Ambokile Blasts Onto West Coast Scene with New Ensemble "Ambolism"


The City Walk/City Loft at Universal City has something for everyone. A brilliant-lit carnival for grown-ups, there are dance clubs, movie theaters, and restaurants of every kind imaginable, including- be still my heart- a Starbuck's combined with a gourmet bakery.  (Can you spell 'double yum'?)  Said Starbuck's was still open at 11:30 p.m. on the Saturday night I visited.  There are also a number of very interesting retail shops, including a store devoted to the sale of all things chocolate and a children's bookshop.

BB Kings House of Blues is upstairs in the City Loft area.  A jumpin' hot night spot featuring fine music and good libation and eats, the club's top floor offers bar style seating looking down onto the stage three floors below.  It's from this vantage point that I watched spoken word artist and singer Ambokile and her group 'Ambolism' in action.

The house was so packed, I had to ask someone to save my seat so that I could pop downstairs to shoot some photographs.  Coincidentally (although we know there are no coincidences) the person I asked for this help was none other than the husband of Diane Carter, one of Ambokiles back-up singers.  Thanks, Donovan! 

Ambokile takes to the stage

With Sir Harry Bowens having taken her under his wing as vocal coach, and a new CD, 'Simply' Ambokile,' just out (produced by Myc Hulsinger of Private Moment Productions), the buzz for Ambokile's 9:00 p.m. performance was predictably amazing.  The sold-out audience was ready for the main treat and they were not disappointed.

Ambokile- all six feet of her- strode gracefully onto the stage, her long, long legs clad in hip hugger jeans topped with a wide belt, her buff arms left bare by a spaghetti strap top.  Her long dark hair was pulled into a ponytail and topped with a cap that stated perfectly 'I am Ambokile.'  Her diamond hoop earrings sparkled and sent light everywhere as she took the mike into her hands like she'd done it a million times and greeted the crowd and began to move with the drummer's backbeat.

The only thing is, this performance was the first time Ambokile had stood in a place like this with her band.  'Do you remember that I screamed and then jumped up into the air once I was on stage?' Ambokile asked me a few days later.  'I can only explain it that it was the Spirit that came over me.  Something came over me on stage.'  Indeed, despite a remarkably calm exterior and a seemingly effortless performance while on stage, Ambokile claims that she was restless and worried about this first of Ambolism's performances two days prior.  The group had had minimal practice time together, and while a strong and self-sustaining singer on her own, Ambokile had not before worked in harmony, live, with backups.

Midway through the performance, Ambokile popped off stage for a moment for a wardrobe change and her two back-up singers launched into a soulful version of 'Voulez-vous Couchez Avec Moi,' a number much appreciated by the crowd.  When they'd finished with that, Ambokile returned to the stage in a new outfit- short shorts and a low-cut, long-sleeved blouse- but with the same energy that thrilled during the first half.

'It only took one martini to get me up there,' Ambokile had joked as she stepped off the stage.  'Well, okay, one and a half.'  She was thrilled, radiant, even, as she spoke with me post-show.  'That was my first 'real' performance,' she'd told me as she threw her arms around me, her lanky body needing to bend nearly in half to get down to my level.

'It felt great,' back-up singer Diane Carter told me as we all compared notes.  'Ambokile is really great to work with.'  Carter and Kym Foley, the other singer in the Ambolism backup dynamic duo, used to sing at BB Kings during their gospel brunches.  They were connected through vocal coach Harry Bowens and Musical Director Vincent Bonham.  'It felt good being back, seeing some old faces.  It was like being back home for us,' Carter added. 

If Ambokile had had prior thoughts about possible technical disasters, timing mishaps, and the like, it certainly didn't show.  From beginning to end of the show, every part of her was absorbed in what she was sending out to her appreciative audience.  'I wrote this song for all my sisters,' she announced when she began.  'It's to remind you to never allow yourselves to become victims of anyone's rage.'  The singer penned the words to that song, her newly released single, 'Bitch' to encourage.

Ambokile, which means 'one who God has redeemed'- offers encouragement in everything she does whether it be on stage or in 'real' life.  Ambokile and I spoke later in the week, and she had much to say about her new combination of musical talent and her source of inspiration- a connection to God.  'Those singers (Diane and Kym) are phenomenal!  They sang with Brian McKnight, Tina Marie, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Rick James, you name it, and tour all over the world.'  Now they'll be touring together, a neat Ambolism family.

And as to God in her life?  'As a creative person, you are tapped into some infinite power.  A person who does screenplays, they have visions and they 'see' things before it's even projected on film.  So they are tapped into some spiritual force- which I call 'God,' if you know what I mean.'  Further proof of her own connection to spirit, Ambokile's songs are product of divine inspiration.  She remembers vividly how the words to her hit 'You Did Run Well' came about.

'I was driving down the street with my children in the back seat of the car,' she told me, 'and words came to me:  'Ye did run well who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth, this persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you . . .'  They just hit me.  I had to pull over to the side of the road.'

Ambokile feels that, for her, God, music, and self are all one combination.  She 'hears' things a lot - and she's not a kook, that's one thing for sure.  'Nothing can take us off the creative path but ourselves, either,' she told me.  'And this touches our approach to fear, to confrontation, to persistence.  It's like this whole world is opening up- but no one can teach you.'

Her indefatigueable approach to her rigorous daily schedule testifies to her belief in God and in herself.  'Believe it or not I get up each day around 5:00 in the morning,' she told me.  She starts in with journaling, then goes to the gym, then walks her dog- a little Pomeranian named 'Macciatto' (after her favorite coffee drink).  'While I walk my dog I talk to God,' she added, 'and then I'll shower and talk to God some more, then get my children up.'  Ambokile has two sons, Jerubaal (which is Hebrew for 'he who brings joy to the city of the Lord') and Adio, ages 10 and 12, respectively.  'Everyone tells me how well-mannered they are,' Ambokile said, smiling humbly.  'They're a real joy to me.'  'Jubee,' as he is known for short, is a budding hip hop artist with aspirations of becoming a pastor when he grows up.  Adio ('meaning Righteous warrior placed in God's hands) has more inclinations towards sports and entrepreneurship while also maintaining his own spiritual connection.  'He's the one who brings me my Bible every night,' Ambokile said, smiling.  She feels they're both God's gift to her.

Depending on her practice and recording schedule, after getting her children off to school she'll either jump right onto her web site and spend some time answering fan email and sending out her daily affirmations, or sprinkle that task throughout the day.  Yes, she personally answers all of her fans' greetings and inquiries.

While this kind of schedule may sound daunting, Ambokile claims perseverance by fixing her eyes on her goal and relying on prayer.  'I don't see how one could do anything without prayer, especially when making a lot of decisions, because the universe has 'eyes' that we don't' That's the way I balance it.'

This faith provides Ambokile with what she describes as 'an incredible sense of relief'- a necessary thing since she is adamant about succeeding in reaching as many people as possible with her messages of healing and encouragement.

Obviously, this works since there is other big news.  In the Fall of 2007, Ambokile will begin work on two songs to be included on Courtney Williams' next album, 'Stand-By.'  This work should be released early in 2008.  Additionally, her upcoming album, 'Simply' Ambokile:  Thoughts' will be released January 2007.

'I'm going to be writing three new songs by next week,' she confided.  'I don't ever want to go beyond this life to my grave without pursuing my purpose.'

Having now gotten to know her pretty well, I'm confident she will.  She might even write four or five.


Ambokile and her group Ambolism will be performing at The Gig in Los Angeles on December 8, 2006 at 9:30 p.m. (7302 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, California).  Catch her now before tickets are sold out.

For more information about Ambokile or her group Ambolism, please visit: her fan site at www.myspace.com/SimplyAmbokile, her official site at www.Ambolism-Records.com, and/or her complete Electronic Press Kit at www.SonicBids.com/Ambolism.  For information about tickets for the upcoming performance at the Gig, please call (323) 936-4440.

Text and photos of CityWalk/CityLoft copyright2006 M D Caprario; photos of recording artist courtesy of publicist.

M D Caprario is a free lance writer working in NY, LA, and San Francisco

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