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Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan
@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
9 May 2009

Click an image to enlarge.

Biography

Growing up in Chicago between the 1950’s -1960’s, Chaka Khan – born Yvette Marie Stevens – developed an early awareness of the creative and political movements around her. She formed her first singing group when she was 11 and joined the Black Panthers in her late teens, heading up their free breakfast program for kids. By age 20, she had found the perfect outlet for her creative energy as the singer for Rufus, and five years later, as a breakout solo artist. Known for a catalogue of classic hits: “Tell Me Something Good,” “Sweet Thing,” “Once You Get Started,” “Everlasting Love,” “Do You Love What You Feel” and “Ain't Nobody” to name a few.

Khan has worked in practically every genre of music from pop, R&B, rock, disco, world music and fusion to jazz, rap, hip-hop, and classical. The diverse list of distinguished collaborators with whom Khan has recorded includes but is not limited to Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Ashford & Simpson, Rod Stewart, Manhattan Transfer, Dizzy Gillespie, Gladys Knight, Joe Henderson, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Lenny White, Bobby McFerrin, Melle Mel, Lionel Hampton, Eric Clapton, Fourplay, Peter Cetera, Queen Latifah, Brandy, Tamia, Kanye West, Shaggy, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Clarke, Ry Cooder, Bruce Hornsby, Guru, Phil Collins, De La Soul, Michael MacDonald, Steve Winwood, and, Miles Davis. Emotive vocals have been the trademark of Ms. Khan who has graced the soundtracks of several movies including “Clockers,” “Set It Off,” “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar,” “Miami Vice,” “White Knights,” “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Disappearing Acts,” “Waiting to Exhale,” and “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown,” and the recent Tyler Perry hit “Madea's Family Reunion".

Winner of the 1995 London's Best Actress Capitol Radio Listener's Poll Award Recipient for “Mama, I Want to Sing”, a Diamond Life Awardee of Excellence from the International Association of African-American Music (IAAAM), recipient of the “Soul Train's Lena Horne Lady of Soul Career Achievement Award”, declared a “power mover” by Vibe Magazine, and given the date October 19th as Chaka Khan Day by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.

A renowned proponent of ‘old school’ soul music, her energy, dynamism, and passion through live performances for over three decades, Khan has brought her special brand of vocal magic to audiences the world over. Her prowess as a credited creative force behind her impressive catalogue of solo albums is one that is held in high regard by her peers: executive producer for the 1992 Grammy-winning “The Woman I Am" and Khan’s 1998 album “Come 2 My House” featuring a number of Khan compositions. Khan’s range as an artist is both timeless and limitless as demonstrated in her ability to interpret a range of enduring songs associated with artists such as Peggy Lee, Patsy Cline, Shirley Bassey, Oscar Brown Jr. and Lena Horne, captured on her 2004 release “Classikhan,” recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

But it’s away from the stage and the recording studio that Khan's light has continued to promote a need for change. Her inspiring autobiography “Through The Fire” was acclaimed for its soul-bearing candour and honesty and her commitment to women and children at risk is seen through her countless hours of dedication to the Chaka Khan Foundation. Formed in 1999, the Foundations’ initiative has involved a partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School district mentoring 5th and 6th grade students who are college-bound. Of her work with the Foundation and her other philanthropic endeavours which include participation in numerous charity benefits devoted to conquering AIDS and HIV prevention, Khan simply says, “It's time to build up and time to give back”.

Entrepreneurial in spirit, Khan’s entertainment company Chaka Khan Enterprises is definitely a family affair. Her mother, Sandra Coleman, works as her business manager; and her sister, Tammy McCrary, is her personal manager; while her daughter Milini (who enjoyed success as the lead singer for the group Pretty in Pink) has a burgeoning solo career and her son Damien is also an aspiring record producer. In addition to the Chaka Khan Foundation, Khan is also responsible for her own line of chocolates ("Chakalates"), sold in Neiman Marcus Stores and the guiding force behind her own Earthsong record label.

Honoured by BET with a much-deserved “Lifetime Achievement Award,” Khan’s enduring spirit and passion for music and life have endeared her to music lovers the world over. Khan states:

“Music has always been the background theme to life,” she states, “and people are profoundly affected by what they hear. I think I always knew I’d forever be doing this. It’s what I was put it for. It’s always been kind of like a ministry – now it’s a conscious one.”

Chaka Khan press conference with Carole Clemesha

As I was pushed forward for an inevitably short interview (due to her imminent appearance on stage), I marvelled at Chaka Khan’s youthful appearance. Khan first performed in front of a St. Lucia patrons in 1997. Her performance back then was not well received by either critics or patrons who not only voiced concern at the gig sound quality, but they also felt Ms Khan’s overall presence and attitude was not exactly engaging!

Chaka Khan & Carole Clemesha

I welcomed Ms Khan back to St Lucia. Her response:

“Oh yes, I knew I had been here before.” With a quick glance to her Manager, as if to confirm.

I reassured her that it was 12 years ago (1997) in a hotel venue as opposed to main stage at Pigeon Island. She grinned and very firmly shook my hand. Khan looked relaxed and radiant as she chatted

Chaka Khan

Khan was adamant in her views regarding Amy Winehouse’s predicament. “She needs to have real friends around her who are not musicians, who will be honest with her, I should know, I have been where she is…her talent is understated!”

She was then rushed off with a bubbly wave, a shake of the huge mass of hair, cool looking casual jeans and a flourish of gypsy-style sleeves.

Khan’s up-coming performance was highly anticipated, as expected from such a veteran diva. She also had something to prove to hardcore St. Lucian patrons and critics who will definitely remember her 1997 performance.

Khan immediately took command of the Pigeon Island stage and powered through her anthems, “Tell Me Something Good”, “Sweet Thing” and “Ain’t Nobody” were just a few of the many memorable moments. Khan was in the mood for the party atmosphere here, she had patron’s hearts and souls in the palm of her hand.

It was obvious that previous vocalists had experienced technical issues with either the microphone provided, or mixing engineers. Khan used her own personal microphone adorned with taylor made cloth drape. She may have also possibly travelled with her own mixing engineer? The results of such professional decisions were clear as her searing vocals were not only delivered cleanly, you could also hear every spoken word and soulful phrase at different positions throughout Pigeon Island.

Khan was clearly enjoying the Pigeon Island experience as much as the patrons themselves. She didn’t move much on stage, but she didn’t have too, her songs, her voice and her smile was enough to fill the stage and beyond with soulful sunshine. Her relaxed, but potent aura even encouraged an over eager Nicole David to join Khan for her “I’m Every Woman” finale…all sisters on stage together (or so she must have thought). Unfortunately it was clear from Khan’s body language that there was really only enough room for one diva on the stage at that point. Obviously, the adage ‘two women cannot share the same kitchen’ can occasionally have relevance for the stage environment, especially when one of the two women is the diva ‘Chaka Khan’.

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan


Recommended
Listening

 

Funk This Chaka Rufus featuring Chaka Khan - Ask Rufus Chaka Khan
Classikhan Echoes Of An Era I Feel For You Epiphany The Best Of
Rufus & Chaka Khan - Masterjam Rufus featuring Chaka Khan - Refusized Chaka Khan & Rufus - Street Player Watcha Gonna Do For Me
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan - RagsTo Riches Rufus featuring Chaka Khan Rufus and Chaka Khan Live

 

Further
Recommended
Veiwing

Click the images below to view photographs of Chaka Khan @ the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, 2015,
or, Nicole David @ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival, 2009...

Chaka Khan @ the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, 2015 (click to go to her page) Nicole David @ Pigeon Island (click to go to her page)

Go back to the St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2009 home page.

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