"A diabolically funky bass is joined by the song of a fulani flute and the cadence of a vodou drum, and the cello bows under an incantation of the ancestors... a revelation and an evening of spellbinding music!" - MONDOMIX
Bethany Yarrow is a singer and activist who has been involved in many social justice, environmental and water issues over the years. Deeply influenced by prayer and ceremonial music, she performs with cellist Rufus Cappadocia as one half of the cello & voice duo, Bethany & Rufus. In their role as musician activists, they often find themselves in the streets playing at demonstrations, rallies, and concerts for change around the word. Bethany is also the daughter of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary and has been performing with him at concerts and rallies since she was 8 years old. She is one of the founding organizers of the Black Hills Unity Concert, as well as the Waterfall Unity Alliance (formed to stop pipelines in and fossil fuel infrastructure expansion in New York and transition to Earth based models of community power), and a member of the advisory board of the Center For Earth Ethics at Union Divinity School.
Bethany is best known as one half of the dynamic duo Bethany & Rufus that she formed with ground breaking cellist Rufus Cappadocia. “In 1999 I heard Rufus playing with the Paradox Trio at The Knitting Factory in NYC," recounts Bethany. "I thought he was an amazing musician and I needed a bass player for a gig. He told me that I should hire him, so I did. Eventually, we started experimenting as just a duo. His groove is incredible and the combination of the 5 string cello and voice was so simple, real and beautiful that we started to just focus on that. Now it's 17 years later and we are still experimenting.”
As the daughter of a folk icon Bethany grew up surrounded not only by folk music, but also deeply influenced by her father's belief in music as a way of bringing people together -- of reaching into their hearts and dissolving prejudices to create a common humanity. Some of her earliest childhood memories are of marches and rallies... of people singing together in an open hearted way that is unusual in today's world.
"I now realize how formative that was for me," says Bethany, who continues to be a passionate activist especially around issues of climate justice, and the honor the earth movement. "These songs remind me where I come from and, like a compass encoded into my DNA, show me the way forward. Once I had that root experience of music in my own culture then I began to experience the musical spirit messenger inside of root traditions from other cultures in Africa, the Carribean, Brazil, as well as Native American music. Now it sometimes feels like it is all one song, one long woven braid of musical memory."
Yarrow also made a documentary film in South Africa about the women in the townships outside of Cape Town during apartheid. "Mama Awethu!," was an award-winning film which aired nationally on PBS and won numerous awards at film festivals around the world including the Sundance, Berlin, Human Rights Watch, and Bombay Film Festivals.
Although Bethany put film making aside many years ago, she revisited to her cinematic roots to help with the filming of the feature documentary "The Grandmothers Speak: For the Next 7 Generations" a film about the Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers (for which she and Rufus also contributed to the film score).
"That was such an important film for me to help make", says Bethany. "All the prophecies say that it is time for the grandmother's to speak and for ancient wisdom to show us the way forward. In the same way, I am listening to the wisdom inside of our own folkloric musical legacy. These are the songs that changed a Nation many times over. They will always be there for us when we need them again. I am just keeping the flame lit, my lamp trimmed and burning, as the Reverend Gary Davis would say..."
"Bethany Yarrow is the daughter of Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary, and so we might expect that she'd have a sense of the folk tradition, but what she does with and to that tradition is nothing short of brilliant. Her voice is rich, dark, and true... and it cuts right through to express all that the music needs... She has the rhythmic sensibility and depth of feeling to call forth the jazz and blues tradition and the breadth of textures to take a listener around the world. Yarrow's voice is stark and powerful, feeling both informed by years of tradition and yet brand new." -- Donald Elfman, All About Jazz