#QWERRRKOUT Tuesday: Cover Girl & “International Drag Pooper Star”- Grace Shush
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Submitted by on Saturday, 2 February 2008One Comment



Star of independent film “Afro Punk” and former background singer for Outkast Tamar Kali speaks out about new album, politics, and the Black “skewed” community.

“I was at the Angelika Theater in New York and I saw this really beautiful, sexy Black girl. She was no more than nineteen… she was with this older White man…and I thought, ‘They really benefit from our self-hate’.” This is the didactic world of Tamar Kali. In a few words she shows her nonchalance when it comes to sexuality, and still finds a way to make a political stance on her contentions with the great racial divide. It’s the soft filling with the hard crunchy outer that has garnered Kali critical acclaim, yet hindered her commercial success. Being radical, in an industry where Kelly Clarkson squeaky clean is the image du jour and the entrée must appeal to the masses, is a liability. Kali is on a journey from diverse yet segregated Midwood, Brooklyn, to the other side of the pond. If NYC won’t have her, London will!

Big silver hoop earrings dangling from tunnel pierced ears and a black turban, one might make the egregious mistake of assuming Tamar Kali is still just another R&B back-up singer circa ’94, but this aesthetic is hardly another contrived marketing ploy. It’s part of a transition that has taken Kali on a path to embracing what she calls her true ancestral roots. “When I used to walk down the streets in Midwood, thinking my look was on a strong Black pride tip, it was Black people who say I was trying to be White”. In moments like these Kali realized that her image could be as powerful and integral as her music in getting her message of self-empowerment across.

A self-proclaimed feminist? Vox pop for the Liberalists? Not exactly. Kali identifies with the punk attitudes of the Riot Grrrl’s movement and the proposed components of Liberalism: freedom of thought, individual rights, and the idea of a transparent government, but rejects contemporary government rhetoric. “I have an issue with the language of Liberals and Conservatives. You would think wanting equal rights for all would be a conservative point…considering the tenants America was founded on. As a result of freedom, Blacks have a skewed idea of what freedom is. It’s made opinion more important than fact. ‘Liberal’ sounds lax and I don’t want to be compared with that”.

Kali’s words are not casual. With a degree in English education, she is methodical in getting her point across through self-written songs like “Boot” where she narratates the story of a little Black girl who has been made by a White society to feel ashamed of her race.

It’s the conviction in TK’s songs that have drawn comparisons to ‘90’s British rock band Skunk Anansie. Kali deems the comparison unfounded. “Skunk Anansie was very rock “n” roll. My music is more melodic”. Whether the likeness is accurate or just skin deep remains to be seen, but what is fact is Kali’s journey has taken her to London to record her first solo album which she says will be a re-birthing of sorts. “ The album will be a departure from my previous EP, but the message of self- awareness remains. I see my first show with me dressed in all white with people there that I love telling me ‘yes, you have our blessing’”.

Herein lies the complexity of Tamar Kali. With all her posturing, we forget that there is still a little girl inside this shell of a woman looking for acceptance…a voice searching for an audience willing to listen. “At the end of the day, I want the opportunity for anyone who wants to hear my music to be able to”. Opportunity granted!

Paisley Dalton

One Comment »

  • GODWELL says:

    “They really benefit from our self-hate”. I LIKE HER ALREADY!

    I remember being in Brooklyn during the ‘Afrocentric’ Blackwatch (Movement) and XCLAN era in 90-91. I had the nose ring that hung from the center and down to my lip. Commonly called a ‘bull ring’ and rocked locks, carved walking sticks and the whole nine. I can relate to how she stated Black people react to you. It was anywhere from fear to shame to an occasional “right on”. I hope she sticks it through because the industry desperately needs a break from these studio ‘rock star/pop stars’ and constructed R&B artists.