Growing up in the Boston area, Débo Ray would pass by Berklee College of Music frequently. Trained at the New England Conservatory prep school in operatic-style singing and chamber music, it wasn't until she applied to Berklee and decided to attend that she realized how international the school was. There, her musical universe opened up in ways she hadn't anticipated.
"I met a lot of amazing teachers and colleagues and I got really into jazz, world music, R&B," says Débo, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in vocal performance and classical composition. "Berklee is like that, regardless of how you come in, you come out completely different."
We are proud to present Débo Ray as one of the featured artists in our U-LAB White Sessions series. “I’m known for putting all of my effort into a song, no matter what style it is," says Débo, who with her husband Patrick Simard, wrote the song 'Make it Better' about a tough time in their relationship. Crafting the song was also a challenge for this classically-trained artist. "I was more of a composer, my background is chamber music and operatic-style vocal music. There, text is important but not as much as the technique of the music, as the soundscapes you create," says Débo. "In songwriting, you need to evoke emotion with the lyrics as well as the music. I never really had to explain in words what I felt until that point [with this song]."
Since graduating, Débo has continued to explore other sounds and interests, including jazz, West African and Haitian music (her parents immigrated from Haiti) in her compositions. Even her singing range has evolved from a mezzo-soprano to soprano ("it's a little lower, a little more sultry, I’m also older" she says). Currently, she is touring internationally with the group Women of the World, which features four female vocalists from different countries - Italy, Japan, India and Débo representing Haiti/U.S.A. - performing a repertoire of folk and world music in more than 30 languages.
Besides its upcoming Northwestern tour in the United States, this summer the group will embark on an extensive European and Asian tour. If you're in the Boston area, you'll get a rare chance to see Débo and Women of the World perform on Thursday, April 6 before they head out on the road again. Perhaps due to the current political situation, Women of the World's message of embracing diversity is particularly resonating with audiences from college campuses to a cappella festivals everywhere. "The main premise is to share our differences," says Débo. "Let's dial back and resdiscover our humanity and what makes us connected."