Hi. My name is Mishka. I am a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, voice teacher and part time massage therapist, living between two incredibly vibrant cities : London and Berlin. The music I play is hard for me to describe, but it brings together the genres I love –jazz, folk, and music from all over Brazil – through a number of different projects. I love collaborating with other musicians and I consider myself lucky enough to have a musical family of people I have worked with over the span of many years and over several countries – England, Germany, The Philippines and Brazil – and who I continue to work with and be inspired by. Most recently, I released an album in the UK with the great Pete Churchill called Stories to Tell. It is a collection of incredible songs written by Pete that we recorded with an astonishing group of musicians: Mark Lockheart, Adriano Adewale and Ben Barritt. I am also working on a new duo project in Berlin with one of my favourite piano players in the world, Pedro Carneiro Silva. We are in the middle of co-writing for an album that we hope to record in 2016.
If you’d like to know a little bit more about how I arrived at this point in time, read on…
I was born in the Philippines to a Filipina sculptor mother called Agnes Arellano and a British businessman (and once upon a time writer and poet) Michael Adams. Musically, my journey began like almost everyone’s- as a child at the piano. After that I went through a multitude of instruments before finally settling on the saxophone at ten years old, which brought me my first taste of jazz. The first jazz album I ever bought was a Louis Armstrong double disc compilation. I loved it, and especially loved to hear it on rainy days. By 14, I had moved schools and started singing standards with the school jazz band. I also sang at home with my mother, who taught me songs from her heyday- Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and James Taylor to name a few- which brought in a whole other stream of songs that I began to love.
At 19, I started studying at the University of the Philippines as a saxophone player, because that was the only way I could get to play jazz in a classical institution and there was the added perk that my sax teacher also played in my band. I was working as a jazz singer most nights by this point and I was invited to sing at a concert organized by the British Council Manila, which featured Courtney Pine. I sang the well-known standard God Bless the Child and to my complete surprise got offered a record deal by Candid Records about a week later. It turns out that one of their reps in the audience sent my video to the head office in London. Within two weeks I was signed and had a recording planned, and the album was then released about 6 months later. It was called (unsurprisingly) God Bless the Child. My partnership with them continued up until two years ago, when we parted ways amicably. It was a fruitful time, and we released four albums altogether- God Bless the Child (2005), Space (2007), Willow Weep for Me (2010) and Stranger on the Shore (2011).
About a year and a half after signing with Candid I moved to London to study a Masters in Jazz (as a vocalist this time) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (2006-07) – one of the most intimidating years of my life, but one in which I met some incredibly inspiring people and made some of my closest friends. I made a life for myself in London working as a singing teacher (and eventually as a part time Thai Masseuse) and playing with some wonderful musicians.
After my Masters I started a choir with a dear friend from Guildhall and Pete Churchill (who was our favourite teacher there) called the London Vocal Project, which has grown more than any of us ever expected- we’ve worked with amazing people like John Dankworth, Cleo Laine, Kenny Wheeler, Bobby McFerrin, and Albert Hera among others and the project continues to thrive. After my studies, ended up moving away from jazz for a while and started a love affair with samba, joining Rhythms of the City– a samba group led by Barak Schmool of the F-IRE Collective– who I performed with regularly for 4 years as a percussionist and vocalist all over England, Scotland, and even Rio de Janeiro. In this time I also ran a monthly residency at the Vortex Jazz Club in London, inviting new guests each month to perform a set and collaborate with my band at the end of the night.
Since then I travelled for a year and a half with my partner to places I never thought I’d get to visit, like South America, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Southeast Asia and a visit home to the Philippines. While we were in Manila I recorded my first independent album since the end of my record deal called Songs from the Deep, featuring my long-time friend and collaborator, Ben Barritt. We also did a very fun and hugely successful Philippine tour, which ended with a bang at the Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival, where I got to headline alongside Jose Gonzalez, Roy Ayers, Omar and Robert Glasper Experiment.
Life continues to be unpredictable and exciting, and having the best of two cities (musically and otherwise) feels like an incredible privilege.