"A diabolically funky bass is joined by the song of a fulani flute and the cadence of a vodou drum, and the cello bows under an incantation of the ancestors... a revelation and an evening of spellbinding music!" - MONDOMIX
Bethany Yarrow sings music of power and praise. She is a song keeper, earth activist, and student of the spiritual traditions of the Americas. A mesmerizing, dancing spirit with a powerful voice, she carries a living prayer for unity at the heart of her music.
For the past several years, Bethany has devoted herself to translating a song cycle of traditional music for the Orixás, the great pantheon of Afro-Brazilian deities that embody the forces of nature. Born in Brazil from the meeting of African archetypes, indigenous cosmologies and Judeo-Christian beliefs, the songs are invocations and portals that unfold into beautiful pools of devotion and celebration. They call on the healing forces of the wind, water, forest, fire, mineral and animal kingdoms; the angels and the Holy Mother; the White Moon, the Golden Sun, and all the guardians of sacred knowledge. In creating singable translations that capture both the poetry and precise symbolism of the original Portuguese, the songs build bridge of understanding and deeper reverence for these forces of nature, as well as the extraordinary cultures that birthed them.
"Singing these songs have kept me hopeful in these times, says Bethany. "It is a balm to my soul as well as a kind of spiritual activism. We are a species in crisis. The task for all of us is to reconnect with our basic humanity and respect for the Earth that gives us life."
Bethany is also a tireless advocate on the fronts lines of the climate crisis, land & water protection and building collaborative solutions to the existential threats of our time. "Music and activism have always gone hand in hand in my life -- like an ethical, moral, spiritual and sonic compass encoded into my DNA," says Bethany. In 2014, she co-organized the Black Hills Unity Concert which advocated for the protection of sacred sites and the return of the Black Hills to the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nations. In 2015 she co-founded the Waterfall Unity Alliance, an alliance of New York activists and traditional Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) leaders which successfully helped to stop the Constitution Pipeline and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects in New York State. The Waterfall Unity Alliance continues to work on community supported reparations and landback projects in the Schoharie Valley. Bethany also serves on the advisory board for the Center For Earth Ethics.
Both musically and in her activism, Bethany carries on the legacy of her father, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. As the daughter of a folk icon, Bethany was raised surrounded not only by music, but also deeply influenced by the visionary changemakers she met in her childhood. "I grew up singing with my dad at rallies and events, inspired by grassroots activists who believed that righting wrongs and helping to create a more peaceful and just world was an essential part of being human," says Bethany, who has recorded two albums with her father and continues to perform with him, as she has since she was 8 years old.
For over 20 years Bethany performed as a duo with cellist Rufus Cappadocia, bringing their signature sound of transcendent groove and evocative vocals to festivals, music halls, frontline protests, and concerts for change all over the world. Deeply influenced by ceremonial music, their performances were like watching two spirits weave a timeless river of song and dance. Bethany & Rufus released four albums together and were honored to collaborate with musical icons and lineage holders such as Yacouba Moumouni (Niger), Bonga Jean Baptiste Chuck Campbell (USA) and Brahim Fribgane (Morocco).
In 1992, while still an undergraduate at Yale University, Yarrow made a documentary film in apartheid South Africa called "Mama Awethu." The film was an intimate window onto the lives of five black women in the townships and squatter camps surrounding Cape Town. It aired nationally on PBS and won numerous awards at film festivals around the world including the Sundance, Berlin, Human Rights Watch, and Bombay Film Festivals.
Since then, Bethany has continued to make films and videos. She was involved with the filming of the feature documentary "The Grandmothers Speak: For the Next 7 Generations" a film about the Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers (for which she also contributed to the film score). "That was such an important film for me to help make", says Bethany. "All the prophecies say that it is time for the women to lead and for ancient wisdom to show us the way forward. In the same way, I am listening to the wisdom inside of our own folkloric and musical legacy. These are the songs that have shaped our collective memory, and they will always be there for us when we need them again. I am just keeping the flame lit -- and my lamp trimmed and burning -- as the Reverend Gary Davis would say."
"Bethany... has the rhythmic sensibility and depth of feeling to call forth the jazz and blues tradition and the breadth of textures to take a listener around the world. Yarrow's voice is stark and powerful, feeling both informed by years of tradition and yet brand new." -- Donald Elfman, All About Jazz