Born & Raised:
Full name: Goapele Mohlabane.
Born: July 11, 1977. Raised in Oakland, California. Her name, which is pronounced gwah-PLAY, means "to go forward" in the South African language of Tswana.
Goapele's Jewish mother, Noa, married South African political exile Douglas Mohlabane while studying in Nairobi, Kenya. As a kid, Goapele attended the Berkeley Arts Magnet School in northern California, where she became involved in various groups and organizations against racism and sexism. In high school, she sang in the Oakland Youth Choir and became part of a music group called Vocal Motion. Upon high school graduation, she attended Boston's Berklee School of Music for a year and a half.
In 2001, she self-released her debut album, Closer, and later that year, she and her independent label, Skyblaze Recordings, signed a distribution deal with Columbia Records. In 2002 Closer was expanded and repackaged as her official major-label debut album, Even Closer. She co-wrote and co-produced the full album, which is a mostly a mixture of R&B and Jazz. To date, she has released four studio albums, the most recent of which, Break of Dawn, came out in October 2011.
Social & Political:
Goapele is known for placing social and political commentary in her work and for publicly advocating for human rights. In 2006, she received the Human Rights Cultural Hero Award from the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
"With my music, I'm telling my own story. I'm expressing my own view. I want for people to not feel like they're alone. I want people to reflect on their own lives and think about the things that they want and figure out how to obtain them. Also for people that aren't satisfied with what they see around them and in their communities, I hope it motivates them to start taking small steps to change those things." -- Goapele, to BellaOnline.com.
2011: Break of Dawn.
2005: Change It All.
2002: Even Closer.