Presenting: Toli Nameless

Toli Nameless

There was a very brief time in the early days of this blog where I actually considered doing music reviews or features about artists that are not so well known. I think I decided in the end that there are an awful lot of places to find music reviews, and doing artist features did not put ‘me’ out there in the way I wanted. So I quickly decided to stick with the original plan. That being said, I wanted to take a few moments now to introduce you to an amazing person. She is a singer, a songwriter,  a trombone player, a percussionist, she dances, she is an educator, she is an activist. I’m also deeply privileged to call her a friend of mine for years now. She is the unique and unforgettable Toli Nameless.

I first met Toli over 10 years ago at Tower Records. I had been working in the World Music Department there, and one day someone introduced me to Toli, who had recently started working in another department. It was a big store (3 floors full of vast amounts of music and video), open from 9AM-12AM every day so there were a lot of employees and  shifts that overlapped.  Which meant you tended to not see the same people all the time. I’m not even really sure how or why Toli and I seemed to hit it off and became friends looking back, but we did. Not too long after though, Tower Records went bankrupt and all its stores nationwide closed permanently. Though events like that can suddenly make friendships go by the wayside, she and I still managed to get together occasionally, having pints of Guinness in the pub or sharing laughs online.

It was while working at Tower that I learned that Toli was ‘a bit of a musician’, as were a few other people who worked in the store. Other than hearing her sing in a Christmas showcase the store had put on, I don’t believe I ever heard her own music until after the store closed however.  In the years since with the benefit of YouTube, Itunes, and other social and music media sites, I came to understand that my friend is actually an amazing musical talent and I have kept up with her adventures ever since. This has included time living  in Europe performing and working in music education. She is adept in a variety of styles-from  jazz to reggae to electronica and she can really wail on that trombone!  I enjoy hearing everything she does, but arguably the biggest appeal for me has been the music she created with The  Femm Nameless, a band she had formed years ago. They were  a mighty all-women Afrobeat band who recorded and toured regularly at the time. The reason for this post  now is an announcement that came out of nowhere a few weeks ago that Kooyman Records out of Los Angeles, is about to release a 10″ vinyl single (and available digitally too of course) of some classic Femm Nameless tracks newly remastered.  https://kooymanrecords.bandcamp.com/

I was so thrilled to see Toli’s name back out there in the place where it rightly belongs. The tracks may go back a few years, but they still sound incredibly fresh and relevant. The standout track is their take on See Line Woman. Performed by many people over the years, Toli & The Femm Nameless channeled the spirit of Nina Simone’s recording of the song combined with the deepest grooves this side of Fela Kuti to make something epic and truly unforgettable with flutes and funky bass weaving around the percussion and Toli’s vocals.   I also love how their version ends with the words ‘See Line’ and ‘Woman’ over and over. It makes the song even more compelling.

The second video demonstrates more of  the political and empowerment side of Toli’s music.  Early on she chose to use ‘Nameless’ as her stage moniker as well as band name ‘to signify every female musician and unsung heroine whose name would otherwise be forgotten.’ The song Ibajekbe (What If) asks some powerful questions. What if the soldier put down his gun. What if the vagabond becomes rich, and the rich becomes poor.  Afrobeat  might be an intoxicating blend of styles musically, but it also speaks a great deal of  truth lyrically. With this song Toli & The Femm Nameless really present a powerful thought. What if, what if…what if.

You meet a lot of people in a lifetime. Some you gradually drift away from. Sometimes for good reasons,  sometimes for events outside your control. Others stay in your heart and though you may not talk on a daily or even weekly basis, you share a connection and relish the brief moments  when you might exchange a message on Facebook or via email. But when you have the time to catch up it feels as if there has been no passage of time at all. When Toli and I catch up these days that is what happens. Life gets in the way. Good times and bad, but the friendship survives.

I cherish my friendship with Toli, but I also am hugely inspired by her as well (something I have never told her). Not musically, I can’t compete with that of course, but having untapped this creative well inside of me, I find I appreciate her music even more for one big reason. Toli just goes for it full stop. Sometimes that may not resonate for some people right away. It might take awhile for them to catch up and understand. I have learned the same lesson the deeper I get into writing and photography. But you have to try, you have to put yourself out there.  I think that is why as her friend I have been so excited for this release from the moment I heard about it. We need to ask ‘What If’ more than ever before, we need music that traps you into a deep groove and doesn’t let go. We need reality and not fantasy.  We need artists like Toli to do it.  I hope you will dig deeper into Toli & The Femm Nameless’ music even further.

Toli Nameless

Official Facebook Page For Toli Nameless-https://www.facebook.com/tolinamelessmusic/

See Line Woman-Traditional, Nina Simone

Ibajekbe (What If)-Written By A. Szylagi/Santos & T.A. Nameless

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

SHARES AND LIKES APPRECIATED!

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