'We need joy': Pandemic helps Black musicians reconnect with their roots
TORONTO -- With the live music industry at an indefinite standstill, a pair of Black musicians say the forced time in lockdown has given them space to reconnect with their African-Indigenous roots.
Amai Kuda of the band ‘Amai Kuda et Les Bois’ says she’s used the time to reflect and churn out new music, which she says weaves in cultural knowledge to help people who could be feeling adrift right now.
“Making this music is a healing process,” she told CTV News Channel on Sunday during a joint interview with her son Imoja. “We need joy. We need reasons to celebrate. And even though I can't do a live show for people, I'm still giving something a part of me to them that hopefully speaks to their personal experiences.”
Their new EP “EmUrgency!” dedicates songs to West Indies deities such as Oshun, the goddess of love. It touches upon her ancestors while combining Afro-soul, desert blues and music from across the African continent.
Imoja said that the pandemic allowed him time to focus on music he felt mattered and collaborate on the album.
“It’s kind of strange that even though I was unable to go to school, even though I wasn't able to see people, the pandemic kind of provided an opportunity for me to learn how to produce,” he explained. “I got a lot more time to finally focus, hone and completely develop that skill.”
His mother’s band has opened for Joel Plaskett, Kellylee Evans and Sarah Slean, and collaborated with M1 of Dead Prez. And Kuda said the music was inspired by her “journey to reclaim and own my power as a musician as a healer and as a community organizer.”
“But it’s also political because we know, as women of colour, there are a lot of barriers to us reaching our full potential,” she said, noting the gender and racial pay gap within music, sexism and lack of representation at top independent music labels in Toronto.
Amai Kuda Et Les Bois is set to release a full-length album “EmUrgency!” as a full limited edition vinyl record on May 28.