MINNEAPOLIS — Worthington High School graduate Fayise Abrahim will debut as a music artist next weekend at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
Abrahim describes her music style as "traditional Ethiopian mixed with jazz and soul." She sings and plays the krar, a five- or six-stringed instrument traditional to a handful of African countries, and leads a band that includes guitar, drums, bass and vocals.
Abrahim didn't enter the music scene formally until 2018, but she has been a poet for more than half her life. She began writing poetry in eighth grade.
"The poetry writing has been part of the music writing," Abrahim said.
By college, Abrahim said, "My professors and friends told me I needed to start considering myself a writer.
"Writing is so nurturing and life-giving that I can't imagine not doing it," she added.
As a poet, Abrahim has completed a number of fellowships and been published in several places, including Yellow Medicine Review's Spring 2019 issue and the Break Beat Poets Anthology Volume 2: Black Girl Magic. She is the first poet to have her work inscribed on a Minneapolis sidewalk; an Abrahim poem is found at the corner of 26th Street and East Franklin.
Abrahim is working to complete a poetry manuscript for publication.
A 2010 WHS graduate, Abrahim went to college for sociology and ethnic studies. Passion for her Ethiopian heritage brought Abrahim back to her parents' native country, where she learned from village elders about music and traditions of her culture. She even visited Sisay Begena School of Music in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for instruction on the krar.
"Now that I'm back, I'm trying to find more ways to stay involved," she said.
One of the ways she is involved with Ethiopian culture is by recording her parents' memoirs of growing up in Ethiopia and immigrating to the United States as refugees.
Although she is a self-proclaimed cultural worker and oral historian, Abrahim says she's also interested in public policy. Professionally, she works with Voices for Racial Justice, a group that empowers racial collaboration and healing throughout the state using "an ecological model of making change." Everyone has a role best suited to their talents and personality, and to succeed, everyone must work together.
Voices for Racial Justice supports a local cohort, Seeds of Justice, right here in Worthington.
Abrahim said that her art and her work both draw inspiration from her southwest Minnesota upbringing.
"I still feel very informed by Worthington, and it shapes how I walk through life," she said.
The emerging artist writes poems and stories about her beloved hometown.
"I've gotten to travel and work all over the world," Abrahim said, "but I keep coming back to Worthington. There's no other community like it. Above all places, it feels like home."
Abrahim's concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. South, Minneapolis. All proceeds benefit Seeds of Justice.