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Fiidla on the March

January 14, 2005—Not long after graduating from IUP, Owen Brown M’96 was selected to be music director for the 1997 Million-Woman March in Philadelphia.

Violinist

Owen Broan "Fiidla"

Owen “Fiidla” Brown

With a résumé including studies in vocal and instrumental music, voice training, dance, massage, holistic medicine, emergency medicine, martial arts, and sound engineering, Brown had already been involved in social- and community-related issues.

“They wanted someone who could handle the music, make the stage work, and had the right spirit,” he said. He chose the music, coordinated the musicians for the day’s events, and even performed a violin and drum duet with West African percussionist Babatunde Olatunji.

Born in London, Brown moved to America with his mother and settled in New York City. He began singing jazz and R&B, and decided that he wanted to find his identity by playing “black” music on the violin. It became his instrument of choice, and his virtuosity with the violin soon earned him the nickname “Fiidla.”

His advisor at IUP was Carl Rahkonen, and Brown remains grateful that he was allowed to take a leave from classes in 1995 for a fourteen-city Asian tour as one of the leads in the pop group Surface.

Brown also tap dances, sings with a four-octave range, and conducts a Philadelphia-based orchestra called Chocolate Wireworks that performs his music with strings, flutes, guitars, and rare instruments from around the world. His music is a mix of world music, jazz, Indian, hip-hop, and spoken word that he calls “World Soul.”

“Whether singing, speaking, or playing, my music interprets love relationships, social injustice, and spirituality through the soul of the Black experience,” he said.

Fiidla has recorded with numerous artists, including Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Kim, Santana, and George Clinton. He released a CD in 2004 called The State of Things (available at www.cdbaby.com/cd/fiidla), and his music has been getting play on several independent radio stations and internet stations. In December, Chocolate Wireworks performed “Violin in Black,” a retrospective and history of violin music in the hands of black jazz violinists from the 1920s to the present day.

Brown is also a voice trainer and fuses vocal care and development with nutritional advice, physical training, aromatherapy, and massage.

Samples of Fiidla’s music are available on his website at www.fiidla.com.

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