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queen esther, music


This Rock n' Roll BlackGrrl's High Life

A Cautionary Tale

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The Bluest Crown
queen esther, music
Eternal hottie Yul Brynner in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, with costume design by Edith Head.

Once I assembled my Black Americana band for our maiden voyage into the European club and festival circuit this fall, I had to come up with a name. Not just any name. THE name. Tricky stuff and no easy feat: a band name is all-encompassing. It has to sum up the sound and the look and the feel of the group, all in one fell swoop.  I had a black female rhythm section -- bassist Mimi Jones and drummer Shirazette Tinnin. I really wanted to get this right.

Of course, crowns were the first things to pop into my head. Initially I wanted them to be black. But why? And then I remembered an image I saw in bas relief as I drifted through the Egyptian wing at The Met.  I had to sift through photos from Cecil B. DeMille's epic wonder The Ten Commandments before my persistent memory had a chance to collide with my imagination and that one persistent thought.

What I was reaching for was the khepresh, a royal ancient Egyptian headdress.  Unlike costume designer Edith Head's shimmering facsimile above, it was usually made from leather and it was initially worn by New Kingdom pharoahs in battle.

Naming the band The Blue Crowns would effectively be my way of putting that khepresh on my head and readying myself for war. Make no mistake: to be black and to be a woman and to fully understand intersectionality and your place within it means that you are constantly under siege.  To make art that addresses this, art that flies in the face of convention, is something of a battle cry.  It is most certainly percieved of as a threat by the status quo.

Consider this: I'm a black woman, I'm from the South and I'm playing mostly original songs I describe as Black Americana -- what some call Afro Americana -- which is loaded with twang and soul. I think the term Black Americana is an oxymoron. Some people consider it to be anathema.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Whether I'm singing in front of an inattentive audience or auditioning for a tableful of jaded casting agents, it's all a war of attrition.  Thankfully, I've lived in New York City long enough to get really good at this kind of combat. I simply keep showing up and wearing them down with what can only be described as an avalanche of love. Eventually, they cave in and I win.  And then, its on to the next conquest.

This music will be no different. I will literally drown anyone that is against me.