Tuesday, June 7, 2022

On the Road with Kristine Alicia: Conscious Reggae Artist Rebuilds After Husband’s Death

 On the Road with
Kristine Alicia: Conscious Reggae Artist Rebuilds After Husband’s Death

By Shelah Moody


        







   March, 2022 was monumental for women in reggae. After a series of technical difficulties, Streetwise Radio is back up and finally able to run these blogs.

       Multiple Grammy winner Stephen Marley released a reggae tribute to icon Nina Simone, featuring notable female artists such as  Queen Ifrica, Cedella Marley and Etana, and Etana and dancehall star Spice prepared to attend the 2022 Grammy ceremony as nominees. Dancehall star Shensea released her debut album, “ Alpha,” and Koffee, the first woman to receive a Grammy in the Best Reggae Album category in 2020, released her sophomore album, “Gifted.”

       Enter conscious singer Kristine Alicia. Although she’s an indie artist who’s not yet signed to a big label, her voice is just as powerful. A former gospel singer, Kristine is currently making waves on the roots reggae circuit with her new single and video, “Hold Strong.” https://youtu.be/pm9VMJuw9Tk



     To watch the full interview with Kristine Alicia, go to: https://youtu.be/_7IV8PuO4fw


          Streetwise Radio: Where are you from and where did you grow up?


Kristine Alicia:  I was born in New Kingston, if anybody knows Trafalgar Park near Arden High School. I went to a private Christian school called Covenant Christian Academy. My dad was a music teacher and a pastor and my mom was a school teacher and she also taught at the school I went to. I studied a lot in books but my dad really taught me music; he’s the one who got me into playing the piano and groomed me in classical music, and of course, church music. 

I spent my teenage years in south Florida. I spent most of my adult years in Florida. I recently moved to Houston, Tx. 


Streetwise Radio: Talk about your role as a music teacher in Houston.


Kristine Alicia: I teach elementary to students in the Houston region. I’ve also taught in the schools in Florida. It’s a lot of fun; I’ve been doing it for nine years. I teach ukulele, xylophone, boomwhackers, handbells, music theory and performance. It’s my joy, my love. I also have one- on-one lessons teaching voice and piano. 


Streetwise Radio: Tell us about some of the women who influenced you.


Kristine Alicia: My mother, because of her strength and determination. I’ve seen her rising up as a strong woman despite how people have looked at her. She’s always a pioneer; always going into new ventures. Her heart is education.  Musically, I would say Sade and Marcia Griffiths. To me, those two singing  icons have always  represented  class and longevity. They were able to demonstrate their musical skills without selling out anything. I respect them.


Streetwise Radio:  What were some of the challenges that you faced in the age of COVID-19?


Kristine Alicia: Where some saw the lack of getting gigs during this time,  I used it to focus on writing and recording music. When we were told to stay home and I had to teach online; it gave me the opportunity to take care of my husband, who was fighting cancer. That was a blessing, I’m not gonna lie. It also taught me to look within myself and gain strength. 


Streetwise Radio: Have you written and dedicated any of your songs to your husband?


Kristine Alicia: “Black Diamond'' is a song that really represents how I was pushing through that time  and I think that other people can relate to coming out as a black diamond because of the struggles that push against you. You know, the symbolism. And then there’s a song called “Eternity,” that came out as well during that time period. It forced me to look at how we view the afterlife and what peace is truly about.  Given that my husband was fighting for his life; it led me to realize that the present is more important than focusing on the things that we are not sure of and what’s going to happen and focusing on the time that we have with our loved ones. 



Streetwise Radio: How does your gospel background influence your current music?


Kristine Alicia: Having a gospel background helps  my writing to always have a message of love and inspiration and reliance on a higher power. Conscious reggae, to me, is all about being inspirational and giving a positive message. The messages of my music still circle around giving hope and sending positive messages to light the darkness. 


Streetwise Radio: What projects are you currently working on?


Kristine Alicia: I just released the single and video  “Hold Strong”  and am about to release a few more singles and begin preparing for an EP. You can find my music on ITunes and Spotify. I have my own YouTube channel, where all my videos are featured. I love making videos; I’m blessed to work with good videographers who can match the videos with the song. 


Streetwise Radio: Tell us about your work with renown reggae and dancehall producers Rory Stone Love and Mikey Bennett.


Rory and Mikey helped with the production and writing of my album, “Songs from Zion.”  It was actually written during the time when I had just met my husband then we got married. The compilation of songs talked about my struggles to find answers from God; and my journey in the music industry. Rory was in charge of the production and getting all the right elements involved as well as recording and approving my vocals. Mikey was the one that approved the lyrics. It was a great combination; Rory’s experience producing dancehall and roots music and me coming from gospel made a great combination. Rory brought rhythms to me that were classic and modernized them. Of course, Mikey Bennett is a veteran songwriter; so it was a blessing to work with him. I grew a lot and I learned a lot.



Streetwise Radio: What advice do you have for women working in the business of reggae music today?


Kristine Alicia: We are all unique with many dimensions and beautiful energies. We should be proud of our diversified contribution to the industry and never have anyone compare us or keep us in a box.


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Second Line for Robbie Shakespeare By Shelah Moody

 

Seemed all one mutual cry. I never heard

“The skies, the mountains, every region near

So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.”

—William Shakespeare 


                                               Robert Warren Dale Shakespeare


 Like the British poet and playwright who bears the iconic last name, Robbie Shakespeare was a genius. His stories were not built with words or pentameter; he used notes, chords, and melodies to speak volumes and shape popular music.

         On Dec. 8, 2021, Robert Warren Dale Shakespeare, better known as half of the Grammy-winning drum and bass duo Sly and Robbie, died from complications caused by kidney failure. He was 68. To say that his death created a void in the music industry spoke volumes. 

      Robbie Shakespeare and his drummer partner Sly Dunbar formed Sly and Robbie in the early seventies in Kingston; JA. Pioneers in the roots reggae, disco, digital, and dancehall age, they performed on thousands of recordings and built riddims for Black Uhuru, Mighty Diamonds, Chaka Demus, and Pliers, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, No Doubt, and more.

       Crossover reggae dancehall artist and Grammy winner, Shaggy posted a black square on his Instagram account after hearing the news.

        “R.I.P. Not a good day.” Shaggy wrote.

       Throughout his career, Shaggy collaborated with Sly and Robbie on many projects, including “Shaggy and Friends” and “Out of Many, One Music.”

      Oddly, there were no posts by Gwen Stefani, who collaborated with Sly and Robbie with No Doubt to produce their 2001 album “Rock Steady.”

    British rock star Sting posted a clip of him and Shaggy jamming in the studio with Shakespeare.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CXP6hBAlqRW/?utm_medium=copy_link

    “We lost another giant today. #robbieshakespere,” Sting wrote.

    “Da One Ya heavvyyy!,” Grammy-nominated reggae artist Jesse Royal posted on Instagram.

   “Gratitude for the work, yes but also all the words of encouragement and the advice that u didn't have to share but always made it a point to do. The insight that I will never

overlook!!! Rest In Power Unks! The Word "Great" can't even truly define u!!! Jah Jah!

#RobbieShakespeare #Godly #Bass.”

       Heavy hitters Morgan Heritage also honored Shakespeare’s legacy in an Instagram post:

     “This loss is truly unexpected. Thank you for your greatness and your contribution to Reggae music. We'll never forget how you and Sly

opened your arms to us back in 1992 and continued to be instrumental throughout our career. May your legacy live on forever. #RIP Robbie.”

      

“Sheeeelah! I’ll never do another interview with you again!” 

   I was the press tent coordinator at the Monterey Bay Reggaefest one year, and Sly and Robbie were headliners.

       I’d convinced the loquacious Sly and the normal media-shy Robbie: to pop into the press tent for about five minutes and take questions from the grassroots press. 

       As it turned out, there were so many questions for the famed duo that they ended up in the press tent for nearly an hour. Robbie obviously had other places to go! 

          Another funny story about Robbie took place in Golden Gate Park at Michael Franti’s annual Power to the Peaceful Festival. 

   At the time,  I didn’t think Robbie even remembered my name; so I was surprised when he called me over as I was walking through the backstage area. 

    What he wanted to tell me was that one of the cats in his band dug me. I laughed and told him thanks but I dug someone else. Robbie laughed; his laughter was robust.

   I always thought of Robbie as round; robust; round sound on the bass; robust lifestyle. Robust appetite. Once I saw him sitting in Popeyes’s chicken before a gig at the Independent in SF. I did not bother him. 

    Over the years, I’d follow Sly and Robbie on tour with special guests such as Cherine Anderson, Mykal Rose, and Bitty McLean. The last time I saw Robbie was at the Sweetwater Cafe in Marin and he gave me the biggest hug and then he was gone. During the show; I noticed that Robbie was maybe not feeling his best; because he was sitting down while playing the bass. 

     I had a bad feeling when Robbie was absent from Sly and Robbie’s 2019 gig at the Longboard Margarita Bar in Pacifica, CA, that something was wrong. Famed Jamaican musician Lloyd Parks performed in his place.

     Right now, my prayers go out to Robbie’s family and his longtime musical partner, Sly Dunbar. Let us embrace Sly and give Sly his flowers while he’s still alive. May we continue to support artists of this caliber and continue to support their music.

     Such sweet thunder.



Wednesday, October 13, 2021

R&B Great Martin Luther McCoy Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s Iconic Album at SFJAZZ







By Shelah Moody


      San Francisco native and acclaimed vocalist/musician Martin Luther McCoy is the epitome of style and cool.  Perhaps for those reasons, the silky tenor was chosen by SFJAZZ to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s iconic 1971 album “What’s Going On.” Luther and his eclectic band perform the songs of “What’s Going On” Sunday, Oct. 17 at SFJAZZ Center. https://www.sfjazz.org/tickets/productions/martin-luther-mccoy-whats-going-on/.

     Here’s a snippet of my recent conversation with Martin Luther McCoy. To see the full interview; and to hear McCoy sing a few acapella tracks, check out the following video. 


Streetwise Radio: For the youngsters out there, tell us what you know about Marvin’s iconic album and its relevance in 2021. 


Martin Luther McCoy:  I mean, it’s Marvin Gaye. It’s one of the best to ever have done it. It’s always a challenge to do anything with the music of the greats. Some of us might be charged with holding the torch and keeping it in the air; keeping it alive in the now and not just samples or clips of something from yesterday. I have often tributed some of the great artists who have impacted my artistry; and Marvin—his work and his chord choices; and the placement of his beautiful voice— that voice was such an instrument. Those guys at Motown were carving some new stuff. They were putting the absolute best melody over this chord change to (emphasize)  this thing in his voice. It was that conquering lion. You could lean on it at any time and get the sweetest, but coldest soul music ever.  Anyway, I funk with Marvin Gaye; all the time. It’s the 50th anniversary of the album. 

    Back to the chords. They’ve impacted some of the songs I’ve written and the way I deliver them. 


Streetwise Radio: What are your favorite songs on “What’s Going On,” the album?


MLM: “What’s Happening Brother” is probably my favorite song, when I think of the album, “What’s Going On.” The feeling, the joy, the wonder, the way it was phrased gave you so much information about the perspective and the writing of that song. It’s awesome. I love how he’s just rapping with us. Marvin—he’s just that dude. He just talked to you, with this cold smile, with this tone. They got that Motown polish.

       But, you know, I get it like Martin. I enjoy what I do with it because I’m doing it now; I’m making sure that these things are still in the air for us to show up, sit up and enjoy and party with. I’ve never done an artist’s body of work like this from top to bottom, so this is new for me. When I listen to that body of work, I don’t just listen to one song; I just let it rock. That’s just how good it is. But anyway, “ What’s Happening Brother” is my joint.


Streetwise Radio: Do you think you could play Marvin Gaye in a biopic or a movie?


MLM: I’d love to. I auditioned for a few things that were going on with Marvin Gaye. What’s for you is for you. We’ll see. That’s an awesome thought.


Streetwise Radio: You have an element of style and cool that reminds me of Marvin Gaye.


MLM: He’s got it, and thank you. Just to be thought of in such a fashion is awesome. I want to revere those cats for having done what they did with it, and I also want to be able to put myself up against them. No matter what, I want to be able to create something that somebody’s going to go to just as hard as they are going to go to some of their music. So I’ve got work to do.




Streetwise Radio: How long have you been working with SFJAZZ?


MLM: SFJAZZ has become an incredible home for me as a solo artist who’s a part of an organization that’s already running, that connects me to other things in that atmosphere. And those things are fantastic; and I do what I do for those things like I do what I’m doing for my own career. So, now it’s like having an ally in the mix. It’s awesome having SFJAZZ as an ally.


Streetwise Radio: How do you feel about SFJAZZ Center’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for the audience? Does it make you feel any safer as a performer?


MLM: I understand the measure and how things have to go forward. People have to determine whether or not they want to be a part of that movement. I can’t really say that it’s safer or not because I’m out in the general public. By theory, it should be safer. And do I feel better about it? Yes. I don’t know, because I don’t want to put it on something like this is the answer. We don’t know. There’s so much we don’t know, so we have to find out in cautious ways. Some of us will not be a part of that mix at all, and others will take the jab.


For more information on Martin Luther McCoy, go to: https://martianluther.com/.

Streetwise Radio Zoom Interview With Martin Luther McCoy









Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Three Black Kings and a Black Queen: H.E.R and the LA Philharmonic



Three Black Kings and a Black Queen: H.E.R and the LA Philharmonic

Aug.14, 2021

Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA

By Shelah Moody


Freedom for my brothers

Freedom 'cause they judge us

Freedom from the others

Freedom from the leaders, they're keeping us

Freedom gon' keep us strong

Freedom if you just hold on

Freedom ain't free at all, no…”— H.E.R.




The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, opened their sold-out, Aug. 14 concert at the Hollywood Bowl with “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The national anthem would have been appropriate for a July 4th picnic or a fireworks show, but opening with an antiquated song written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner who saw blacks as inferior (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Scott_Key) seemed wildly inappropriate at a concert celebrating black music. This concert featured one of the industry’s most celebrated and woke artists, Oscar and Grammy winner Gabriela Wilson, aka, H.E.R.

I confess that I started a bit of good trouble when the “Star-Spangled Banner” played. I muttered under my breath that I would remain seated. The mixed group of millennials on my left heard me and remained seated as well. The older white gay couple on my right said they agreed and so did the Asians seated in front of us. The young black woman who’d just popped a bottle of champagne for her birthday did not rise, either.

We, as one section united, masked up, loving music, hating injustice, remained seated until the “Star-Spangled Banner” was over.

The LA Philharmonic redeemed themselves after the awkward opening, performing Duke Ellington’s eloquent jazz composition “Three Black Kings” a symphonic eulogy honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Then, she appeared wearing an oversized red satin shirt, matching shorts, black heels, trademark shades, and waist-length wavy hair. Appropriately, the 24-year-old phenomenon known as H.E.R. made her grand entrance as the LA Phil played melodic, string-infused riffs of Marvin Gaye’s protest anthem “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler”). Her sultry, R&B vocals soared high above the nosebleed seats as she segued into Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

H.E.R. was stunned with her two original compositions (I’d pick either to replace the” Star-Spangled Banner” as America’s national anthem). One was “Fight for You,” (from the film “Judas and the Black Messiah”) which earned the Vallejo, CA- born singer an Oscar for Best Original Song, and the other was “I Can’t Breathe” which earned H.E.R. a 2020 Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

As she performed “I Can't Breathe,” the names of Breona Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and other African Americans killed by police flashed in intricate designs on the stage.

Starting a war, screaming, "Peace" at the same time

All the corruption, injustice, the same crimes

Always a problem if we do or don't fight

And we die, we don't have the same right

What is a gun to a man that surrenders?

What's it gonna take for someone to defend her?

If we all agree that we're equal as people

Then why can't we see what is evil?

I can't breathe”


Borrowing a line from a Stevie Wonder song, I consider H.E.R. a female Shakespeare of her time. Watching the “Hard Place” singer jump on the bass, guitar, keyboards, and drums while singing, rapping, and dancing at the Hollywood Bowl show; I’d also put her on the genius level of Prince.

H.E.R. told the audience that performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic had been one of her top goals.

To top it off, H.E.R., whose moniker means “having everything revealed” is simply adorable. She dedicated her ballad “Best Part,” performed with one of her backup singers in Daniel Caesar’s place, to a lucky couple in the audience who she referred to as “Johnnie and Jasmine.”

During “Best Part,” H.E.R.’s concert became live theater as Johnny got down on one knee, held out a ring box, and proposed to Jasmine in front of the stage. The audience ate it up.

As she sang and played keyboards, H.E.R. dedicated her autobiographical composition “I’m Not Ok” to anyone who has gone through a mental health crisis and asked the audience to turn on their phone flashlights to illuminate the darkness.



Since H.E.R. has collaborated with so many artists including Skip Marley (“Slow Down”), Lauryn Hill (“Sweetest Thing”), YG (“Slide”) DJ Khaled (“We Going Crazy”) and icons such as Hollywood Bowl alumni Janet Jackson is singing her praises on social media, I’d expected a few special guests to pop up at the Hollywood show. But HE.R., accompanied by her soulful band, the LA Phil, her soulful band and an expensive, high-tech light show dazzled on her own. H.E.R. proved that she is enough.

H.E.R performs Sept. 18 and 19 at the Lights out Festival, Concord Pavilion, Concord, CA. (livenation.com). Listen to H.E. R. on Streetwise Radio.





Three Black Kings and a Black Queen: H.E.R and the LA Philharmonic


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Second Line for Paul Mooney: Celebrating the Life of Oakland’s Own Renown Writer, Actor, Comedian

By Shelah Moody



Paul Mooney and Carmelita Harris



     Paul Mooney once called me an elf and told me to go back to the North Pole.

      I’d gone with my friend Carmelita to Mooney’s annual New Year’s Eve comedy show at the Black Repertory Group in Berkeley.

   That year, Mooney had told the media that he was henceforth removing the N-word from his stand-up act after a white comedian had used it indiscriminately in his act. Since the N-word seasoned most of Mooney’s jokes and stories, I bet Carmelita a dollar that Paul Mooney could not go a night without saying it. 

   After the show, as Mooney signed merchandise and greeted fans, Carmelita told Mooney I’d bet her a dollar that he wouldn't be able to get through a standup routine without saying the N-word. The godfather of black comedy, who’d written for the likes of Richard Pryor, Dave Chapelle and ushered in a new era of political correctness;  gave me the side-eye.

    “I see you brought your elf with you,” Mooney said to Carmelita. “Don’t they need you at the North Pole?”

     I was mortified. So great was my humiliation that I returned the couture jacket I wore that night to Nordstrom’s;  I wanted nothing that reminded me that I looked like an elf! 

     Years later, I laughed my ass about it. It was rather funny.  I’d been capped on by one of the greatest comedic minds ever! 

     After all, we’re talking about the man who wrote for a prime time black sitcoms such as “Good Times,” Sanford and Son” and “In Living Color,” who most likely came up with barbs like “Buffalo Butt,” “Fish-Eyed Fool” and “Homey don’t play that.” 

         Paul Mooney; actor, writer, and comedian, created a safe and sacred space for black people in America. During his shows at the Black Rep, he would sit in his chair, drink his glass of liquor and talk like it was just him and us in his living room. Oh, how we laughed! And he laughed, too! ! Paul Mooney said the kinds of things that many of us are afraid to say.

    A lot of Mooney’s material had to do with how black Americans were viewed as “other” through white lenses. Mooney reversed it, casting his black critical gaze on the dominant culture,  taking away the sting of racism and daily indignities; at least for one night. 

    “N-word, N-Word, N-word, N-word,” Mooney would say. “I like saying it. It makes my teeth white.”

     Mooney would often demystify Eurocentric standards of beauty by taking shots at the Queen of England: “The British are not pretty people. If that’s the Queen, I wanna know  what the witch look like!”

    In one of his routines, Mooney  said he understood why Brad Pitt would turn in a thin lipped Jennifer Anniston for a juicy lipped Angelina Jolie. I cannot finish the joke because this is a family show. 

      After his family announced his passing on May 19, 2021, Mooney’s peers posted tributes on social media.  

            “I knew this day would come but I must admit, I’m not ready,” his longtime friend, Luenell posted on social media.

          “I’m not ready 2 not hear that gruff voice anymore. Maybe that’s why I keep a cassette, yes I said cassette tape of him at the foot of my bed at all times so I can hear him whenever I want. I have learned more from Paul Mooney than any other comic I have ever known. He loved me. He confided in me. He trusted me. At times he relied on me and I will FOREVER love him. Both being from Oakland, CA, we had way more than comedy in common. As you swipe thru these pictures, these are only just a FEW of the memories we shared. He’s the first person to put me on stage in NYC when they wouldn’t even book me. He appreciated the woman I am and the brand of comedy that I do and told me to never change for ANYONE! We were a very dynamic duo. When my name was revealed the other day on the front of The Comedy Store wall, it was His face on the shirt I wore to pay homage to The Great One. Where ever they have his service I will be there but, he will live in my Heart FOREVER‼️As he used to say, “There are many stars, but only One Moon” RIP to MY FRIEND, the Great Paul Mooney.”




Paul Mooney & Luenell Campbell interview by Carmelita