Jamhuri with neo-soul star Erykah

Sunday December 9 2012

By JOHN MUCHIRI [email protected]

American neo-soul star Erykah Badu will be performing in Nairobi on Tuesday, the Jamhuri Day Eve, at Carnivore grounds, Nairobi.

Her Kenyan fans know Erykah as a musician who has been caught up between controversy and good publicity alike, mostly because of her deep music and lifestyle.

She has been described as a producer, singer, touring artiste, DJ, teacher, community activist, holistic healer, doula, vegan, recycler and conscious spirit.

But she has a lot more going than her music. Having being raised by a single mother and gone on stage to perform at a tender age, Erykah’s life has been in the spotlight as long as she can remember.

Her life has remained public, from where she went to school to who she dates. One thing that is very clear is that she has had a deep love of hip-hop music, probably a reason why most of her boyfriends and the fathers of her three children have all been rappers.

Her first-born son, Seven was born in 1997. The father is popular rapper Andre 3000 of the OutKast. When they broke up, Erykah dated another popular rapper Common for about two years. In 2004, she gave birth to her second-born Puma, a girl she got with yet another rapper from West Coast, The DOC.

In 2009, she got Mars, with yet another rapper, Jay Electronica, who had been her boyfriend for five years.

What is more interesting is how she gave birth to her children. Erykah has always believed in giving birth naturally, especially at home. When she coached her best friend through a 52-hour labour and had an epiphany.

“When I saw the baby, I cried,” Erykah said in an interview, and has assisted in over five births. “I knew what I was supposed to do with my life.”

In an interview with America’s People magazine late last year, her work with mums-to-be starts one month before their due dates. Every week, Erykah has 45-minute sessions, discussing their health, massages them and performs Reiki (an energy healing practice).

She also shares her own at-home birthing videos. “It’s important they see I did not cry and scream,” she says. “They’re amazed they don’t have to be afraid.” With all these services being free, Erykah is also present during the birth of the children to comfort the mothers.

Erykah is now an International Center for Traditional Childbearing spokeswoman, and hopes to get a midwife certification.

Though she still makes music, she’s happiest as “Erykah Badoula,” as her clients call her. “Nothing gives me more pleasure,” she said, “than being the welcoming committee for a mother’s new joy.”

On Twitter, she refers to herself as Erykah Badoula, probably to emphasise more on what she does off the stage.
Her hit songs have brought her both love and controversy in equal measure. Window Seat is one of the songs that brought controversy in her career.

The video was shot in 2010 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, which she wrote on her Twitter feed “was shot guerrilla style, no crew, one take, no closed set, no warning, 2 min., Downtown Dallas, then ran like hell.”

Without permits from the city, Erykah shed her clothes as she walked on a sidewalk until she was nude at the site where President Kennedy was assassinated.

A shot rang out as the song ended, and Erykah’s head jerked back and she fell on the ground.

There were children with their families as she stripped.

Coodie and Chike, the video’s directors, admitted they had bail money ready during filming, if Erykah was to be arrested.

She was later charged with disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanour. After pleading not guilty, she later pleaded, deferred adjudication, meaning that the final judgment in the situation has been deferred until a later time and paid the $500 (Sh42,500) ticket.

Erykah was born on February 26, 1971 to William and Kollen Wright in Dallas, Texas. They named her Erica Abi Wright and she was the first of their three children.

She inherited a taste for music from her mother who introduced her to multiple genres of music. At the tender age of four, Erykah began singing and dancing in productions at the local Dallas Theatre Centre.

It wasn’t until her acting debut in the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Centre’s musical production of Really Rosie, directed by her godmother Gwen Hargrove, that Erykah realised she was a natural performer.

She stayed true to her artistic leanings and enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in the late ’80s.

Tomboyish and a bit of a class clown, she devoted most of her time to perfecting her dance form, studying the techniques of Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham, as well as practising ballet, tap and modern dance.

She further sharpened her hip-hop skills, freestyling on the Dallas radio station 90.9 FM KNON under the name Apples the Alchemist until she eventually changed the spelling of her name from “Erica Wright” to “Erykah Badu,” “kah” being Kemetic (Egyptian) for a human’s vital energy or “inner-self” and “ba-du” after her favourite jazz scat-sound.