Esi Acquaah-Harrison is a vocalist with Totem. I recently had the chance to sit down for coffee with her and hear about the extraordinary evolution (no pun intended) of her career.
Esi spent most of her growing-up years in Ghana. Though she had a knack for singing from a very young age, she didn't begin to take it seriously until she joined the school choir, and a school band. In highschool, these successful groups provided her first experiences with television, recording studios and interviews.
After highschool, Esi moved to London to live with her sister and go to accounting school. She immediately followed this with an accounting job, and music took a backseat for awhile. She did gradually begin attending church and joining gospel choirs, and these choirs would began to shape her musical training. The London Community Gospel Choir was the most significant of these - as a large, long-standing choir, it gave her opportunities for travel and bigger gigs.
It wasn't until 2006 that Esi really took the leap into singing full-time. She auditioned for the role of Rafiki in The Lion King, and, after some stiff competition, she was awarded the role. She performed at Disneyland Resort Paris from 2007-2009, and it was her first real experience with acting. For 21 months she did 12-13 shows per week.
Between the end of The Lion King and the beginning of Totem, there were 6 months of uncertainty - but once the casting agents at Cirque du Soleil found her, they were quickly hooked on her unique style. She was in London at the time, and had never seen a Cirque show. Videos went back and forth, and within days Cirque flew her over to Montreal to meet in person.
Esi is enjoying traveling with Totem. She says she appreciates being able to do a job where she can sing different styles, and use her range. She likes being able to make sounds [that aren't really a language] into a language. She also appreciates the great cast she works with - mature professionals, who are encouraging and supportive of one another; it's a very healthy atmosphere to work in.
Esi sings throughout the show, but I will always associate her with my favorite song (and act) in Totem, the double trapeze, and Qué Viyéra. You can play it here, Track 8.