Despite the neon lights, loud music, and the glow stick bracelet I had been handed at the door, it was clear that the U.S. election was not far from the minds of the performers at Barnard Student Life’s Bold Brilliant Beats event last Thursday.
The concert, held at the Diana Center’s Event Oval, was a celebration of blackness and femininity through a mélange of local female artists: DJ Jody, aka Jordyn Simmons, BC ’17, Quay Dash, an up-and-coming rapper from the Bronx, and Princess Nokia, a musical artist from the Lower East Side who has performed under a variety of names since 2012.
“This is an event about what it means to be a strong black woman today,” one of the night’s hosts, DaMonique Ballou, BC ’17, announced at the beginning of the show. “This is a space to live and dance and celebrate.”
DJ Jody opened the night with her own remixes of rap songs by artists, including Tinashe and Big Sean, while clips of music videos starring female rappers played on stage. The atmosphere was somewhat akin to a middle school dance, and Jody’s requests to “see everyone dancing” went mostly unanswered. But her set, which focused on highlighting music and visuals created by black women, set the tone for the night.
Her first song, “BKLYN,” which came off her first extended EP, “Transphobia,” did little to inspire the still-cautious crowd, and she, too, seemed slightly nervous for the first couple of tracks. But she soon hit her stride by the time she reached her third song, “Squared Toe Leather Boot,” an energetic track reminiscent of Angel Haze’s work.
By the time she reached the end of her set, the room had filled to more than half capacity—a stark contrast to the empty Oval at the beginning of the event.
Princess Nokia’s video introduction—which described her as an eloquent, well-spoken, and educated woman who wouldn’t change her voice for anybody—particularly resonated with the crowd. By the time she finally appeared on stage, the intense cheering made it easy to forget that this was all happening in the basement of the Diana Center.
“I don’t want to play anymore,” she said to the crowd, seriously. “The kids are not jumping. I want to put on a good show for these kids.”
It’s what many of the audience members needed to hear after a strenuous, politically-charged week. A stage dominated by powerful black women for a night could not have come at a better time.
Sophie Kossakowski | firstname.lastname@example.org