Saidah Baba Talibah: The Phone Demos

23 Feb 2009

Saidah Baba Talibah

To describe Toronto’s own Saidah Baba Talibah as a mesmerizing singer and performer would be an understatement. This multi-faceted artist is actually an accomplished singer, dancer, actress and writer.

The daughter of legendary jazz and blues singer Salome Bey, she was immersed in the world of the arts very early.

“My process of getting to here was a lot of watching and listening and learning from my mom” as she reveals to AfroToronto.com.  Her family, on both sides,  is immersed in the arts and includes singers, actors, poets and dancers.

“I was surrounded by this all the time. It’s like being in a family or doctors ... you kind of become a doctor. It’s what you see around you. Or you become a nurse, whatever, you just go into the field” she quips.

Saidah Baba Talibah grew up in the era of ‘Fame’ and was glued to the TV for every episode. “I watched Fame all the time and I turned my mom and said: “I want to go to a school like Fame”.”

Her wish was granted and she was enrolled in the Claude Watson School for the Arts as a dance major. She also learned to play the tuba and received training in acting, drama, folk dancing, tap and visual arts.

After high school, Saidah Baba Talibah already began making her name by appearing in professional musical theatre productions such as ‘Showboat’ and ‘Ragtime”. She was also part of the cast of Djanet Sears’ acclaimed ''The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.''

She also kept honing her singing chops by singing background vocals for well-known performers and also singing lead with the local late 90’s soul/rock/fusion band she co-founded, Blaxäm.

“Being a jack of all trades, being a person that does a lot of everything, I had to figure out what I wanted to focus on mainly at this point and time in my life. So I decided to focus on singing. And with singing I still wanted to incorporate everything along with it. And I think it’s coming but I need to focus on the music aspect first.”

Saidah recently released a four-track EP called ''The Phone Demos''. The EP came about through her journey of recording her first full-length album. The genesis for ''The Phone Demos'' can be traced back to a series of song writing sessions with her guitarist, Donna Grantis.

“The song writing process for me is [something I like doing live]. So that’s what we were doing. We had no way of recording it. So I just pulled out my phone and recorded it on my phone” as she recounts to us.

“We played some of the studio kind of tracks [to people] and those phone demos kind of came up and people were like: “What’s this? Where did you record this?” I recorded them on the phone that I’m on right now. So people were like “I would buy this”. So we really thought about [it and felt] “this could be a really interesting concept” she ads.

As she decided to make ''The Phone Demos'' EP, Saidah was inspired by the 1983 ‘4-Track Demos’ album by British singer-songwriter PJ Harvey. Like PJ Harvey had done, she also plans to release the polished tracks in a full-length album sometime next year.

One more than one occasion during the interview, Saidah Baba Talibah made reference to Pink Floyd as an influence. “I always loved Pink Floyd … and people like that who were doing stage shows that were emotional [and where you] get lost in the music.” She aims to achieve that dramatic sense for her music by using instruments like tubas and the drum to expand the orchestra. The experience gets amplified by the addition horns and the harp in an operatic tradition. “I love opera” she says.

Watch out for her debut solo album next year!

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