To pay tribute to Chaka Khan you don’t just call on any vocalist. You call on some of the best: Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Holliday, Mary J. Blige and Deborah Cox. These divas united on stage to honor Khan as part of the Apollo’s 8thAnnual Spring Gala Concert. They were joined by Alexandra Burke who gave a lively set. Although she did not perform, Erykah Badu demonstrated her wit when struggling to read the teleprompter without her glasses during her award presentation to Khan.
Host Wayne Brady comically fawned over Kahn and serenaded her in one of the event’s highlight moments. Kahn, on vocal rest could not perform, but had she been able to take the stage then surely, “Sweet Thing” would have been a song many would have liked to hear. Instead, Blige delivered her rendition and revealed how frightened she was to record it for her debut album, What’s the 411? “It’s a classic and I felt like I was gonna mess it up,” she shared with the audience. “In my own courage and in my own way I did a Mary version and it became a classic for me and my peers. So Chaka thanks for keeping us current even with the songs of the past.”
At the reception, Cox shared that she will return to Broadway in 2014 despite the abrupt cancellation of her most recent critically-acclaimed Broadway stint in, Jekyll & Hyde. Plus she is working on new music. “There will be a new album and another Broadway show. I cannot divulge the details right now but I will be in a musical next year. My album will be more R&B/pop like my first album.”
There were more honorees at The LeRoy Neiman Art Center’s second annual fundraiser and art exhibitions. Those being acknowledged for their service included Councilmember Inez Dickens, Walter J. Edwards, CEO of Full Spectrum, Londel Davis of Londel's Restaurant and Muhammad Ali. Miya Ali appeared on behalf of her father and noted her personal connection to LeRoy Neiman. “He [Neiman] exposed me to art and it was about passion. That's where the value comes in, so that anything I do in my life it’s always about passion,” she says.
Miya, who keeps a decidedly low-profile in the media works in corporate sales for a hospitality group, runs soup kitchens and is engaged in several green business ventures. But staying out of the spotlight doesn’t mean that she isn’t very active in many social circles. “Being in the spotlight can be overwhelming and I found that I like my privacy. However even though I am low-profile I know more people than all of my siblings. I have a huge social life.”
Social graces take center stage in Oscar Wilde's celebrated comedy, The Importance of Being Ernest. The play is being revived by Take Wing And Soar Productions, in partnership with Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group, for a limited run at the Poet’s Den Theater until the end of June. This production is transported to 1920s Harlem with style, jazz and flash. It follows two men who put on false airs only to have things go awry when their deceptions are discovered.
Finally, in continuing our celebration of African-American Music Appreciation Month allow us to introduce you to singer, songwriter, producer Georgia Anne Muldrow and rapper, poet and producer Dudley Perkins a.k.a. Declaime who unite under the alias of G&D. With their fusion of funk, west coast hip-hop and socially conscious lyrics the couple is creating a buzz that is enhanced by their image and lifestyle. After struggles with alcoholism and Perkins’ hospitalization they now follow a strict vegan diet, have a stronger family unit and explore spirituality in their music. Their musical inspirations are two of funk’s greatest architects George Clinton and James Brown. Dudley says that studying Clinton helped with improving his vocals. “There are some voices that definitely have taught me how to do different things in my music. George Clinton influenced me with the fine art of the funk.” Meanwhile Muldrow credits James Brown with helping her think like a producer. “He taught me how to listen to each part of a song separately, but still at the same time.” To hear the influences please click here.
From Khan to G&D the funk keeps on funkin' on.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.