By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
A few years ago I dubbed my friend Navasha Daya “Supernova.”
The international songstress with the supernatural voice had just released the House Music track “Supernova Spinning,” produced by the legendary DJ and producer Teddy Douglas and I was done; that’s Navasha, a confluence of energy: African, Indigenous American, Priestess, Panther.
And at the center of the Supernova is a very old soul.
All of Daya’s Soulpower will be on display Dec. 6, at the Creative Alliance (3134 Eastern Ave.) in Highlandtown when she presents, “Navasha Daya and the Soul Protectors: A Tribute to Soul Music.”
“Soul is an institution that is a part of Black culture. And at this point I feel like we have to maintain it and celebrate it and celebrate the energy it brings,” Daya said recently at the Mt. Vernon Stable restaurant.
“If you deal with the Negro Spirituals, to now and how it (Soul) sustained us. It gave us messages, it gave us hope.”
Baltimore is a city in perpetual need of hope. But, it is also a perpetually hopeful city. This may sound antithetical, but it is not to those who understand. We have to be hopeful, and powerful artists like Daya are always willing and able to tap into that hope and replenish the reservoir.
“I think people need to feel good, people want to feel good.People want to celebrate, people want to be happy about something,” Daya said.
“We need hope. Everyone needs to feel hopeful and that things can get better. And so, Soul Music does that; Soul Music makes you feel hopeful…people need to feel good right now.”
Daya, who grew up in Cleveland, was surrounded and nurtured by powerful Black family members, friends and neighbors, immersed in Soul Music.
“I grew up going to concerts all the time with my parents…Stevie Wonder, my parents told me that we went to his concert and he heard one of us crying and he said, “Someone brought a baby!” And he thanked my parents for bringing a child to his show. I remember when Chaka Khan came…and I was playing with her oldest daughter…we’re the same age and I ended up playing with her in the back,” Daya remembered.
“I feel like Soul Music is African music…When you hear somebody like the Staple Singers, it pulls your heart; you go wooo! Or, Aretha Franklin you go, woo! That’s a gift you cannot buy…therefore, it cannot be commodified, not really,” she added. “And so, our people originated that music and it should still be celebrated.”
Daya, who attended Morgan State University, began her professional career as the lead singer for the group “Fertile Ground,” which had a near cult following in the Baltimore area. Yet, her solo career propelled by her towering voice and mystical energy continues to evolve and deepen.
She won’t reveal the content of the playlist she has created for her tribute to Soul Music (crafted in consultation with her husband and musical collaborator Fanon Hill), but she guarantees both sets (with an intermission) will adhere to the tradition of vintage American Soul Music. And knowing Daya, I’m sure there will be some interesting twists as well.
“My roots in Soul Music are very strong…For me it’s very important that I’m digging into that legacy and that lineage that I have when I’m singing, no matter what style I’m singing. The order (of the songs) is almost like church service you have to figure out how you want the people to feel…how I want them to feel in the beginning, how I want them to feel at the end,” Daya explained.
“I like having shows where different races are there, different age groups, bringing everybody together. And Baltimore, we need that right now, everybody coming together to celebrate and have fun and have hope and party together, through Soul Music.”
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.