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24 September 2016

Heavenly Harpist Tulani Successfully Blends Old School and New to Create Her Own Sound

Rashida Jolley, better known by her stage name Tulani, is an artist unlike any other.

The singer, songwriter and harpist could easily have followed her mother’s path into law school. In fact, that was her goal when she was a child.

(Singer, songwriter and harpist Rashida Tulani Jolley uses her fingers to pluck at the heartstrings of her listeners. Image courtesy East Coast Entertainment.)
Jolley says, “I wanted to be like my mom when I grew up. So I would always say, as a little girl, I want to be a lawyer like my mom.”

But the DC native decided to scrap the script and pursue her own passion . . . music.

“This is where my heart is, with the harp and singing,” the Nyack College graduate said. “I love to perform more than anything.”

Now, as Tulani prepares to release her latest album, Unscripted, she’s crafting a sound that breaks the mold of modern music, while also drawing inspiration from the past.

Tulani is an unabashed fan of music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The 2001 Miss America contestant lists legends like Prince, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner as artists who influenced her.

Her producer, Geno Regist, advised the 2009 “America’s Got Talent” hopeful to be true to herself.

“You are a lover of that style of music,” Tulani recalls Geno telling her. “That’s who you are as an artist. That’s what you love. Turn what you love to do into what you do.”

The harp is not an instrument one typically associates with popular music. But again, Tulani doesn’t exactly follow the script.

Jolley’s performance at the 2016 ONE Music Festival in Atlanta certainly reflected Geno’s guidance. Her cover of “It’s a Man’s World” blended James Brown and Tina Turner. It was nice, easy and rough all at once.

In short, it was Tulani; impossible to fit in any box.

Following her run on “America’s Got Talent,” Tulani shared a stage with Lady Gaga on the 2010 Monster Ball tour.

Gaga gave her harpist the nickname “Magical Angel.”

Indeed, Tulani’s vocals and stylings on the harp are heavenly. Her renditions of “At Last” by Etta James and “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke plucks at the listener’s heartstrings as Tulani uses her fingers to pluck each string of her instrument.

Her latest single, “Miss You,” is now available for purchase on iTunes. For more information on future appearances and album release dates, visit