A Conversation with… the Singer Formerly Known As Saidah Baba Talibah

In the following conversation with… Bill King talks with Saidah about her latest theatrical endeavor, family roots and why she has changed her name to SATE

SATE - Daughter of “Order of Canada’s” Salome Bey - Keeps Pushing the Boundaries.

B.K: I know you as Saidah Baba Talibah and there are times an artist will change direction. Why SATE?

SATE: SATE means to satisfy. SATE is short, sweet, bold and raw and I think it really reflects everything I have been working up too. Saidah Baba Talibah is my given name – I was born with it and will never lose that but this is an evolution of me.

B.K: Was this necessary?

SATE: I think it was necessary. There were a lot of things I wanted to do and maybe confusion. SATE is my music and my originality when I get up stage and roar at the crowd. I also write music for plays and do jazz gigs.

B.K: You can confuse an audience. An artist who makes a change as such has to come at this with an absolute belief in what they are doing.

SATE: People are buying into it. This has been in the works since November and slowly rolling out and people are becoming aware of it.

B.K: You are still a punk rocker at heart.

SATE: Absolutely!

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On stage with guitarist Donna Grantis who is currently working with Prince.

 

B.K: In the Bey family? (Mother is music icon Salome Bey).

SATE: I think the Bey family is punk rock in their own way. I think the basis of punk rock is blues. It’s being political, being emotional and talking about things – the root, the rawness of it.

B.K: What does SATE address in her songs?

SATE: There’s a lot of talk about letting go and dying in a metaphorical sense. Becoming new – becoming authentic. Being a warrior, crying, getting over stuff - being angry at stuff – facing family stuff head on. A lot of the content is about the three matriarchal pillars of my life: my mother, sister and daughter and how they moved me and made me how I am.

I’m dealing with my mom’s dementia and there’s a song I call “Mama Talk to Me” which is basically about the times we are not talking and how difficult it is and wanting to know what she’s really, really feeling.

B.K: It must weigh on the heart.

SATE: Absolutely! I grew up listening to my mom speak and sing. It’s hard being there and asking “Mom are you OK?” and she will say yes or not say anything.

B.K: Hasn’t this been unfolding over a decade or so?

SATE: Yes, and it has gotten worse; progressively worse for at least a decade.

B.K: Salome’s back history is remarkable. She came up from the states.

SATE: Newark, New Jersey. The city is just starting to come around now with the new mayor and everything. It is rough.

B.K: When she arrived she carried with her the back knowledge of the African American experience and wrote and sang about it.

SATE: There was her creation Indigo which she called a “fun loving look at the blues.” It played at Basin Street for a long time and was on its way to Broadway but never ended up there. It was eventually picked up by John Brunton and Insight and televised and it was one of the first television movies with an all black cast.

B.K: One of the new songs under the name change is called “Warrior.” What is this about?

SATE: "Warrior" is about taking your fifteen minutes and being that brilliant person you are supposed to be. Take that passion and do what you really love. Find your joy and spread your joy.

B.K: Where did you record?

SATE: Lincoln County Social Club. I’m down to a four piece band now. My original band was way bigger with keys, cello, tuba, drums, strings, so now I’m down to the traditional, bass, guitar, keys and drums.

July 11, I’m down at Harbourfront; the WestJet Stage. The music is only available on Pledge Music.Com which is a crowd funding site. All of the music is recorded and released to my “pledgers.” I’ve kept the campaign ongoing to let the “pledgers” choose the ten songs for the album. I’ve actually recorded three EPs with six songs on each and now I need to pare these down to ten.

B.K: You have to be creative these days.

SATE: Why not? We have the freedom to do so.

B.K: That’s my argument.

SATE: Your argument?

B.K: You used to record demos and send to a major or filter through a law firm and wait six months for an answer or no response. You can decide for yourself.

SATE: Which can be good and bad.

B.K: The plus side, you can do what you want – the difficult – finding an audience.

SATE: I think there is an audience for everything. It’s just finding them – big or small.

B.K: It’s the same for every artist.

SATE: There’s a lot of noise out there. Not meaning this in a negative sense, but there is a lot of noise and trying to pierce your way through is challenging.

B.K: And you have to be unique.

SATE: How do you be unique when everyone is unique? We end up kind of borrowing from one another, somehow, someway.

B.K: In certain genres it’s the cookie cutter at work. They look the same, sound the same, and write the same lyrics, but it works.

SATE: I hate rules and structure. That’s my problem. I’m such a free spirit and I hate being tied down.

B.K: But you have so much talent in many directions. What is “The Postman?”

SATE: It’s the story (play) of the first black postman in Toronto who came over the border as a babe in arms with his mother.

She brought seven kids over the border through the Underground Railroad to Toronto and he fought to become the first black postman with the help of John. A. McDonald. In the late eighteen hundreds – nineteen hundreds there was a fight. He was called the “objectionable negro.” He wouldn’t take his place as a black man in Toronto and just sweep. You weren’t supposed to touch the letters of white people. Many of his descendants are still living in Toronto – like Shawn Jackson and Jay Jackson. They are his family. His name is Albert Jackson and there is an Albert Jackson lane over at Harbord and Bathurst area. He owned a few houses in that neighborhood and that was where his route was. The play will be in those neighborhoods on different porches as part of PAN AM.

I was asked to write some music so I partnered with Brooke Blackburn. We arranged the music and directed. I’m not actually in it.The Postman is “staged from selected porches on Brunswick Avenue, Major Street, and Palmerston Boulevard, with additional performances at Margaret Fairley Park. Ticket holders will receive an email on the performance day informing them of the audience meeting point for each particular show. For information about potential holdover performances July 21 – 26, visit The Postman dot com

 

Back in full beast mode performing “Warrior” from the soon-to-be-released album, RedBlack&Blue. 

Images: Bill King Photography

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