Singer-songwriters join forces for folk group

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The Jammin’ Divas, a group of acclaimed international singer-songwriters and rock musicians, are coming to town to entertain their fans with their lush brand of folk music Aug. 1 at the Sellersville Theater.

The Jammin’ Divas are comprised of Aoife Clancy, a native of Ireland and a Grammy nominee with the group Cherish the Ladies; Becky Chace from the United States; Kath Buckell from Australia; Hadar Noiberg, a flutist from Israel; and Craig Akin from the United States on bass.

Out singer-songwriter Buckell said the seed for what would become the Jammin’ Divas was planted when she met Clancy while the two were performing in Israel eight years ago.

“We had this instant connection,” Buckell said. “We had this after-party where Aoife got together with other musicians and had a jam session. We just hit it off from the beginning. She said, ‘If you ever come to America, call me up.’ We kept in touch, and four years later after I left Israel, I called her and came to the United States. We did a show together and then we met Becky Chace and we had the opportunity for the three of us to perform together.” The other pieces to the Jammin’ Divas puzzle fell into place when Buckell had to make something happen when a band she was supposed to open for couldn’t make it to the show.

“There was a band that was supposed to be performing and I was supposed to open for them and that fell through because of their visas. The promoter asked us if we could do something together. Basically two hours before, we got together and went through some material and we just hit it off. The show was a success and we thought we should do it again. We brought in Hadar Noiberg to perform with us and arrange the music into an interesting format.”

Buckell said the combined talents of the Divas draw upon the music and traditions of their native countries, exploring the similarities and differences in folk styles.

“We took music from each of our cultures and brought it together through harmonies and improvisation,” Buckell said. “We infused all of the rich traditions of folk music and brought them together to our own understanding of how each of these cultures influences one another, particularly how the Irish music influences Australian and American folk music from the early colonial times to when the first immigrants came to Australia. A lot of them were Irish and they brought with them the melodies from their culture, the English and the Irish. When Australia started establishing their penal colonies, they adapted the poetry and whatever they saw at the time, which was a different landscape and different kind of life. They used that poetry and adapted it to the Irish melody. So we bring together the traditions of that rich culture into the show.”

Buckell added the songs they perform grew from their interpretation of traditional songs to original pieces driven by their various influences.

“Initially we brought together some traditional music,” Buckell said. “With Aoife, she was growing up with a lot of traditional Irish music, so we integrated a few of those pieces. That was what she was most familiar with. There were some singer-songwriters in Ireland that she had known that wrote beautiful pieces of music that were more contemporary. We also contemporize traditional music as well. We don’t play it in a traditional format. We wanted to use that sound and make it new and fresh. With the Australian selections, I put original music to some traditional poems that dated back to the 1800s.”

Since all of the members have their own careers and projects outside of the group, finding time to focus on The Jammin’ Divas was an issue for all at first.

But as their popularity grew, they found the process easier.

“In the beginning, it took at least six months to arrange the music and we were performing once a month to bring that material together,” Buckell said. “We live three hours away from each other and as we started to get more shows happening, we were able to integrate rehearsals into our schedule before tour periods. It was a challenge in the beginning working those things out, but we’ve worked out what is the easiest way to bring everyone together.”

Even with The Jammin’ Divas’ busy touring schedule, Buckell said the members are still very focused on their own recording and musical projects outside of the group.

“We each have individual careers,” she said. “I just had the fortune of opening up for Jewel and I also have a band that is more rock-oriented and performs my original music and music based on the poetry but is set in a different format, a more contemporary rock sound. I’m going to be recording some new original material. Becky is just releasing a new CD of her band. That is all coming up in the next six months. And Aoife is planning on recording a CD at some point as well. There are many new projects coming out but it is more about our original material with our bands that we’ve been with for years. It won’t be a new formation of the group or anything like that.”

Buckell added that the attention The Jammin’ Divas draw puts their solo projects in the spotlight and vice versa.

“We do find that the fans cross over,” she said. “We’ve established our following in the Northeast regions and we have a sound that has brought fans to our individual groups as well, which is fantastic.”

The Jammin’ Divas perform 8 p.m. at Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville. For more information or tickets, call 215-257-5808 or visit www.thejammindivas.com.