The past few weeks have left Goapele feeling some kind of way.
The events that have unfolded after the non-indictments of the police officers responsible for the deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner have certainly made many people upset, and Goapele is one of them. “I think that this is a special time, and I think it’s scary in some ways, just because racism is so blatant right now,” says the singer-songwriter, 37, calling from Toronto. “I think police brutality has been going on since, I don’t know, ever since I can remember and, you know, hearing about it in my childhood.”
As someone who grew up in the Bay Area of California, Goapele (last name: Mohlabane) knows all too well how police can abuse their authority. With the police brutality that has been happening in various parts of the country, other people are starting to realize it, too. “But I have to say the flip side of it is that I’ve never seen this many people come together all over this country and, in an organized, consistent way, just demand justice,” she says. “And I think that is empowering – and it’s a little scary – because I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. But people are getting hurt in ways, you know.”
Injustice in black communities is just one of the many social issues Goapele is not afraid to tackle, whether it’s in interviews or in her music. The daughter of an exiled South African father and an Israeli Jewish mother, Goapele embraced being socially and politically active at a young age.
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“There were a lot of anti-apartheid rallies and marches and concerts that we would go to as a family,” she remembers. “And music was a big part of that. It was never just the politics. Music fueled it, and it fueled the energy, and it’s what helped people gather, and it’s what helped people feel warm, you know, when it’s cold out and you’re in the streets.”
For over a decade, Goapele has been melding romantic and socially conscious elements in her progressive-soul stylings. Her serene, heart-melting voice could talk about hopelessly falling in love and keeping her lover away from stray bullets in the same song. Her ongoing mission to make love, not war, with her music can be found on her recently released album, “Strong as Glass.”
In her fifth studio album, which includes guest shots from Snoop Dogg and Eric Benet, Goapele continues her flair for making soulful tunes that are, in her words, personal but not preachy.
“I tend to write a lot of love songs, but I always want there to be something real and authentic that people can connect to, and I want to not just do it in a stereotypical way,” she says. “I want to touch on it from so many different perspectives. And, also, touch on what I see ... going on around me.”
Although she takes what’s going on around her very seriously, she still strives to have a good time when she performs live. She’s looking forward to doing that when she performs in Durham on Friday. However, when the show’s over, Goapele would like audiences to leave thinking more about what’s going on out there in this big, bad world.
“We still have to, at least, open up a dialogue, you know, to talk about everything,” she says. “I just feel like, as artists, part of what we can do is reflect that.”