BLAFROKAN - Many Nations, One People

Music Has The Power To Change

My first memory of falling in love with music was around four or five years old and learning how musical my mother’s side of the family was. My mom and all of her siblings played piano and sang in the church choir, and my uncles were even in a band together. Every time I would visit my mother’s family, there was always someone singing. It wasn’t until I heard my mother’s sweet mezzo- soprano voice singing Mahalia Jackson’s “Precious Lord”, that I became immensely enamored with the art. From then on, I had to “be like my mama” and sing.

Aretha Franklin

There was always a great record playing around the house. Luther Vandross and Patti Labelle were the king and queen of the stereo. Waking up on the weekends to Luther’s smooth silky and sultry voice singing “oh my love, a thousand kisses from you is never too much” would set my little heart on fire. And then there was Patti. Patti would blast through the stereo big, bright and proud as ever with her “New Attitude”, forcing me to get lost in my own imagination, pretending I was the voice behind it all, belting out that new attitude. There were also the smooth and soulful sounds of Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin as well as the loose, funky sounds of The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, and more. My father would always play Bob Marley and the Blues. B.B. King was untouchable. “Every Day I Have the Blues” was where he would bring the rugged rips from his guitar, the blaring horns, and the jazz of the piano and tell a true story. This song always created a nostalgic feeling of being on my grandparent’s farm, sitting on their porch, having a good time and listening about how life was for them back in the day.

Jackson 5

As I got a little older, my ear for music began to grow. I ventured out more towards the newer sounds and artists that my older sister would listen to. The soft, calming sounds of Sade and Tracy Spencer could always be heard around our bedtime. I used to listen to Sade’s voice and imagine that I was on an exotic island somewhere, watching the sun set and just being at ease with life. Sade became the reason why I discovered Jazz. My main muse was Billy Holiday. There are no words to describe my love with Billy’s voice. That playfully sincere sound she sang to her love interest in “All of Me” completely blew my mind, how even then we had to tell our men to take us for all that we were. “Strange Fruit” easily became my favorite with the sorrowful way she depicted life as an African – American during her time.

I soon began to get into the sweet, sexy and melodic harmonies of Boyz II Men and Jodeci. “On Bended Knee” and “Cry for You” were the national anthems that would blast from my sister’s radio. Hearing these songs made me believe that every boy was supposed to sing these songs whenever they hurt a girl. It was from these two groups that I learned to harmonize. I later discovered the strong and incalculable vocal ranges of Whitney Houston, Shanice and Mariah Carey. Once Mariah Carey and Shanice came along with the high C’s and E’s that was a wrap! I would try my hardest to emulate them, but my attempts in trying were painstakingly annoying to my family and a bit disappointing to me. Thankfully, one thing I was able to develop from it all was a stronger tone.

Boyz II Men

My teenage years were my years of true musical exploration; I began to listen to 90’s hip hop, rock/pop, Spanish and Portuguese pop, Country, Gospel, Opera, and other genres. I soon began songwriting. These were the hardest years for me, at school I was bullied on a daily basis. Writing became my main catharsis and the only way for me to deal with everything that I was forced to internalize. My favorite artists were Micheal Jackson, Aaliyah and The Backstreet Boys. Michael was the one who taught me how to unapologetically express everything that was inside. “Stranger in Mosco” was always on repeat and a song I felt I identified most with at that time. Aaliyah and The Backstreet Boys taught me how to dance. Anytime I would listen to them, all of what I was facing at school and at home would just dissipate. 

Embracing all genres of music has allowed me to be flexible as an artist and it’s helped me to open up to different sounds that I can incorporate into my own music. Music’s natural medicinal remedy has become a comfort throughout any of my moods. There is always a particular song that I can relate to with whatever situation I am going through. The beauty of it all is that the art of music is so infinite, there is always someone new to discover and get into, and there is always room for recreation of a new sound and style.

Shahri Imara Ushindi Busara

Shahri Imara Ushindi Busara

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