Photo by Courtesy Akami Graham
JACKSON Akami Graham's stage presence is hard to ignore as she captivates Jackson audiences with her soprano voice. She recently walked on stage at Dreamz nightclub to loud applause and cheers, simply smiling in response. Suddenly, the room became silent—Graham's stage power and charm was evident even before singing a note.
Born in Jackson, Graham, 31, began singing when she was 5 years old and at 6 gave a full recording concert at the Medgar Evers Library. Her love of music stems from her father, Charles Graham. Unable to afford music lessons or instruments as a youth, her father avidly listened to the radio and eventually taught himself lead guitar. He later shared his love of music with his daughter and introduced her to the voices of Tina Turner, Patti Labelle and Aretha Franklin.
Music became a way to connect with her father emotionally. “He exposed me to different types of music, and he’s definitely my number one fan," she said.
Graham graduated from Jim Hill High School in 1998 and attended Richards Music School in California, where she studied voice and music. After returning to Jackson, she performed with her former band High Frequency at several nightclubs. Those early performances molded her into the extraordinary act you see and hear today. "Her shows are always packed. I've been following her performances for a couple of years now," fan Bridget Johnson said.
Her range and vocal clarity are impressive, but it’s Graham's comfort on stage that takes her performance to another level. She even allows the audience to request songs from the radio and then gives her rendition of them. Some of her favorite requests are "If You Only Knew" by Patti Labelle and "Is It the Way" by Jill Scott. The feeling and emotion she puts into her songs make her delivery personal.
Recently settling into her first home, the banker by day has no plans of leaving Jackson or of slowing down. "Being at home in Jackson is an added bonus for something I love doing," she said.
You can catch Graham's packed-out performances in establishments such as Freelon’s and Dreamz.
She is currently working on original songs for her upcoming album and anticipates performing them in the fall.
"Music is not a pimp. Love it and it will love you back," she said.
Catch Graham’s performance tonight, June 29, at 8:30 p.m at Hal and Mal's. Visit her website at AkamiGraham.com for more information