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SOCIAL STUDIES: Esi Acquaah-Harrison An interview with Cirque du Soleil TOTEM vocalist Esi Acquaah-Harrison

John Richards @jrichards202 | 8/30/2012, 3:05 p.m.

Cirque du Soleil ("Circus of the Sun"), the circus style entertainment company and producers of several acclaimed shows including Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, returns to DC through Sunday, October 7 with its touring big top production, Totem. Written and directed by Robert Lepage, Totem is an incredible, visually stunning show that depicts the evolution of mankind.

Totem features continuous live music and a dizzying array of talented performers that sing, dance, prance, jump and soar above the interactive set.

For generations, kids all over the world (I can't be the only one) have dreamed of running away and joining the circus. I couldn't think of a better circus to run away to than Cirque du Soleil.

One of the talented performers bringing her talents to Totem is Esi Acquaah-Harrison. The versatile singer is an accomplished session and background vocalist who has been a part of several choirs, revues and touring productions. The Washington Informer sat down with Acquaah-Harrison to discuss several topics including what she was doing before she decided to become a singer, what inspires her and life on the road with Cirque du Soleil.

The Washington Informer: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Esi Acquaah-Harrison: Well, one of the things was to sing but I didn't actually think of being a singer but one of the first things was a police officer. I wanted to be a police officer [laughs] or a teacher. Even though I was singing very, very young It wasn't the sort of thing I thought I would do. My models were teacher, police officer, nurse, that sort of thing.

The Washington Informer: Growing up, you spent time in Ghana. How did your time there influence you musically?

Acquaah-Harrison: I did get a big musical influence there because during my teenage years, I did listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Amazingly, even though the internet wasn't a big thing when I was growing up in the late '60s, '70s we still got a lot of music from America. So, although I listened to a lot of highlife, which was Ghana's music, I also listen to a lot of soul music from this part of the world so a lot of my influence comes from here. The school band I was in, we played a lot of songs from bands from here [America] [laughs] So that's been part of me.

The Washington Informer: What artist from America were you listening to?

Acquaah-Harrison: When I was still in Ghana, people like Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Commodores, Stevie Wonder, The O'Jays, [laughs] The Ohio Players. I'm telling my age now [laughs], Teddy Pendergrass, Otis Redding. The greats from way back, they really influenced me in those early days.

The Washington Informer: You didn't really get into singing until high school and then later in London as part of The London Community Gospel Choir. What made you decide to take singing seriously?

Acquaah-Harrison: When I was growing up I always had this picture in my mind, I wasn't quite sure what it meant, but I would be singing to thousands and thousands of people [laughs]. It wasn't until in my late 20's when I was living in London, I actually started to take going to church very seriously and God very seriously and joined the gospel choir.

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