Music

An Austin, Texas native, Chandra inherited her musical ear from her mother.  She did not begin singing publicly until the early ‘80's, performing background vocals in lingala with an East African dance band, Bantu in Washington, D.C.  It was during this period she began singing with Sweet Honey in the Rock’s a capella vocal workshop In Process...  She also sang in Malinke language and danced for the performance group Memory of African Culture.  Participating in a jazz vocal workshop hosted by D.C.'s jazz vocal icon Ronnie Wells, Chandra competed in the 2nd Annual East Coast Jazz Festival Vocal Competition as a semi-finalist.

Chandra returned to Austin in the early ‘90's.  She sang background for several local Austin bands.  As a percussionist, she never received any formal training.  She learned through natural rhythmic ability, merging her exposure to complex Senegambian polyrhythms as a professional dancer with ear training, observation, and playing. 

Singing so-called  “musician’s tunes” at a jazz open mic caught the attention of vocalist Pamela Hart, who invited her to sing in one of her first Women in Jazz performance series.  In 1998, Chandra played balafon in a workshop and live recording session at the Community Education Center in Philadelphia with world-renowned baritone saxophone master Hamiet Bluiett (World Saxophone Quartet co-founder) and his trio.  She also collaborated with Bluiett in his Vegi Deli project in 2009 (see All About Jazz LINK: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=34587

Back in Austin in 1999, the late vocalist and visionary Tina Marsh requested her services in her Circle of Light holiday project as a dancer, to augment the Kwanzaa representation of the program.  Once her music talents were realized, Marsh promptly enlisted Chandra in her Collaborative Voices vocal ensemble, and incorporated her balafon, djun-djun drumming and hand percussion skills into the project.  The project inspired Chandra to write a Kwanzaa song.  The tune, KwanzaaTime was eventually recorded on the Circle of Light CD.  She also sang as one of the Collaborative Voices, and played percussion on several tracks of the recording.  Chandra enjoyed participating in Circle of Light for 10 consecutive seasons.  In 2007, KwanzaaTime was included on a compilation CD of holiday music by the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.  For 3 consecutive years, Chandra performed in Bemba Entertainment's Wild Is The Wind Nina Simone Tribute.

For First Night Austin 2006, Chandra directed/performed original poetry and music a capella with area artists.  She also performed in First Night with Circle of Light that year. Working with Hamiet Bluiett, they presented the performance project, Healing Caravan for First Night Austin 2006, and she later assumed the position of Artistic Director and performed in two subsequent Healing Caravan installations for the Black Arts Movement Festival, Austin, TX (2007 and 2011).  The most recent June, 2011 installation opened for The Last Poets. Future plans are to tour the project.  She performed background vocalist for singer/songwriter Jeffrey Brian, and as lead vocalist/percussionist in the musical trio, Elements, Featuring Chandra Washington.  She currently tours with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra as a dancer and support vocalist.

FOR BOOKINGS - cywashington@sbcglobal.net

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