Friday, Oct. 27, 10 p.m.
CD release party
Raleigh Music Hall
14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
The Independent Weekly recently caught up with Shirlette Ammons–vocalist, bassist and published poet–to talk about the band she fronts, Mosadi Music, as well as some other topics.
Independent Weekly: Introduce the other members of Mosadi Music, if you would please.
Shirlette Ammons: Gladly. Nic Slaton on bass, Matt McCaughan on drums, Chris Boerner on guitar and–of course–all the folks who come out to the live show.
IW: OK, a hypothetical situation to serve as a follow-up question: You and the rest of the band are traveling to a gig together, and each of you can bring only one CD to listen to. What CD would you bring, and what CD do you think each of the others would bring?
SA: Instead of hypothesizing, I asked the fellas, and Boerner said, “Jimi Hendrix: Axis Bold as Love” (his favorite album of all time). Nic said, “Mars Volta’s Scab Dates makes great drivin’ music.” Matt has yet to respond but, since I know him so well, I can confidently say he’d bring Wham! Make it Big. I would bring the Minnie Riperton album Adventures in Paradise, with “The Simple Things” on it. I have pleasant memories of that song.
IW: I picture you bringing the words to Mosadi Music while the music is a communal effort–is that accurate? If so, how does that communal effort work?
SA: That’s pretty accurate. Sometimes different bandmates bring me music. Sometimes I bring a bassline and a drumbeat, record a rough outline of a song and play it for the fellas and then we tweak it in rehearsal. But the thing I appreciate about Matt, Nic and Boerner is that they are all creative and inventive, so they always have something to offer, and I learn so much about the music that exists beyond my own ear/imagination. I always feel challenged when they present music to me and honored when they dig something I present to them.
IW: When you sit down to write, do you say “This is going to be poetry” or “These are going to be lyrics to a song,” or are the two interchangeable?
SA: At this point in my life, I sit down to write with intention, which is something I didn’t always do. And I imagine, like everything else, it’ll change. Now that I’m really involved and focused on music, I’m doing a lot more songwriting, but I’m thinking about poetry quite a bit lately and seeking it, searching for it within myself. The two are interchangeable in that I try not to classify what the words are. It’s important to me–no matter what form I’m using–to search for the word I intend to use, the sentiment I aspire to express. I don’t believe in the concept of a “right” word, but that don’t keep me from searching for it. (laughs)
IW: I like the quote from your Web site about how Mosadi Music “revisits the consciousness of sixties soul, the thump of seventies funk, and the roots of nineties hip hop.” So are you saying that the eighties didn’t contribute anything to music?
SA: Well, does Janet Jackson count?
IW: Can you share some artists who you think epitomize the consciousness of sixties soul, some who epitomize the thump of seventies funk, and some who epitomize nineties hip hop?
SA: Sixties soul: Aretha, Gil Scott-Heron, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield. Seventies funk: Larry Graham, Sly Stone, Rick James, Wattstax artists like Booker T. and Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Nineties hip hop: Tribe Called Quest, Fugees, Mary J Blige, Pharcyde.
IW: I read an interview that you did a couple of years ago in which you described yourself as a “working-class poet.” Can you explain what a working-class poet is? What other kinds of poets do you think exist and how are they different?
SA: Working-class poet is relative to my upbringing and how the experiences of growing up in rural North Carolina influenced my expressions, my decisions, my observations, my insights, my choices, my politics, my desires. “Working-class poet” is my lineage; it’s where the stories and rhythm and soul come from. It’s my family tree. As far as “kinds” of poets, I think each poet defines him or herself. I think that’s a question you’d have to ask each individual poet. Adrienne Rich said, “We might as well be truthful.” Sounds simple, but I think a truthful poet is the only “kind” that matters.
IW: Can you tell me the main differences between Mosadi Music and your earlier band, stumP?
SA: Well, as with stumP, each member of Mosadi Music brings her/his various influences, daily successes and struggles to the collective, which exists with or without the music. Sonically, stumP had more of a rock vibe, and I enjoyed doing it because it stretched me beyond the music I thought I should be making, and it helped me build confidence as a musician and songwriter and frontperson. Mosadi grooves real hard; we rely on the pocket and I hear a different range of influences in the music Mosadi makes. Hopefully, Mosadi is growth.
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