March 13th, 2020 9pm Stage 2
Saturday mornings growing up in the Bahamas meant chores and a house filled with an eclectic range of music for Kamilah (Gibson); anyone from Kathleen Battle to Bob Dylan to Jimmy Cliff (she’s been busting out the high notes in Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You” ever since). Today, Kamilah is posed to set a standard for musicians everywhere with her unbridled magnetism and commitment to making intentional, meaningful music.
Kamilah might say she didn’t quite see a music career for herself as a possibility until after she placed at the Amateur Night competition at the renowned Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, but her roots give light to a well-rounded life growing up in The Bahamas. Her childhood was full of memories climbing mango trees and listening to some of the greatest musicians of our time with her mother and step-father and learning the jazz ropes with her dad. Music was the constant that kept her grounded and helped to teach her about life, and that truth is at the core of why she wants to continue to create it, both for herself and others. Admits Kamilah, “Music, to me, is the most powerful force we have. It can move a body without that body being consciously aware of its own movement. Knowing that, I think it’s important to be mindful as a creator of music; to remain aware that the energy you put out has the power to shift a perspective, to heal and help people through even the most traumatizing moments. It has always been that kind of force for me and I want to share that with as many people as possible.”
In keeping with her commitment to creating intentional work, “Beautiful Boy,” her latest single (released 4.13.19), is a reflection on masculinity; it challenges the idea that vulnerability and softness are inherently anti-masculine, suggesting instead that if we all strive toward emotional intelligence and balance, we can invite light into desolate spaces within and around us. Kamilah says she “hopes that the song resonates with the people who need it most and that it helps them feel safer to explore their vulnerabilities.”
Her upcoming debut EP Learning Curve is a true blend of genres, offering up jazzy lines (“The Love You Need”, “HeartFeels”, “Dark Skin | Coconut Oil”) amidst tunes with obvious R&B roots (“Careless Thieves”, “Losing My Pride”, “Beautiful Boy”, and soulful pop (“Letters”, “Dangerous”). But what is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of her new release is that the Learning Curve she refers to is one she has experienced in many aspects of her life. Through her growth over the years, she has written and produced songs that entertain struggles with existentialism, racism, sexism, culture, love and many more hard topics. And instead of burying those difficult lessons deep, she has brought them to light in a way that we can relate to. “I want to make music that doesn’t deflate you,” Kamilah explains. “Like Erykah Badu or Sade. They address important things but don’t leave you out on a ledge. There is always something to gain- some hopeful message or something to learn about people and ourselves- that offers a way out of challenging moments. That’s important for me.”
The last track of Learning Curve, a beautiful and introspective track titled “Dark Skin | Coconut Oil”, is also a great reflection of her strength as a writer. And because she is a total empath, Kamilah truly feels the emotions of the songs she creates as she sings them, making this one of the most fulfilling - and perhaps difficult - songs to write and perform live. But with the catalog of music she has yet to release this year – before and after Learning Curve is introduced to the world - and the widespread relatability evidenced in the words of her debut single “So Long” (ft. Sho), there is so much more beauty to behold. And if anyone can continue to champion tough, thought-provoking topics (i.e. gender stereotypes and colorism) through a honeyed soundscape, Kamilah is definitely the one. As someone who has admitted that her ideal superpower would be to physically be in two places at once so that she could create more and be as reliable as possible for more people, Kamilah might be on one of the most selfless adventures we’ve witnessed. We fully expect that inspiring drive and growing musical prowess to continue to cause heads to turn.