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Judi Singh

Judi SinghIn 1910, Judi Singh's grandparents came from Oklahoma to Edmonton, Alberta. Her mother, Effie Jones, was an African American, and her grandmother was a Choctaw Indian. Effie’s father Jason Calvin Jones and mother were originally from Mississippi, and they had five children; Effie was the oldest. Effie married a man from India who was one of the first South Asians in Alberta, having come to the province during the 1920s. After working in Chisholm, Alberta, he moved to Edmonton, where he met Effie at Shiloh Baptist Church.

Judi’s family, the Jones family, was one of the founding families of Amber Valley. Unfortunately, Judi’s maternal grandmother got sick and died shortly after moving to Amber Valley in 1916. After her death, her husband Jason Jones brought the family to Edmonton. To make their living, Effie and her sisters found domestic work in the city. Much of the family split up, but while they lived apart, they often reunited at Shiloh Baptist Church, where the Jones daughters all met their husbands.

Effie’s daughter, Judi Singh, grew up in Edmonton. Judi and her sisters Hazel, Bunty, and Patricia (Teasa) were all singers. Judi and Bunty were very interested in jazz music; as children, they would buy jazz records and sheet music. By the time Judi was 17, she was singing in front of an audience, first at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton and then, at the age of 18, for CBC radio and on television shows. She was a soloist for several large and small bands, and she often worked alongside Tommy Banks, one of Edmonton’s most renowned musicians and host of a CBC television music variety show for 15 years. Judi is still friends with Tommy Banks, now a senator.

Music was an important tradition among Alberta Blacks. Gospel and blues music brought families together and created a strong sense of community. Music was very central in the life of Judi’s family, and most of her family was musically inclined. Judi’s sister, Bunty, also sang at the Yardbird Suite before moving to Toronto. Judi’s cousin, Kenny Chaney, was also musicaly inclined having formed, with others, the Yardbird Suite in 1952. He eventually moved to Chicago where where he studied composition at Roosevelt University and worked with such jazz greats as Milt Jackson, Donald Byrd, Slide Hampton, Harold Land, Bobby Hutchison, Max Roach, Randy Crawford, Chet Baker, Clark Terry, and many others.

Judi Singh continues to work as a musician in North America. She has sung at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre for Music, at Victoria’s Royal Theatre, and in concert halls in New York and Los Angeles. As a musician, she has been influenced by a diverse array of musical genres, including her father’s Indian music, her mother’s Black gospel music, Alberta’s country songs, and African and Latin music traditions that she has researched on her own. Despite her fame, Judi remains down to earth. She credits her success to the support and musical inspiration of her father, who carved and played his own wooden flutes, and to her mother, who sang gospel music.

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