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Barista Sings the Blues: Making the Dream of a Blues Band Real

Envision having a promising career moving up the corporate ladder at Starbucks. Then the coffee conglomerate decides to hold an employee wide contest; NOT about coffee, but rather a search for soloists or bands to submit original songs.  In 2007, over 800 original songs were submitted by Starbucks’ partners (employees) – one of them being by Khalfani Makalani’s band.

From the moment Khalfani decided to be in the contest, his life changed forever. At the time, Khalfani had worked at Starbuck’s for thirteen years, seven of which as a store manager, and thought it might be fun to put together a band for this endeavor.  His father, a member of a local blues band, volunteered to help.  Khalfani never sang blues before this contest and even though the band was not selected for the final CD, they were one of the finalists in Chicago and the song was played on the radio.  The biggest achievement was to fulfill a lifelong dream to perform with his father on stage.  As a result of his performances with the band, Khalfani chose to end his Starbuck’s career and is now able to follow his passion for singing and performing the blues in front of a live audience.

This life-changing journey was a direct result of Khalfani’s participation in Landmark Education’s Team, Management         and        Leadership Program. There he created a project called “Being Behind Blues” to pursue his passion. During this project, Team has allowed him to get trained on creating a background of relatedness with others, completing measurable goals he promised for the week, being in integrity, and putting in structures for creating the foundation of success. “When I was a kid I dreamed of having a band, touring and performing. With Team, I was able to see that my dreams really are possible. I realized that I had to take 100% responsibility and create teams and teamwork to fulfill on what I really wanted. I realized that it was not something that would never happen but that COULD happen.”

“Being on TEAM Chicago has helped when I was stopped. Team coached me on how to restart, to create structures, to not take things personally, to be present to who I am as a possibility, my stand, and to create teams and team work in any situation.”

Khalfani’s project has changed significantly since he began this journey. It has grown larger than he could have ever imagined.  He  now has a producer and has joined a well-known band in the Chicago blues scene consisting of musicians that have been playing for 10-20 years. He finds it to be very true what is stated in the Communication: Access to Power course  –   Your   word   creates   your world!! He stated he wanted to have younger blues players seen, known and heard on the Chicago Blues scene and he is definitely leading the pack!!

As a result of being on Team Chicago, Khalfani, a younger blues player himself, is following his passion and singing blues on stage with much older 60 and 70 year old players who have formed the blues scene of Chicago for years.  His band is scheduled to open shows for the legendary Buddy Guy this year.  They are on the playing rotation for two clubs, most notably the Harlem Avenue Blues Lounge, one of the premier blues spots in Chicago. Important to him and his community, Khalfani is proud to be making a difference in the lives of younger blues musicians. That’s a contribution that will continue the legacy of Chicago blues well into the future.

Khalfani Makalani, Team Heartland Chicago

By Edith Washington, Heartland Chicago

Written by Edith Washington and Laura Miller, Seattle