Annually, the Cedar Cultural Center grants commissions to six early career/emerging Minnesotan composers and musicians to create and perform new music on their stage. The commission includes money, access to technology, mentorship, marketing support, a production stipend, and more.
In 2019, Nigerian-born, Minnesota-based Kashimana received a commission. This past July 27th, they presented their second album project as a direct result of the grant with a release party celebrating the launch of Phantom Cries.
Their new album mixes blues, soul and spoken word to describe the journey of motherhood with all the fears, joys and pain of giving birth and raising a child. In fact, Kashimana’s daughter, wearing sneakers that emitted a strobe-like glow, flitted around the audience and was even coaxed on stage to participate in a song.
The evening started promptly at 8 pm with ShaVunda Brown as she offered a deep, warm, and vocally erotic performance referencing Black Power, Black Love, and more personal and intimate details of one-on-one love. Perhaps fittingly so in light of the labor and delivery songs slated for later in the evening.
Brown’s vocal range, comparable to Minnie Riperton’s five-octave range, shined when she sang Riperton’s song, Loving You. Accompanied by Richard on the keyboard, Brown displayed fantastic genre range sliding back and forth between spoken word and hip hop, both imbued with unflinching femininity.
A 15-minute interlude before Kashimana took the stage was filled with Priscilla Momah, also from Nigeria. Momah works in a multi-disciplinary fashion incorporating music with the body. She prompted the audience to breathe in and purposely exhale several times before engaging us with her voice and guitar.
Momah only had time for three numbers before transitioning us to Kashimana, but those three songs whet our appetites for another gig with her in the future.
Kashimana and the Halos, Aja Parham, Sarah O’Neil, and Alicia Steele, opened with a combination of delight, whimsy, and a dire message. Accompanying them on keys and percussion were Khary Jackson and Glory Yard. Despite the low turn-out of a few dozen people in the audience, there was diversity most notably in age.
As the inspirations for the music of Kashimana’s second album, Phantom Cries, ran about the floor and occasionally on-stage, Kashi, wearing a dazzling rainbow-colored wrap, sang, played guitar, and drove our attention to the dismal statistics regarding maternal health and mortality.
Splayed on the backdrop of the stage were numbers of deaths and faces of women and children often in somber repose. In fact, the maternal mortality rate of Nigerian women currently is 1047 deaths per 100,000 live births. In the United States it is 33 deaths per 100,000 live births. In Japan and Denmark, it is 4 deaths for every 100,000 live births.
The juxtaposition of seeing Kashimana’s and other band members’ joyful children against such dire statistics was shocking.
Kashimana and the Halos sang a lullaby, Hunny Bunny, to all of us followed by The Bloody Show. Kashi said, “Maternal mortality rates are high and so we have to do something.” Her something is to create music and share it with others in an effort to raise awareness and generate change.