When D.C. native Tulani signals for the downbeat in her role as the opening act on Friday, for the veteran soul-stylist Bobby Caldwell at the Bethesda Blues and Supper Club, she’ll once again be in the place that she says she loves “more than anywhere else and live for”: standing center stage sharing her musical gifts with the world.
Many of the tunes that the singer, songwriter and harpist will perform come from the D.C. native’s newly-released CD, “Unscripted.” And she believes that as her set continues, the variety of emotions she felt while co-writing the songs with her producer, Geno Regist, will be similarly experienced with her audience.
“I guess I’d describe my music on the CD as R&B with a blend of funk, pop and soul,” she said. “Meeting Geno was a real blessing because he’s helped me bring elements of the harp out of the box, guiding me as I learned how to insert my instrument into the kinds of music that I prefer as a vocalist. I give you some of the traditional and some far beyond the normal threshold. I’m very excited about the outcome.”
Tulani, one of seven children whose father, jazz guitarist Noble Jolley, Sr. taught all of his offspring how to play and perform, recalls a favorite childhood memory that she cherishes to this day.
“I learned how to focus when I was practicing. That wasn’t always easy when going against the drums, or a trumpet because the harp has a softer sound. But I began to gain a sense of joy and a connection to the music while I was perfecting my skills. Together we all formed bridges through our music — a commonality and feeling of love. That came from my dad — a beautiful thing to experience,” said Tulani, who has toured internationally with Lady Gaga and opened for Chaka Khan, Angie Stone, Eddie Levert, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu — even George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic.
And while she’s quick to comment on her love for performing on stage, she’s adamant about stressing the importance of maintaining a no-nonsense work ethic.
“I love string instruments and the harp was something that my mother suggested,” she said. “I quickly fell in love with the beauty and warmth of the strings. The harp has so many strings and there’s so much you can do with it. But practice, practice, practice is essential. And then there are all of the other things that you must do if you’re serious about your profession. Thank goodness I have a great team behind me. Being on stage is the culmination but when the lights are off, you’ve got to handle things like emails, branding, image, writing songs, vocal exercises, choreography — the list goes on. Then there’s working with the band before the show so that you can put on a great performance. It all leads up to the show and the stage.”
Tulani points to entertainers who include James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. But she has others too.
“Sammy Davis as the consummate entertainer is my all-time favorite. And I really appreciate the artistry of Bruno Mars who uses different styles and makes them his own. He also incorporates music from the past — something I like doing myself — and then puts his own spin and twist on it. I’ve done something similar with a few tunes by the Queen of Soul [Aretha Franklin] and by Whitney on my new CD.”
“It’s impossible to imagine my life without music. That in itself is very foreign concept. It took a few instruments before I settled down with the harp. But since then when I was just a little girl, I’ve always known that music would be my destiny. I didn’t choose music — music chose me,” she said before venturing out for her “treat food” in which she occasionally indulges: a big slice of pizza.
For tickets to Friday’s show, go to www.BBJLive.com.
Links to Tulani’s social media: