When a writer puts pen to paper and gets lost in the picture she is attempting to create, this is obviously a problem for the writer. It speaks volumes about the artist being profiled. While there are terms available to introduce an artist to the audience, none seem sufficient when discussing indie rock artist Saidah Baba Talibah.
She has great depth and has allowed life experiences to guide her through her journey, even the hard ones. She is accomplishing all of her dreams while working through the slipping away of one dear member of her family of musicians. Her mother, the legendary Salome Bey, is suffering from dementia. On her website, sbtmusic.com, she writes of the journal her mother kept that she has used to stay connected to the woman that she once was, and in some ways, still is. “It’s not easy to watch my mom in the state that she’s in. Saidah has to remind herself that, “this is what I do”, and it is what her mother wants her to do. “But it’s hard”, she says. Like Bey, it is almost impossible to tie Talibah down to one style or genre. She has always known she was meant to perform. Since she began walking she has been blessing others with her voice, which is simply amazing. There is nothing else that could be called simple or straightforward when it comes to the singer-songwriter. It seems that there is not a move that she has made that has not been deliberate; everything seems to mean something, even her name. Her first name means happy and fortunate, Baba means born on Thursday, and Talibah means seeker after knowledge.
The artist thought on a higher wavelength when financing her latest work, “(S)Cream”. The “Make Me Wanna (S)Cream” campaign allowed fans to put their money where their “like” buttons were by investing in the project. These supporters were, in turn, rewarded with unique gifts, pampering, and the knowledge that they were a part of the Saidah Baba Talibah movement.
Talibah’s talent is not limited to making music. She is a trained dancer who has been a part of Showboat, Ragtime, and others in the theater. Saidah was also a member of the Canadian Idol Band for three seasons. The experience, “was great training ground”, says Talibah who worked hard learning new songs each week. She has been touring recently as a background singer for multi-platinum country artist Johnny Reid. Julie Black and Divine Brown have also benefitted from her background vocals and the singer loves the role.
Saidah loves rock, soul, and, “everything, including country.” Chaka Khan, Pink Floyd, Bjork, Radiohead, Dead Weather, Jamie Lidell, and Chicago’s Pelican are all influences on her as an artist. This diverse group obviously contributes to her unique style. As a solo artist, she is comfortable in her own skin and has a strength that gives a feeling of calming serenity when she is in the driver’s seat taking audiences through the stories of her ballads. She then puts the performance in their laps as she ramps up the energy, bursting into pure rock. She connects with audiences and rocks them out, bringing them to their feet.
Her costumes range from simple to elaborate, all fitting her style perfectly. As a musician she focuses on each part of the music as it comes together. At times her face shows the awareness of each instrument as it joins in, her arms spread wide, and her body moves with the music. She truly appreciates each part of the work.
(S)Cream was released at the beginning of August and has been making quite a splash. It features eleven songs, including the title track which has an electrifying video directed by Maya Bastian. The visual effects compliment the song and the star teases viewers with her striking eyes as a snake trails her face. The lyrics speak of a lovers touch as it makes her “mountains reach their peak” as her “earth gets a sticky dew”. This is a grown up song from a strong, grown woman whose delivery is raw and ethereal. Real music is what this album delivers. The voice is true and accompanied by a sousaphone, string quartet, horns, guitar, and keyboards. She calls her work a “soul rockestra” and her style “raunchy soul”. And there is no better way to describe either.
If we can classify the work as we walk through it let us start with the tracks that lean to the rock side. “Bang it Back” starts off as clearly a rock song and shows off a deep and guttural sound to her voice. In “Place Called Grace” she takes on the role of storyteller to a rock-soul beat. “Do It” is a rock-funk song that is a throwback, sure to please a variety of audiences. In “So Cool” Talibah’s energy is on display and it gives you a good idea of what her show is all about.
As we venture over to the rhythm and blues side it is apparent that this artist is a rare find. She takes on what she feels and brings it to listeners in whatever style that song felt like coming out in. She will not be boxed into a category and this switch is not choppy, somehow it just seems natural and makes sense. All of these styles are true to this artist and she fully enjoys each of them. On “High” her voice is gentle and the lyrics are vulnerable, the honesty is felt in this love ballad. The sensual “On My Knees” shows off the strength in her voice – never forced, just real. “Good Morning Baby” reminds one of a Floetry joint that meets with Jill Scott. It is a sensitive song that R&B lovers will call their favorite the moment the first verse is played. “Gettaknowya” is sexy and playful and “No More” touches those that struggle to walk away from a love they know is no good for them only to fall back and start the struggle all over again in the morning. The last track, “Fall Again” has a jazzy feel and shows her incredible control.
Saidah Baba Talibah has a gem of an album on her hands and she is the answer to the question, “Where are today’s true artists?” She was awarded Toronto’s SoundClash Music Award this summer and the diverse Canadian masses “love it. They get it.” They know her from her work in the theater and she says, “It’s quite delightful to get all the love.” In the US she is “starting from scratch.” It is only a matter of time that her American fan base soars to match her Canadian popularity. If it is, in fact, true music that America is searching for – they only have to look to Saidah Baba Talibah.
Find Saidah Baba Talibah on Facebook, follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sbtfly, and check out her website www.sbtmusic.com.