Nataal headed to the Afropunk London 2017 greenroom, kitted out like a super fly 70s sitting room, to talk to three acts bringing some black girl magic to the festival

Introducing herself most places with the tag line “Big hair. Big love.” Kiah Victoria is certainly all heart. The Brooklyn singer songwriter brought happy tears to our eyes with her special brand of raspy electro soul. Having trained at NYU's Clive Davis Institute, cut her teeth on Broadway and performed for Jay-Z, the young artist is ready to shine.

How was the show today?
It was everything! The crowd was attentive and fed me the good stuff. This is my first time performing at Afropunk but I’ve attended the Brooklyn one a few times. The people watching is the best part - everyone is dressed to the nines so it’s really delicious.

How do you find London?
In the last two years I’ve done a few gigs in here, and I’ve met some producers who I’m taking time to work with, so I like it for sure. But in the public space it’s so passive. When you’re riding the train in New York everyone is up in your face and engaging, for better or worse. In London, if you see a friend on the train you barely nod!

How has your music writing evolved?
My life has always been about music but it took me a while to believe I could create my own music. College was a transformative time because I met people I felt comfortable being vulnerable and writing songs with. In sophomore year I started doing my own gigs and now it gives me the same kind of high whether in the studio or performing. I’m grateful to be in a position where I’m singing my own songs and exploring my range.

Tell us about your new track Treat Me.
It’s a sassy, self-empowering little bop about not letting other people’s fuckery effect how you walk through life. I’m fabulous, you know! I’m an emotional person, I’m Emo, and so for me songs are therapeutic. I like to break it down and let you know what I’m feeling.

Let’s talk style.
I used to live in Maryland and the thrift stores there are fantastic. I picked up this cute pink-two piece there. I love colour and patterns but am trying to embrace black at the moment. I haven’t been gifted any designer garms yet but I pray that is in my future.

And what else is in your future?
More upbeat songs, more ballads and next year is album time. I’m busy building on everything that has been bubbling so far.

The daughter of Canadian blues star Salome Bey, SATE (Saidah Baba Talibah) was born to do it. An Afropunk veteran, she roared her way into Londoners’ hearts with her fearless and funk-laden rock tracks from her album RedBlack&Blue.

How was the show today?
Having my friends The OBGMs on stage, and connecting with the audience, were the highlights. I love the fact that at Afropunk I can just be me and meet likeminded black people who are free to rock out or chill out, love all types of music and not be pigeonholed.

What has been your journey to becoming SATE?
I started out performing with my mom when I was six years old. But I took years to find my voice. It began with blues and jazz, which are the foundations of rock & roll. I’ve sung backing vocals, done musical theatre, been in bands and tapped into all the elements of black music. A lot of experience has gone into where I am now.

Your outfits are out of this world.
I get a lot of my costumes from Aunt Funky’s Closet and Lady Dionne in Los Angeles. For Afropunk Brooklyn last year they dressed me in this body suit and I looked like a modern day Tina Turner in Mad Max. But it was cut a little low and I didn’t tape my nipples. I was totally busting out on stage the whole time and I didn’t even notice. I was like ‘Fuck, well hey, we all have them!’ So this time, I’ve covered the nipples but freed the breasts.

You’ve just released a video for your song The Answer.
Yes. It’s about not taking no for an answer and following your dreams regardless of people telling you it’s not possible. It’s something I’ve faced all my life so I’ve got to keep pushing. I’m told ‘This isn’t the music your type of people do, or women do’, but then I get on stage and the audience tell me differently so I have to believe them. I’m contacting by fans all the time, which is beautiful. It’s knowing that I’m reaching people that motivates me.

What are your hopes?
I would like to play Hellfest next year in France. I want to tour with Queens of the Stone Age. And I would love to tour Africa.

Kay Elizabeth heads up this London-based four-piece alongside Magnus Box, Alain Duchesne and Brian Hedermann. They made their Afropunk debut by unleashing their dark and experimental rock sounds on a receptive audience.

How did the band first form?
It was three or four years ago. I had this vision for the music and knew who I wanted to make it with. I’ve got interesting ways of looking at the world connected to phenomenology, the universe and all of that. These guys understand that existing in the world is an amazing thing, and they get the history of the music. We had one rehearsal and then started gigging and it just worked. So now we approach everything the same way. We just dive in.

What appeals to you about being part of Afropunk?
I’ve always liked really heavy music – death metal, Pantera, Slayer – but being a woman of colour, there wasn’t a space to jump in the pit. It’s a macho, segregated world. Afropunk has given a voice to the type of music I love. Now people can express themselves and be part of it. They have beeN so supportive of the band and given us a platform.

Describe the latest single, Still Remains.
It’s a song I wrote about a few different things, macabre and personal things, that covers what’s been going on in my life recently, so I’m excited to have it out there. We’ve also been working on an album with Jon Moon, who is another cosmic cat. It’s got a transcendental joyride vibe and will be out in October. We’re moving towards more psychedelic realms.

Words Helen Jennings

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Published on 02/08/2017