Meet Lady Tambourine: She Makes Fire With Her Hands

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – If you’ve ever seen this woman play her instrument of choice, chances are you’ll never forget it.

Meet Rosalee Ashton Washington, or Lady Tambourine as she’s known.

Her desire to play started with a vision she had of a relative in church.

Washington says, “I was 5 years old when I saw my Nana or Godmother playing the tambourine in church, and she was singing her favorite song, ‘Power, power, Lord. Power, power, Lord.’ And I saw fire all around her and I turned around to see if anyone was going to run and put the fire out because her dress would catch on fire. She kept on playing and I said, ‘She makes fire like that. Lord, I wish I could play like that.'”

Lady Tambourine has been playing for decades, but she came to our attention a few years ago at Jazz Fest in the Gospel Tent.

She started there backing up the Banks Family, years ago with a show on senior citizen’s day.

Washington stated, “This year made 20 years, 2 decades of me playing at the Gospel Tent at the Jazz Fest.”

LBJ: “And it started with you turning it out with them old folks.”

Washington: “Yes, helping someone else and God making room for my gift.”

One year, after being told she couldn’t play with a particular group in the gospel tent, Lady Tambourine decided to spread wings and explore playing with others outside of the gospel arena, exposing her to a larger group of people, but also giving us more opportunities to hear her.

“So I started playing with the Indians and different bands, and I got a chance in ’96 at the Essence Festival to play with Stevie Wonder, and I’ve played with him twice,” she says.

Lady Tambourine has played with Leanne Rhimes and Beyonce in the movies, with Wyclef Jean and with Faith Hill in the Vagina Monologues, and with her husband Tim McGraw back at the fest.

Obviously, these big stars see the same thing in her that we do:  She’s a master!

She says her biggest compliments come from the fans:  “Everyone says, ‘You woke me up!’ I just, ‘Wow! You were it! I felt the power. I never seen a tambourine played like that in my life. You’re a legend!'”