Last month while channel surfing, I caught a segment
on Tavis Smileys show where he was interviewing three Black female
video directorsNzingha Stewart, Fatima Sayeed and Cathy Irby Durant.
I watched clips of each of their videos, curious to see what kind of techniques
these sistas possessed. Nzingha had directed Bilals Soul Sista,
Fatima a song by dancehall artist Shaggy and Cathy had directed a video
for a local rap group in the South. Soul Sista featured all
of these beautiful shots of women that were sophisticated and nuanced.
The Shaggy video was, well shaggy. But it was Cathys video that
made my jaw drop. Her video featured more scantily clad women than a Mystikal
video. It was all T&A. Not that I am surprised to see naked women
in music videos, but by and large these videos are directed by men. So
when Tavis asked the panel, What do you bring to the genre from
a female perspective, I couldnt wait to hear Cathys
answer. And without pause Ms. Durant looked at the two other women and
then Tavis and proudly responded, there are no thongs in my video.
If thats what she believes makes female direction distinctive, then
Cathy missed the point and the opportunity to challenge the stereotype.
As mothers and sisters we are blessed with a beautiful sense of self.
This gentle fire is apparent in this months featured Hot Girl, Sade,
who uncompromisingly still sells millions of records without wearing a
bikini or shakin that ass. Her music as well as her videos represents
the sophisticated, yet edgy sensibility that historically made women like
Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge and Angela Davis iconic, beautiful and sexy.
by Greg Tate
out in the boondocks. Somewhere on a West Hollywood soundstage. A Sade
video shoot is in effect-- she is a beatific vision plucking magic berries
for her juju bag from a magic berry tree. She is barefoot, long and sable-haired,
and as paradoxically unreal and rooted in the now as ever. Even after
umpteen takes that make video production seem like a stray cousin of migrant
farm labor, she rises from her haunches to pluck that damn berry one more
time, strolling to the edge of a fantasy island with the maintenance of
the most placid composure in perdition.
At last count Sade had sold about 20 million albums domestically and more
than 40 million worldwide. Lovers Rock is their first studio album in
eight years. We first fall in love with Helen Folosade Adu, 33, the moment
Diamond Life's Smooth Operator'' and Hang On To Your Love''
caught hold of our ears. Two instant classics as catchy as anything Michael,
Marvin or Stevie Wonder put out at their peaks and equally possessive
of that peculiar magic that keeps certain songs going in boudoirs and
discos from now until the next ice age. Sades music is multipurpose,
transcending categories--dance, romance, business deals. You can easily
lose yourself in the headphones. The simplicity of the grooves belie the
complexity of the verses where an almost Shakespearean world of epic romantic
betrayals and thwarted desires unfold. If Sade never made another disc
their chapter in pop history would be insured, but a new album now begs
a pertinent question, well actually we asked five:
theHotness: You lived in Nigeria until
you were four. Do you have real strong memories of Africa from your childhood?
Sade: I remember things more to do
with the atmosphere, the smells, the food and my grandma. She was an incredibly
strong woman. She built her own one story house in the village. The other
wives slept in these almost kennels behind the house. She was an herbalist
who traveled around the country collecting plants for medicines and to
make special fertility soaps for the women. The first thing she did (with
me) was the most shocking event. She showed me this chicken and I said,
Oh what a beautiful chicken. Then she broke its neck and it was in a stew.
I couldn't eat the meat because it was still warm from just being alive.
My father found some paper for me to spit it out in and we carried this
bundle around for four or five hours until we could dispose of it somewhere
nobody could discover it. We're so far removed in the culture we live
in from the real world. The video we made for By My Side is about how
the city is the unreal world and not the other way around as its
usually depicted. I haven't been back to Nigeria since my grandmother
died. I haven't lost my connection and don't feel cut off from Nigeria
but she was always so concerned about who we connected with and she wouldn't
give my address to anybody. She got us out of the village before sunrise
and did a lot of ritualistic stuff to protect us. I don't know. It's like,
now moms not there anymore. She was like my guide and my protector. I
keep in touch with the relatives she looked after. I would like to go
back, but its very different going back now as Sade.
tH: Growing up, when did you become
conscious of race as an issue in society?
Sade: I remember sitting in a sewing
class, an all-white class. In my school there was one other black person--and
we were making felt bags and I remember looking down and thinking, their
hands are white and mine aren't. It was a really weird moment. Like
a conscious switch going off. It didn't give me a problem because I've
always been proud of who I am and where I come from. I think thats
what Immigrant is about too-- getting through a day and getting on with
your life, relationships, food for your family and such is hard enough.
You dont need all that other stuff on top. I think its much
harder for men. It's easier being a woman because you're not considered
a threat the way black men are considered a threat. My brother would get
stopped in his car and get called a black bastard. You have to know you're
better than that and rise above the person. If they treat you that way
they're really beneath you.
tH: When did music come into your
Sade: My dad played music all the
time. Wherever we went he had his music on. When he came to visit us we'd
go to a record shop. I hate to say that one of the records I chose was
called Swinging Safari. That's a skeleton in my closet. But dad loved
Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and soul music. He just absolutely loved
music. I was lucky because when I turned eleven ska was coming in and
the skinhead movement was in full force so all the kids were wearing six
inch cuffs and their loafers and low socks. It was almost a miracle ska
came to my little village when I was about 12 or 13. I used to tune into
this pirate radio station and they played stuff like Sly Stone, Gil Scott
Heron, Simon and Garfunkel, just proper music. That was my little lighthouse
that radio station.
tH: What did you think about your
voice back then?
Sade: Not much. I loved writing (songs)
but to get up on stage and sing
I really was sinking most of the
time. I wasnt technically prepared to be standing on stage singing
to audiences. It was quite a terrible experience. Horrific actually, oh
god. My voice had the same qualities it has now, but I've relaxed now.
I'm not so frightened. Most people have some background, like singing
in church. I sang in church when I was little, but mostly stayed in the
background so I could just collect my ten pence and two shillings at the
end of the week. I actually think my voice is still developing.
tH: Do you think that the birth of
your daughter, Ila, has affected your music?
Sade: I think it affected my whole
approach to the album. What I generally wait for is the calm when there's
no bullets flying anywhere and I can come out of the trenches before I
make an album. I had no desire to do anything but be there for La and
I still do. It's a big concern for me and I will make everything work
around her. I don't believe in that thing of having a nanny and dragging
your child around everywhere. I'm in a position of not being a single
mom who has to go out and earn the crust and bring it back. I'm in the
position where I'm privileged and not needing to work. I do have the pressure
from the band, their desire to carry on creating. I do have my intrinsic
desire to create and to be an artist and that's not even an ego thing.
It's about having a purpose. But when you are a mother, that is your purpose.
For the first three years of her life I had no desire to write music.
Even after I'd committed to the band to do it, I didn't really have the
desire. To write from scratch you do have to commit yourself for it to
have any value. But I realized the band has been patient all these years.
They've done other things but really what they want to do is another Sade
album. I thought at first that I could work it out. Go to the studio and
get back to make dinner. Then I realized I couldn't work that way. This
thing is rolling and I have to make it work with the least expense on
Ila. I had to have a real purpose. I couldn't justify my time away from
her. I'm not undermining the other albums but this time I was more conscious.
Everything had to have a reason. I'm not saying it was dead serious. We
had fun and good times, but it is quite heavy making an album. In a way
it made me stronger. Like people used to ask me what it was like being
a woman in the music business. And it's not something you intellectualize.
Its more of a feeling thing. Whatever I did had to be worthy of
making the choice.
~ Greg Tate is a brother that Sade would consider a double threat.
TO THE TOP
of Maladies is Jhumpa Lahiris rich and delicate debut collection
of short stories about human behavior and experience. Lahiri, 32, who
was born in London to Bengali parents and raised in the United States,
weaves nine tales about people with backgrounds much like her own to provide
an intimate look into Indian life, cultural values and customs. Most of
the stories are written from a perspective that is between the two cultures,
dealing with some of the internal conflicts that can rise out of the Indian-American
In the first story, A Temporary Matter we find a young Indian-American
couple, Shukumar and Shoba wrestling with the gradual dissolution of their
marriage after the stillborn birth of Shobas first baby. In the
grips of an electrical power failure the couple must confront their inability
to communicate the pain they are feeling over the death of their child.
Shoba and I had become experts at avoiding each other in our three
bedroom house, spending as much time on separate floors as possible. I
no longer looked forward to weekends, when she sat for hours on the sofa.
I think of how long it has been since Shoba has looked into my eyes and
smiled, or whispered my name on those rare occasions when we reached for
each others bodies before sleeping, admits Shukumar a college
professor on sabbatical. It is only in this physical and emotional darkness
that they are finally able to voice the angst that they have kept silent.
Our baby was a boy. His skin was more red than brown. He had black
hair on his head. He weighted almost five pounds. His fingers were curled
shut, just like yours in the night. These were the things Shukumar
was now telling his wife for the first time, a promise he made to himself
that he would never do. For Shukumar remembering his stillborn son was
an attempt to find redemption from God and from his wife.
An even more masterful example of Lahiris skill with juxtaposing
subtlety and evocation is the title story, Interpreter of Maladies.
In this tale Mr. Kapasi an Indian tour guide in India sees reflections
of his own unhappy marriage in the bickering of an Indian-American tourist
family: He wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Das were a bad match just as
he and his wife were. Perhaps they, too, had little in common apart from
the children and a decade of their lives. The signs he recognized from
his own marriage were there the bickering, the indifference, the
Throughout her collection of short stories, Lahiris language is
gentle yet direct; her characters flawed, real and familiar. Interpreter
of Maladies moves the reader through a web of seemingly dysfunctional
relationships, giving light and clarity to the chaos as well as to the
mysterious voids within.
~ Stephanie Mohorn knows that some things are not better left unsaid.
TO THE TOP
for American Banker
Banker Appoints Eleanor Dixson-Hobbs, First Female Publisher in 165-Year
History (PR Newswire) Eleanor Dixson-Hobbs has been named Publisher for
American Banker. She is the first woman to head the 165 year-old daily
newspaper, as well as the first African-American in the role.
American Banker, a Thomson Financial publication, has been the banking
and financial service industry's premier daily source of information,
news and analysis. For more information about American Banker and its
related products and services, please visit Americanbanker.com.
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