People are talking about lyrics these days. There seems to be a writhing undertow tugging at independent artists and musicians bullying them into a place on the spectrum of intention. It’s like they are engaged in a polyamorous relationship with art but instead of multiple loving partners they have multiple loving ideas that sometimes clash - making living outside of the norm a bit like being in a room with all your partners tugging at once…sometimes it can get complicated. But, there is one thing that isn’t complicated - building a path of your own instead of waiting for or allowing society to do it for you.
Ken Reichl and Ngonda Badila have been consistently building their own path over the past few years. For them, it seems to come in the form of community and creation. I met Ken and Ngonda through Chris Carr, the artist behind Brooklyn Wildlife Creative Services Platform. Their band, Lady Moon and the Eclipse, has played at a plethora of BKWildlife shows as well as a diverse spattering of venues throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. Last night they curated their first official show at C’mon Everybody on Franklin Ave in Bed Stuy. When I asked Ken what the inspiration for the show was he mentioned Artist Carr: “He's like the big brother - I mean we realize what he says is truth - we have to do it for ourselves - support each other - not wait for someone else to do it, we just gotta keep going.” This is a topic Carr is regularly engaging independent artists, like myself, to have discourse about - how do we build a community that sustains itself without corporate sponsorship or outside funding? When things get challenging, Carr consistently pushes collaborators to keep going and according to Ken the message is strong and it’s been heard. “He's like a force of nature - an endless energy - and we want to continue that energy and make it grow.”
It’s this idea of growth and energy that bring me back to the lyrics. The talent represented at C’mon Everybody last night was almost unfathomable. Not because the crowd was dancing with overwhelmingly tantric style - eyes closed, senses open - or because there was a break dancer of sorts who let his inner spirit drive him to the front when unbearable moments of sound and truth inspired him. Not because artists interacted with each other spontaneously calling tap dancers and rappers up to collaborate. Not even because there were saxophones, trumpets, bongos, tambourines, keyboards, drums, electric guitars and female vocalists in every performance but because of the lyrics. So, here is some found poetry from last night’s performance because sometimes the words seem to get forgotten. Words can be like the people who used to live in now gentrified neighborhoods - pushed out, invisible and hard to recall. GAMBAZine is all about the word being remembered. So here it is:
**Note: All words in italics are the words of singers, songwriters and artists mentioned prior. All normal font are words inspired by said singers, songwriters and artists
ACT I: Bria Monet, Kala and the Lost Tribe and The Art of Balance
Tap dancer conundrums unbutton faces as Bria Monet belts like a medusa of sound - no one can resist listening . . Treading onto Glory as it spouts between her lips. We’re frozen, in her midst and she calls Kala up to bring us out again - like an antidote before she continues, Waiting on you to come wrap your arms around me and carry me home but you fall in the other direction. . . despite my affection you are already gone. Kala jumps, Move like a serpent around my bones. The bongos do exactly that and the crowd goes sultry - lulled by electric guitars, blue lights and incense the crowd looks to Monet again, All the world I see in your eyes while the tap dancer still makes a woman swoon in the corner - beat, beat, swig. One way or another resonates as his legs move wider apart swindling the stage now. His arms swing - sweat drips and the stage transitions to the sound of hands. Ngonda rises, Anything you might hear tonight- it might sound familiar but it’s original. Reminding the crowd of what it means to be independent. A hostess in movements.
The Lost Tribe begins as Kala looks at us telling us she’ll be there soon, telling us we are there with her, telling us we are one. She begins, You inspire me to beauty, pass to gateways unfolding like ferns before me. I stop to think - I don’t ever hear lines like that on the radio. Ash of the first fire itself. . . my authentic self. . . Her head falls back but eyes remain forward. It’s how she is. There’s more than just a poet. . . sovereign is the land of my imagination. . . this is a reformation. . . She goes on to tell us in her non-performer voice, her human voice, I lost my pops on July 29th of this year - enough said, this is for him. Her vulnerability reminds us we are one again. We are all engaged in the struggle, all expected to lose and expected to live. The sound and the idea resonate. Re-Memory is the title of the next track and she lets us know we can find it on her EP The Art of Balance. Again, I wonder how she is speaking my language without me even knowing. How we are connected without radio waves and societal programming - she is me, I am her and we are in a room for a moment. She answers, I am listening. I am waiting to see what comes next. When I write a song and it flows like a memory. . . I remember. . . how could I forget . . . And that’s just it - we are all remembering, we are all engaged in the balance, we are all here unable to forget, we are all there waiting for someone to ask us. She ends by telling us what to do and it’s potent because she has brought us so deep we actually need direction. Go outside and see that super moon she gasps for breath and her head falls to thank us but we can’t stop staring so she says one last thing, This track is called Here and Now - a reminder that the present is most powerful. This present is a gift, so I wrap it and put it inside myself for later.
ACT II: King Holiday
King Holiday is what we can only imagine as the man in the middle. The one thriving on what surrounds him - literally gyrating to the energy of beings orbiting his existence. People react - they push forward to meet him, wait for him and leave him at the same time. You’re forced to wonder if this is what his actual life is like. He’s too real to merely be performing. It was hard to hear the lyrics of the eight person band’s first song because their aesthetic, their movement - the bumps and grinds of saxophones and trumpets to the left and the elegantly, stiletto empowered voices to the right. The dashiki wearing guitar player moving to his own beat. All of it beautifully distracting - like a first encounter with someone you are meant to fall in love with - The details are missing but the grandness is more present than you remember feeling before. When it ends, he tells us, that song was about our transportation system. . .we’ll start a protest called fuck two seventy five. . . but shouldn’t we though? All you hear is transportation because essentially that is what’s happened - you’ve been taken somewhere and you don’t know how to get back nor do you want to. The women ask for more power on their mics and they mean it - the power part. From that point on lyrics float in and out of charisma, The only thing I know is I know nothing at all. He sits with his back to the audience and they dance to his erotic energy as it seeps from his shoulders. . . his hat falls off from the heat. This song is dedicated to the universe - what else matters but the universe - if there was no universe we’d have a blood orange moon. You actually picture what that looks like and wonder if it would be a bad thing - the blood, the orange, the change. Maybe that’s why - I need your lovin, baby - is sung over and over again because when the glow is dimmed we experience what it’s like to be nothing.
ACT III: Lady Moon and the Eclipse
Lady Moon and the Eclipse rolls out in gold and black with red ruffles hanging from tail bones and hips - flair spouting off shoulders. Colonels or Goddesses? A stylish array of thoughts wrapped in fabric and questions. They open with a song I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in my sleep - it’s about running in place. I’m running to the master, I’m running to the boss, I’m running so fast I can’t find my way… I think I’m lost. Without the sound these words are depressingly relatable on too many levels to mention. I’m running in a circle, I’m running in a square, I’m running to the stars and moon the sun but still nowhere. I’m running to the teacher when she don’t really care. You’re left to wonder why they are smiling - even Ken, the omnipotent drummer, seeps an inner happiness that doesn’t seem to go with the words until you realize they know another way. As the song completes itself, Lady Moon tells us to imagine. Imagine the movement of the galaxy - the sun, the moon and earth align together - an example of how we can come together even though we are moving apart. She goes on to tell us, the audience, that she thinks about the many people who are dying and how she is so grateful to never take life for granted. As the lyrics continue, the secret to happiness unfolds. We sleep and dream the night away. . . we live our lives to make the wave. You can’t help relating this idea of making the wave to Ngonda and Ken who build by creation - the creation of their own clothes, their own style, their own words, their own sound and essentially their own place. What a wonderful world, I’m a wonderful girl - the smiling continues - In the battle that we face we defend the human race. . . working hard to make things right. . .freedom is coming tomorrow. But somehow I feel like it’s there in front of them, here today. . . what they’ve created is exactly that - freedom. And then she tells us, in case we missed it: As you can see our songs are very positive - we write, we create and we come together as a community to inspire. The last song of the night is called Believe which is authentically appropriate and offers a simplified enlightenment because, at the end of it all, it’s not complicated. Sitting in a chair. . .life isn’t fair . . . where are all my friends. . . no one really cares. . . but when you believe in yourself you care to the sky. It makes you plan the following evening in your head. Where will you go to see the alignment, to see the oneness, to see the lyrics come together above you. Dark and narrow roads got my spirit cold. . . you can fill in the inspiration for yourself this time - do the work they’ve modeled - grow the community they’ve offered you. Be the light as it shines as one.
The night closes with applause and a feeling reminiscent of that polyamory thing people keep talking about. I was left standing in a crowded room, completely alone, with a plethora of people I’ve grown to love rotating around me. . . If you listen to the words it might change what you listen to.