Arts and Entertainment | Music

Bold Brilliant Beats: a celebration of Black femininity

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.

Rapper Quay Dash opened her set with a video introduction, where she addressed the crowd with a piece of advice to “stay humble and beautiful—don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”

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.

Nokia started crowd surfing as she performed “Kitana” from her recent album “1992.” By the middle of the song, she had stopped the track to make a plea to the sound technician to turn up the sound system. Although the technician complied and restarted the song, Nokia stopped again.

“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.”

But after the technician turned her mic up once more, the satisfied Nokia continued on with her set and crowd-surfed once more. After finishing “Kitana,” Nokia transitioned to “Brujas,” the lead single from “1992,” which is an ode to her Afro-Latinx roots.  
 
The most powerful moment of the night, however, came before Nokia performed her final song of the night, the triumphant anthem “Young Girls.”
 
“There’s an old saying that says in order for people to heal themselves, it takes seven generations,” she said. “We have the right and freedom to think for ourselves, and that’s why we want to reclaim our past.”

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.  

Nokia’s final message of the night was one of not only defiance, but also compassion.
 
“I have the right to be angry, to suck my teeth and roll my eyes, to say something out loud if it don’t make me comfortable,” she said. “I love you girls, and you really inspire me.”

Sophie Kossakowski | sophie.kossakowski@columbiaspectator.co

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