My Style Muse : Chaka Khan

Thursday, July 16, 2020

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Rain Music : a poem

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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A beautiful poem written by a Black poet named Joseph S. Cotter Jr in the early 1900's. Cotter passed away at the young age of 24, but his wonderful works still live on.  Read more of his poems here .


N the dusty earth-drum
Beats the falling rain;
Now a whispered murmur,
Now a louder strain.
Slender, silvery drumsticks,
On an ancient drum,
Beat the mellow music
Bidding life to come.
Chords of earth awakened,
Notes of greening spring,
Rise and fall triumphant
Over every thing.
Slender, silvery drumsticks
Beat the long tattoo --
God, the Great Musician,
Calling life anew.

by: Joseph S. Cotter, Jr. (1895-1919)

"Rain Music" is reprinted from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.
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Spanish Nights: my love hate for Barre Chords

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

My fingers were stuck.

    I hate barre chords. Hate is such a strong word, but there's not another to express my disdain for them. I came to this realization one night during my classical guitar class. It was a warm spring evening and my teacher had decided to have class outside. We gathered around him under a shady willow tree and he showed us a new chord, the "F" chord. According to him, this particular "F" chord was our introduction to barre chords, and the perfect way to practice stretching our fingers. Beaming with enthusiasm, I quickly put finger one (pointer finger) over strings one and two, and placed the others where they needed to go. Within 10 seconds I felt a twinge of pain in my pointer finger but I didn't care, I was learning something new and ready to take my practice to another level. Then came the Arpeggios. When I got to strings one and two, my guitar made a loud THUNK. It's a sound that all guitarists know too well; the dreaded sound of muted strings (or string) which indicates that you're not pressing your fingers hard enough on the frets or your hand needs to relax so your fingers can be positioned up higher on the frets. Either way, the sound of muted strings is enough to crush the soul of any guitar player, especially a novice like myself. There I sat, the whole class staring at me, my eyes watering as I attempted to try again. Eyebrows raised, my teacher comes over to look at my hand and assess the situation. He said, "You need to relax, no need to be so tense". He attempted to move my finger a bit. With whispered breath I say, "I can't move my hand, my fingers are stuck". At this point the pain was surging up and down my fingers like an electric current. Was the pain in finger one, two or three? Maybe it's my wrist, I thought to myself. Some of my classmates giggled, thinking I was joking, until finally I said "Professor, I can't move my hand, my fingers have fused with the strings". One of my fellow classmates, a kind, older woman, came and gently eased my hand off the strings. She was even so kind as to rub my wrist and fingers. My teacher confessed that he'd never experienced such a phenomenon. I had never experienced anything like it; its like my hand was staging an active protest. It was battle that I could not win. After some WD-40 and a few more tries, I finally mastered the "F" chord and it was time to move on to other barre chords.

The dreaded "F" chord
   So on to barred Em we went. When the time came for me to put finger one down across all the strings and stretch my other fingers to the frets, I began to question my entire existence. The pain shot through my hand like a laser beam. Strings muted and fingers burning, I had had enough. " I'm getting the hell outta here", I declared, as I began to pack my guitar up. No way in hell was I going to endure this indignity any longer (I told myself to that playing the flute would be easier and I could be the next Bobbi Humphrey).To make matters worse, this was just a nylon string guitar. I knew that the steel would be a hundred times worse on my fingers. As I made my way to the towards the outdoor walkway, my kind older classmate from earlier called my name. I paused, shame rising to my face, and turned around to see her, the whole class and my teacher looking at me, collective disappointment on their faces. "It's, okay, it hurts all of our fingers in the beginning, but you'll get it, don't give up," she said. So, red-faced with embarrassment and shame, I sat at the nearest seat and unpacked my guitar. The next hour was grueling, but gave me a sense of accomplishment. We took frequent breaks to stretch and rest and soon the muted strings went away and I could actually hear the chords. I knew that with practice, I would get better, so I sucked it up and hung in there.

My classical guitar "Diablo"
   That was last spring, but I remember it like it was yesterday. What my teacher never explained to me was that the "action"on classical and acoustic guitars are high, causing you to press harder, making you gain strength in your hands. Recently, I moved over to electric, a Schecter c6 plus. The action was very low on the neck and my fingers just glided seamlessly up and down the fretboard. I was a barre chord master, the strength in my hands that I gained from the acoustic, served me very well on my new electric. All the strings rang out clearly and I had a new appreciation for barre chords.

He's so pretty, I had to take his picture twice.
  I often think about the elderly lady in my class, her kind face, her patience, her soft healing touch. We lost contact after the spring class and I think about her from time to time. If only I could email or call her to thank her again. She refused to allow me to give up and words can't describe how grateful I am for that. If I had walked out of class that day, I might have tossed my guitar aside, sold it and moved on with my life, but she saw something in me worth fighting for. I took a lot from that guitar class, not least of all, the kindness she showed me. It made me more determined then ever to pass that on to someone else. It would be tragic for me to emerge from that experience with a defeated attitude, Music isn't for quitters. No pain, no gain.

 To whoever's reading this: Never give up and remember to be kind to others, and keep the circle of love going.

I could say that I hate barre chords still, but hate is such a very strong word.

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Black Girl's Rock : A word with Nicole Kali

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  One day Kali Nicole came up as a "friend suggestion" on Facebook. My curiosity got the best of me as I went over to her profile page. One look at her Rocker chick style and I knew that she was someone that I wanted in my inner circle. After accepting my friend request, we struck up a conversation and that's when I learn that she's a subculture artist. I told her about the Onyx Chord and she agreed to do an interview with me.

Oxc: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. How are you, sis?

Kn: Thank you for reaching out, and being a fellow Black rocker that's making space to show us in all our different shades, and styles.
It always seems like we gotta fight for representation. So for real, I respect your artistic journey and connectin' on that level. I'm doin' well, two months into 2020 and good things are underway. How about yourself?

Oxc: I'm doing great thanks.
Well, I just wanted to created a new space for black guitarists/bassists/banjoists, musicians, artists etc to have a voice.
First things first, tell us about yourself.

Nk: I'm Nicole, or Nikki Kali. That emerged from a persona that was captured through photoshoots and music videos for a local D.C. metal magazine.

Oxc: That sounds badass! What genre, if any, would you categorize your music?

Nk: The main goal was blending social justice, you know, punk politics and metal culture, with music. It was fun to jam the hell out for that purpose, and I guess it became an everyday thing outside a job.

Onx : Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Nk: My biggest influences were the musicians who had something to say, and showed us art sets you free. That's anyone from Gnawa artists in Morocco, our "cousins" since they endured Trans-Saharan slavery and also created spirituals to tell their story, Miriam Makeba, Prince to Soundgarden, Jimi Hendrix, Rosetta Tharpe, Mos Def.There is somethin' about them all, you know? The poets of their time.

Oxc: Very true; And it's up to us to keep their legacies alive and be an inspiration to the next generation.
I recently read an article where a black woman spoke of her experiences with the rock and metal scene. She felt that rock and metal are now predominately white and male and felt "othered" for being black and female. Have you had any experiences in the subculture scene that made you feel this way?
Tell us about your experiences as a subculture black woman.

Nk: It's a's the kind of environment where you almost turn into metal itself, so no one takes you any less seriously, because many already view you as inferior by gender, by skin.

Oxc : Really?

Nk: I never like to throw out a non-nuanced perspective, or leave folks to wonder what the deal is about anything. Yeah, the scene on a global scene is absolutely heading toward something progressive. You can feel it, see the change with fests like Black Flags Over Brooklyn, antifa influences all throughout. Bands like The Muslims tear supremacy apart, and they're that hardcore not just naturally--it's self-defense. *global scale. I've had a range of experiences, and been surprised at how frustrated others are about discrimination in these subcultures, especially since we created the prototypes.

Oxc: So when you're feeling Metal and transform into Nicole Kali, grab the mic, hop on stage or do a photoshoot, what does it feel like?

Nk: It feels lit, sis. Like our ancestors channel themselves through me, through us how they wanted to be, in a way. Rockin' for them. We're all conduits for creativity, this is just super-charged because times like these make that past more relevant. Just a leather jacket and some distorted guitar, but the energy comes from somewhere.

Oxc: No doubt. I believe that energy or energies come from several places. Within us, the elements, the earth, our ancestors, the sun, the sky, the sea, rivers etc. It's like we're magnets or conduits as you said earlier.

Nk: Collective energy grid, you got it. We're all linked up to that since it can't be destroyed. Some pass on, others stay and watch over us. Even when we're groovin' on bass or writing songs...doing Nicole Kali or Mango stuff.

Oxc : Yes, indeed.
So what advice would you give to black girls/teens/young adults who feel drawn to the goth, metal, punk, rock, grunge or subculture scene?

Nk: You have always belonged to the scene. Everyone before, the drum and ngoni masters right on down to Rosetta, and Memphis Minnie (the original When The Levees Break), Death, Bad Brains and Poly Styrene did it for themselves, but they also paved your way. Don't worry about those haters. It's because they know who the originators are.

Oxc : Awww.

Nk: I told a fellow rocker, rest in peace, Calvin Naylor, that he made me so proud, and not to be afraid of showing his Blackness around anyone, for anything. We were metalheads back in Congolese forests, when talking drums brought us together or scared white folks away (giggles).

Oxc: (giggles).

Oxc: any upcoming projects you want to tell us about? 

Nk : I just launched the website for Nicole Kali, and really excited to share music, writing and video blogging in the works like you must be. I'm most hype about that right now.

Thanks for interviewing me again, Mango! Resonate, and rock.

Oxc : Thanks for taking the time and chatting with us at the Onyx chord. The podcast will be up soon so that we can sit down and chat. 
Take care sis, 
Until next time.

You can also check out her Soundcloud, website and Instagram :

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Henna Acoustic by Luna Guitars

Saturday, July 11, 2020

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Its so pretty

This Acoustic by Luna Guitars would make a wonderful gift for someone special.  It's called "Henna Paradise" find it here.

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Sunday, June 7, 2020

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      Welcome to the Onyx Chord, a community that celebrates the legacy of Black Guitarists, Bassists, and Banjoists of the past, present and future.

*art by Larry poncho Brown. Find it here :
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