Soul and the City #1 - “Stand clear of the closing doors!”
This has been the melody playing throughout my day in New York City as I take the subway up and down her busy streets to a series of meetings that are all steps along the journey of moving my new project forward.
My posse has assembled armed and ready to take on the task at hand...press, reviews, deals, and meetings of future dreams. This has been the new and exciting adventure of my debut CD, Enter My Mind --a journey into a place where soul music reigns and we are able to explore and celebrate our souls - or so I hope.
My name is Marlon Saunders, and I have been asked by SaveOurSoul, a wonderful group of folk who are dedicated to keeping soul music alive, to guide you through a day in the life of a musician working and trying to make things happen in the busy town of Manhattan. This may sound fun, daring, and exciting, and it is all all of those things, but when you have an independent recording--okay any recording these days that is new to the market--it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and protection of the soul.
Webster defines soul as “an entity which is regarded as being the immortal or spiritual part of a person without the physical or material reality, yet it is credited with the function of thinking, willing, and determining behavior” ...this is its use as a noun.
As an adjective it goes on to say...”the deep spiritual and emotional quality of Black American culture and heritage; strong expression of this quality in a musical performance - soul music - of, for, like, or characteristic of American Blacks.”
Upon further discovery I found that its early origins connect the soul to the sea. It is in this body of water that many believe the soul was created.
So protecting my soul from heavy rain and lots of humidity I once again take a subway ride downtown, and while watching busy New Yorkers crowd into the train, I ask myself, “If the soul is as ancient as the sea, can it really be neo?”
For the answer to this, I knew I had to go straight to the source and also to some characters who happen to be my friends...
My first stop was Aretha Franklin - “Ain't no way”, next on to Curtis Mayfield “We the people who are darker than blue”, moving on to Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack’s “ Be real black for me” and of course Chaka Khan belting out “At midnight (My love will lift you up) right next to Stevie Wonder’s “You haven’t done nothin’”. This seemed to set the stage for me to continue my journey. Of course there is so much more to throw in the pot so if you stick around you'll get to know my vybe and the love I have for Soul music.
Chillin’ on the island of Staten with one of my favorite sistahs, Biti Strauchn, who has been in the game singing with the likes of Glenn Jones, Tears for Fears, and Me’shell Ndegeocello, we rapped about making a difference in our community through music. We came up with many ideas (hopefully coming to you in the future) but more than anything our souls got a chance to rest from the day-to-day struggle of trying to make that dollar. We lay down our burdens and just concentrated on being there and supporting one another.
Leaving Biti’s my soul felt quite full from great conversation and an amazing pear she offered to me. I was ready to take the trip back to the city and hook up with brutha Michael Dumas, a creative, intellectual head who drops science about the soulful hue the way Coltrane plays over the most intense changes, so ya know I gotta pay full attention not to miss his intention.
Michael and I speak about the classes he is teaching, one at City College of New York, and the other at Hunter College, which both address how different cultures understand and communicate about race and how it plays out in America. As Michael breaks it down, I realize that the music defined as Soul is as old as the first Africans brought to this land, and its rhythm and melody have never stopped. Its flow cannot be defined by a burning candle, headwrap, nappy ‘fro, or a funky beat. It is poetry, good eats, blues alleyways, migrations, segregation, the bourgeoisie and integration...soul is much much more, but let’s not get too deep for this is just the beginning of our soulful trip...
My cell phone rings and I hear the beautiful voice of Vanessa, the sistah of mysticism, sensuality, and love of good music. She is calling just to let me know that I have been in her thoughts and she is sending me good vybes and lots of love. I smile and thank her for just being there. She and I met when I was mixing Enter My Mind. She told me her favorite song on the CD is “Coolin’”. We immediately connected and it has been a good thing getting to know her.
As I finish up the call, I hop in the ride and hang out with my best friend Arif. He and I are like brothers, so we greet in brother-like fashion...”Wassup - chillin...wassup with you...nothin.....I’m hungry...me too...so where are we goin’?...I don’t know...what you want to eat?.. I don’t know...where you wanna go?...let’s just drive...aiight” ...and then we’re off heading up the highway groovin’ and harmonizin’ to some good old 70s soul music.
Laughing and pointing out amazing things in the music we connect with those who make sure the root, the essence, the soul of a people is carried on. Still head noddin’ and getting lost in the music, we find our way to New York’s beautiful Seven Lakes, and while it may not be the sea it is still soothing to the soul.
More info about special crew member Marlon Saunders: