Sister From Another Planet

My obsession with music started at an early age. I was put in violin study in elementary school because my art teachers said they couldn’t teach me anything I wasn’t already doing. (Mr. Moore and Mr. Saunders, where are you?) By 5th grade I was extorting allowances from my friends to buy records, much to my mother’s chagrin. Despite my growing love of music, I was accepted into the HS of Art & Design, and then the School of Visual Arts. But music pulled me back; I started hanging out at the Mudd Club and Danceteria, entrenched in the alternative music scene of the 80’s…seeing unknowns like Depeche Mode and U2 alongside giants like James Brown and Black Uhuru. I made friends with Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring (who went to SVA, too). Andy Warhol would be chilling in the corner…it was a magical time. 

But dissatisfied with art college, in 1984 I traveled to London. Art came naturally, but was not my passion. I loved London’s open-mindedness about mixing music, art and politics…no boundaries, no boxes. Newcomers like Sade, George Michael and Boy George were hanging out, dancing right next to me. But it was Neneh Cherry who had the greatest influence on my future. She inspired to me DJ because along with being an acclaimed singer, she was an established soul/jazz DJ in London at the time. A girl DJ who also wore African garb AND danced for the Slits? My mind was blown. (This was way before “Buffalo Gals” when she sang with Rip, Rig & Panic with her step father, jazz trumpeter Don Cherry). Eighteen months later I came back to NY and started DJing at the incredible underground party held in a converted school house on the LES called Hotel Amazon–the first club to embrace hip hop, soul and reggae under one roof. (There was a barbeque grill in the school yard!) I shared the stage with luminaries like Afrika Bambattaa, Red Alert, Queen Latifah, Del La Soul, Gang Starr, Tribe Called Quest…the Golden Years of Hip Hop. I also spun regularly at the World, MK’s, Madam Rosa’s and Mars. In the late 80’s joined the Black Rock Coalition, a support group for Black rock musicians where I met other Black folk into “alternative” music (alternative to whom?) I wasn’t alone! I started an educational arm of the BRC recruiting Living Colour and other musicians to perform in high-risk schools and introduce ethnomusicolgy to under-served children. We performed the original soul and jazz music that hip hop was heavily sampling at the time, walking the children musically back in time to Africa. We called it “Call & Response: 360° of Music”. 

In 1990, Vickie Starr (founder of Girlie Action Media) heard me spin and invited me co-host her show “Ghosts in the Machine”, dedicated to women in music. It was a great introduction to Pacifica Radio WBAI and the world of radio and engineering (and politics, of course). I co-hosted for a year. Later, friends urged me to create my own show and in 1999 I approached WBAI and pitched “Sister from Another Planet” which still airs today. I focus on soul, rare groove, 70’s + 80’s reggae, African + Latin jazz, folk, new wave and rock; mostly done by people of color. My interviews include Octavia Butler, Gil Scott Heron, Kanye West, Sananda Maitreya (Terrence Trent D’Arby), Ariana Huffington, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Bluey from Incognito, Avery Brooks, Jhelisa Anderson, Pauline Black and Lewis Taylor. During this time I also collaborated with Danny Simmons and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation to start a music salon series targeting high-risk youth.

In 2009 I approached music and cultural icon Chuck D of the legendary rap group Public Enemy to create a show for WBAI. I knew Chuck from the New Music Seminar and Hotel Amazon days. He came up with “…ANDYOUDONTSTOP!”, a hip hop-based music magazine program blending independent and golden-age hip hop and its influences with commentary and history. He graciously asked me to be the Executive Producer.

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