Written by Jennifer Delgadillo’
Spoken word artist, musician, educator and community activist Mariah Ivey is making a difference with all she does. She is a program facilitator at the Peace Learning Center, founder and host of That Peace Open Mic at the Indianapolis Central Library and a musician for the band TribeSouL.
What role does music play in your life?
Music is my life. Music is an intricate part of my life whether I’m performing it, listening to it, meditating to it or drawing inspiration from it. There’s always a song that goes with every moment.
What’s your favorite kind of music to listen to for pleasure?
I listen to a lot of neo-soul music: Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Music Soul Child, lots of neo-soul for pleasure. Also reggae. I love reggae music. Chronixx and Jah9 are two of my favorite reggae artists.
What are your favorite memories linked to music?
When I first discovered Lauryn Hill, that was a pivotal moment for me. Lauryn Hill is my all-time favorite artist. And when I found The Miseducation. It was actually my brother’s CD. I remember stealing it from him. I had her music on repeat. It was the first time I’d actually seen a black woman be a master at all of her gifts, as a poet, a vocalist, a musician and emcee. She did it all and I wanted to be like that. I aspired to have that kind of impact with my music.
How do you feel about classical music?
I feel like classical music goes unappreciated sometimes in some communities because it’s not as prevalent within communities of color. However, there are classical musicians and artists of color. Those voices and those artists deserve to be lifted a little bit more and centered a little bit more. It’s a necessary genre that deserves a little bit more attention and credit.
Who are your favorite composers or musicians?
Classically, Nina Simone. She was a classical pianist and her music had evolved and become a lot of different things in her career. But I know that’s how she initially started, and if it wasn’t for Nina, we wouldn’t have a lot of artists who exist today.
If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
I would be a bass guitar, not only because I’m learning how to play one, but because the bass is such an essential part of a band. Without the bass, there’s something missing. It is the thing that brings everything together — those low, melodic, funky notes.
When did you discover that you wanted to be a musician?
I knew it as a kid. I come from a family of musicians. My mom is a vocalist. I have seven aunts; they all sing. My father is a musician; he’s a drummer, he’s a poet, he’s a playwright. My sisters are dancers, and my brother is very artistic and creative. So, I knew it was always in me. But it wasn’t until I discovered artists like Lauryn Hill and I studied the black arts movement that I realized I could use my art to evoke change, mobilize people and change the narrative. I could use my art to center and uplift voices that have gone unheard. I saw that these weren’t artists who just wrote leisurely. They literally needed this. They ate, slept and breathed art. And that’s when art and music took a new meaning for me, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.