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Traedonya, The Bride of New Funk Hip Opera
By Mark Kirby
(more articles from this author)
2006-08-09
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Every new singer with a loud voice is being hailed as the "New Queen of R&B" or a "Hip Hop Diva." All this usually means (besides having a hype machine behind her) is that said artist has some vocal chops and the willingness to use them ad nauseam. Some of the best voices of the last ten years -from Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige - have taken what a real soul singer would use as the peak moment of a song and made it a starting point. Worse yet, they've made it a style unto itself, replacing tunes with vocal gymnastics that butcher songs. Think American Idol.

TRAEDONYA is an exception. Though she calls herself "The Bride of New Funk Hip Opera," I would crown her, with 'nuff respect to Aretha Franklin, the "Princess of Soul." She earns this title because she uses the lost arts of singing: restraint and a sense of melody. The chops are there, make no mistake, but they are used with purpose and a whole lotta soul, as evidenced by her maxi-single, "Beloved" (TRAEDONYA - Beloved - EP). She is an accomplished songwriter who wrote all the songs for this release, Elemental Change. According to TRAEDONYA and her manager and collaborator, A.K. Smith-Ford, it's been, and continues to be a long, strange trip!

[Kirby] TRAEDONYA, where are you from originally?

[TRAEDONYA] I was raised in The Boogie Down; that's the Bronx. My place of birth is a small town in North Carolina called Rocky Mount. I love it there. I go back there often. Really, I'm just a down-home, Southern sweetie pie who loves to travel. The street edge about me comes from being raised in New York. I went to Catholic school all my life, wore a uniform every day, so I have a lot going on with my character. I consider myself an international party girl.

And indeed she does party on record. The various mixes are tailored to cut through the limits of the way musical styles and subcultures are marketed to. By having various mixes - an original mix (laid back hip hop groove with dub-wise organ and guitar touches), bass mix (bass-heavy, bouncy dancehall) progressive house (electronic house beat with altered vocals), Euro mix(electro meets old school funk), and a Latin-Caribbean mix - she can bring music fans from the various ghettos to her powerful music. Each mix also brings vocal nuances and aspects of the underlying song not noticed in the others. While her strong voice has quite a range, it is her operatic lower register that makes her stand out from the pack of singers (I, for one, am tired of the relentless barrage of wailing high notes that passes for singing). And she creates a melody that sticks in your head.

[Kirby] What are your early musical memories and how did you start singing?

[TRAEDONYA] I remember my first microphone. I received it for Christmas and, boy, it was on. I though I was Diana Ross or Donna Summer. I loved that microphone. I'd stare in the mirror and just sing, sing, sing. When the microphone broke, I replaced it with my hairbrush and just kept singing.

After years as part of the Elektra Records as a solo artist and with a group called Sample This!, which released an album in Europe and a single called "Another Lie," (available as an MP3 on her website), she found the major labels to be, like so many artists these days, unsatisfactory, to say the least. As an independent artist guided by relentlessly independent management, TRAEDONYA uses the underground network of clubs, local cable-access music video stations, and regional scenes to spread her music. In an odd way, this goes back to the way soul and other "race" music (as black music was called back when we were Negroes) was in sixty's heyday of Motown, Philly soul, and Memphis.

[Kirby] A.K. Smith-Ford, how did you discover Traedoyna?

[A.K.] She was already doing her thing. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance. We had a meeting together and discussed where she wanted to go with her sound and I was sold. She was wearing glitter. I saw someone who could be a legitimate star. I saw a presence. When we walked in the restaurant everyone stared and wondered who she was. That quality you can't make, the one compelling intangible that can't be taught.

[Kirby] What and who are your musical influences? What other singers, rappers, and producers do you enjoy and/or respect?

[TRAEDONYA] I enjoy all types of music, as long as it's good! I love the Queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Nina Simone, Liza Minelli, Diahann Carroll, and Lena Horne. And with the new school of singers I'd have to say Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Anne Lennox and Angie Stone. I really dig Bono from U2. I just love The Artist a.k.a. "Prince." His talent then and now are still off the freakin' chain! I'd have to say that the "Soul Man" himself, a singer/songwriter from England, Omar. Omar is one of my all-time favorite male singers. His soul, you feel it when he opens his mouth. He's awesome, a real musician at heart. Amongst rappers I would have to say Bahamadia, Missy Eliot and Jean Grae on the female side. As far as male rappers, I'd have to say Tupac for his all around love and knowledge of self. I just adore Nas, The Large Professor, Ghostface Killah and the Wu-Tang Clan. Honesty in an artist is what I appreciate! The producers that I like are the guys from Radio Head, Organized Noize, T Groove, Asen a/k/a WETT (who co-produced her single "Beloved"), and I really love Wyclef Jean.

[Kirby] Your vocals mix soulfulness and operatic vocal styling. Did you have any formal training?

[TRAEDONYA] My formal training started early, probably around ages five or six. My stepfather was a funk musician. He used to go through the scales with me after I did my homework. I took singing, dancing, and piano at an early age. After high school, I had a jazz funk band called "Sample This!" We rehearsed at least four of five times per week, toured and played out all over the place. For me, this was training. I also had formal training. I attended The New School of Social Research/Manes College in New York City, as a Fine Arts major in jazz. I studied with Reggie Workman, Chico Hamilton, Bernard Purdie and Makanda McKyntire. I believe in nurturing your skills, whatever they are. I believe in formal training, though natural and raw talent (come) first and foremost. Learning from professionals is also important; how they do things and don't do things helps with your own growth as an artist. As my career took twists and turns, I moved to Europe without graduating. I'm glad about the time that I did spend there.

[Kirby] I have heard that UK is more receptive to artists that don't fit into a cookie cutter demographic, and that the media and fans appreciate skills as much if not more than corporate marketing. Is this true? What made you decide to leave the States for the old world?

[TRAEDONYA]First of all, people have this crazy fixation or notion, due to its historical musical past with funk, jazz and rock, that the UK is that way now. That the UK is so open to most sounds or musicians that pass through. That couldn't be more false! Right now, that is totally false. There is no real structure for Urban music over there. At the end of the day, it's all underground, at the small independent level as well as at the huge corporate level. It's not a race thing either. I'd say that it's more of a culture thing. Take (British R&B singer) Omar. It's apparent that the guy is blessed! He's a skilled musician and a hard worker; he can sing his ass off, not to mention smile his ass off. The guy is a star by nature. It's unfortunate that the UK market pays so much attention to Urban US artists instead of paying attention to their own up-and-coming artists. The UK audience is very spoiled. They have this attitude like they are the tastemakers of the world, which is true. They feel this way because they get all of the music from continental Europe and the US.

[Kirby] You have mentioned that in the UK you were courted by Universal Music. Yet you've said that, here in America at least, you intend to release and distribute the record on your own. What happened in Europe with that label? Why are you eschewing major labels in favor of the independent route?

[TRAEDONYA] Being independent just tastes so good to me; it feels good, too. There is so much work that has to be done though, so many details, but at least you'll know if it's getting done or not. At least you can look the people in the face that actually are working the project with you. It's more personal, and the details become your biggest targets. Grassroots work is the important work in the beginning, because that's what sets you up for whatever it is that you're pursuing. And that goes for any project. Personally, it's really just where I'm supposed to be right now; independent. I was on Electra Records in the US for much longer than I cared to be.

When you see a band or an artist in a video or something, that's the result of tons and tons of work being done; they didn't just pop up on the scene. When you see three or four artists on a major label do well, there are usually twenty or thirty other artists on that label that didn't get on. Not because they weren't good, but because that's just how the major label shuffle goes; you can get lost in the sauce real easy. The majors are corporate. The artist is one of many that will be thrown up in the sky, and whatever project sticks, sticks; the ones that don't, too bad for you. That's a terrible attitude for them to have, especially when they're in control of your career. You do indeed give up a lot to be independent; the budgets and staff are smaller. But you gain yourself. You learn how the business really goes. You learn how people, say, in Seattle, Washington, feel about your music, and what ground to cover with limited resources.

Not that I'm sour on the majors. I've cashed a few of those nice checks, but my project was swept under the carpet. The majors certainly know how to wine and dine you, but they've forgotten about nurturing after the romancing. That's why online marketing and underground projects are becoming more valuable. Musicians and fans as well are sick of not being able to make, purchase, or listen to fresh new music.

I covered 46 cities since 2003 in the USA and Canada. For example, with Prohibition I did Seattle 7x , Omaha 3x , Denver 3x , LA 2x , Vegas 3x , San Fran 4x , St. Louis 2x , Portland 3x and Atlanta 2x. Been putting in the work...just grinding. Oh yeah, Shouts to my boys "The Rebelz" in Seattle. I am featured on there track "The City Limits".... it is hot and the video is amazing. Also major luv to my boy Dice One in Boise, Idaho, with the MAD RO crew. If I am not touring I don't get a chance to meet these cats and get some work in.

This summer TRAEDONYA plans a big push in advance of the release of her debut album, Elemental Change. In the past several months "Beloved" has garnered major club play by crossover and urban leaning club DJs across the nation developing a lot of buzz. With momentum now forming, the "Beloved" single was released to online radio stations in May 2006, and it garnered major spins at critical tastemaker stations on the radio network www.live365.com. The track has been playing on the "Chic Boutique" channel on DMX Music, which is programmed in high fashion boutiques around the nation.

TRAEDONYA shall do a extensive west coast tour in Sept-Oct 2006 with the hiphop ensemble "The Rebelz" in support of the single "The City Limits." This tour shall tie in with the national release of her video to her single "Beloved" to local, regional and national video outlets in the USA and Canada. So look out for her plus request her video on shows and radio stations in your city as she continues to spread her music across the nation.

Tied in with her video campaign will be a national and local iPod giveaway contest to fans with video shows across the usa. On Sept 12, 2006,TRAEDONYA will also be part of THE BUZZ Volume 2 compilation distributed by Warner Brothers in stores. As part of the tour and compilation release the tour will include visits to retail record stores in the west coast. To stay updated on TRAEDONYA check her out at www.myspace.com/traedonya for more tour dates and information.


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