Whether busy conjuring variations of rhythm folk poetry in song lyrics or exploring the percussive-like dynamics of her trademark guitar riffs, independent folk songstress Antara continues to establish herself as a 'new' folk artist that is expanding the forefront of women’s music and the independent folk movement. Having performed professionally for a dozen years in more than 500 venues throughout New England, Canada, The Midwest and The South, Antara’s unique fusion of rhythmic folk music and interactive coffee house performance capitalizes on a consistent sharing of the sociological perspective that shapes her life, love and work.
Described by colleagues like well-known folk musician Edie Carey as “wonderfully smart songs, incredible humor and an amazing presence onstage,” Antara and her work continue to capture praise from audiences, critics and fellow singer/songwriters alike, while providing the essential fuel that propels her creative impulse into genres that take traditional folk performance to new levels and listeners.
“I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into any particular category,” emphasizes Antara. “I believe that women’s music and folk singing is a respectful foundation from which I’ve come. And, I live that existence everyday; I am that community. But, I don’t feel the need to be a representative of only that niche. My music reflects who I am and the personal truths that I have experienced and can share…like a storyteller weaving a tale. My hope is that the people who hear my music get some feeling or idea that enriches their own existence while creating that artist/audience connection that musicians like myself live for.”
With more than 75 uniquely-styled songs and collaborations under her belt, Antara's musical work spans a continuum from the serious social issues of classism, sexism and religious persecution in selections like "None of the Above," "Wrong" and "Tree of Knowledge," to her musical restagings of childhood stories and word games in "Jolly Friends" and the Shel Silverstein-inspired "My Roots".
"I've written music about racism, lost love, equality, sexism and even the challenge of emotional connections," added Antara. "But, even though these are all different themes the common thread in all of them is the reality of the text and how it amplifies a universal experience that isn't just black, white, male, female, gay or straight. It's everybody−It's life."
Born and raised Ann Elizabeth Gatch in Cincinnati, Ohio, Antara began playing guitar at age 10 and by her 18th birthday was already becoming a recognized cover artist in the coffee houses and street festivals of Cincinnati’s Clifton (college) community. In 1989, she became one half of the urban guitar duo Jaded Moon, where she started composing her own original lyrics and riffs. Within a year, the duo separated to pursue different musical interests leaving Antara free to plant the seed for her own solo folk act. Looking for a way to expand her musicianship and collaborative skills with other local artists, Antara joined Fotasynthesis, a Cincinnati-based feminist folk rock band, in 1990. Early 1992 found the young performer relocating to New England and re-establishing herself yet again, but this time under the new solo name of Antara.
“I needed a name that was easy to remember and I wanted it to be only one word…and to really convey something,” said the artist. “I came across this song book that had a Buddhist folk song about a young girl Bodhisatva (someone who is said to have been reincarnated over and over again until all souls they touch are enlightened). The character was also said to bring peace, happiness and joy to women and children. The song was called “Om Tara” and the girl’s name was Tara…and I loved the story. So, since my name was Ann which sounds like Om, I just merged the two.”
Finding her musical niche more and more through coffee house venues and colleges, Antara formed a new duo dubbed Not Nuns in 1994 with New Hampshire-based singer/songwriter Jeanne Chappell. The two found immediate synergy in their work and both looked to professionally pursue music as a full-time career. After four years of extensive collaboration and performances throughout the U.S., Chappell retired in early 1998 leaving Antara to pursue a solo effort, which culminated in the release of her first CD in December of 2000 entitled Smile Girl.
“I wanted my first disc to be representative of what you hear in my live performances…just me and my guitar…exactly what you hear while sipping a big mocha. Nothing more nothing less,” said Antara. “ I feel like so much of what I do is deeply connected to my live performance, and that there was no real way to capture that element. So, that’s what I tried to send home with them on the disc−what they’d hear if they were actually there with me. As a result of this, most of the tracks are clean takes−there aren’t any splices or punch-ins, its all raw. That’s what I had always admired about the recordings of other artists like Phranc, Ann Reed and even Ani DiFranco.”
To date, Antara’s touring and performance schedules have taken her to the festivals, bars, universities and coffee houses of New York, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Albany, Ottawa, Providence, Portland and Chicago. She stays busy not only through her own aggressive solo performance schedule and recording projects, but through collaborative concerts where she has shared the stage with artists like Antigone Rising, Bitch and Animal, Ember Swift, Ryan Adcock, Nini Camps, Edie Carey, Kate Clinton, Chris Collier, Alix Dobkin, Teddy Goldstein, Seth Horan, Erin McKeown, Ann McWilliams, Pamela Means, Alix Olson, Doria Roberts, Miranda Stone and Tracy Walker.
A regular musical guest at festivals like Cincinnati Pride and Toronto Pride, Antara was honored to join fellow musicians Ubaka Hill and Angela Motter in 1994 as part of the 25th Anniversary Stone Wall Concert in New York City. In 1997, Antara helped lead a project that developed training for aspiring musicians at a government-sponsored career conference. Early 2000 found the singer/songwriter penning the official theme song (“You’ll Like Keene”) for Keene New Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin Festival, which draws crowds of more than 50,000 from across New England. In 2001, Antara played the role of composer to the choreography of Latin performance artist Patricia Pedroza for a series of theater and dance performance pieces that focused on crossing cultural borders. In addition to these and other collaborative efforts that keep her performance schedule active and diverse, Antara’s songs can be heard regularly on the airwaves in Spain, France, Australia, Canada and the United States.
April 2002 marked another extensive touring season for Antara, in addition to the release of her sophomore disc entitled, Like It Was a Drum. Offering listeners more of her inventive instrumentation, percussive guitar elements and a large dose of experimentation, the new recording features collaborative efforts with friends like singer Jess McDonough, and even former music partner Chappell.
Perhaps the artist clarifies herself and her work best when she says, “Songs just come to me…all the time… and I never really thought I’d be a singer/songwriter. But, it’s the most rewarding experience in the world to hear audience members singing your lyrics back to you. It makes me want to cry…it’s so moving…like an out of body experience for me as a woman, a musician and especially, as a human being.”