-American Festival; it was a thousand degrees outside and she came on late, and everybody was angry and frustrated. And she changed the entire mood of all the people instantly, just by communicating joy. “I saw all this joy, and I thought, ‘I really want to do that . . . this is what I want my life to be.’ ”
I first noticed Carolyn Malachi a few years ago when she released her hit song “All Right”. As I listened I was intrigued and wanted to know a little more about the fascinating vocalist. What I found was an artist that we really need at this time in history.
Using her music and social media platforms as forces for good, Malachi, a Fulbright-Hays grant recipient, advocates for equal access to education and technology. In addition she contributes lifestyle articles to Black Enterprise Magazine and Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine.
In 2015, Carolyn Malachi received an honorary doctorate from Shepherd University and delivered the institution’s commencement address. She then expanded her influence into the fashion world, collaborating with Lafayette 148 NY on their Spring 15′ ‘Women We Love’ campaign.
Malachi is a singer who brings the best of art, education, musical ability and technology together in one package. In this world where the music industry has rapidly changed along with the push from technological advances, the artist has to find a different way to reach the large, worldwide audience. I meet people every week who complain about how new music and musicians are devoid of artistic value. I disagree with that thinking. Carolyn Malachi is one of the reasons that I am optimistic about music of today and tomorrow.
The voice can be an effective tool for communicating thoughts and ideas. Malachi certainly has used her voice to do this both singing and speaking out. In a recent interview in RollingOut, Malachi was asked “as an artist and a teacher, how do you express yourself and inspire others?” Her answer was very interesting and allowed us to understand her and her music a little better.
“These are definitely revolutionary times in our country. We can always start by leading and not following. More than ever, I feel like people are more interested in politics and I’m excited about that. For me and my art, I try to be present and vocal. The Women’s March in DC was such an honor to be a part of and perform. As an artist it’s about staying true to who I am”.
The risky move to music was well worth it for us all.