ZEMRAH means “song of praise” in Hebrew. She is a jazz songstress. She started singing at 12-years-old in church. She was never in the church choir but her first song was in Sunday school, Oh How I Love Jesus.
At an early age she was listening to her late older brother’s music. He was quite the drummer and a jazz enthusiast. He was listening to Sarah Vaughn, Dakota Staton, Gloria Lynn, Nancy Wilson and Dionne Warwick.
“I was listening to his music and it definitely had an affect on me. My mother encouraged me to sing at church affairs. I didn’t really address my signing ability until I was about 18 years old. I modeled at local fashion shows and sung at private events. I began to sing at the clubs on the South Side, like the Cotton Club, Saber Room, Blair’s Room and Mr. Rickey’s Millionaire Room.”
She became a regular at Mr. Rickey’s along with John Gaden. They were a duo whom became popular as “Fire and Ice.” Zemrah sang to the men and John sang to the women. They were sweltering and performed from 1988 to 2006 on the weekends. John was a good-looking guy, smooth with a laid back manner. Zemrah was sultry, pretty and classy. The singing duet performed contemporary pop and jazz.
In 1992, Zemrah won the Crown Royal Female Vocalists of the year at the Regal Theater. From that came private dates in small venues.
She recalls, “John and I disbanded because I had a solo opportunity to be smooth, sultry Zemrah rather than fire. I was more serious about my music and wanted to move to the next professional performing level. I wanted to record.”
Her first CD was released in 2011, Very Irresistible Zemrah. At about the age of 35, she realized she wanted to sing professionally. She said, “A turning point for me was when I won the top female vocalist contest. I was ready to give it my all. I had a great response and great audience support.”
Becoming Zemrah – Early Beginnings
Zemrah is a native Chicagoan, graduated from Hirsch High School. She majored in business at a local community college. She is the consummate sales person. She is a professional health care professional in the discipline of insurance. But singing is her passion and she’s ready for new horizons.
Zemrah is an entrepreneur. She owned a boutique in South Holland featuring beautiful chic accessories from hand painted caps to designer dresses. Her creativity produced an original line of greeting cards and a special fragrance named after herself. The boutique closed in ’05, because of the down turn in the economy.
Along the boutique way, Zemrah developed a strong female customer base. She is a woman who embraces quickly and has never met someone she didn’t like. Her customer base is now her fan base and monthly, since June of 2013 she hosts, “Here’s to Life” forums where guest speakers speak on life success, positive living and fulfilling life goals. The ladies network and are supportive in making it happen for each other.
“My favorite singer is Nancy Wilson. I adore her. I like Natalie Cole and Shirley Horn and Phyllis Hyman is just awesome.” She is now working with Bobbie Wooden who was Hyman’s musical director.
Zemrah is producing her third one-woman show, one night only, on Sweetest Day, Saturday October 19th at Prairie State College. The “Here’s to Life Concert” came about because of her signature song.
She says, “I fell in love with the lovely lyrics. What a beautiful song. When I sing it, it’s has such a wonderful response. As people get older they still have their dreams to fulfill. My motto is, ‘Are you 50 and up or are you 50 and out.’ I ask people, “What are you doing with your dream. Age is nothing but a number; you don’t ever stop chasing your dream because of the calendar.
“ I decided to celebrate Sweetest Day in October with a concert filled with love songs. October is such a beautiful month and Sweetest Day is a holiday for lovers. I thought it was a perfect tie in. I am a romanticist and love the poetry of love songs and the stories of ballads. I want this concert to become a tradition. My first two concert productions were with Syd Brown who is a very gifted musician whom I met at church. People are now looking forward to the concert and it is a couple’s experience, where people come to celebrate romance.
The Zemrah Twist
The songstress has a unique way of “twisting” the music. She takes a jazz song and makes it rhythm and blues and then she takes a rhythm and blues classic and makes it jazzy. I call it “twisting the song.” She does the treatment with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” arranged by Syd Brown and Chaka’s “I’m Every Woman” a medley arranged by Bobbie Wooden. We worked together to produce magical music and something unique. The audiences go crazy hearing these standards in a new way. Zemrah’s twist lends itself to a classic, a pop tune as she adds her signature.
In addition to singing she is also a composer, a romanticist true to heart. Her husband Ed, is a warm and tender man.
“I love romance and often find myself writing lyrics for him. Lyrics tell a story, they describe how you feel, and they describe a mood. I write late at night and while driving. Sometimes in the car, while waiting at the red light, I pull over and start singing and/ or writing. My songs always reflect my heart. One of my songs, ‘Sweet as Your Kiss’ is part of the soundtrack of the movie “Hollywood Chaos,” an independent film to be released next year. It is a movie about the reality of relationships.
Zemrah plans to record another CD in 2014 comprised of jazz standards mixed with a couple of her “twist” songs and original music. “I want to do it my way. I want to tour the “Here’s to Life Concert.” I want to work in Europe, because they still have jazz clubs. I am waiting for the right people to hear me. I am a jazz songstress and want to be recognized accordingly. I want to develop my talent as much as I can. I love live music. I am ready for engagements, be they boutique hotel lounges, corporate events and private events. My next project is a musical tribute to Nancy Wilson. Chicago use to be such a music town, but not anymore. A jazz club is rare here, so an entertainer has to travel outside of this city that gave rise to so many great musicians. “
Zemra is living her dream her way. And her essence claims, “Here’s To Life.”
“Here’s to Life”
Saturday, October 19th
Tickets are $35 and VIP Tickets are $55
Prairie State College
202 South Halsted Street
Chicago Heights, IL