Community//

“We must create art that influences all people to return to a balanced way of life” With Karina Michel Feld & Pura Fe

To create art that influences all people to return to a balanced way of life…such as eliminate money, prisons, walls, war, poverty, starvation and find a different value system that eliminates the war against patriarchy. Art that replaces oppression… a movement that inspires free education, medicine, food. A movement that brings in ways to nurture […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

To create art that influences all people to return to a balanced way of life…such as eliminate money, prisons, walls, war, poverty, starvation and find a different value system that eliminates the war against patriarchy. Art that replaces oppression… a movement that inspires free education, medicine, food. A movement that brings in ways to nurture and not exploit all of our natural resources and protects the Indigenous peoples of the world…because they protect the earth. A movement that puts Youth and Elders at the center of all adults responsibility to serve and keep healthy. They are the jewels… A movement that promotes Truth and the purpose of our existence as human beings apart of Life.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Pura Fé an American Native singer-songwriter, musician, composer, seamstress, teacher and activist. She is also the founding member of the Native American women’s a cappella group, Ulali, that created a genre in the mainstream music scene.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My Ancestral roots, blood lineage and family upbringing is the path and doorway of my music.

I come from 8 generations of singing sisters through the maternal line. From my mom’s generation going back, the last four generations had each 7 sisters that sang together as groups. “The Blackwell Sisters”, The Blackman Sisters, The Singing Sanders Girls” and my mom and her sisters were called the “Monk Sisters”. And even though the Monk Sisters sang Classical Opera, they are kin to the Jazz great Thelonius Monk, on Grampah’s side of the family.

Both Gramah and Grampah are Tuscarora on their mothers’ grandmothers from Eastern NC. Their paternal ancestry is African and Scott-Irish. This common story in NC and throughout the south, makes for some of America’s roots music and birth of Blues.

My paternal great great Grandfathers were African Banjo players that played at all the big functions in Sampson County on all the Plantations. They were Slaves that married Tuscarora women.

My family were the original Indigenous folks that lived on what became the last battle of the Civil War and they still lived on the Bentonville Battle Ground during the Civil War. They were known as Slave Uprising instigators and they hid all people who needed to hide. My grandparents moved to NYC during the great Depression and moved to Harlem, uptown Manhattan. They met there and raised 7 singing girls. My Grandmother’s sisters too moved together. I grew up around great Matriarchs and singing. I sang before I spoke. And we were all born singing in Harmony. My cousins and I all sing together too. Family Reunions were a House full of Big Voices and Holidays we sang and sang for the neighborhood on our porch in Queens NY.

My mom, Nanice Lund…sang for Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert series when I was a little girl. I went on tour with her sometimes. Mom put me in a professional children’s school called Lincoln Square Academy. I went to school with Ben Stiller, Lawrence Fishburn, Gian Carlo Esposito, Stephanie Mills, Pia Zadora, Robbie Benson and my best childhood friend Irene Cara. We all went on to do Jingles and TV commercials and Broadway Shows, truck and bus tours…I studied Ballet and danced with American ballet Theater in children’s roles. I stepped out of the show biz thing and in my teens I began singing in Bands. Then a brief Studio Singing background vocalist bunch of gigs. I did Demo work for Anita Baker and Chaka Kahn asked me to tour with her…but my mom said no.

Years later…after having my kids, I sang for the Mercer Ellington Orchestra and opened for The Duke Ellington School in Washington DC. Lena Horne was in the 2nd row and was shouting at me. From that gig…I met Kenny Burell and then George Caldwell and James McBride, who I began to write with and compose my own music on Piano and formed a band. I asked my friend Soni Moreno to join us singing backup. However Soni and I ended up creating an A capella harmony group of all Native singers and poets.

Several configurations later, we became “ULALI”, the Native Woman’s a capella Trio.

We created a genre of our roots music in a contemporary way. We inspired Native women everywhere to pick up hand drums and sing and together. We began to tour and collaborate with many well known musicians and movie soundtracks, benefit concerts, workshops and music camps in Indian Country as well. It just became a very wide bunch of busy avenues for us.

We could have been more deeply mainstreamed in the music industry but we did not want to compromise our music and loose our integral message and purpose. So much of our music was about the lifting of our Indigenous peoples, our survival and the preservation of the Natural World.

We began 1987 with just Soni and me out of the American Indian Community House in NYC. My cousin Jennifer joined in 94 and I left in 2004–5. (I brought the group back later in 2014 with my cousin and 2 young women from NC. Then I brought the young women overseas to France to tour 2017–18. I stopped because the world began to look dangerous for traveling).

I began playing solo with my Lapslide guitar 2004 and made my second solo album with Music Maker Blues Foundation out of NC. Then a French label “”Dixie Frog and then “Nueva Onda” released my music and I toured and recorded 5 albums with them. I even picked up a French Grammy “L’Academie Charls Cros” 2006 for Best World Music Album.

I also toured Europe with “Music Makers Blues Review” with their roster of Elderly Black Blues musicians. 2006–2010

We were called the Blues Buena Vista Social Club.

2012 I was contacted by REZOLUTION FILMS out of Montreal to consult and play in the movie

“RUMBLE: The Indians That Rocked The World”.

This won first place at the Sundance film festival 2017.

I got the chance to tell a piece of historical music, that comes from my own Blood Cross Roads of Blues. Afro, Native and Celt.

Something that Rhiannon Ghiddens and I have always wanted to do as a project…recording or film. One day I will catch up with her again.

I am currently writing a movie…

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I would have to say that it is a pattern of holding back what I have as an artist. I have met so many amazing accomplished artists and producers that have opened the door for me to walk through or sign the dotted line. Something always pulls me back. When I was 20 I was in Tommy Matola’s office with a group of writers that I had recorded their songs for us to get a “RECORD DEAL”. I had a boyfriend that came with us…and he told me do not do it. I listened to him. I always wonder what that would have been like if I had.

Looking at how Hall and Oats did with Tommy was a great team and Mariah Carey, who I sang back up with once…had brutal tour schedules. The writers that had set up this meeting with Tommy had no messages or purpose in their music other than to make money and exploit the mess out of me.

Tommy loved me and wanted to sign me right then and there. He said ‘we can go record tomorrow”!! And my boyfriend was nodding his head no. I did this all of the time. So many opportunities I turned away.

I think I made a not bad decision…but I do wonder where my path would have gone.

Years later Anita Baker wanted to sign me to her production company. But I did not sign her contract either. They all want all of your rights and control over your music and direction. You are their commodity. That just isn’t me to submit to this. So I took the long hard road and grass roots soul path. The older I grew the more I realized that music is the most helpful tool for making things change for the better or worse. It became a responsibility and an honor to tell the truth about the world. To educate the masses of whatever you choose to tell. To heal and bring balance.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from th

I feel like I am always just starting and I have been working since I was a kid. But I remember when Larry Mullen from the rock band “U2” fell in love with Ulali’s music and flew to NYC from Dublin to work with us through his friend David Beal who was producing us back in the day. He was a very dedicated hard worker in the studio and us girls liked to laugh and play. We sort of lost him…but he did get our song on the Mission Impossible Movie SoundTrack. He came back another time because he loved my song Follow Your Hearts Desire and made me rip it up and redo it. It was better for sure. I just wished that I could have worked with him more…and got the chance to collaborate with more well known musicians. Now, since I am older, I live far in the bush country of the Boreal Forest and I have no way of recording. So I regret not having some of the connections like Taj Mahal, who once asked me to tour opening with him. I did a small tour with him. I just feel like my day has not quite arrived in the way I would like to have technology and musicians to work with and create the way I want. I hear so much and have no way to get it down right now. I am always afraid to connect with great people. These are my mistakes.

We were signed by Branford Marsalis when he was the Director of Sony Jazz…

He was setting us up to be produced by Richard Bona, who I love very much.

Sony Jazz closed and our album never got made and it took us years to get out of that contract.

My most biggest mistake was that I did not get to John Trudell in time to record with him before he died.

He asked me to come…and told me I could record any of his songs. I really am upset about that. We talked about doing an album together. I have so many lost opportunities…because I am a CHICKEN!!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Of Course my family, my mother, my grandmother and grandfather and my Ancestors. My biological father Juan Antonio who came late in my life from Puerto Rico, but had a profound belonging to part of my ancestral Identity to his Island and my sisters and brother and nieces.

I would have to thank Tim Duffy for taking me into Music Maker. and then the French!! France opened their arms and gave me a stage. Thankful to Philippe Langlois, Jean Herve, Frederic Loumangne.

All the wonderful musicians I have worked with. And I have worked with the best. All of them…amazing musicians.

They have been my true hero’s in that process of creating and sharing and sacrificing and traveling and recording and making that magic and medicine. Hours and Years… with Soni Moreno and Jennifer Kreisberg of Ulali. Charly Lowry and Laila Locklear. Cary Morin, Peter Knudson, Danny Godinez, Farko Dosumov, Willie Lowry, James McBride, George Caldwell, Dana Crowe, David Beal, The Deer Clan Singers and Seventh Generation Youth Group. Some of the best music I ever did was with the youth of Robeson County, NC. Tuscarora and Lumbee youth. All of these people I shared with and together we made special moments happen.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

The music Industry is not what it was since the world wide web is the central station. We no longer have to depend on record labels to get us rolling. Making music and creating your road is all at your fingertips. We can market ourselves, make our own teams and make our own shows…and online too!! The industry has crashed. We are the pilots of our own ship and we have to figure how to get it out there and make new ways of everything. I came into recording at the transition of downloading music and buying cd’s.

The world of music within Indigenous people has been building its own venues near and far. We are growing in every way.

I just feel that the sky is the limit. If you have good business sense or know someone who can help you…that is half of the work.

Just do your best and there are so many aspects now of creating music with many mediums together. Go for it!!

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I used to exercise and eat light and get good sleep. But I now am raising 5 little children with my husband and this takes all our personal care down to a complete stop, LOL. We run sweat Lodges my husband and me. We run them and community and friends come and jump into the lodge. Sweats are basically a very hot sauna in a rounded dome shaped hut made of small tree poles that bend. Water is poured over rocks that have been cooked red hot and placed inside the dome shaped hut. people sit together inside and sing, pray, center and just let all their troubles go. We sit in the dark so we can see…with our heart and soul. We heal from each others stories of trauma and give support and words of encouragement. I also create with my hands. I sew and paint. This helps me a lot.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

To create art that influences all people to return to a balanced way of life…such as eliminate money, prisons, walls, war, poverty, starvation and find a different value system that eliminates the war against patriarchy. Art that replaces oppression… a movement that inspires free education, medicine, food. A movement that brings in ways to nurture and not exploit all of our natural resources and protects the Indigenous peoples of the world…because they protect the earth. A movement that puts Youth and Elders at the center of all adults responsibility to serve and keep healthy. They are the jewels… A movement that promotes Truth and the purpose of our existence as human beings apart of Life.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My website is www.purafe.com

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“To thrive in this field, you need a support group that really appreciates your strength, sees your beauty, acknowledges your talent, and attests to your art” with Marco Derhy

by Marco Derhy
Community//

“Stop and Listen!”, with Griffin Thall

by Ben Ari
Community//

Books that spark movements are “tomes of knowledge,” an interview with authors Sara Connell & Jessica Mehta

by Sara Connell

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.