Music Revolution 2010: Four Women, One Moment
The key to the prosperity of any culture is originality. The unique interpretation of an existing entity, however, can prove just as effective and enduring. History has shown that the recreation of something is easier to introduce to people, rather than something brand new. After all, the best way to incite a revolution is to infiltrate the system and change it from within.
On Sunday, November 7th, BET aired the first annual Black Girls Rock special, honoring African-American women who’ve made outstanding strides in their respective fields. Among the honorees was actress Rudy Dee, recording artist Missy Elliot and author/public speaker Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant; celebrated for forging their own path in a male dominated world and making differences on their own merits. Enhancing the event were performances by today’s up-and-coming Black female singers, like Fantasia Barrino, Keyshia Cole, Ciara and Keri Hilson. But far more memorable than any recognition received for community achievements was a stage collaboration that can only be described as instantly legendary.
Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott
and Ledisi performed Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” a melodic role call of women of color, with each singer capturing the spirit of the women whom they each represented through song. All illuminated with their own spotlights, with each woman unique in vocal style, appearance and demeanor, this once-in-a-lifetime performance shattered any notion that black is not beautiful, in any form. Price embodied the homely, humble sister with her trademark control and warmth. Ambrosius represented the woman of awareness and pride, singing far beyond the confines of her former group, Floetry. Next was Jill Scott, who caressed the microphone with a dynamically sensuous vocal to capture the woman who exploited her own extraordinary physically beauty, yet hid her inner insecurities. Lastly, there was Ledisi, who unleashed her climbing vocal range to channel the mad, but driven woman with a tone so powerful and shocking, it called to mind the late great Phyllis Hyman. The four women in the song all possess different personalities; different skin tones, different hair textures, different dispositions; but have the same four qualities: strength, knowledge, ambition and pride.
After the goosebumps and butterflies began to cease, you’d be hard pressed to attempt to remember anything else that happened on that special. Every type of style and image was present on that stage for two hours, but the powerhouse quartet has proven to endure long after the fade to black. It was a microcosm of mainstream music: artists with sexy, shining covers sing songs that are good only for two listens, but others not so easily categorized go much further. In fact, it was so far ahead of the other performances of the night, it served not only as an affirmation of the character and the strength the Black woman, it also was a manifestation of where the Black female artist has come and where they could go… if they follow the lead of four special women: Aunt Sarah, Saphornia, Sweet Thing and Peaches.