Aviva and The Flying Penguins will bring their brand of world beat music and social activism to Cafe 290 tonight, May 18.  Also on the bill for Thursday night is an impromptu vocal improv group including Elise Witt and Tommy Dean.

Aviva says she and the Flying Penguins have been working together as an ensemble for eight years.  To this end, they employ a variety of instruments and include a dancer to get the audience up on their feet. She says their aim is interesting good music and creating a loving atmosphere. Aviva is joined in this performance by South African singer and percussionist Simon Zulu, percussionist Bobby Andre and dancer Jenny Nichols. The group will perform music from their 2012 album “Painted Truth” and from their latest,  “Key of You.”

Aviva grew up in West Hempstead on Long Island. She says she was always making up melodies as a child, but abandoned music to find a more normal way of making a living. In college she studied cognitive development in children but took a year off to attend acting classes in New York. On a visit to Atlanta she heard a Native American singer, Cherokee Rose, at a festival. Her song “All the Wild Horses” inspired Aviva to get back into writing music. She realized, “I don’t have to be a pop star to inspire with my music.”

Aviva decided not to go back to theater school and to stay in Atlanta. She says she literally opened the phone book and called the first number her finger landed on. It was an Indian restaurant in Marietta. She contacted the restaurant and asked if they needed a musician and they agreed to hire her. She played there weekly and at an Ethiopian restaurant as well.

Aviva experimented with jazz lounge singing and succeeded in booking gigs but didn’t enjoy performing covers. She says it was like “putting on a shoe that didn’t fit.” She became an activist after learning that Henry Ford had made a car that ran off cannabis fuel. She wrote a song called “Cannabis Car” to celebrate green fuel. She says she played open mics and sold Cd’s in front of local music venues. She gained popularity and now she and her group play clubs and festivals throughout the region.

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and writer. His new album of music and poetry is Don’t Go Back To Sleep