In Conversation with Nina Simone Award Winning singer Bashiyra
I am happy to see a number of friends progress with their solo careers as singer/songwriters. I look forward to what the future holds for them. This year, UK artist Bashiyra won the coveted Nina Simone Award in recognition of her contribution to jazz music. On the countdown to her next gig, I caught up with her for a chat about her career, the award and what’s next.
DEN: Congratulations on being awarded the ‘The Nina Simone Award 2011′ in recognition of your contribution to jazz music. In the early 1990’s you released ‘ I will Always Love You’. This was a reggae single via Jetstar. How easy has the transition from reggae been?
Thank you for acknowledging my recent acquisition of ’The Nina Simone Award 2011′, I am absolutely delighted to be the recipient. It is awarded to a female artist who is observed to have contributed to the wealth of jazz music. The award also recognises that this artist has significantly contributed, created, accessed and maintained all the necessary elements to be a successful independent artist in the ever changing scene of the music industry. It recognises that in spite of challenges and obstacles this individual’s flow is unstoppable, strengthened by an energy in the creating, making and releasing of real quality music. This artist has the ability to continually promote herself, build her network base, as well as demonstrate her fan-base growth. She is tenacious, indomitable and trained to a high level in her creative discipline whilst able to maintain a positive public profile and categorically impact lives through her music, resulting in increased sales and awareness of her brand.
I’m actively celebrating the experience of my newest award and its associated prizes inclusive of artist promotion, artist merchandising and a host of additional beneficial goodies, which further accentuates my wealthy feeling. The continued public recognition of my art-form is heart-warming and I extend a big thank you to all of my supporters. The process has not been easy, however I have maintained my probity and creative vision to inspire me to continue forward and with the support of a great team in both the UK and the USA, ‘It’s Working Out’ !
My transition from reggae music into soul music and my diverse musical exploration of jazz music as well as the creating and releasing of my extensive dance catalogue has not been a challenge. Each genre allows me the scope to deliver songs in line with its foundational vibration and I stay connected to the relevant sound principles to keep the authenticity and integrity of the style I am delivering. I am blessed to work with creative experts in each genre field, allowing the musical character the scope to elevate and make a lasting difference. I thoroughly enjoy working with a creative catalogue that is both eclectic and diverse whilst being purposeful in its gifting.
DEN: So how did you get into the music industry?
The simple answer to this question is I was born into music. I have a strong family background in this avenue and it was obvious to close family, friends and indeed myself, from a very early age, that I would pursue a professional career in music. It’s a part of my DNA and I’m simply loving it. I’m living my dream and I’m so appreciative of the tangible reality.
DEN: Can you tell me more about your organisation ITA and your involvement with Westminster Education Action Zone?
ITA (Intrinsic Tones of Aswud) is my creative arts organisation of which I chair and I am one of two original co-founders in relation to its concept and actualization. The organisation is set up to encourage children, young people and adults of all cultures the opportunity to access quality arts provisions on a local level in singing, song-writing, steel-pans, dance, rap, spoken word, photography and fashion, to name a few. My involvement with WEAZ (Westminster Education Action Zone) had two extensions, one of which was to deliver creative arts programmes to positively impact the literacy and numeracy attainment levels of secondary and primary school children and the second phase was to work with special needs children supporting their development with music and song as the vehicle.
DEN: Your career and portfolio of work to date is impressive. You’ve worked with such a number of heavyweight artists such as Patti Labelle, Diana Ross, Michael Bolton and Queen. Which artists to date have been most influential on your career?
There is no short answer to this question as my musical experience and what I would consider as influential upon my career is extensive. Some examples I would lead with would be inclusive of vibrant traditional music from the motherland by artists such as Youssou N’dor and Babba Maal, incorporating the beauty of the Kora. Contemporary voices such as Keisha Cole and Jazmine Sullivan. The pristine vocal talents of Rachelle Ferrell, Patti Labelle, George Benson, Chante Moore, The Emotions and my ‘vocal husband’ Maxwell and then of course there is the superabundant talents of Ella Fitzgerald, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone.
DEN: So you’ve broken into the US market and secured the recording deal with NuVybe Records. Congratulations on your success so far! I’m spending more time exploring a career in the US as are many UK based visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Award winning singers Caron Wheeler, Julie Dexter and Estelle are three of your contemporaries that come to mind when I think of British singers making waves stateside. One questions whether the UK and mainland Europe is mature enough, willing and able to support the careers of artists from the African diaspora that aren’t mainstream. Do you think only the US really provides fertile ground for you to develop your career?
Yes just over a year ago I signed my US deal with Independent label ‘NuVybe Records’ and I’ve got some awesome material to surface from 2012.
The USA geographically is a much larger territory base than the UK when it comes to expressing an interest and supporting the careers of artists from the African diaspora. In addition to this the individuals and groups with a vested affinity for the music of African diasporan artists do not wait for an opportunity to be handed to them, quite the contrary in fact, they go about the business of creating it. However this is also the case of some artists who themselves, like myself, take the lead initiative in designing their creative path. Ownership and attitude is key!
I actually had a private conversation with one of the UK artists you’ve cited and I asked her a similar question to the one you’re currently posing to me and her response was the following: “The USA is openly willing to accept me as I am, and to respect and nurture my artistry for what it is with no attempts at diluting my music. But the biggest difference is the willingness of the people in industry positions, who financially invest in my career. The reality is by gaining recognition state-side, my home country finally sees me, it shouldn’t be that way but it most definitely is. The UK do not ‘see’ you until the USA acknowledges you and there after the UK wants to shout loud and proud, she or he is from the UK”.
I don’t think I can say it any better than that right? So to deduce my answer I say this, the world is a big and beautiful place and music plays throughout it, in every facet. Fertile ground is abundant as is the opportunity to create and experience ones definition of success.
DEN: What’s your advice for young ambitious, talented and frustrated artists pursuing their artistic leanings?
My advice to any young or mature ambitious talented artist would be that they develop their art-form to a high level of discipline. To always be rehearsed and to maintain a clear vision of themselves and how they would like their art-form to represent them. Sometimes they’ll be the creator but not the facilitator of their works and it is important to overstand the difference and to act accordingly for ones higher good and personal development. Experience, wisdom and right reasoning with an intellectual interaction of persons, will help one decide how best to pursue their artistic learnings, desires and dreams. This coupled with tenacity and a pleasant indefatigable attitude I feel to be fundamental resources in ones pursuit.
In this fast paced way of westernised living frustrations seem inevitable in all encounters of ones life, but change is constant and so as frustrations come, they too will go if the individual makes a commitment to themselves to relinquish the disharmony and secure a more harmonious way of thinking and being. This requires consistent discipline and self awareness.
We always have a choice at how we respond to any given situation or person as opposed to reacting to them. The choice is up to the individual. The creative industry as a whole and its make-up of people can be a frustrating entity, so at times like this one would really need to have good inner self grounding, real friends to support your personal process and a current knowing and utilisation of the business, which is your business. To conclude my advice I would end by quoting the ancient mystics of whom say, ‘To Know Thy Self Is The First Step, After This All Else Will Follow’
DEN: So what’s next?
I’m concluding my sophomore album project with my USA label ‘NuVybe Records’ headed by Mr. Herb Middleton scheduled for release next year 2012, and ahead of the actual album will be the first single release. My new album will feature writing contributions between myself and Mr Richard Rudolph, the husband of the late great Minnie Ripperton, as well as production contributions from Mr Peter Moore (LA Reid) and of course Mr Herb Middleton.
The new range of my fashion line ‘House of Ba-Sawur Designs’ will go live in late 2012. Started in 2005, I initially designed my attire for live performances and engagements which gave rise to an increased interest and demand to commission select pieces for an international private clientèle.
I also have my new stage play production which is a musical comedy that I’ve co-written entitled ‘You Haven’t Seen Nothing Yet’ produced, co-written and directed by Mr Cosmo Morgan via our production company ’B-Cos Productions’ which debuts in London at The Catford Theatre on April 21st and 22nd 2012, starring myself, Kane Brown, Tippa Irie, Wayne ‘Dibbi’ Rollins and Junior Giscombe.
There will also be some exclusive European features and international recording collaborations, where I will appear courtesy of my US label and of course in my schedule is a most generous sharing of live national and international performance dates. All this, with a sprinkling of well favored additional creative surprises ensures exciting and super productive times ahead.
DEN: Great! It sounds like I’ve got a few things to pencil in my diary for the foreseeable future!
Bashiyra will next perform an acoustic live set at the four year anniversary celebration of ‘The Supa Fine Sessions’ which will be held on Thursday 24th November 2011 at The Hideaway, 114 Junction Road, London N19, 8:00pm -11:45pm £5 OTD or £3 ADV - Food served: 6:00pm-10:30pm - Advance Ticket bookings email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on Bashiyra is available on the following links
Bashiyra at London Jazz Cafe – UK support for Conya Doss
Bashiyra Debut Music Video ‘Don’t Get In My Face’
Bashiyra Debut Album EPK – ’Thought You Knew‘