Published Jul 24, 2009When Georgia Anne Muldrow dropped Olesi: Fragments of an Earth on Stones Throw three years ago, it unveiled a one-woman creative threat. Not only did she provide the arresting freeform vocals and spiritually infused rhymes, she produced its hypnotic, if too-brief Jaylib-esque beats. This, combined with her prolific output under alter egos Patti Blingh and Ms. One, has attracted a lot of attention from underground soul aficionados. Prominent artists, from Mos Def to Erykah Badu, singled out her distinctive talent for guest spots and collaborative work.
Rather than creating in an isolated and rarefied bubble, Muldrow's art is intimately related to her closest communities. Muldrow's latest album Umsindo, is executive produced by her husband Dudley Perkins (formerly MC Declaime) whose own Holy Smokes full-length, which Muldrow produced, was released on the same day. Umsindo includes "Diaspora," a reworking of music written by her late father, jazz musician Ronald Muldrow; Muldrow also recorded albums with her vocalist mother Rickie Byars-Beckwith. "I remember being a teenager and people sending her letters like, 'Hey, I used to have cancer and I played your music in a boombox and I don't have cancer anymore. You helped to heal me,'" says Muldrow. "I've seen what the power of sound can do in a spiritual way, in a medical way. So, y'know, I strive to be a medic myself."
The familial connection extends into the business aspect of Muldrow's career. Along with her mother and Perkins, she is the co-CEO of SomeOthaShip Connect label, under which Muldrow produces several artists. "Any body is more than an industry so we don't have to minimize ourselves to fit into an industry. You can actually be yourself," says Muldrow. "There are spiritual laws that will sustain your refrigerator if your message is true."
The messages on Umsindo, which means sound in Zulu, find Muldrow tackling some political issues with her inimitably leftfield bent. Paeans to African liberation, American foreign policy critiques are fleshed out with the uptight funky live instrumentation of Muldrow's self-dubbed Ancestral Orchestra. However, Umsindo is also tied to Muldrow's personal growth. "When you have children - at least for me when I committed my life to children - everything, like getting to the point of my art, became very easy," says Muldrow. "It wasn't worrying about how things were gonna sound or getting caught up in vain details. It was all so clear, like 'Hey, get to the point.'"
Muldrow synthesizes her own immediate realities with wordly concerns on inspirational tracks like "E.S.P.," dedicated to Perkins' daughter with a knowing nod to African ancestors. "I've become more focused and aware of the needs of my people, of my raised family and of this planet instead of just my own needs," says Muldrow. "You can't sleep well just taking care of yourself. It's not a true way that you can have peace y'know. You have to think about your planet, you gotta think about your big home, your home and the environment of your family, your bigger family. And I guess that's what it is." Meanwhile in the background, Muldrow's baby son Nokware Declaime coos, as if he agrees with his mother's words. "Yeah!" says Muldrow laughing in response.