moore started the concert ten years ago as a tribute to Davis, an African American female rock ‘n’ roll artist who was married to Miles Davis in the 1960s and who introduced him to pioneering rock/funk artists like Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone. Betty’s influence on Miles inspired his transition to jazz fusion in the later 1960s, which produced iconic records like Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way.
Ms. Davis was a firecracker in her own right and in addition to modeling, she also recorded a few controversial albums throughout the 1970s. Although she never attained critical success as an artist, she was way ahead of her time displaying an independent, badass attitude and sexual demeanor that was not admired at the time, but is now celebrated by female artists today.
Ms. moore learned about Betty Davis after she received a compliment from The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. He told her she smiled like Betty Davis, and at the time she didn’t know who Davis was, but after falling in love with her story, she decided she wanted to educate others about Davis, and this resulted in the first Black Women Rock concert at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta.
This past Saturday, the concert took place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where its been held for the last four years.
Since its inception, Black Women Rock has become a grassroots movement that gives women from nontraditional musical backgrounds a space to be creative and showcase their artistic talent. The entire production is run by women, and the concert is a complete rock experience filled with excitement from beginning to end.
This year, the concert welcomed back an amazing group of vocalists, musicians, and artists who rocked the stage. The show was sold out, as it has been for the last few years, and it was no different as people lined up outside the door to get into the theater.
The show began with a clip of singer Nina Simone championing the beauty of African American culture, and was followed by a tribal dance, which included moore, who served as the MC of the show and one of the night’s performers.
Seattle based artist Kimberly Nichole, also known as the “rock ballerina” because of her ballerina stage attire, was the first performer of the night and her set was accompanied by heavy-based guitar licks and powerful vocals from the young songstress. She lit the stage up with her dark, acoustic driven song “It Ain’t Fair,” but an audio failure caused her to have to restart the song. The audience didn’t mind one bit because they just got more time with Nichole, who joked with the crowd until the audio was fixed.
The audio failures were the only annoying part of the show, which thankfully only took place at the beginning.
Punk rock/soul artist Tamar Kali graced the stage next and brought her hardcore essence to the show. Kali is one of the many artists who have performed at Black Women Rock throughout the years. World music artist Imani Uzuri is another artist that has been rocking with the show since its debut in 2004. Uzuri has a dynamic, soulful voice and turned the show into a full-fledged blues shouting show during her dedication performance to black women.
While Uzuri’s set was more soulful and calming, there were no holds barred during Detroit based rock/soul artist Steffanie Christi’ian’s performance, which was was by far the most edgy and entertaining. Christi’an definitely showcased that gut-wrenching rock sound Detroit is known for, especially when she was dancing all over the stage and engaging in a battle with the guitarist. But, it was her rough, soul-driven vocals that stole the show, especially when she performed “What You Gonna Do” and the rock heavy tune”Hit.”
What keeps people coming back every year for this show to see artists that are not mainstream is because of the fact that they are not your conventional artists. All of the artists are successful in their own right and have the support of indie labels and a core group of fans.
And with Black Women Rock, more people are discovering these immensely talented female independent rock artists. During the show, moore announced that Black Women Rock will be showcased at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City and at the Apollo Theater in 2015.
Artists like Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey would be so proud of this concert. Betty Davis, the woman who inspired this concert, is well aware of its existence and I’m sure is excited to see women like her continuing her legacy.