kera m. washington

Kera M. Washington is an applied ethnomusicologist and the founder of Zili-fy/Zili Misik, formerly Zili Roots (www.zilimisik.com), founded in 2000: an all female, multi-ethnic, Boston-based world music ensemble that retraces routes of forced exile and cultural resistance through diasporic rhythm and song. Zili performs roots music of the African Diaspora, or self-described "New World Soul."  

Washington is Senior Music Performance Faculty in the Music Department of Wellesley College, MA; is a Music Teacher at the Mather Elementary School, a Boston Public School in Dorchester, MA; and is completing a dissertation on Haitian folkloric music, about folkloric arts and identity expressed through the music of Emerante de Pradines Morse.  

Kera Washington has been performing and teaching music, using Boston as her base, for almost three decades. She found her first love, percussion, while studying ethnomusicology at Wellesley College, and continued to explore percussive music cultures through inter-disciplinary study at Wesleyan University, Brown University, and Tufts University. Washington is a multiple instrumentalist, a performer of hand percussion, african harps and "thumb pianos" (she is a beginning player of adungu, ngoni, mbira and akogo), of voice and vocal percussion, of flutes, and of piano.  She has studied with master musicians from Haiti, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Brazil, and the United States, and has traveled to Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Palestine, Cape Verde, and VietNam to advance her studies. Washington has taught at Wellesley College, MIT and Northeastern University. Through arts organization, Music On the Move, Washington was an elementary school music teacher at St. Peter School in Cambridge.  Washington worked throughout the Boston area as an artist/educator in the "All In One Boat" Program of the non-profit arts organization Arts In Progress, between 1995-2003, and worked for 6 years at the R. W. Emerson Elementary School in Roxbury (at which she taught until it was closed in 2010). Washington joined the full-time staff at the Mather Elementary School in Dorchester, MA in 2010 and, through this work, is a META Fellow, 2018-2020. At Wellesley College, Washington is Artistic Director of the Yanvalou Drum and Dance Ensemble, which she co-founded, with Professor emeritus Gerdés Fleurant, and which, in 2019, celebrates its 29th year.  At present, Washington continues to present workshops and music residencies in Boston and the surrounding New England area, as both a solo artist/educator and with her performance ensemble, Zili Misik

In 2018, Washington was selected as one of three Fellows for Boston Harbor Now's Artist in Residence [RE]Creation Program, and, on Georges Island, she conducted a project physically and metaphorically exploring African American and Native/Indigenous footsteps in the islands, entitled "From the Harbor, Freedom Sings," which has resulted in a CD of the same name, released in January 2019.  In 2019, Washington and Zili Misik have been selected as recipient of the Boston Foundation's LAB (Live Arts Boston) Grant. 

Washington was a semi-finalist in the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz International Hand Drumming Competition, held at the Jonh F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC, Sept 2001. With her ensemble Zili Misik, Washington's work has been recognized with a Commendation by the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2010 (for fundraising efforts on behalf of survivors of the earthquake in Haiti); with a Boston Music Award for Outstanding International Music, 2008; by the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix, which featured Zili and Washington, in 2009, 2010 and 2011; by the Boston Phoenix/WFNX which proclaimed Zili Best World Music band in Boston, 2008 & 2009; and by NPR, which have featured Washington and Zili on syndicated public television as well as radio programs (see links). 

Washington's work (as ethnmusicologist, percussionist, vocalist, composer, arranger, producer, and band leader) is featured most recently on her 2019 release, "From the Harbor, Freedom Sings;" on Zili Misik's Cross Roads, released in 2012; on Zili's 2009 release, Zee'lee Mee'seek; and on Zili's 2007 debut release, New World Soul. Washington also produced Zili Roots' self-titled 2002 release; and her own CD, african roots, released by mama maembe, September 2001. Washington's work is also featured on McDougal/Littel's "America's Music: Songs From American History," produced May 2000; on Patrice Williamson's, Free to Dream, released 2002;  and on Houghton/Mifflin's "The Best American Short Stories" 2001 release.   

In 2011, Washington began collaboration with Director Megan Sandberg-Zakian, including on Derek Walcott's "Ti-Jean & His Brothers" (music by Andre Tanker).  Washington's musical direction in this production, presented by The Underground Railway Theater and Playwrights' Theatre at Boston University, was followed by work with Sandberg-Zakian's colleague, Maggie Abdow, at the Underground Railway Theater's Young Actor Ensemble, on a production of "Krik Krak," a collection of stories adapted from the "Magic Orange Tree."  Washington continued work with the Underground Railway Theater's Young Actor Ensemble on "Abiyoyo," presented in March 2012, and on "Tokoloshe," February 2013.  In May 2013, Washington and Director Megan Sandberg-Zakian were two of the artistic minds behind Central Square Theatre's "Roots of Liberty: The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War," a production that included actor Danny Glover, and was a collaboration with writer, Edwidge Danticat, and poet, Patrick Sylvain.     


Throughout her residence in Boston,  Washington has performed and toured internationally with Zili Misik (New World Soul), Tjovi Ginen (Haitian mizik rasin, or roots music), Batwèl Rada (Haitian mizik rasin), Mystic Jammers (reggae), Sistahs of the Yam (all female R&B covers), Patrice Williamson (jazz), and In The House (60s-90s Motown, R&B, & Funk). 


Washington's current project, ZIli-fy/Zili Misik, was founded as all-female "zili roots" in 2000, to perform "New World Soul": roots music of the African diaspora.  "zili roots" became Zili Misik -- a re-dedicated all female ensemble -- in 2005. Zili Misik's first CD, New World Soul, was released in 2007, and is available at www.zilimisik.com and at www.cdbaby.com. Zili's second CD, Zee'lee Mee'seek, was released in May 2009, and is available at www.zilimisik.com and for digital download at Itunes. Zili's most recent release, Cross Roads, released March 2012, is available on www.zilimisik.com, Itunes, and on Amazon related sites.  Washington currently resides in Dorchester, MA, conducting workshops and interdisciplinary doctoral research in identity and bi-musicality through experiential learning in African diasporic music.