by Christy Rodriquez de Conte
Lili Forbes strums new paths through music education and her unique Caribbean beat. Forbes is taking the stage as part of the 2nd Annual Black History Arts and Culture Festival on Feb. 10 at the Grove Museum.
The festival will also feature Ayoka Afrikan Drum and Dance, artist Kenneth Reshard and the Lee Boys.
In 1995 Hurricane Luis, a category 4 hurricane, tore through the island of Saint Maarten with 120 to 130-mile-an-hour winds destroying thousands of homes and uprooting countless lives. At 16, musician and educator Lili Forbes left her home and culture of St. Maarten with her siblings to the Caribbean Isle of Curaçao. There, with her family’s past love and practice for music combined with a solid musical education, Forbes was able to transform her life and find power in her music.
Forbes comes from a family of musicians and singers. Her mother took notice of Lili’s musical ability and eventually introduced her and her twin sister, Ilinita, to the church choir. It was there where she sharpened her ear. By the age of 12, she was part of the senior chorus. By November of 1995, she and Ilinita created The Johnson Sisters, later to be changed to the clever nod to the French word for twin, Jumelle, released a globally successful album, “Believe in a Better Day.”
Forbes describes how popular the album became around the Caribbean. “When we moved to Curaçao, we had a full career in music. We used to travel throughout the Caribbean [and] certain parts of the United States as teenagers. So music was really a big role,” says Forbes.
She lovingly recalls her music teachers who took an interest and made sure they were exposed to all kinds of music and instruments, so much so that many a recess involved all the students joyously playing their instruments outside. No doubt a pedagogical value Forbes has carried with her.
This global perspective has immensely influenced their latest album, “Created to Worship,” which combines genres like contemporary Gospel with Soca, Dancehall, Celtic, and Alternative music, all intending to bridge religious and cultural barriers through music.
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