When did you make the decision to become a musician?
At at an Agape Choir concert dress rehearsal. think i was 15. i almost passed out from the feeling. i’ll never forget that moment. i knew that i would sing for real. The song was called “Child of The Sun”.
How do you approach your sound?
With eager silence…and once i get an idea of where i’m going to go, i give it all i got… or, declaime steps in the room and say, “smack them beats!” and i’m back on it, giving it all i got. i got a great life.
How has Eurocentricity and patriarchy affected our music?
I think that it’s affected our mental space by commodifying the arts into an abstract form of entertainment (i.e. a backdrop to a lifestyle), as opposed to the First Mind that creates art out of natural function. In other words: IT GAVE US THE BLUES (a space in between both worlds)!
Why is it important to honor our ancestors? How are you able to be new and at the same time ancient?
It’s Important to be able break thru the time/space barrier on a regular basis and seek counsel from a wider perspective. it’s important to know that we need and are needed by the wisest of who have come before us. i strive to honor them by contemplating the essence of natural things, and raising my kids the best way i know how.
It is so powerful that you use music as a healing method, can you talk about this process and comment on the destructive nature that the majority of music has taken.
hmmm. i think it’s always been around. can’t call it. it’s just what i (have to) do. but i think what occurs in artists is a varied level of sensitivity. Some folks are tuned in to the mechanics of what is possible with sound, others tune into how sound might make them appear, others may be interested in how selling a record could help them survive. just different sensitivities….but i’m more on the molecular tip.
This is month is the vocalist issue at The Revivalist, what vocalists have inspired you/speak through you?
a gang of ’em. my mom, dudley perkins, curtis mayfield, abbey lincoln, nina simone, andy bey, aretha franklin, nate dogg, latoiya williams, truth hurts, diva gray, mortonette stephens, brenda marie eager, george clinton, gary shider, chaka khan, carmen mcrae, gary bartz (as a singer), jean carn, betty carter, dwight tribble, frankie beverly, carol wheeler, larry blackmon, sweet honey in the rock, bobby mcferrin, minnie riperton, lauryn hill, angelo moore, erykah badu, johnny hartman, gladys knight, milton nascimento, luther vandross, patti labelle, h.r., joyce kennedy, shirley murdock, cyndi lauper, rev. june gatlin, poly styrene, james brown, ella fitzgerald and a whole gang of a lot more of ’em. you name it, i love ’em.
What is your relationship to your voice?
love/hate. but we stay sheddin….releasing anger, singin easier every year.
Who are some of your influences beyond music?
my husfriend and children. ra un nefer amen. fred hampton. angela davis. safiya bukhari. sis. lola coleman. sis. cary. bro. okonkwo. marcus garvey. lost family members as a result of violence. john africa. veronza bowers. mutulu shakur. mumia abu jamal. kathleen cleaver. mrs. turiyasangitananda coltrane. my network of aunties. dr. phil valentine. dr. jewell pookrum. aiyana jones. the wind. water. the earth. planting a bean and watching it jam….there’s a whole lot more.
Can you talk about your musical alias’ such as Jyoti and Vweto? What do these names mean? How did you go about receiving them?
jyoti was given to me by a special person, for a very special reason. i have my aunt radha to thank…she stay on the lookout for my well being. vweto is the name of an album i released….
Your writing is so beautiful and it effortlessly entwines within your music. It reminds me of chanting. How is your spirituality reflected in your music?
i’ve always been the tribal type…always. lol. my spiritual work is everything to me. cause i’ve got a loooong way to go. so i’m sheddin’. till i get it right. even after, there’s a part of me that sings it every time it’s played. so, yeah. chant-like is the goal.
I find that hip-hop is one of the most sonically integrative spaces of music, containing sounds from all over the world, can you speak on this?
i agree. that’s why i love it. we work with folks from all over the world. they all put they own stank on it. that’s dope to me.
You have a new project with Madlib, Seeds, what was it like working with another producer?
it was great. kept me focused on a rawer vibe than usual. i am blessed, and honored by it.
You have accomplished so much in your career, and you have a wealth of music under your belt what are your future goals and aspirations for your music?
thanks a lot! well i guess the main goal is to keep it incredibly funky. no matter what kind of music i end up doing. the fonk is the jugular vein of my tribe’s musical expression, so just preserving that will be wonderful in the days to come. moving hearts to value one another would be dope too.
Interview by Tamara Davidson
Words by Georgia Anne Muldrow