In the 90s my eclectic taste in music continued but soul, hip hop and R&B became my staple. Mary J Blige’s What’s the 411? Snoop Dog’s Doggystyle. Joe’s Everything. I remember walking around the school playground with the crew, in-ear headphones shared between two. Tevin Campbell singing teenage love songs and long sighs over unrequited affections.
In college, after the braces came off, I embraced the club scene and partied as hard as I studied to The Fugees, BlackStreet, Faith Evans, Mariah ‘bad girl’ Carey, Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, The Notorious B.I.G. and others.
And then there was Jungle. Drum and base spoke through vibrations. Moved the body in a trance. The noise was an exorcism and I danced all night long.
Then neo soul arrived. Love Jones played fresh. I fell in love with Cassandra Williams and her Tupelo Honey became my lullaby.
Then, A levels over with I got on a plane across the Atlantic where an unexpected love, the one who I choose to get the deed over with, taught me about Jazz over a long fiery summer in New York. At last I was to have my Paula Danziger Remember Me to Harold Square romance years after first reading that novel.
I was schooled in the works of his favourite pianist South African Abdullah Ibrahim and, amongst others, Monk, Coltrane and Davis. And also a lesser know singer Sathima Bea Benjamin whose rendition of standards like A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square made the world disappear as we kissed and found each other in the darkness.
The following summer I made the same journey across the ocean and found other distractions. I see myself kissing a boy in the rain after a movie. Taking the subway to meet a guy in Colney Island. Waiting to meet Maxwell so he could sign my CD and I could take his picture at a record store in Times Square. The queue to him snaked and looped up down and around the building. New friends were made in the line. Afterwards over a late night pizza we came together and departed never to meet again. Life was full of possibility. I was fearless. And youth was delicious: I can still taste its sweet tangy zest on my tongue now.
Then I returned to London town where the intense sex and intoxicating bond between Deluded Dick and I began to hypnotise me. In the weeks before we parted to start our degrees love secretly seeped into my veins and tainted the blood that coursed throughout my body.
For the next 15 years music receded as life with a porn addicted drug taking drunk came into the fore. By the time we spilt my Spotify playlist seemed to be looking back at tracks rather than listening to the tunes of the present.
When I found myself stuck to the pavement struck down with grief, I summoned the same resolve that had helped me endure the marriage. Between tears that rocked and shook me. Made me as empty and as hollow and as light as the shell of a ground nut. Between the waves of sadness I danced. And danced. And sang and screamed lyrics to myself and to my children so that life became a karaoke disco. My playlist included: Janelle Monae (basically everything but mostly stuff from her current album), Katy Perry (Roar), K. Michelle (Can’t Raise a Man), Ciara (I’m Out), Rita Ora (album ORA Delux), Lorde (album Pure Heroine), AlunaGeorge (Attracting Flies and album Body Music). Lots of afrobeats. Lots of house and especially stuff released by Rinse FM. Some of my favourite tracks: Music Box (Royal T), Zinc (Goin In), P Money (Shutting Down), Brackles (Chasing Crazy, Go Ahead, Too Much, DPMO), Mapei (Don’t Wait).
Out of all of these it was Roar by Katy Perry that I would sing at bath time to my sons, though more so to myself. It spoke of me and was a call to overcome bullshit. To continue to be the woman I had always been and to not let some fool fool guy crush me. I sang about a lioness to my cubs and we roared together laughing and powerful. I was renewed.
Music has been a solace and an inspiration. It has and continues to heal me. I will not be stepped on any more. The creators will never know me but daily I thank them for their lessons and their gifts.