Black Heritage was formed in Berlin Germany in the early 1990s. The orchestra constantly performs in the U.S. and Europe and elsewhere and shares its time mostly between Germany and the US. The music offers an exciting mix of African rooted original compositions, in genres from throughout the African Diaspora - Afro Beats to Blues, Reggae, Brazilian, Afro Cuban, Arabic, Soul and Jazz, and Rap to Gospel. The arrangements, the lyrics and the compositions are solid, highly dynamic, and speak directly to the soul, inviting one to dance and travel. The originality, versatility and flexibility of the music lets BLACK HERITAGE fit well into Jazz, R&B, and World music venues and festivals.
Of Creole extraction KERA was born in Madagascar and grew up in Senegal. After moving to Paris, she began her professional career singing the Blues and Gospel
with Memphis Slim and working with such luminaries as Mickey Baker, John Lee Hooker and Milton Buckner. She was invited to sing in the Film "The Adventure Of Jazz"
which top billing were Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton and George Benson, and she released her first music on record as part of homage to Mahalia
Jackson. KERA also ventured into the pop arena with a
number of funk oriented releases as well as a remarkable
first Afro-Project with composer Wazis Diop on RCA. A
spell in Los Angeles exposed her to the work of other
African and Asian musicians and this influenced her
decision to go to Berlin via Japan in search in
sympathetic world- music projects. She pursues her own
style of cultural fusion already identified by her as
"Ethno-Techno-Pan- African sphere" in the '80s, using
her gifts in the complementary areas of writing,
composing, painting and singing. Long term collaboration
with German electronic composer and arranger Reinhard
Katemann, and master drummers like Ekow Alabi Savage and
Souleymane Touré brought then a fantastic synthesis that
she called "Heavy-Wood-Music", on the market. Later on
she formed the "Black Heritage Orchestra" working with
US Jazzman Mike Russell, telling the story of black
music in music (from Ethnic-African music through Blues,
Afro-beat, Salsa, Gospel, Reggae, Jazz, Funk and Rap).
With the help of Berliner Senat KERA then wrote and
produced the musical play "Odeylo" from the repertoire
of the "Black Heritage": the Story of Mama Africa". Part
of the soundtrack of this very successful musical was
released on CD (feat. late Eddy Harris) which stayed one
year long in the world music charts (between place 8 & 9
of 110 releases). The Black Heritage Orchestra is
constantly performing in Europe and abroad (e.g. South
Africa, where KERA did some recordings with Airto
Moreira and the South African Allstars, or recently in
the US). MFA KERA is also producing the "kera’s journey"
presenting an astonishing flirt of the African music
with rock and classical music. MFA KERA worked for the
publishing company "Klett" by composing songs in French
for the use in schools. CD and booklet with songs and
play-back: Klett Verlag, Collection Paroles & Musique.
KERA made a journey to China and brought back recordings with artists and percussionists from Mongolia.
Fantastic success also in Salvador de Bahia where KERA played at the festival "Femadum" of and with "Olodum". She was also the guest of stars like Carlinhos Brown.
After having performed with Black Heritage for the Chancellor Gerhard Schröder,
KERA was also invited to sing for the President of the
Federal Republic of Germany Johannes Rau at his last
"Presidential Summer". KERA produced her own radio show
for a while and founded the "Universal Gospel Voices"
Multi Ethnic Gospel group, singing the "Good News". MFA
Kera's involvement with the reforestation of her
homeland Madagascar (e.g. cooperating with
musician-activist Ricky Olombelo) and her years long
work with well known artists and environmental activists
like Ben Wagin from Germany ("Parliament of Trees",
"Water Museum") have encouraged her to mount a project
she called The Power of the Music and Arts to reconcile
Mankind with Nature - a musical project for Trees. She
met the international organization Trees for the Future
in Washington DC and supports their actions. She wrote a
Rhapsody with German producer/arranger Reinhard Katemann
and recorded and performed with bass virtuoso TM
Stevens. She recently performed in Berlin with the
renowned percussionist Bill Summers. Kera composes,
writes, produces, paints and also teaches workshops worldwide.
Her book Fatou Rama was published by Klett Verlag.
Mike Russell was born in 1952 in Washington D.C. and began studying classical and Flamenco guitar at an early age. His professional career started in the 60s with soul and blues bands. Song writing and composing was an early interest and this creative side resulted in some studio work with Columbia Records as guitarist and composer. The year 1970 was his first record release as composer and the title "Black Woman" was recorded by Grammy nominated Gloria Taylor and culminated in a US tour. The year 1972 saw his own Jazz-Rock group "Water Forest" perform Andy Warhol at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Since moving to Berlin in 1989 he has performed with Eddy Harris, Billy Bang and many others. He formed the Black Heritage Orchestra with singer MFA KERA and released the CD in 1995 which reached the Top 10 European world music charts. He also has created his own Jazz-Soul-Funk sound. He performed on German TV, Guinness Festival South Africa, Greece, Poland and America and returned to Washington D.C. to perform with Mfa Kera & Black Heritage at the world famous Blues Alley Jazz Club and Smithsonian Center. He was also invited to host special workshops at the George Washington University Jazz Department. He recently toured in Poland and Ukraine where he counts thousands of fans. Thanks to his fantastic skills Mike was invited to perform with the "Original Michael Jackson Band Immortal Tour" for a Christmas show where he played with Greg Phillinganes, Jonathan Moffet and Mike Phillips.
Reinhard Katemann was born in Germany in 1953. From 10 onwards he studied classical piano, horn, trombone and the tuba, eventually being asked to lead the school chorus. Between 1962 and 1972 he was apprenticed as a piano tuner. Alongside his formal training he was regularly playing in bands. Living in Berlin from 1978, he developed the twin skills of sound programming and composing, achieving commercial success in selling sounds for the Yamaha synthesizers such as DX-7 and FB-01. In 1984 he developed new micro-tuning scales and sold them on cartridges for DX-7. Meanwhile he was perfecting his career as a composer, arranger and keyboard player. His interests in African music dates from an early age and it was inevitable that he should meet up with MFA KERA when she came to Berlin. Since then they have collaborated as the creative heart of the MFA KERA Ensemble. Reinhard also worked from the beginning as the arranger of the Black Heritage Orchestra. Despite all these commitments he has found the time to build a digital studio!
Selection of Venues
Festival international de Nerac (France)
Montreux Jazz Fest (France)
Festival de Musica e Artes (Switzerland)
Olodum Femadum (Brazil)
Leverkusener Jazztage (Germany)
Dakar Gore Jazz Fest (Senegal)
Guinness Jazz Fest (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Xian Ancient Culture Festival (China)
Breda Jazz Fest (Netherlands)
Papahannock Festival Virginia (USA)
Kennedy Ctr. Washington DC (USA)
Jazz nad Odra Wroclaw (Poland)