The stories that come together due to the sounds of music will forever be never-ending. A perfectly synchronized beat. The mix of a song that leaves you with an unforgettable vibration of soul shaking and life changing tunes. It’s all for the love of the game and that game is one that true music lovers never tire of playing. A true artist and music lover to the core, Jamal Ahmad born and raised in College Park, Georgia found his love of music at the age of 5. As we know, most love stories start before we truly know who we are, but they set the tone for who we are to become. Ahmad cut his first demo at the age of 16, played in the legendary House of Funk marching band for Morehouse College during the 90s and allowed his love for the craft to carry him even higher. He is a songwriter, a musically gifted artist, a dreamer and crafter of those higher vibrations we love to groove to. Come along with me and dive into a truly enlightening conversation as we learn more about his band, The DangerFeel Newbies, the latest release of his single, Somewhat Loved and the power of music and its undeniable influence on his life.
There aren’t too many who know the story of Dangerfield Newby. The son of a white slave master who would later be freed. Newby made a living as a blacksmith and eventually joined John Brown and his raiders in hopes to free his wife and family. What was it about his story that led you to call your band, ‘DangerFeel Newbies?
That is a brilliant question. Because the story of Dangerfield Newby is so intrinsically connected to the universal struggles of the human spirit. When I first heard about him while watching Ken Burn's Civil War documentary back in 2007, I remember his name striking a big chord with me. I literally came up with the band name, The Dangerfeel Newbies, after hearing his name. It had a vibration that felt like there was more to his story. So I did research and found out there was so much more to his story and when I discovered the love letters between him and his wife Harriet, I knew that their story would be felt deeply by all humanity. Because it's a story that's essentially about what sacrifices would we make for love, family and our people. It's like the Prince song "I Would Die For You". It's the ultimate black love story. When I saw the plaquer in the National Museum Of African American History & Culture with her quote, it affirmed my deep affinity for their story.
Blues, jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop & house are all music genres that have deep history. How has the influence and culture of music inspired you as a musician?
Sometimes we as African Americans forget that one of the greatest commodities we've given to this world, outside of our epic symbol of struggle, is our music and its spiritual and healing qualities. It's changed the world many times, going all the way back to the Fisk Jubilee Singers and Ella Shepherd creating what we now call Negro spirituals. When folks like Queen Victoria, Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain and royals all over the world heard their songs that were once referred to as "cabin songs", they heard something so hauntingly beautiful and soulful. Even the great composer Johann Strauss proclaimed at one of their shows that this was the greatest music he'd ever heard in his life. So that's how our story begins. It starts in this deeply cathartic space where the music is healing to our people who had been enslaved for hundreds of years and then set free in a cold wilderness. And everything else that came after it, ragtime, jazz, rock 'n' roll, soul, R&B, funk, hip-hop, house, techno, whatever, came from this same place and effectively changed the globe. That's why I take all these genres so seriously. You can see how the world moves to our beat. It's not the other way around lol.
In all things great, one never seems to be enough. Aja Graydon and Fatin Danztler are the Philly-based dynamic duo you all know and love as Kindred the Family Soul. Their voices marry together in a way that has created a dynamic vibe you want to hear over and over again. As we listen to music we pay close attention to the lyrics, but we also want to feel the songs and have a true connection. The authenticity of the music they have created over the years allows the listener to relate and groove at the same time. Celebrating 20 years since the release of their debut album, Surrender To love, this married duo gives us an inside view to the start of their careers, the importance of maintaining the love, their latest and 7th album release, what they are working on next, and much more.
This year marks 20 years since the release of your debut album, ‘Surrender to Love’ which received a Soul Train Award and BET Award nomination. What was it like to release your first album and were you nervous about how the world would receive your music?
AJA - It was very exciting because both of us had been in some facet of the business since we were teenagers, trying to find our identity and our place in the business. Finally, we'd reached the point where our art would be presented and so we naturally felt nervous and relieved. We had 2 small children by then and much was riding on the success of it. I also remember a great sense of accomplishment, it made us that much closer.
FATIN - Surrender to love turning twenty makes me think back to a much simpler time in our lives but one that was full of a lot of great creative energy. We were overwhelmed with gratitude and joy to release a record that was literally born out of the live performances we put on weekly in a small club. So to try to translate that LIVE energy and bottle it up for sale was difficult and challenging but has been a true blessing to our lives. It stands as a time capsule to a milestone period in our lives. We certainly were nervous as to how it would be received, but also confident in the ways the material had resonated with the audience we had earned early on.
Music is a soulful feeling that tells a story in the most unique ways. The way that your lyrics and voices come together is always a head-shaking, and vibe-induced moment. When you are writing the lyrics to your songs, how do you know once you have created something magical?
AJA - We just listen for what clicks. No matter who takes the lead on an idea, it's about a vibe. When it connects authentically to us, we feel pretty confident it will resonate with someone else.
FATIN - I wouldn’t say you know lyrics are magical but you do know when they speak to you and that’s the first step of being confident enough to record them. You hear it back many times before anyone else does so you begin to believe in it before it’s critiqued. Sometimes it’s golden and sometimes not so much, but it always comes from the heart.
I believe that the energy you put out into the universe will come back to you in many ways. How has music changed your life?
Music has changed my life in every imaginable way. One of my favorite mystics said “music is the dream of silence”. I mean, what a thought. I believe music is our greatest contribution to the planet as human beings. Throughout the ages, music has been that invisible expression that speaks to our souls in a universal language. We are all connected through song. Music has provided me with a tool to share my story and connect with the stories of others. It reminds me of the power of the unseen. The power of beauty. It’s a tool I can use to influence my mood and that of others. Music is my love language in every sense.
As a writer, I love the freedom to create from scratch, however, it doesn’t flow unless I’m in a certain head space. When you write a song, where do you go mentally?
When I write, I don’t go anywhere mentally. In fact I need to get out of my head and into another zone completely. It can’t be intellectual in the beginning. It’s best to tap into a trance like state and to grab whatever floats to the edge of my subconscious and conscious mind. My mood is more important than my mind when it comes to writing and creating. After I get the gist of the story I want to tell, I can then bring in my more analytical mind. That’s when I can start to think about things like structure and form. That’s when I can embellish.
The world of music is always changing, however, good music will always resonate in the souls of those who truly love the craft and creativity behind the magic. What do you feel is most important in keeping music honest, real, and from the heart?
I think the most important way to create truthfully as an artist is to live one’s life. When you are immersed in your own life, you have real material to draw from. When you live authentically, you can create authentic music that’s an embodiment of your soul.
Lalah Hathaway posted an all-star lineup on November 28th and fans went crazy trying to determine how to purchase tickets until we all realized it was a fantasy. If this was to come to fruition, how amazing would that be?
That was so cool to me. After all, she is one of the greatest vocalists ever. I had no idea Lalah even knew who I was, much less enjoyed my music. I love affirmations like that from the universe. Hey Lalah, I’m ready to open for you or collab whenever you have time.
The readers would love to know more about you and your musical journey. Where are you from and when did music become an integral part of your life?
I was born in Louisiana to a southern mom and a Senegalese father. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I don’t think of myself as being from any one particular place. Music has quite literally been a part of my life since I can remember speaking. I was in my first talent show at 5. Started recording demos professionally for writers at 11 and recorded my first original song at 12. Music has always been a part of me.
You have a beautiful voice. I love your single, Ready Enough. What is the meaning behind this song? I’m happy you love that one. “Ready Enough” is about embracing the beauty and potential inherent in all of us. We come to this earth with all that we need to live out our destiny. Things may happen that throw us off of our path, but that doesn’t mean we are lost. We always have the ability to make contact with our soul. We have enough at all times. We just need to reach for it.
What inspires you the most when it comes to creating and exploring new music?
I’m inspired by so many things, but I would have to say my environment is a deep well of inspiration for me right now. I’m very affected by the natural landscape and beauty of the place where I live. Being close to nature humbles me. It gets me out of my own way and out of my head. As I mentioned, it’s important for me to not overthink. When I overthink, I cannot be creative. So my surroundings are important.
You are taking a cross-country road trip. Who’s on your playlist for this long ride?
Oooh, that’s a hard one to answer, but I would say at this point in my life my road trip playlist would include Joni Mitchell, Sade, Cocteau Twins, Stevie Wonder, Harold Budd, Laraaji, Alice Coltrane, Bob Marley, Antonio Carlos Jobim … demos that I’m working on. There are so many other artists I love that I didn’t include, but I think their music best fits other situations in my life right now.
Music is an important part of so many lives. Without it, I most certainly would be lost. What do you want your fans to feel when they listen to your music?
I want them to feel that life is absolutely worth living. I’ve called it “life affirmative” music in the past and that still feels very true. Life is worth loving and opening your heart to. Even in the midst of challenges. As long as we are feeling people, we have hope.
When you are not writing and creating new music, what do you like to do to unwind?
I love to hike to unwind. Moving my body outside is so good for me. There’s that getting out of my head again. Communing with nature heals me every single time. I also love to read a good book. I know I’m in a good place when I’m reading a lot.
Is there anyone in the industry you would love to collaborate with?
Oh yes. I’d love to collaborate with John Mayer, Kevin Parker, Frank Ocean, and Esperanza Spalding.
Can you give us a glimpse into what’s next for Sidibe?
New music and live performances. Hopefully some sweet collaborations too.
How can your fans connect, follow, and most importantly support you?
Fans can find me on all of the socials. I’m most active on IG. They can support me by playing and sharing the music! If you’re feeling extra generous, you can go to my Bandcamp page and buy the music there.
In closing, leave us with a bit of positive inspiration.
Don’t get too caught up in the visible. Remember that the most important things are invisible to the human eye. Use your imagination and prayer to make contact with the divine spirit that is always present. Trust in the mystery and allow it to be.
Get your digital or print copy of Issue 32 at Groovmagazine.com
The Evolution of Cynda Williams
Film and music are two amazingly beautiful elements that come together to create something quite magical. Actors and singers have been granted the most glorious platform that allows their undeniable talent to shine bright like a diamond for the entire world to see. Cynda Williams has known the gift of song since she was a little girl. Growing up in a family of singers, it would be her move to New York which would spark the beginning of her professional acting and singing career. Her debut film Mo’ Better Blues was an unforgettable journey that showed the world she was more than just an amazing actor. Her song Harlem Blues went #1 on the R&B charts and will forever be a classic. Cynda has acted in numerous films and television roles and she has no plans to stop anytime soon. As an actress, singer, producer, screenwriter, songwriter, author, and inspirational voice, Cynda continues to show the world she has a beautiful voice in more ways than one.
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, you also spent part of your early childhood in Indiana, where you sang in your grandfather’s church. What do you remember most from this time in your life?
I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago up to about fourteen years old and then we moved to Muncie Indiana. My father stayed in Chicago, and my mother, my brothers, and at that point, my first youngest sister all moved to Indiana because the crime was getting quite bad where we lived. It was what they call The Wild 100s now. It was beautiful for the time we were there, but then the drugs and all of this and gang activity were starting to take over.
I was so excited to go to Muncie because that's where my grandfather Reverend J.C. Williams was pastor of the Trinity United Methodist Church. Methodist churches are known quite well for, you know, orthodoxy and stuff like that but our church was very different than that. It was a mixed congregation which was not very often seen in those days. We were a very creative church, there was a lot of music, a lot of dancing, acting, and writing. We did at all. I was very excited and throughout my childhood, I'd gone there every summer. I was a part of the choir and everything but unfortunately when I moved to Indiana things kind of fell apart in my family. My parents ended up divorcing, my grandparents ended up divorcing, my aunts and uncles. It was like everything fell apart, the church fell apart, so it was a difficult time in my life, so that's when I really started focusing on school primarily.
I had some wonderful teachers in high school that really encouraged me and it was a huge departure from my Chicago experience where I had primarily black students, and teachers, but now it’s almost all white. There was quite a bit of racism. My teacher Nancy Krause was an English teacher and a theater teacher and she did all the shows. She made so many opportunities open up for me against the will and wishes of many of the other parents, and of the students, but she didn't care and I will never forget her for that and that saved me. The music that I sang, I sang in the choirs and that really got me through that time of division in my life. It was one of the most difficult times in my life but it changed me and sent me in a direction.
As a lover of music, I lose myself in the way a singer is able to deliver a song and make it unforgettable. I am mesmerized whenever I hear Harlem Blues. As perfect as perfection can be, you have an amazingly beautiful voice and to put it simply, you sang that song! Did you have any idea this song would have such an impact on shaping the culture of music?
I have always been a singer and that's where I began before acting, before writing, before anything else, I was a singer. My uncle, James Williams taught me how to sing when I was a very little girl, he was a professional singer at the time and so he really knew what he was doing. More importantly to me, it wasn't just about the vocals because my parents both sang, a lot of people in my family sang, my grandmother sang, she sounded like Billie Holiday. Had a lot of singers, but what he taught me that was so important was how to perform, how to perform that song, and how to interpret the music. When I got the opportunity to do Harlem Blues I was very blessed by that because it was such a beautifully written song and it was originally by W. C. Handy. Raymond Jones came in and took the lyrics from that turn of the century song, put a more contemporary sound on it, and changed the melody, but they stuck true to those lyrics and it was impressive to so many people. To be honest, I really wasn't thinking about the impact that it was going to have, I really didn't know, it didn't even occur to me. I was just singing like I’d always been singing. I'm very thankful that people love the song. I look forward to the day when I can do more music that they recognize and love.
A world without music is far too hard to imagine. Imagine going through life with no melodies to snap your fingers to, no rhymes to memorize and recite throughout the years, and no special ballads to celebrate the good times. Music is without a doubt as important as the air we breathe. The artists who we love and adore, the producers who work to bring the magic to life, and those who discover some of the greatest superstars of our time.
Bryant Reid, a native of Cincinnati Ohio has always had a love for music and his 20+ year background as an entertainment industry executive proves just how deep that love really is. Bryant has held the positions of Senior Vice President of Artist and Repertoire at both LaFace Records and Atlantic Records and was the mastermind behind discovering Grammy award-winning superstar Usher as well as assembling the team of writers and producers to create mega-star Toni Braxton’s multi-platinum selling debut album. Reid has worked with Atlanta-based Grammy award-winning trio TLC, the best-selling American girl group in music history, selling over 65 Million albums worldwide as well as working with the Grammy award-winning rap duo Outkast, ranked No. 7 by Rolling Stone on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time. Wearing many hats as a television producer, fashion designer, consultant, businessman, and philanthropist, Reid founded The Reid Foundation for Lupus in 2018 and continues his legacy of hit-making with his launch of the HitLanta brand which started with a modern collection of high-quality, men’s and women’s casual sportswear.
An outstanding career for a truly creative and inspiring genius. The ability to make hits is a gift and Bryant Reid shows us just how gifted he truly is.
Born and raised in Cincinnati Ohio, you were in the top 10% of your graduating class, a member of the National Honor Society, and voted the most outstanding male senior. What was your driving force to aim high and achieve your goals and did you always know you would one day work in the entertainment industry?
My mother was my driving force. She was the most loving, supportive mother a child could have. She just had this unique skill at making me feel that I could excel. She always supported my extracurricular activities which included academics, music, sports, and fashion. She fully supported me when I chose to take the college English 101 course during the summer of my junior year in high school. I passed the course. The camaraderie with my classmates was certainly a factor too.
I've always loved music. When I was a child, I wanted to be like Michael Jackson, but I was not a naturally gifted singer. While playing percussion in my High School marching band I became a serious consumer of music, purchasing every genre and spending countless hours during the summers making compilation music cassettes. Later, I promoted music parties. One of the biggest was an after-concert party I threw for Bobby Brown during his "Don't Be Cruel" album tour and it was a huge success. I had the bug. Eventually, my brother, L.A. asked me to come work with him as an A&R executive at LaFace Records.
Erick Walls... Anchored By Faith
It takes a certain drive and determination to be great at what you do. Gifted and talented on levels we can’t begin to imagine, Erick Walls plays his hand at all things music and he delivers a striking beat that we want to hear over and over again. A multi-instrumentalist, Grammy award-winning, Emmy nominated songwriter, producer, and powerhouse in the grand world of music, he got his start at a very early age playing in his father’s church. With faith as his foundation, he has taken his childhood passions and dreams and turned them into his reality. Erick has a musical resume that runs deep working with some of the most powerful names in the industry. As a founding member of the international recording Alt-Rock duo, Black Waat3r, Erick shows us his true love for everything that is the creation and art of music. To love music is to know it has the power to create something very magical, a combination of beautiful melodies meeting for the first time to deliver lasting memories. It’s easy to strive for something, however, when you truly want it there is nothing that will keep you from achieving it! Without further adieu, pull up a chair, get cozy and dive into this open and amazing conversation with a true MVP in the music world.
Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina you developed a taste for music at an early age by playing in your father’s church. As a multi-instrumentalist, you are an MVP in many aspects. Talented on the guitar, bass, drums, and piano you can switch gears without skipping a beat. Would you credit the time spent playing in the church as what shaped you musically, and what is your fondest memory from that time in your life?
My early musical education came from being around my late father, George Walls, who was a gospel singer, recording artist, and preacher. All my earliest memories are of watching him release and going with him to the studio, church, and everywhere else.
I vividly remember being very young and realizing how special being surrounded by music was!
My fondest memory of that time was performing on stage with him and his group when I was around six years old. I actually have it on Beta video tape somewhere in the archives.
The life of a musician seems to move quite fast at times and your resume truly tells a story in itself. Having worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. From Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, The Black-Eyed Peas, Shirley Caesar, Rihanna, Usher, and the list really does go on and on. How do you remain grounded and focused working with such an eclectic array of talented musicians?
My faith foundation is my absolute anchor. Navigating the music business is tough and has many challenges. My understanding is that God allows us to be in possession of our gifts, we don’t own them. We’re simply vessels. Good stewardship over the gifts yield returns and sustainment. The Bible states “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16 KJV, and basically knowing that allows for me to feel like I belong in every room I might find myself in.
Susan Carol... The Artist
Music is always and forever a vibe. A connection that is both personal, and memorable. With poetic and infectious energy, Susan Carol is entering the music scene smoking hot. She has a voice that makes you sit up and pay attention to truly immerse yourself into the experience of her sultry and captivating voice. Raised singing in her family’s church choir, music was and still is a huge part of her life. Changing the game one freestyle at a time, you will fall into her care-free and classically perfect Neo-soul trance. Come along, because this is a ride you surely don’t want to miss.
I believe that music is one of the truest forms of love and expression. Tell us a bit about your background and how your musical journey began?
My dad was a pastor so I was raised singing in my family’s church. My whole family was musically inclined in some way, so music always played a huge part in my life. The REAL musical journey or artistry that you guys see today, started in 2010 when I went away to college. I really found my voice and writing style in those years. That’s when I decided to start
performing and releasing music, essentially becoming Susan Carol - The Artist.
Your freestyle sessions are addictive. I am certain I watched nearly all of them. You are giving classic, care-free, Neo-soul with a slightly raspy and sultry voice and it’s insanely infectious. How does it feel when you are completely uninhibited and in your zone of creativity?
Thank you so much, I love that you love what I do! I love it! – When I’m in that creative space, I feel an extraordinary amount of liberation. That’s when I’m the most vulnerable and real. In that space, I can truly express my feelings without judgment and transform them into something beautiful to give to the world.
Music serves as the backdrop of our lives in so many ways. It is our solace in times of need, our energy when we feel that urge to get up and dance, and a head-shaking, feel it deep in your heart and down in your soul type of vibe that keeps us coming back over and over again to the hits that capture our attention and leave a lasting impression.
R&B/Soul singer & songwriter Meli’sa Morgan does just that with her amazingly beautiful voice. A legend is putting it mildly. She got her start at a very early age singing in the Starlets of Corona gospel choir in Queens, New York and that shaped the foundation of what was to come for a very successful singing career. Releasing her cover version of Prince’s “Do Me Baby” in 1985, the song topped the Billboard charts at #1 for 4 weeks. Writing hit songs that you know very well; Do You Still Love Me, Fools Paradise, Good Love, and her latest song, “Footprints Of An Angel” which is currently #1 for 2 weeks on the BCFM Soul Charts & #3 on the UK Soul Charts. A platinum award-winning songwriter who has worked with Whitney Houston, Freddie Jackson, Chaka Khan and so many more. Fiercely talented, gifted, and unforgettable.
Her personality and spirit match her voice and that’s simply beautiful. She proves the magic and love for music are here to stay, and we are here to listen!
Born and raised in Queens, New York, you sang in a gospel choir, called the Starlets of Corona. Many singers and songwriters have given credit to their start in the church as the foundation for what was to come. Tell us about your childhood and how your experiences molded and prepared you for the music industry.
I loved being raised in Queens, NY. It was during the time when the neighborhood was a real neighborhood. Everyone knew each other, we all went to the same school. We visited each other homes. We knew their parents, they knew my parents. A great time to be a kid.
Writer Alicia Jones answers our “20 to 21” Questionnaire: THIS INTERVIEW is Special
I recently had the divine pleasure of chatting with Mr. Joe Walker who is not only talented, gifted and insanely creative, he is a writer extraordinaire. I am a huge fan so when he reached out to me to do this interview, I most certainly said yes! Take a peek and see what I had to say...
The year 2020 was difficult. Despite its many challenges, writer Alicia Jones made the most of it.
A conversational storyteller, AJ casually builds relatable scenes using genuine emotions and unforced humor. Readers immerse themselves in her never-ending thoughts on AJsDiary.com.
AJ also uses her outlet to introduce her audience to accomplished writers from across the country with her “In The Writers Den” interview series. In addition, admirers can read more of her tales in Groov Magazine.
AJ shared some of her time with us by answering THIS questionnaire about her life in 2020 and what to expect from her in 2021.
How would you summarize 2020?
The year reminded me of an ex who just wouldn’t go away. We had our time, it wasn’t great, so please just go on and leave my life to never return. Just when I thought he was gone, there he was staring at me from around the corner. [Laughs] Honestly it was my year of great revelations. In the beginning I was doubtful, towards the middle of the year I was thankful, and by the end I realized I had tapped into an entirely new part of who I am and what I’m all about. The year was exactly what I needed.
Chatting With Clancy Tucker
A complete honor to hear from Clancy Tucker who wears many hats as a Storyteller, Author, Publisher, Photographer, Human Rights Activist, Social Justice Campaigner and poet. Wow! Such a pleasure to chat with him about my love for writing and how it all got started. Take a peek and see what I have to say!
Today, I'm happy to introduce a blogger from Georgia, U.S.A.
Welcome, AJ ...
• TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BLOG’S JOURNEY.
I had a conversation with a great friend and told her I always wanted to write on a different level and share that with others. I started thinking of ways to make that happen and decided to start my blog site in 2018. It was important for my site to be genuine and reflect my true personality, from the colors of the pages, down to the way my website flows. It's been almost two years and my blog is finally finding her voice and I couldn't be happier with the progress and what's to come.
• WHAT IS THE AIM OF YOUR BLOG?
When you visit my page I hope that you receive a good vibe and feel my energy. What you see is what you get, and it's all me.
AJ is a creative writer and storyteller writing from her home in Indiana.
"This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil Gaiman