Blending Celtic, African, and Middle Eastern influences into her music, jazz fusion violinist Tia Imani Hanna truly personifies the theme of Detroit’s annual Concert of Colors. Hanna, naturally, is also a proud native of the Motor City, which means that on top of all the ethnic flavors she will be playing with, there will be a soulful Motown sound to the music as well.
Hanna just recently moved back from New York, where she taught music classes and performed. She says she is definitely excited to be back in the city where her career started. DGAT caught up with Hanna, who currently resides in Lansing and is a musical instructor for Green Bow Music as she preps to take the Concert of Colors stage.
Name: Tia Imani Hanna
Occupation: Violinist, musical instructor
What drew you back to Michigan: Michigan is my home, my family is here and I think there is a lot more stuff happening here than people realize. I’ve gotten more opportunities to perform in Michigan than I ever got in New York because there are a lot more grassroots things happening here in Michigan.
Detroit definitely has a rich musical history that a lot of people don’t know about: Exactly, there are a lot of great musicians here and there always has been. There’s a strong tradition here that people keep forgetting. A lot of the people who were the forerunners in jazz here have passed now, but there is still a huge tradition of jazz in Michigan, especially in Detroit.
Do you come from a jazz background: I’ve got training in classical, violin, and jazz from studying with different people and playing with different people and my family is jazz oriented. My aunt is jazz vocalist Naima Shamborguer, and Sir Roland Hanna was my uncle. He was a world class jazz pianist, so there is some musical tradition in the family.
Did you get any advice from Naima as far as becoming a musician: She told me to keep it real, play the music that my heart hears and that’s the kind of advice that my family gave me. They are big supporters of what I do.
What advice would you give to up and coming musicians: Find mentors, even if it is someone that you don’t know, find the music you like, learn the language that it is telling you to create and build from that tradition.
Tell me about the Green Bow music workshops you started: I have worked with children, high schools, elementary schools, women’s groups, business groups. I teach all age groups, grandparents and their kids, I’ve done healing workshops. I teach a class for anybody who is interested and I also teach people how to read music. I think people are losing touch with their internal music with this being the computer era and people are just listening to their Ipods.
What can fans expect from your performance at Concert of Colors: The improvisational pieces will be interesting for everyone because they are so used to everyone playing stuff that is scripted. We are going to have some things that are written, but mostly we are just gonna play and have fun with it. It is very important to me to bring that spirit back to the music and that it is not all perfect and exactly the same so there will be some invention on the spot.
Check out Tia’s performance on Sunday, July 17 at 3p.m. at the Max M. Fisher Music Center.