What a difference a few hours of peace and quiet can make in the lives of married duo, Kindred the Family Soul (Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon). During the recording process of their new album, A Couple Friends (due out on June 10) they found themselves creating for the first time without a baby on the way or just having delivered one.
"I wasn't pumping no milk or making sure the baby was asleep before I cut my vocals," said Graydon. "It's amazing what we can do with two or three uninterrupted hours. We had time to be together as a couple and know how we fit our creativity into the reality of our lives while raising six children."
Aja Graydon, Fatim Dantzler/Courtesy: Shanachie Entertainment
While their last release, Love Has No Recession, was more driven toward social commentary their new CD places strong emphasis on love and relationships. Producers on the project include Vidal Davis and Andre Harris (Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius), James Poyser (John Legend, The Roots) and more with Kindred writing or co-writing all the songs on the album.
The two are also intent on sharing their love with the community through the first annual, Kindred the Family Games, set to take place June 8 in Philadelphia and presented in partnership with Got Laundry? The program will feature activities designed to promote fitness and strong familial bonds. For Dantzler this is a natural extension into the community. "We have become stronger people and I've seen my wife be more involved in community affairs and how our family plays into the community."
"I feel like in essence we are trying to kill the vision that our relationship is so special," added Graydon. "There are so many families that are also making it work every day and we want to put some shine on that."
Women's Fashion and FilmFest Launches "Girls"-Focused Initiative
Who runs the fashion and film worlds? Girls! That's the message that Jeanine Jeo-Hi Kim wants to instill in future female leaders through the second annual Women and Fashion FilmFest (WFF). As part of that goal this year she is introducing the first-ever Girls Film Festival and Girls Empowerment Fashion Runway.
"I really want the event to reach out more to young girls. The whole festival is a platform for mentorship, providing information and reaching out to girls in economically disadvantaged circumstances," said Kim, founder and executive director of WFF.
Programming includes a panel featuring mothers and daughters from the industry such as legendary model Pat Cleveland and daughter Anna Cleveland. Supermodel Sessilee Lopez will share her mission to give back with young girls through the charity organization, Operation Smile. Plus screened will be short films created by young women. It is this emphasis on social-minded programming that Kim hopes will separate the festival from numerous others. And she has her mother to thank for that motivation.
"My mother grew up in Korea in a war-torn community and didn't have opportunities and she always regretted it. She always tried to teach me to try to do my best," she recalled. "I benefit so much from mentors in my life and now I can become the mentor."
The festival runs now until June 7.
Hinton Battle Finds "Something New" in Japan
In the U.S. he has won three Tony Awards but its overseas where veteran Broadway star Hinton Battle has found new inspiration. A performance in Japan led to his first jazz album and he is now following that up with his second jazz release, Hinton Battle: Something New. He celebrated the album this past Tuesday with a performance at New York City's 54 Below. Battle who used to be signed to Quincy Jones' Qwest label in the mid-'80s is grateful to finally pursue his true musical passion at this stage in his career.
"As an artist I feel comfortable singing jazz. Maybe it wasn't my time for that back then and this is my time. It feels right," he said.
Courtesy: Double XXposure Media Relations
A new musical direction isn't all that Battle has found in Japan. In the fall he is set to launch the Hinton Battle Dance Academy in Tokyo and Osaka and returns to the country in 2015 with the musical he created, "Hinton Battle's American Variety Bang III." For him Japan offers an appreciation for his preferred style of music that he doesn't find at home.
"In America we create this incredible stuff and then throw it away like jazz and the blues. But in Japan they appreciate the arts and really love American music. There is a reverence for history."
The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.