WHM2022 Just Us Just Music at the Cricket Club Entertainment Center

Mar 4 7:30 PM to 11 PM at the Cricket Club, Irvington, NJ

 9 years ago, Ife Basim (Topping-Mann) started a Women’s History Month Celebration because she felt that the accomplishments of many local women go unnoticed. Ife feels that bringing attention to these everyday heroes, applauding them for their excellence and recognizing them now helps build the bonds of sisterhood and why not applaud them now when i can be appreciated by them. By staying true to the mission, the annual WHM event has become a vehicle that encourages and help women unite, share their gifts, talents, accomplishments, and motivates the young and old to share their gifts with the world. 

Recent events like the worldwide pandemic clearly made the 2021  “Refresh In Progress” event a theme we could all understand. In our growing “new normal” world WHM2021 did not stop but went online. The cast performed 3 primary scenes of a play written by Joy termed Survival, Strength and Sisterhood. The message was to get the word out that we have all made it this far through the many challenges of the pandemic, a year later we are still here and we should start our refresh process now. Ife Basim’s WHM platform is now in it’s 9th year and continues to grow our spirit and here’s a look back as we get ready for WHM2022. 

Interview with the Founder

Take a listen to the founder IFE BASIM as she get prepare to do her 9th Annual Womens History Month event.


Ife Basim Founder Womens History Month Events

Ife Basim; pronounced ee-fay baa-seem, is an unstoppable force in the entertainment world, and her brand is soon to become a household name. Born Joy Elaine Topping, she adopted the name Ife Basim, a Yoruba and Arabic combination that means ‘love is smiling’, to define her purpose and goal, which is to present elegant, yet entertaining performances to the delight of audiences near and abroad.

As a jazz vocalist, Ife Basim’s rich melodic voice and unique phrasing take you back to the days of classic jazz, invoking shades of Sarah Vaughan and hints at the daring of Billie Holiday. Warmly embraced by enthusiastic audiences, she has appeared at several venues in the Tri-state area. She is also a featured vocalist in her husband, Norman Mann’s band ‘Rafiki:”

As a producer and promoter of special events, Ife Basim has received local acclaim for the Annual Women’s History Month Celebrations held each March. These uniquely memorable experiences have focused on honoring extraordinary women for their outstanding accomplishments, while at the same time empowering and encouraging women, young and old to pursue their dreams and practice the art of protecting their peace. Each event has played to a packed house, with audiences being treated to virtuoso performance by the Tri-state’s most talented artists.

Ife Basim has now set her sights on that of a Playwright, and the dramatic readings of her play “Storms Weathered” is quickly capturing the interest of many. This intriguing production features fictional, intimate discussions between 4 of the most renowned women in jazz and blues history – Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith. The brutally honest discourse between these four dynamic women reveals how each found the courage to persevere in their careers and personal lives despite the obstacles they each encountered. Stay tuned for full the production of, “Storms Weathered”, slated for Spring 2023 debut.

Ife Basim’s prowess as a writer was rewarded in her essays, “Letters to Our Daughters”, and “Letters to Our Sons”, being selected by the Billie Holiday Theater’s 50in50 global essay competition. These monologue presentations premiered at the Kumble Theater in Brooklyn, NY, where both shows had sold out audiences, and later at the Waco Theater in Los Angeles, California. You can also hear these monologues featured on Ife’s YouTube production, “In Celebration of Mothers” https://youtu.be/vW_jrhrHJIY

You can anticipate great things from this uber-talented phenom

Jacquelyn Harmon Johnson

“Take a listen, and you’ll know where I’ve been”

Originally from Newark, NJ, Jacque Johnson started singing while in college. As a tireless advocate for jazz, her desire to sing is deeply rooted in the belief that exposure to jazz will help educate the younger generation.

Jacque cut her teeth, learning to sing the blues and swing in the tri-State area, under the tutelage of Dr. Aaron Bell bassist for the legendary Duke Ellington, and was original member of Dr. Bell’s Newark based Swat Team “Swing with All That” She performed for 9 years in Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, and has performed with members of The Count Basie Band, as well as the Alberta Hunter Revue. She performed with Shad Royal’s 18-piece swing band for 6 months, and Dr. Aaron’s Bell’s 18-piece Swing band for 4 years. Jacque has opened for such notables as Phylicia Rashad, Gregory Hines, Esther Rolle, Ray Charles, Bobby “Blue “Bland, Joan Rivers and Cab Calloway.

This ambitious business woman is the CEO of “Fly Balloon Designs” www.flyballoondesigns.com, and has mastered the artistry of using balloons to beautify venues and special events that always brings a smile to those enraptured in her creative aura. Jacque lights the room and parties with awesome balloon concepts and décor from Baby Showers, retirement parties, special events, festivals and face painting. Each creation is unique, with vibrant colors. Her balloon fashion line includes earrings, bracelets, necklaces balloon gowns, as well as balloon swim wear.

Continuing to give back to her roots in Newark and Essex County, Jacque is a counselor at ‘Program for Parents’ in East Orange, NJ, where for 24 years she has provided support for children’s families and child care providers through education, advocacy, referrals and access to available financial resources. Her aspirations through this program are to expand and reach comprehensive services for the greater community and become nationally recognized through efforts that deal with community issues and problems.

Jacque continues to bring her bluesy, sultry, soulful sounds singing at venues, such as the Montclair Diner located at 613 Valley Road, Montclair NJ, where she is the weekly featured vocalist for Sunday Brunch and she also the featured vocalist at Montclair’s DLV Lounge located at 300 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair NJ with the Richard Pierson’s Life Story band.

Jacque Johnson has paid her dues to sing the blues.

Omisanya Karade

Recording artist, poet, author, songwriter, and dancer Omisanya Karade was born and raised in Newark, NJ. Her passion for the creative arts was cultivated in her youth while attending the flagship of the Newark Public Schools, Arts High, where she performed in several musical and interpretive dance productions. Omisanya served 10 years in the United States Navy and honed her vocal expertise to the delight of her shipmates. She has performed off the coast of Africa, as well as Australia, was a member of the Naval Gospel Choir, and performed the National Anthem at the Veterans Administration’s Women’s Veteran Celebration.

Upon returning stateside she earned her Associate degree in music education at Essex County College and was a Teaching Artist with the Wolf Trap program at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Omisanya was an Art Educator for Express Newark’s Paul Robeson Gallery at Rutgers University, conducting music and arts education workshops for preschoolers to senior citizens. This extraordinary visual artist’s paintings were also displayed at the Express Newark Paul Robeson Gallery.

As a strong sessions vocalist Omisanya’s engaging persona enthralls her audiences with irresistible handclaps and toe taps. Excitement filled the air at venues such as, Skippers, Robin’s Nest, Clements Place, The Priory, Cecil’s, Crossroads, Delta’s, NJPAC and New York’s LenoxLounge, while she delivers the blues like none other.

Omisanya has graced the stage performing with Oloye Karade and Fa Fusion, the Spirit of Life Ensemble featuring Dwight West, and performance ensemble Ahmondylla Best and Wogbledoe, where she not only sang, but played several percussion instruments.

As a versatile performer she has opened for the Lincoln Park House Music Festival in Newark, NJ, and also served as assistant backstage Manager. She is the featured vocalist on house music “Connie’s First Time”, written and produced by Larry P. Rausin, for New Generation Records. https://music.apple.com/gb/artist/omisanya-karade/1543977335

A woman of many talents Omisanya was the fourth runner up in the Miss Black America of New Jersey pageant and is a published poet with the International Society of Poets.

Omisanya Karade, fierce and NJ strong.

Phyllis Blanford

Multi-talented entertainer Phyllis Branford’s high-energetic performances are difficult for you to ignore or forget. With an ability to vocally intertwine poetry, jazz, blues, and the blending of rhythms, she creates a multi-faceted, musical dance in song that is quite electrifying.

Having begun her jazz career in Europe, Phyllis was a very well-known vocalist in Italy. Especially noted are her collaborations with great Italian musicians like Tullio De Piscopo and Pino Daniele. She also has performed in several European jazz festivals and music tours, and her international performances include Germany, Italy, and the UK. Upon returning to the US, Phyllis continued her love of jazz with performances at various venues in New York, New Jersey as well as Washington DC. She is also a member of the Carrie Jackson Vocal Collective.

Phyllis credits vocal coach, and fellow jazz artist Kate Baker for helping to “put her voice back together” after having surgery on her vocal chords. She prides Kate for her tremendous work as Vocal Producer on her debut CD, “Edgewalker”. This project is an introduction to Phyllis’ innate ability to fuse musical genres with the foundation of jazz, while painting a vocal landscape that speaks directly to your heart. Her assertive vocals are accompanied by an impeccable selection of musicians, such as, saxophonist Don Braden, guitarist Vic Juris, drummer Winard Harper, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, trombonist Vince Gardner and trumpeter James Gibbs III.

Phyllis’ other talents include that of a writer and spoken word artist. In 2019 her piece, “I Love My Mother” was selected and performed by her at the fifth annual season of “Thinking In Full Color’s, which is an award-winning organization that empowers women of color through education and the arts.

One of Phyllis’ greatest loves for over the past 20 years is being an Early Childhood Educator. Phyllis taught at the Early Childhood West in Newark, NJ where she was selected 2020-2021 ‘Teacher of the Year’ and 2020-2021 ’Governor’s Teacher of the Year’. Presently, Phyllis is a teacher at the Michelle Obama Elementary School also located in Newark.

Performer, writer and teacher extraordinaire, Phyllis is indeed an electrifying, tantalizing and energizing force to be reckoned with.

Patricia Walton

This German born beauty has been singing since she can remember. Patricia Walton started singing in her school choir while living in Germany. After moving to New York she was a soloist and member of the Mt. Sinai UCC choir, “One Accord”, as well as lead vocalist for several party and dance bands, and has performed at various venues in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Currently, the lead vocalist for the very popular and unforgettable MPack Band, the musical brainchild of Clarence Conover, Patricia’s explosive voice will have you out on the dance floor as you groove to the sounds of many R &B favorites.

Patricia studied voice with Phil Orlick who made it a point that students pick unfamiliar songs as a way to encourage them to find their own voice and discover creative ways of presenting the story and lyrics. She also studied Musical Performance at HB Studio under Helen Gallagher and attended Craig Derry’s vocal boot camp. Patricia is also a longtime member of the Jazz Vocal Collective (a weekly jazz vocal workshop) founded by Carrie Jackson. Her repertoire includes Jazz, Blues, Pop, R&B and Gospel.

As a Jazz vocalist, Patricia she has appeared at Newark’s Priory and Duke’s Southern Table, 16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro, in Westfield, NJ, Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair NJ, and Crossroads in Garwood NJ, and has worked with such musicians as Radam Schwartz, Dave Braham, Don Williams and JJ Shakur. Her musical influences include Billie Holiday, June Christie, Mahalia Jackson Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and many more.

Patricia’s mentor, jazz vocalist Carrie Jackson , is quoted as saying, “Patricia possesses a cool, sultry style with a vocal range that is strong, yet relaxing. She sings with sincere spirit, while exploring the nuances of the melody and lyrics to deliver renditions of Jazz, Blues and R&B standards that make the listener take notice of her creativity and charisma”.

Patricia volunteers her time performing for the residents of the Lyons VA Rehabilitation Center and White House Nursing Home, and has taken part in the annual charity fundraiser hosted by Salem Roadhouse Café.

Patricia believes that music is the one thing we all understand, and if she can touch just one heart in the audience through a song, then she succeeded in sharing the gift that God gave her!

Zakiyyah Zai’mah

An electric balm that heals the soul describes the soothing, silky and smooth voice of Zakiyyah Zai’mah. A captivating sound tinged with the musical influences that run the gamut from Carmen Lundy to Herbie Hancock. Her musical taste includes not only jazz, but R&B, folk and country western as well.

She has studied jazz vocals in the Jazz Mobile’s Master’s Class with special guest instructor, Jon Hendricks, and was one of 8 specially chosen master vocalists to share the stage with him at the world-renown Blue Note.

Zakiyyah’s performances include New York’s Cobi Narita’s Universal Jazz Coalition and Zinc Bar, and New Jersey venues, such as Trumpet’s, Bogies, Jazz at the Plaza, Cecil’s Place, the Cricket Club Entertainment Complex in Essex County, New Jersey. Zakiyyah is scheduled for a live-stream jazz concert at the East Orange Public Library’s Cultural Café. Details are sure to follow.

A songstress for most of her life, she recently did an extended gig as a gospel choir ringer at the Salem African Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem and the First Baptist Church in New Rochelle, NY.

Zakiyyah has worked as a concert booker and producer for the East Orange Jazz at the Plaza summer concert series where she booked such notables as Vanessa Rubin, John Lucian, Randy Weston, Gloria Lynne, Abby Lincoln and many other jazz greats!

Zakiyyah is also a published writer, having co-edited an anthology, “Healing Black Women from Violence”, with Dr. La Francis Rodger-Rose.

This talented performer has taken to the stage to portray Bessie Smith in the acclaimed “Storms Weathered”, written by playwright Ife Basim, and she has performed in local productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

Zakiyyah Zai’mah is truly a voice with the gift of healing.

Caylen Bryant

Caylen Bryant, who also goes by the name “The Bass Chica”, describes her sound as a quilt made from many different squares. As a bassist, cellist, and vocalist, she draws inspiration from many places. Her father, Lance Bryant is a saxophonist, composer, arranger and vocalist from whom she draws inspiration as well. Growing up in a musical household, she learned from both of her parents that music is a language that the whole world speaks.

Caylen began playing the bass at Oberlin, where she earned her degree in Jazz Bass Performance. She studied with Peter Dominguez and Gerald Cannon, and now plays a wide variety of music on both the upright bass and electric bass.

Caylen is active in the New York/New Jersey area, and has shared the stage with the Lionel Hampton Big Band and the Christian McBride Big Band. She was also the Musical Director for the theatre production “The Bluest Eye” at her alma mater, Oberlin in 2017.

Caylen is passionate about sharing the music with others and directs a youth community music program. The program was founded by New York Times best-selling author and musician James McBride, and runs in Brooklyn, NY. She also teaches privately and has worked with Jazz House Kids and the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts Jazz Program.

During the summer of 2020, she produced a project in which she recorded herself playing each song from Rubén Blades and Willie Colón’s 1978 album, Siembra. She used costumes, props, and of course, her own musical arrangements to create a unique character for each song. The project even caught the eye of Rubén Blades, who took the time to write her a heartfelt letter, encouraging her on her musical journey.

She is the current bassist for Blue Note Record Artist, Kandace Springs, and toured with her in February of 2020. The tour featured an all-female band, and served to promote Springs’ upcoming album “The Women Who Raised Me” a tribute to the female vocalists who most impacted Springs’ musical identity.

In her most recent studio recording, Bryant was the bassist for the 2020 Grammy award-winning album “All the Ladies” by Joanie Leeds, an album focused on female empowerment, written, produced, recorded and performed entirely by women.

Caylen currently has original projects in development, and plans on recording and releasing her own Salsa album this year, to be titled “Brujería Panameña” (Panamanian Witchcraft) that will feature the music of her Maternal Panamanian roots.

Iyonna Herbert

Iyonna Herbert is a percussionist from Camden, New Jersey who has been playing drums since the age of eight years old. In 2021 she graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music with an emphasis in Commercial Music from Snow College, located in Utah. Here, Iyonna served as the Assistant to the Director of Jazz, Phillip Kuehn; a bassist who has worked with Wynton Marsalis, Rodney Jones, Christie Dashiell and Anthony Hamilton. Iyonna was able to perform parts of Bobby Watson’s BBQ Suite with Bobby Watson himself, who served as the Musical Director for The Jazz Messengers. She is mentored by legendary jazz drummer Carl Allen who has worked with Freddie Hubbard, George Coleman, and Christian McBride to name a few. Today, Iyonna plays in the South Jersey area while volunteering to teach at her high school alma mater.

Lee Odom

“Sweet” Lee Odom’s instrumental spectrum includes the clarinet, alto and soprano saxophone, and flute. She is a composer, band leader whose musical spectrum includes gospel, free-improvised music, jazz, R &B, Hip-Hop and classical.

A native of North Carolina, Lee Odom received a BS in music industry while studying clarinet performance at Appalachian State University, Boone NC. When Lee moved to NYC in 2011, she quickly found her way into various musical communities. She was a sub in the Broadway production of Fidler on the Roof in Yiddish, and has worked on selected virtual service projects for Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem and the Mt. Zion AME Church in the Bronx as sound engineer. Lee was commissioned as Producer/Director for the first virtual production of Joseph Daley’s “Colorations Explorations,” performed by the Dance Clarinets and directed by JD Parran. The music by Sweet Lee and her accompanying bands has been sending lighting vibes throughout the boroughs of New York.

Lee has performed with many outstanding groups and musicians such as Don Byron, JD Parran, The Karl Berger Improv Orchestra, Canaan Baptist Church Music Ministry, 12 Houses Free Improv, the Makanda Project Boston, MA, and UpSurge NY poetry ensemble. Lee Odom also performs as band leader, with Sweet Lee Music, performing at various venues and festivals throughout New York, Boston, & Connecticut.

Lee was the Artist-in-Residence at Holmes Presbyterian Camp, Holmes, NY and at Art Omi in Hudson NY, where she created and cultivated many musical experiences. She was a featured artist for Craig Harris’ Harlem Jazz Boxx and Craig Harris’ Harlem Night song as a guest artist. She has also performed at Summer Stage in Harlem. Lee participated in ” Women Composers”, where her composition “Sweet Lee” was featured. This presentation was produced by Abby London and performed at Metro Baptist Church, NY.

She has played at Greenwich Village’s Zinc Bar with the Jack Jeffers Big Band and Greenwich House Music School clarinet ensemble “Dance Clarinets’, conducted by J.D. Parran. She has worked with various artist through the Jazz Foundation and has also played with the legendary drummers Warren Smith Octet and David Murray Octet for the Arts for Arts Music Festival. Lee’s quarter has also performed at New Jersey’s Clements Place in Newark, NJ.

With a fusion of Jazz, Hip-Hop, Classical, and free improvisation, “Sweet” Lee keeps the groove groovin’.

Kate Cosco

Kate Cosco is a talented jazz pianist who began studying classicalpiano at the age of five. She continued her formal musical education through college where she received a degree in piano and audio engineering from Indiana University, and received her Master’s degree in jazz piano performance at the University of Memphis.

Kate’s professional experience ranges from jazz to pop to gospel. Under the direction of Alan Balter and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra she has performed with featured artists such as Mercedes Ellington, Michael Berkowitz and Bill Conti. Kate was the musical director and arranger of the “Tribute to the Rat Pack” show at Goldstrike Casino in Tunica, MS.

Kate has performed in various concert venues, casinos, hotels and clubs in Las Vegas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Memphis and Manhattan. Kate retained a notable job as a traveling keyboardist and is credited with playing with world famous, well-known recording artists, such as the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, theTemptations, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Coasters, the Duprees, Ben E.King, the Chiffons, Lesley Gore, Peggy March, Michele Lee, Jerry Van Dyke, Charo, Jack Sheldon, Billy Swan, Clint Holmes, Thelma Houston, Michael Crawford, and Billy Eckstein.

This New York based artist has often occupied the conductor/pianist chair with Little Anthony and the Imperials, and has been selected numerous times in recent years to perform at the Annual International Women in Jazz and Lady Got Chops festivals. She has also lead many jazz groups in Manhattan’s, Fat Cat, Smalls, Ornithology, Little Branch and Hermana.

Kate retains a residency at Robert at MAD Restaurant in Manhattan, is a member of the esteemed jazz faculty at Montclair State University and freelances as an independent and in-demand jazz pianist across the tri-state area.

2022 WHM Just Us Just Music Join Us

We hope you come join us Friday March 4th and have some fun.

9th Annual Women’s History Month Celebration

Year: 2022

Date: March 4, 2022

Theme:  “Just Us. Just Music”

Featured Vocalists: Joy Mann, Patricia Walton, Phyllis Blandford and and Omisanye Karade 

Venue:  At the Cricket Club Entertainment Center

Live Music: Caylen Bryant, Iyonna Herbert, Lee Odom, Kate Cosco

We hope you can join us. Listen above to the interview for details

Learn more

Interview Ife Basim Founder on the Upcoming WHM2022 at the Cricket Club Entertainment Complex

Meet Your Producer Joy Topping-Mann (aka Ife Basim)

Support GoFundme: http://ifebasimmasterpieces.com

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