Editors' pick

Going Out Guide Weekend Concerts: Neo Soul Beat Night featuring Carolyn Malachi


Editorial Review

There are two ways to get tickets, and we recommend getting them early or risk missing out:
Pick them up at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, or swing by the Carter Barron box office, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, beginning at noon. Tickets go fast, and they are limited to four per adult.
There are no scheduled rain dates. Picnic areas are available in the park around the amphitheater. For more information, call The Post at 202-334-6808 or the Carter Barron concert line, which will have updated information on weather-related cancellations, at 202-426-0486.

"Grammy-nominated singer Carolyn Malachi." The local R&B/soul upstart better get used to those words before her name. When you go from being virtually unknown to earning a nomination for one of music's biggest honors, that description becomes permanent.

Well, maybe not "permanent."

"I guess my name will be Grammy-nominated Carolyn Malachi until it's Grammy-Award-winning Carolyn Malachi."

She laughs, but don't doubt her. Malachi (pronounced MAL-uh-kai) has the right combination of drive, talent and pedigree to make such lofty goals a reality.

The 26-year-old Washington native, who headlines this year's last free Going Out Guide Weekend Concert at Carter Barron Amphitheatre tonight, basically willed her way to a nomination in the 2011 Grammy category for best urban/alternative performance category. "Plan your work and work your plan" was a family mantra that Malachi says was instrumental in her impressive achievement. Her plan was pretty simple. Since the Grammys are peer-nominated awards, she set out to join the Recording Academy, network with members of the D.C. chapter, attend local events with academy members from across the country and let them know about her music.

Oh, right. The music. As ambitious as she is at setting goals, Malachi matches that making music. Her 2010 EP, "Lions, Fires & Squares," may contain only a handful of songs, but it's overflowing with ideas. Elements of African music, R&B, soul, electronic and hip-hop are all part of the vibrant mix. "Orion," a spacey and slinky slice of neo-soul, is the standout tune and the one she made sure those academy members heard. The result was a nomination that put her up against such big names as Cee Lo Green, Big Boi and Janelle Monae.

That Malachi stood no chance to take home a trophy due to Cee Lo's "[Forget] You" freight train was a foregone conclusion. But that doesn't mean she didn't take full advantage of Grammy week in Los Angeles. She says it was both fun and overwhelming, and she came away with plenty of lessons learned.

"Now that I've seen really awesome performers like Janelle Monae, like Whitney Houston, like Barbra Streisand - now that I've seen them in person I have a better understanding of what the next level really means," Malachi says.

There were parties, receptions and the ceremony itself, in addition to plenty of industry hotshots and A-list performers. But the moment she'll remember most from the whirlwind week has nothing to do with glitz or glamour. At one of the many events, jazz drummer Roy Haynes was presented with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Malachi approached Haynes shortly after.

"I said, 'Mr. Haynes, do you remember someone by the name of John Malachi?' And he was like, 'Yeah, I remember Johnny.' And I chuckled and said, 'I wanted to meet you and say hello because I'm his great-granddaughter.' And he almost fell out of his chair!"

That would be John Malachi, a noted jazz pianist best known for working with the likes of Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. He and Haynes backed Vaughan on much of her 1957 album, "Swingin' Easy," including on the hit "Shulie a Bop." Living up to her great-grandfather's legacy is a large part of what drives Malachi.

"He got up and gave me this huge hug," she says of her encounter with Haynes. "I felt like I brought back memories that he treasured. All this time that I've been able to speak about my great-grandfather's legacy and what it means to me, and this was just one of those really defining moments. I felt like, wow, I have such a responsibility now."

Malachi also feels a responsibility to give something back to the community. In addition to "Grammy winner," she would like to associate "philanthropist who opened schools in Botswana" with her name. For now, she's starting a bit smaller. When talking to her on a recent afternoon, Malachi was about to drive to Baltimore to teach a poetry class at a city library.

Even with all her lofty goals and busy schedule, music is always at the forefront. In addition to constantly writing songs, she keeps adding ideas to her musical mix. Her current infatuation is exotic languages, particularly the African dialects Setswana and Sotho.

"The language is so musical. It's so rhythmic," Malachi says.

And if you hear words you don't understand when she performs tonight, don't worry. You won't be the only one.

"To be honest, sometimes I don't know what's being said!" she says, laughing. "But I can feel the energy."

--David Malitz, July 22, 2011