March 26, 2010

Category: Grooves

Nina Simone Tribute @Harlem Stage


Tonight at Harlem Stage, the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra┬ápresents one of their most captivating incarnations– their all-female tribute to the inimitable Nina Simone. I saw this tribute at the Schomburg and like The High Priestess of Soul herself, it was brazenly exhilarating. It was unmitigated Blackness! The 18-piece ensemble, which also performed in France is directed by Tamar-kali and features Imani Uzuri, Joi, Lisala Beatty, Latasha Natasha Nevada Diggs, Angela Johnson, Toli Nameless, Somi, and many others. I asked a few of the performers to share some of their thoughts on Nina Simone and also on their tributes tonight.


Why do you think Nina Simone still resonates today?
Dr. Nina Simone is an iconoclast, disrupting expectations at every turn. She is Kali, she is Durga, she is Oya riding the wind; a symbol that after destruction there is an opportunity for transformation.

What Nina song most informs who you are and why?
The first Nina Simone song I heard was her version of the traditional Scottish folk song “Black Is The Color of My True Loves Hair.” I was blown away by the simple majesty and power of her phrasing, voice and emotional intention. The song that has personally impacted my musical life is one of her own original compositions, “Fodder On Her Wings”. I wrote a new arrangement of the song with guitarist Marvin Sewell for my first album Her Holy Water: A Black Girl’s Rock Opera. The lyrics offer profound insight for all of us who are seeking.

What song will you be performing?
The favorite song that I perform for this tribute is “Sinnerman.” I love the passion and driving rhythm. For me, it is a call to personal accountability.

If you had a chance to ask or tell Nina anything what would it be?
Thank you. Thank you for being bold and brave and being You. Your realness is an inspiration in a world that often rewards complacency and conformity. Even in your broken moments, you found a way to share and heal. Thank you for letting us see you.

What other projects are you currently working on?
I am continuing to develop a multi-media musical theater piece /rock opera based on the music from my first album, exploring coming of age memories/mythologies from my youth in rural North Carolina and my nomadic world travels. I am also excitedly working on my 2nd album.


Why do you think Nina Simone still resonates today?
She cut a figure that is undeniable ’til this day. Her work as an activist and artist were equally powerful. That combined with her authentic brand of rebellion place her at a uniquely legendary status.

What Nina song most informs who you are and why?
Minus the exchange of money I like to look at “See Line Woman” as informative of who I will be after 60.

If you had a chance to ask or tell Nina anything what would it be?
Thank you, for your uncompromising will to be known, seen and respected. So many lives have grown richer from your presence.

What other projects are you currently working on?
Releasing my 1st full length LP this summer. Taking Cabaret Chocolat on the road for 2011.


Why do you think Nina Simone still resonates today?

This woman had a lot on her mind and every song, every performance illustrated this. These items are very much rooted in the Black Arts Movement, in the second wave of feminists namely Audre Lorde. It was at this very moment that many people began to go beyond what was political (whether it was Civil Rights, Black Power, etc…) to announce to everyone EVERYTHING that makes us human. Her work is relevant because many of us have taken on a mentality that is both pessimistic and tired of fighting. Yes, Nina did have some pessimism in her work but it never muted everything going on and we need to be reminded…all of us do.

What Nina song most informs who you are and why?

4 Women. Several years ago, I did a metal re-interpretation of it in Spanish. I connected with the level of loneliness, bitterness and fight each of these women had.

What song will you be performing?

“Pirate Jenny” and “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter”

Is that your favorite song?

“Pirate Jenny” is originally from a Brecht play and her ability to turn it into a pro Black, black mutiny anthem cracks me up. I’ve known of the song for a long time and it has now grown on me as a favorite because I’m listening so much to her execution and affectation on the lyrics. “Funkier..” is just a fun song to mess with. It’s sensual and political at the same time.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I recently produced and directed a tribute concert in honor of Miriam Makeba, Odetta, Abbey Lincoln and Eartha. It premiered last summer at Lincoln Center and had its second, sold out, performance at the Schomburg Library. I am also a LMCC Artist in Residency currently working on several text, sound and video projects.

** Unfortunately tonight’s show is sold-out. But Harlem Stage is bringing the noise this Spring and two other shows you need to be checking for are The Roy Hargrove Tribute with Pete Rock and The Robert Glasper Experiment on April 24thh and Homecooking With Wunmi on May 22nd.

*** And if you’re in Detroit TOMORROW, rejoice because you have a chance to catch Tamar-kali, Imani Uzuri and poet jessica Care Moore strut their stuff in a FREE tribute to Black Women’s Rock and Betty Davis at the Charles Wright Museum.

It’s Women’s History Month so if you can’t make either of these show please try to find a way to commemorate and celebrate the goodness, beauty and brilliance of our Black Women heroes.


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2 Responses to “Nina Simone Tribute @Harlem StageComment RSS feed

  • Grace
    March 29th, 2010 1:55 pm

    Great post, but i’d just make a note to put a NSFW at the top please. i was browsing this at work and could have gotten some flack for it. thanks!

  • theHotness Grrrl
    March 30th, 2010 10:50 pm

    You’re right Grace. I’m sorry about that.