Friday, December 3, 2010

She Blew My Mind: Tamar-kali

Yesterday afternoon I got a text message from my homeboy Kenyon Farrow asking me if I were free later in the evening to check out a concert with him. I had no idea who was performing, but I rarely turn down anything for free, so I said sure thing. Plus Kenyon ALWAYS knows the T, so I know better than to not show up to something he has dropped some ducats on.

So, around about 7:30, I met Kenyon at Better Burger on 19th and 8th in Chelsea, and we walked the couple of blocks to The Kitchen. The Kitchen is a multidisciplinary performance art space. Basically it is a good sized black box theater tucked away between 10th Avenue and the West Side Highway in a very unassuming building. It's actually fairly sterile looking when you walk in, which was a hell of a juxtaposition against the gorgeous and very colorful cadre of stunning black women with a sprinkling of men and a dash of white folks that was chillin' in the lobby.

Usually, I can tell whether or not a performance is going to be good either by the space that the show is in or by the crowd. Well the space was giving me one message and the crowd was giving me an altogether different message (space said...STERILE...crowd said...HOLD ON TO YOUR TITTIES).

Let me tell you I was not prepared for what went down.

The opening artist to take the stage was a petite spitfire Tennessee black woman with amazing locks and a baby doll face that reminded me of Lauren Hill. But when that country gal opened up her little throat and all that voice came out she was giving me Dolly Parton meets Tori Amos meets Ani DiFranco meets no one I've ever heard of before...and all that was Miss Valerie June. She reminded everyone in that audience that country, bluegrass, blues, and soul are all black music forms that may have been appropriated or expanded beyond the black community, but the soul of those genres is still black. Her musical storytelling and her brilliant voice was great to hear. She referred to the stage as her living room, and she and her accompanists were tremendous.

There was a brief intermission at which time folks mingled about and use the bathroom and the like. I figured the headliner was probably someone that sang along the lines of Valerie June.

Lord have mercy the minute that Tamar-kali took to the stage I knew I was wrong, so very wrong. This woman walked on stage looking like Miss Josephine Baker, but when she opened her mouth she gave us an experience the likes of which I have never had in my life. She joined a full band that included two back up singers, a percussionist, a grand piano, a cellist, a violinist, and during two songs she played the bass and the guitar. Her music was a mix of rock, soul, funk, punk, folk, and something else that I just don't have words to explain. And that voice...THAT VOICE....when she sang she not only brought you into the story, she demanded that you LIVE THE STORY. And I lived. Child I LIVED last night. She had us calling out like we were in church, and at one point, she was singing a song about someone that she had once loved, and I was no longer part of the audience. I was her. We were her. The vibrations moving through the floor from the audience stomping to her music was a living testament and a mighty praise to this woman's artistry.

Tamar-kali is music.

At one point, Grammy nominated pianist Vijay Iyer joined her on stage along with another vocalist, Somi, and they did a Bjork cover. Let me tell you that I would DRINK Somi's bath water. And I am not sure where the hell Tamar-kali found her guitarist, but that man was working that axe so hard that all I could think about was him working me in just the same way. Whoever that man is going home to at night is having the types of orgasms that you only hear about in fairy tales and Samoore's stand up routines. Sweet baby lord Jesus.

Let me make a sacred vow right here and right now. Unless I am sick, dying, poverty stricken. or at a birth, wedding, or funeral...I will NOT be missing another Tamar-kali show in New York City. Plus, I need to get as much of this woman into my blood stream before she starts selling out stadiums for ticket prices that make me want to slap someone at Ticketmaster.

If you are free this evening, then you need to get your ass down to The Kitchen. Tamar-kali and Valerie June will be performing again tonight at 8pm, Tickets are only $12, and the tickets are worth EVERY penny. You can buy tickets from The Kitchen.

Thank you Kenyon for the ticket to the show, and thank you Tamar-Kali for blowing my ever loving mind.

1 comment:

  1. I've been hip to and hot for Tamar-Kali ever since I saw her in the documentary "Afro-Punk" (, plus the film's on Netflix). There's also free Black alternative music album, " Presents: Fire in the Dark," with her track "Ocean" available through here:


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