I am so grateful and delighted to accept the James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award. It is a joy and humbling honor, which will truly support my life’s work, and I hope in turn will benefit my extended community in many ways. I hope that the spirit of projects and awards like these will help improve the atmosphere of our world, and lead to all kinds of generosity, understanding and diverse imaginings.
In a previous post on Sufism and Buddhism, I shared a video of my friend Jessika Kenney singing verses from the Persian poetry of Rumi–in the presence of the Dalai Lama. Last week, for her exceptional talent and originality, Jessika received the inaugural $50,000 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award–the largest cash grant available to Washington State artists.
Having performed with Jessika in concert at Lincoln Center, Asia Society, and the Indonesian Consulate, I must say–not just as a friend and fan, but as a fellow musician–that she’s as good as it gets. A vocalist and composer charting new territory in experimental, metal, electronic, and improvised music, Jessika’s music is strongly influenced by her impressive command of traditional Persian and Javanese music. She has collaborated with Ostad Hossein Omoumi and Eyvind Kang, and performed around the world with groups like Orchestra del Teatro Communale and Coro da Camera di Modena (Italy), Gamelan Pacifica (Seattle), and Gamelan Madusari (Vancouver, BC).
I could go on and on about Jessika and her brilliance–but I’ll let her music speak for itself. As you can hear, her voice is from the heavens–and so is her heart…