“Music tunes people,” says singer Sabira Woolley. “If my music appeals to you, then my tuning is attuned with yours. I write songs that come from my truth, with the intention of bringing listeners into what I experience as joy and deep soulfulness. It comes from my heart.”
Born in Coronado, Woolley left San Diego at 16 and headed for Canada, where she sang and played guitar as a busker in Vancouver’s Gastown district. Later moving to San Francisco, she studied voice with classical instructor Stewart Brady and guitar and harmony singing with Carol McComb. She learned the banjo before returning to San Diego to play lead steel pan with Island Fever. She also writes and performs her own songs.
“My current music blends jazz, world, hip-hop, reggae, some Caribbean, Latin, African rhythms, and folk rock. Lyrically, I write stories of finding one’s way to wisdom, of forgiveness and harmony in relationships, learning to trust a good man, learning to trust one’s purpose, overcoming hardships with expanded awareness, finding inner guidance and all-encompassing love, and the bliss and serenity of being alone in nature.”
Woolley is working on two new CDs, one as a solo artist and another with Island Fever, both to be released this year. She performs April 24 with Island Fever at Birch Aquarium.
HOW DOES ONE MAKE A LIVING PLAYING MUSIC NOWADAYS?
“Ironically, the current economy is allowing me time to focus on the originals I had to neglect in the past while rushing from gig to gig. To make ends meet, for years I’ve had to be versatile and brave. I stayed employed by saying ‘yes’ to new musical situations, including a lot of variety-band shows with Top 40 songs, standards, ballads, and all kinds of requests and themes. My tastes are diverse, anyway.”
WHAT SONGS TOP YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1) Karla Bonoff, “The Water Is Wide.” “The beauty of her voice in this song brings tears to my eyes and pathos within my heart.”
2) Walela, “Wash Your Spirit Clean.” “A Native American vocal trio, ‘walela’ means ‘hummingbird’ in the Cherokee tongue. The singers are Rita Coolidge, her sister Priscilla Coolidge, and Priscilla’s daughter Laura Satterfield. The first verse, sung in Cherokee and in English, says, ‘Give away the things you don’t need/ Let it all go, and you’ll soon see/ And you’ll wash your spirit clean.’ ”
3) Mary Black, “Both Sides the Tweed.” “The title refers to the River Tweed, which divides Scotland and England. The song was written in 1707 by James Hogg and rewritten in 1979 by Dick Gaughan, both times remonstrating against bribery and the corruption behind government policies.”
4) Katie Melua, “Mary Pickford.” “The song is a charming, quick history of early cinema celebrities. I especially like the refrain ‘When these artists became united.’ We could expand upon that with current local artists.”
5) Carmen Alice and Sergio Mendes Brasileiro, “What Is This?” “Bahian-style spoken word to a hip-hop samba beat, featuring berimbau and surdo drums. It seems to me to tell of a journey of the soul, to an enlightening experience.”
6) Boukman Eksperyans, “Liberté (Pran Pou Pran’l).” “This roots-music ten-piece band is named Boukman, after the vodou priest and slave regarded to have initiated the 1791 Haitian revolution, and Eksperyans, after the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The song title means ‘Freedom (Let’s Take It).’ ‘Liberté’ is sung in a street-slang Creole tongue that was at times forbidden by law, about their passionate longing for freedom.”
1) What the Bleep Do We Know!?
2) The Princess Bride
3) Dances with Wolves
4) Galaxy Quest
WHAT’S DIFFERENT IN CANADA (FROM THE U.S.)?
1) “Weather, of course.”
2) “People say ‘eh?’ instead of ‘huh?’ ”
3) “I had to buy tortillas in a can in the gourmet section.”
4) “Due to the higher water vapor in the air, everything looks soft and misty, instead of sharply defined and vivid like Southern California tends to be.”
TWO QUOTABLE QUOTES?
1) “Reality. What a concept.” — Robin Williams. “It astonishes me, too.”
2) “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss. “Fortunately, being true to one’s self does work out for the best.”
MOST VISITED WEBSITES?
1) Abraham-Hicks.com “I love their teachings on the Law of Attraction; i.e., the secret behind The Secret.”
2) Mercola.com “Dr. Mercola’s very helpful info on health.”
3) Wikipedia.org “I refer to it for so many things.”
4) Facebook.com “I keep in touch with a lot of friends and make new ones here.”
5) Twitter.com “I’m just starting to flit about.”
“I subscribe every year to Jacquie Lawson’s artistic animated e-cards because they’re heartwarming and I like to send them to friends and family.”
WHAT’S MORE DIFFICULT, BANJO OR STEEL PAN?
“The steel pan requires a deft and delicate touch to stay in tune. One accidental hard whack can muck up your pan’s sound. It must also be protected from sun and other heat sources. Unlike the banjo and other stringed instruments, tuning pans correctly requires much skill, developed from years of practice. So, I’d have to say the pan is more challenging.”
ANY FEARS OR PHOBIAS?
“I’m kinda afraid that, at one of my gigs, someone will request the ‘Macarena.’”
“I’m a woman being attacked by small marauding felines in a house bursting with boxes of costumes waiting to be unpacked and no place to put them.”
NAME SOMEONE YOU RELATE TO…
“Jane Goodall, since I have interacted with so many animals, and I’m so fond of them.”
WHO SHOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
“Maybe Jodie Foster.”
WHAT CELEBRITY DO PEOPLE SAY YOU LOOK LIKE?
FAVORITE VIDEO GAME?
“The only game I own is Timelapse. I’ve neglected it…but it has awesome graphics, and it’s probably a mentally rewarding puzzle to solve.”
THINGS WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT SABIRA WOOLLEY?
1) “I’ve seen many animals in the wild, including a whooping crane, a California condor, a jaguarundi, and arctic owls.”
2) “I hitchhiked from San Diego to Vancouver and back, carrying a banjo and wearing a hat that used to belong to a horse.”
3) “I’ve performed as a belly dancer, an alien, a pirate, and a lady wrestler.”
4) “I once sang ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Rock Lobster’ at the same gig.”