Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Black Girl's Rock : A word with Nicole Kali

  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 lot...it'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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